This is an experiment in writing and so I'd be grateful for reviews. Enjoy

Learning to love

„Well, the galaxy is huge, but apparently not huge enough." I laughed. „And you find humans even at the far end of it. I have the impression we are a species that gets easily lost..." I didn't finish what I had meant to say. That we were always lost, no matter where we were, because we were a species without a home. I didn't say it, because I had the suspicion that this was not true for humans in general.

„Elizabeth?" I heard my mother whisper.

I turned around to look at the screen again and smiled sadly. „Hello mother." These were the first words I had spoken to her in over 10 years. Chakotay, my former Captain at the Maqui and now my mother's first officer, looked surprised from her to me and back to her. None of the Maqui had known who my mother was. I had never spoken of her. „You know, some years ago, there was a time when I really wanted to speak to you. But then you and your ship disappeared..."

I had refused to speak to her, not even answered to the few calls she had made when she had found out where I was for some weeks. I could not forget our last argument before I left, the argument that seemed to have broken all bonds that there ever were between mother and daughter. Some things she said I could never forgive, and unless I forgave I could not speak to her, I thought. But when I was pregnant, when I was about to become a mother myself, suddenly I longed for my own mother.

Her situation when she was pregnant had not been that different from mine. My father had been dead, my child's father was alive but lost to me, as was the woman whom I loved. My mother had completely withdrawn from Starfleet, and my close friends of the Maqui were hunting Cardassians in the Badlands without me. I was completely on my own, as she had been.

I knew that I would not find her on Earth, so I paid a hacker to get me into the Starfleet records and found that my mother was captaining a ship called Voyager and was off hunting Maquis in the Badlands. I even swallowed my anger that she was hunting Maqui, my people, because I needed her so badly. How much I needed her, surprised, scared and annoyed me, but I could not deny it. I had thought I was old enough not to need her anymore.

When I was little I didn't see a lot of her. After I was born, she went back to active duty in Starfleet and was quickly promoted Captain. She took her duty to Starfleet, her ship and its crew very seriously, and so she spent only very little time at home. I even think that for her the ship was home, and not the little cottage on Earth where I was living with my grandmother.

I remember that I always wanted to make her proud. I was craving for her attention, and when I had solved a difficult maths exercise, won a racing or other competition, she would smile at me and praise me. I never told her of my problems, of those kids at school who made fun of me because I was good, of my terror when I first saw pictures of wars and battles, of the chaos that my awakening sexuality plummeted me into, of my anger when people made jokes about and searched scapegoats in individuals who were not human, of my uncertainty what I wanted to do with my life. She never seemed to have any problems herself and I didn't want to appear weak.

Shortly before my grandmother died, she told me that my mother had been very depressed after my father's death and that she might have killed herself if she hadn't been pregnant with me. But then I was already too old to feel a lot of compassion for my mother. I needed her praise so much, I hated both of us for it. But she had always taken it for granted that I was a good student and that I would pass the entrance exams for the Starfleet Academy and be a successful cadet.

And I was, but I was unhappy. Science that I had loved became dull under the drill that it was taught with and I couldn't stand the military way in which the teachers were treating us. I wanted to make my own choices and follow my own passions, but they restricted me to the options that were given. My mother never seemed to have a problem with the authoritarian ways of Starfleet. Maybe that was because all the time I knew her she was a Captain and therefore much more free to make her own decisions. Even though I soon understood that in a hierarchical structure, no one's free, not even those at the very top of it.

When I finally decided not to finish my education and leave Starfleet Academy, she was just as surprised as most of my Professors. I didn't want to stay on Earth, because Earth was infected with old traditions, norms and hierarchies. Space seemed to promise freedom, but not on a Starfleet ship. Starfeelt simply reproduced the structures found on Earth. But I could not explain this to my mother, because I had never told her anything about me.

S tried to convine me to go back to Starfleet. That time, when I was 20 years old, was the first time we actually spent time together. She went skiing with me, climbing, hiking and swimming. But I felt that she did it only because she was worried that I, her until then perfect daughter, was straying from the path she had prepared for me and wanted me to return on it. But I couldn't, and she could not understand that I could not. During those weeks, when my mother was desperately trying to regain a closeness that we had never had, I started breaking the bond that had tied my self-confidence so tightly to her praise.

