Disclaimer: Paramount owns anything relating to Star Trek; the story is written for fun purposes only, NOT profit.


Chapter 1

Kathryn woke up with a tendril of panic coiling in her gut, the feeling of dread slowly surfacing in her conscious mind. She couldn't hear the rhythmical thrum of engines, something was wrong with Voyager. She tried to remember who had a night shift on the Bridge, and was already getting angry. 'Why haven't they alerted me,' she thought, while her body, already adrenaline-propelled and tense, shot out of the bed. Before her brain registered what her eyes saw, she managed to throw everything off of her nightstand in a frantic search for her commbadge. Then, she sat down heavily on the edge of her bed with a sigh, and covered her face with her hands. She was in her bedroom, in her own house in San Francisco. Voyager returned home two days ago, but it was the first night she spent on Earth. She would have to get used to this, because the Starfleet Command already informed her that she, along with the whole Voyager crew, was going to have to stay planetside for at least four months. Formal debriefings weren't scheduled till next week, and until then she was left to reconnect with her family and take care of any personal business she wanted to attend to. She decided she needed to go home, to Indiana. She had already met with her mother and sister and spent some time with them, and was going to go back to the farm with them, but was detained by Admiral Paris who wanted to talk to her before any official proceedings, and even before any other admiral got a chance to do so.

She was just finishing her second cup of coffee when her doorbell rang. It was Phoebe.

"Hi, sis. I came to take you home and I'm not listening to any excuses. Mom wants you there in half an hour and I'm going to make sure that you…" she paused noticing a big grin on Kathryn's face. That was not what she expected at all, she thought she would find herself at the receiving end of a lecture expounding on the requirements of duty and enumerating the things she had to do, or at least a good, old-fashioned glare of annoyance, but definitely not a good-natured, seemingly happy smile. It was not her older sister, it was an alien impostor surely. "What, you're not going to argue with me? You're actually going to come back to Indiana with me?" Phoebe's voice sounded shrill, and her blue eyes were as wide as they could possibly get without popping out of their sockets.

"Isn't that what you wanted?" Kathryn smirked at her.

"Well, yeah, but it's not like you to actually agree, but…" she cut off and looked uncomfortable, somewhat embarrassed and tried to avoid Kathryn's gaze.

"It's still me Phoebe, I have changed of course, but it's still me, your infuriating older sister who, I assure you always knows better," she teased.

"Knows better, yeah right. So can we get going?"

It was half past midnight and the house was too quiet. Kathryn could not sleep and decided to go downstairs and have a nightcap, or two, or maybe more. She was restless, the events of the last couple of days finally catching up to her. All the revelations, among which Chakotay's newly brewed relationship with Seven, gnawed at her naturally optimistic and up-beat nature, leaving it shriveled, tattered and tarnished, generating waves of foul mood and trapping her under a tarpaulin of resentment and bitterness. Even though she tried to rationalize Chakotay's behaviour, she nevertheless felt betrayed and it stung, and it prickled, and it twinged, and it really hurt. She never showed her true feelings in public, not even to her future self, although she was certain that the Admiral knew already and knew pretty well that for her this particular piece of news was as if she had been stabbed in the back with a serrated knife. She promised herself she wouldn't cry and now a torrent of boiling fury was tearing at her insides because she could not suppress hot tears streaming down her cheeks. She was thankful that at least she was alone, she would not want anybody to ever see her like this, this vulnerable, this weak. Or, so she thought…

"I knew it! Spill it, what the hell has happened to you?" screeched Phoebe with an accusatory finger pointed at her. Her hair was all mussed and disorderly, she was wearing a T-shirt two sizes too big, and made her way barefoot towards her older sibling. She slumped on the couch next to the armchair occupied by a sprawled-out, crying, red-headed woman whom she thought she must have mistaken for her strong, tough and brave sister who tackled her problems and her enemies head-on and did not spend her nights bawling and drinking whiskey in her mother's living room.

"I knew there was something wrong with you, but I chalked it up to tiredness, but now you can't just fob me off," she continued with an indignant timbre. "Don't you trust me, or mum? Why haven't you said something was up with you?"

"Because there wasn't and isn't," Kathryn spouted out in measured tones. She rubbed her face with her palms and started to get up. She wanted to escape, the last thing she could bear was this discussion with her nosey sister.