Right under her nose, but secretly, I had contacted a member of the Maqui. It was not so much the fight against the Cardassians that pulled me to them, but their rebellion against the ways of Starfleet and the hope that they would be different. Damien was working undercover for the Maqui in Starfleet and he had organised a journey for me to one of the Maqui Headquarters on Tarek IV.

I told my mother the morning of the day I was leaving. She was disappointed and felt betrayed and invented terrible lies and horrible arguments to make me stay. I got furious and left without a goodbye. That was the last time we had spoken with each other.

The woman whom I saw on the screen was older than the mother I remembered. There were streaks of gray in her hair, some more wrinkles in her face and she had cut her beautiful long hair. It fell more loosely and made her look less strict than the bun she used to wear when her hair was long. This woman was my mother but I didn't know her, I had never known her. Just like she had never known me.

„So you got stranded on the other side of the galaxy... How? And how come I see a Maqui in Starfleet uniform next to you?" I asked this woman who was so strange and yet so familiar to me.

She told me that Voyager had been hunting down the Ikarus, the Maqui ship that I had once called home, and got deep into the Badlands where an alien being with immense powers had pulled them through a subspace ridge into the Delta Quadrant. That being had looked for a compatible individual to mate with because it was old and dieing but somebody needed to protect the civilisation of the Ocampans whom this being had stranded on a desert planet. My mother heroically protected the Ocampans and as a side product destroyed their way home and stranded all of them in the Delta Quadrant, while Chakotay heroically destroyed the Ikarus in a battle against a warrior species named Kazon and stranded his crew on Voyager.

When my mother finished her tale, I almost laughed. Apparently, I had not found the most stupid way of getting stranded at the far end of the galaxy. I had been with my little son Daniel, by then 3 years old and refusing to leave my side for even a minute, and my Cardassian lover Garak on a flight to a neighbouring planetoid for a meeting of Human-Cardassian cooperation in the demilitarised zone independant of either government, when a battle ship of the Cardassian Empire tested their newly developed weapons on us. Those opened a subspace ridge that we were pulled into. After three agonizing days in the subspace, cut off from the rest of the universe, with failing board systems and limited amount of air, we found ourselves in the Delta Quadrant, the ship was a wreck, and Garak was dead.

Two hours later, we were sitting around the round table in our meeting room. My mother, her first officer, former Maqui captain and my friend, Chakotay, and Tom, former member of the Maqui, traitor, prisoner and now pilot on a Starfleet ship, were sitting with me, our doctor Sutin and my Imzadi Loolia. Just for a moment, I wondered whether B'Elanna was also on Voyager, but then I pushed the thought aside. Best to let the past rest. Even though it seemed to have found me now.

Since we had overthrown Tito and confined him to his quarters, our ship had had only temporary captains. Our goal was to organise life on the ship without leadership at all, as some of the Lyraimonian ships already did. But that would need time and now we needed to act. Usually, I was taking care of the children when they were bored of accompanying their parents on the shiproutines or during battles. I enjoyed playing with the kids and teaching them and telling them stories, and the children liked me. But since I was one of those who had started the rebellion and since I was human the others had chosen me as the temporary captain to deal with Voyager. I was nervous. Speaking with children was so much easier than talking to adults, especially since one of them was my mother.

„You passed the space of the Flourean Empire and you met some of its representants. The Empire is one of the main powers in this region of space and they achieved that status by ruthlessly exploiting mineral resources on the Fleurean homeplanet and numerous asteroids, destroying biological diversity on all the worlds they conquered and supressing other species and also layers of their own population. Of course never openly, but always under the cover of bringing progression, economic growth and a better life to the people. Of course, economic growth of their own companies is what they're really after. The raising of living standards is simply a by-product that is limited to those few who already had a good living standard before. Those who were poor remain poor. You know this kind of things from Earth's history." I made a short break to look at each of the three representants of Voyager to see whether they were following me. My mother was looking at me with an expression I could not fathom. When my eyes met Tom's, I suddenly realized that he had no idea that I had born his son. I wondered what he thought of me now and whether he had really betrayed the Maqui.

I shook my head to clear it and continued: „The Lyraimons are an organisation of individuals, Fleurean and other species, who fight against the Empire. Some, like the former captain of this ship, want just a different kind of Empire, a more democratic one; others, like me and most people on this ship, want no Empire at all and want instead self-organized and decentralized communities on the planets and ships. But we all fight together against the Empire's army."

„So it's similar to the Maqui." Tom said.

I shook my head. „The Maqui was fighting against an other species, the Cardassians, without making any difference between individual Cardassians, and against Starfleet. But the Maqui's fight against Starfleet was mostly justified by Starfleet's inaction against the Cardassians, and not because of Starfleet's power structure. The Maqui was also a place for people to meet and experiment with non-hierarchical ways of organising, but much less so than the Lyraimons."

„I remember our discussions." Chakotay smiled at me. He had never cared that much about hierarchy, it had seemed inevitable to him. He had joined the Maqui to fight the Cardassians. But he had always been open for discussions and though he did not support my position he had never tried to stop me from arguing with other crew members as some others who did not agree did.

Suddenly, there was the sound of running feet and wailing in the corridor outside. I recognised the short steps and voice of my son Daniel and got up from the chair. The door banged open and he ran in, followed by Pyony who also spent a lot of time in the children's area. He ran into my arms and sobbed while Pyony stood in the door frame and looked at me apologetically.

I was about to ask what happened when Daniel spotted the other humans and froze. He hadn't seen any humans except for me for more than three years, and I was curious and little bit worried how he'd react.

He went a few steps away from me, stood, looked at me with wide eyes and open mouth and pointed with his arm towards them. He rapidly turned his head again and tilted it to watch them, then he looked questioningly at me.

I smiled and told him: „Look, Daniel. Those are Captain Janeway, she's my mother, and Chakotay and Tom." Even though he had stopped speaking the day we arrived in the Delta Quadrant I knew that he could understand me. „Yes, they are human, like you and me and they got stranded here, too. They are on their way back to Earth."

I had told him some things about my mother, his grandmother, and he went closer. She was looking first at him, then at me with astonishment and surprise. Daniel stood in front of her now and poked her leg with a finger, as if to test whether she was real.

„Hi." She said, and I heard a slight tremor in her voice. It's not everyday you find out you've been a grandma for seven years. When she spoke, Daniel bolted back to me and hid his face on my belly. But only for a few seconds, then curiosity got the better of him and he turned around to watch her again. He stood in front of me, breathing quickly, and tilted his head to the other side. My mother was looking at us and I felt her gaze tear through my skin. I looked away, onto the floor, and then raised my eyes to meet Tom's.

When I looked at him, he knew. He opened his mouth but no sound left his lips. Chakotay's lips were curled into something like a smile. Daniel went back to the three humans and examined them in his mute, intense way.

I turned my back on them and walked towards the window. Outside, I saw a huge vastness, sprinkled with some stars, far, far away, and I remembered.

The deep, impenetrable blackness of the subspace, how it was squeezing the small ship until it almost broke. The ship's technology that went on strike, one part after the other, the explosions, one of which had almost killed Daniel. The one that killed Garak. He caught fire, ran around the cabin, burning, electrical currents visible on his skin. A woman wrapped him in a thick blanket, the thickest one that they had. She didn't use it again, not even when she and her son were freezing did she touch it again. The flames died, but Garak was burnt. The scales of his skin fell off and revealed violet, smoking flesh underneath. These cool, smooth scales that she had liked so much to feel on her skin when he lay next to her. His face was burnt, his beautiful, expressive eyes were gone, as was his long, pointy nose. He tried to breath through his mouth of which the lips were gone. Those lips that she had kissed and that had been so surprisingly soft. She held his hands, his burnt and crippled hands that had once done miracles between her legs, until he died. The ship's life support system died with him.

It didn't seem like this had happened to me. When our ship surged forward into normal space I was surprised by its brightness. When I got our coordinates I was surprised we were still in the same universe. When I moved and felt my frozen bones cry out in pain I was surprised I wasn't dead. When Daniel climbed onto my lap for comfort I was surprised I wasn't the only living being left.

Loolia touched my shoulder and I flinched and almost hit her. She caught my hands and held them.

„Eli, Imzadi, come back to us." she whispered, but I could not understand.

I didn't know her. I was in the ship wreck, staring at normal space for the first time. I had lost everything, everybody who had ever meant anything to me: my grandmother, my mother, B'Elanna, Tom, Garak. No, not everybody. Daniel! I turned in panic until I saw him, sitting on Tom's lap. Tom? No, it could not be Tom. I was confused. Where was I? And I was scared. What had happened? Daniel looked at me with wide eyes and then jumped from Tom's lap (if it was Tom) and ran to me. I held him, I sunk to the floor and clutched him to my chest.