"You're not going anywhere until you tell me," Phoebe's voice was unusually stern, her face aglow with determination and hardly suppressed anger. She felt Katie was shutting her out, she didn't want to tell her anything. What was the point of missing her all theses years, if now that she was finally back, she was going to isolate herself from her. She shoved the now stunned red-head back into the armchair, her own eyes filling with tears.

"Don't treat me like I'm a stranger!" she shouted without even thinking that it might wake up Gretchen sleeping soundly, now that both her children were safe and by her side, upstairs.

"It's that First Officer of yours, isn't it?", she asseverated rather haughtily.

"What? It's nonsense Phoebe. I'm perfectly fine, I just happen to be allergic to…",Kathryn's hesitation caused a knowing smirk to appear on Phoebe's face, while her older sister's tired mind struggled to come up with some plausible allergen. "Dust", she finally said almost too loudly, and knew that the lie was all too obvious to her sharp-eyed younger sibling.

"Really Katie, whatever happened to your bluffing skills?"

A death glare pointed in her sister's direction had no desired effect. An impish grin spread on Phoebe's face, when she decided to seize a rare opportunity to tease Katie's socks off.

"It must be him, I saw the way you looked at him and the blonde bimbo at his side."

"Seven", snarled Kathryn.

"Yeah, well seventh heaven for him when he puts his head in between her…"

"PHOEBE!", Kathryn's scandalized yell cut her sister's quipping off, "Stop it, and just leave me alone".

"Kathryn, I'm sorry, wait, please", asked Phoebe in a thin and shaky voice when she saw her sister's back retreating hastily to the kitchen. "Please Katie talk to me, I'm not your enemy, remember when we used to gossip all nights' long about our boyfriends, or boys we liked, or didn't like, remember how much fun we had, even if we have had just experienced a heartbreak, we managed to get over it together, laugh it off, calling the bastard filthy names, coming up with revenge plans, pointing out his vices, we used to be friends, I'd like to have my best friend back", Phoebe's voice sank with emotion. Kathryn looked into her sisters now teary, earnest eyes and decided to confide in her for old times' sake, for her sanity's sake, and just because she felt suffocated and overwhelmed- she needed a friend, her best friend and confidante back. Her body collapsed heavily, almost of its own accord, on the sofa, her shoulders drooped, her head was bowed. She sighed deeply.

"I never expected him to be with Seven of all people, he didn't even like her, or trust her for a long time, and it's not that I can't see what he eventually saw in her it's just that..", she paused searching for words that would truthfully describe her disappointment in the state of matters but that would conceal the true degree of her pain. But Phoebe knew or at least suspected.

"Men are swines- they've always been. Nothing changes sis- it's been going on for centuries and will probably go on for quite a while.", she sighed with what seemed like a half-hearted resignation. "It's just women that should know better, especially since you've done so much for Seven she should know better for sure."

"But that's just it", stormed Kathryn moving her hands to help her express her feelings, "she does not know, she's innocent and naïve- she spent her entire adolescence with the Borg, I know that she's not…", but she didn't know. Seven was intelligent, she often realized and understood more than she let on, she was more human than she was being given credit for.

"Yeah, right sis she's so innocent she's seized your guy up from in front of your nose- I wish I was so innocent and naïve." Phoebe's smirk was that of amusement and contempt in one. She did feel sorry for her older sister's heart problems but she also thought that Chakotay was not worth all the heartache – sure he was an improvement after Mark- but he was still not the kind of man Kathryn should end up with if she had anything to say about it. The problem with Kathryn, she thought, was that she treated romance too seriously, she wanted a lifelong companion, a soulmate, a best friend, loyal partner and a passionate lover all in one person and that Phoebe knew from her experience with more men she could even remember was something that happened mostly only in fairy-tales, and holonovels.

"Come on Katie, tell me, while you were on that ship how many relationships with women did he have? How many women? Do you even know?"

"Well, more than I'd like to admit...", Kathryn's voice wavered as she started to think about all these alien lovers he entertained.

"Well, obviously, you have idealized the man, unduly so if I might add- well wake up Katie, time to move on, now you are not limited to a ship full of men under your command, holograms and passing aliens- you can have your pick of men, or maybe even women", Phoebe winked and laughed out loud at the expression of horror on her older sister's face.