While I pressed his small body, quivering with sobs, close to mine, quivering with sobs that did not seem to be mine, and kissed his wet cheeks and combed his soft, blond hair with my fingers I started to remember. The Lyraimons had found us and rescued us from the wreck. We stayed with them. I didn't speak for several months. Loolia was always by our side. I remembered my believes and brought them into the Lyraimons' discussions. I found a purpose in the their fight. I joined the fight. Daniel remained mute.

Loolia was kneeling next to me and stroking my shoulder while everybody was looking at us. I leaned onto her, closed my eyes and sighed. She wrapped her arms around me and rocked me and Daniel slightly.

This happened to me all the time. That my mind went back and the past consumed the present. It was not always Garak's death, sometimes I saw other deaths that I had seen as a Maqui, or I went back to the big fight with my mother, or I relived how B'Elanna had kicked me out of her life. But Garak was the worst. It seemed like the only thing I could remember of him was his death.

I hadn't wanted my mother to see this, or Tom, or Chakotay. And I didn't want Daniel to see it either because I knew that it scared him. But it had happened and that could not be changed.

I got up and left the room with Daniel and Loolia. I needed some time to come back to the present and to calm down.

When I entered the meeting room the next day and the conversation suddenly stopped, I knew that they had been discussing me.

„Did you come to any conclusion concerning the state of my sanity?" I asked lightly and sat down on my former place, as did Loolia. Daniel was with Pyony and the other children again. From Voyager, the same people were there as the day before.

„I really think that you should take the medicines again." Sutin, our doctor told me.

„I won't. You have absolutely no idea what they do in the human brain and I'm not going to be your guinea pig any longer." I told him angrily. He seemed to have set it as his task to 'cure' me from my suffering and I had the suspicion that the sole reason for why he joined the Lyraimons was to research behaviour under extreme conditions. Of course, he was happy when he found two individuals of an unknown species who seemed to be suffering unknown mental problems.

„But they helped you. And remember the therapy that I proposed for Dan..."

„Keep your hands off my son." I growled at him. I liked him as a person, but as a doctor I just couldn't stand him. „And as for those great chemicals you found, they made me dead inside, I didn't feel anything anymore. No thanks."

I caught a worried glance from my mother but I ignored it. I was not in a mood to discuss myself with anybody right now.

„B'Elanna asked me to say hi." Tom said suddenly. „She's my wife now, we got married three months ago."

I looked at him with disbelief in my eyes but he just shrugged his shoulders and grinned. Tom and B'Elanna. That seemed unbelievable. When I had last met them they had hated each other thoroughly.

„You know that I always liked her. And when she started believing that I did not betray the Maqui," my eyebrows shot up, „yes, I was caught due to bad luck, but I did not betray anybody, and when she saw that I'm not quite as bad as she always thought I was she started to like me too."

B'Elanna had left Starfleet and joined the Maqui for the same reasons as I had. We met on the Ikarus and I knew that I loved her the moment I saw her, this beautiful, angry, intelligent, wild, half-human and half-klingon woman. She was the first person that I loved with all my heart and soul, and she loved me, too. We had a lot of fights and just as many reconcilations but I didn't mind the hurtful fights when we screamed at each other and hit each other. We lacked understanding for each other, maybe also understanding for ourselves, and we were rarely open to listen, but we knew that we loved each other, no matter what, and the passionate nights after a reconcilation, of which I stil have some scars from her bites left, always made up for all the pain we may have caused each other before. I felt that we were made for each other and that I could not have existed without her anymore.

Then Tom joined the Maqui. B'Elanna hated him the moment she saw him, I liked him. He was a terrible charmer and convinced of his own invincibility. He never took anything serious, he was always joking and flirting with everybody. With all his compliments and funny comments and adventurous stories, he flattered me and I learned to enjoy his company.

Can one woman love two persons at once? Well, I know that I did. I loved B'Elanna and I started loving Tom, too.

While B'Elanna had been my first woman, Tom became my first man. Those few weeks before the catastrophe, those weeks in which I was sleeping with both, my hunger for touch never quenched, my thirst for kisses never dried, were wonderful weeks for me. I felt elated, I received and gave so much love.

And then B'Elanna found out. She was furious, so incredibly furious. We had never spoken about fidelity or loyalty, but that I also loved Tom (Tom of all people!) made her furious. She kicked me out, out of her bed, out of her heart, out of her life.

Now that I knew that they were married, I wondered whether maybe she had liked him too, but out of respect for me had pretended to hate him.

„I wish you both happiness," I said quietly

My mother was looking at the two of us and I remembered that she didn't know. There were so many things she didn't know.

„You are invited to come aboard Voyager and travel towards Earth with us, Elizabeth." she told me softly.

„Voyager is a Starfleet vessel, with a Starfleet Captain and Starfleet rules. I don't think I'd fit."I told her just as softly. When I mentioned the Captain, something in her face flinched, but then her expression became unreadable again.

„Ah, come on." It was Tom who spoke up. „Really, Voyager's ok. Captain Janeway is a great Captain and she gives the crew a lot of freedom."

„Yeah, but that's my point. She is the one who gives or denies freedom just as she thinks right and necessary. I take my freedom, and I fight tooth and nail for it. Here among the Lyraimons, I think I lost the ability to obey an authority." I turned my head to look at my mother. „I'll bring trouble."

She sighed and whispered: „I know that." I noticed that she had changed. Her face lacked the hard expression it used to have when she was trying to convince me of something. „We are not as Starfleet anymore, as you may think. Many Starfleet rules can not apply here in the Delta Quadrant, half my crew is former Maqui, and some have never been to the Alpha Quadrant before. I know that our relationship has not always been easy, Elizabeth, but I would gladly welcome you on Voyager."

„And I think many of the former Maqui members would be happy to see you again, too," Tom said, „including me and B'Elanna."

It was a tempting offer. Sometimes I hated being the only human around, always visibly different not only in the outer appearance but also in the way I moved, spoke, thought.

„It could be good for you." Loolia spoke up for the first time. „They will understand you better than I or anybody else here can. You think differently from us, and you feel differently. I'd miss you, as would the children and many others. But we'd manage, you know that there's no responsibility for you to stay."

I held her gaze for a long time. If I stayed, there would be no second opportunity to join a ship of humans travelling to the Alpha Quadrant. This was my only chance, and they were people whom I knew, whom I had once loved. I'd have to leave Loolia behind, the Lyraimons, the life that we had started to build together. But I was human. Didn't that mean that I belonged with other humans? Didn't Daniel deserve the chance to grow up with humans?

On the other hand, most of the Lyraimons seemed closer to me in spirit than a lot of humans. And then there was Loolia, my Imzadi. She had been with me all the time, silently supporting whatever I did, and I loved her. I loved her not violently as I had loved B'Elanna, not carelessly as I had loved Tom, not angrily as I had loved my mother, and not desperately as I had loved Garak. I loved her simply, as I loved Daniel. I had thought that I could not live without B'Elanna but I did, and I had thought that I could not live without Garak but I did. I knew that I could live without Loolia. But whether I wanted to, that was the question.

I could join my mother's ship and travel earthwards. My mother and I would fight but we were both old enough to reach some kind of agreement. Tom, B'Elanna and I would figure out how to deal with our weird, tangled relationships among each other. I would fight against the hierarchy on Voyager but I'd learn to live with it. Daniel would have to leave his friends but he could grow up among humans, beings of his kind. I would live among humans. But what does species mean? Yes, I missed christmas and Pizza and coffee, and I missed talking about the books we all read when we were kids. But when I still had all those things, I had never been as truly happy as I was when I lay in Loolia's softly haired arms, listening to her beautiful singing and my whole body tingling from the warmth of her body, as truly happy as I was during the discussions when Loolia and I, together, brought forth our arguments and also learned from the others, as truly happy as I was when we were settled in a hiding place after another battle that we had all survived, drink, food and music in front of us and I saw Daniel dancing and laughing with the other Lyraimons' children.

„I won't join you." I told my mother, Tom and Chakotay." If you want, stay for some more days. I'd like to spend some more time with you and show you how we live here. But I will not come with you. This," I made a wide gesture with my arm, all around the room, ending at Loolia," is my home now."

Then I looked at Loolia and saw relief, happiness and all her love in her mesmerizing cat-like eyes.