Happy Thanksgiving! Here, have an extra long chapter!
"However, many of the family members gave me oral messages to pass along as well. I'll start with you all since you are already here."
The captain nodded, putting the padd to her side.
Holly sat back and coughed, having difficulty breathing again. Who knew being oxygen deprived for just ten minutes could leave one in such poor shape?
Tuvok moved closer, very protective of her. He pulled her up against him, her head resting on the hollow of his shoulder. He reached over and grabbed the glass of water, handing it to her.
"Drink, T'Para." He ordered. She did and winced slightly at the sting in her throat, though the expression was so miniscule that only Tuvok noticed it. Others would think she was just as Vulcan as ever. She stayed leaning against him and set the glass back on the table.
"Naomi, even though you received a letter from your father that clearly expresses his love for you, he wishes for me to tell you in person that he loves you. Even though he's never seen you, no matter what you look like or who you are inside, you are his little girl and he is awaiting your arrival back home."
Naomi smiled brightly and one tear ran down her cheek. She and her mother had already read the letter while they were with Holly. Samantha wiped her daughter's tears away with one hand. Holly was touched by the mother-daughter relationship they had, but made no indication of it.
"Samantha, your husband wishes me to tell you he loves you dearly and will never stray, no matter how long it takes you to get home. He turned your old office into a room for Naomi. He painted it a dark pink and got her a bed. He also told me he's going to get her a 'kitty-cat' the second she gets home."
Samantha was crying, as was Naomi. She tried to blubber out "permission to leave, captain," but was too busy weeping. Janeway just smiled softly at them both and said, "Dismissed".
They left. Holly turned to Janeway. Holly's lips ticked up ever so slightly, in that smile that was so rarely seen.
"Kathryn, my old friend. Tell me, is linguistics still your favorite hobby?"
The captain frowned and scrunched up her face.
"Oh you know I have always hated that field, Holly! And damned if I ever understood it in the first place! With its stupid syntaxes and speaking in riddles and-"
She stopped when all of their laughing cut her off. She just smiled.
"Oh Holly, I've missed you so much!"
Kathryn leapt from her chair, over to Holly and hugged her fiercely. Holly never admitted the pain that one embrace caused her as she hugged Janeway back as strong as she could. Tuvok could tell, though, that it was hurting her and swiftly leaned over, peeling Kathryn from Holly carefully. When Kathryn shot him a puzzled and annoyed look, he moved his captain to sit on the floor at Holly's feet before speaking.
"May I remind you, Captain, that T'Para is injured and is physically exhausted? I ask that you handle her carefully."
The captain was about to argue with him, when she noticed something, causing her to pause.
"Tuvok, you've never called anyone something as informal as just their name before! It's always 'Captain Janeway', or 'Ensign Kim', or 'Mr. Neelix.'"
"Your point, Captain?"
"Why is she just 'T'Para', while I'm 'Captain'?"
Tuvok cleared his throat. "It is a matter of personal familiarity. Besides, you have never asked me to call you otherwise. T'Para had quickly become frustrated with being called Lieutenant as we became better acquainted and asked me to stop when it wasn't proper."
"I see," the captain said semi-sarcastically, understanding but not liking his explanation. He was closer to her than anyone else on the ship, but that still, apparently, didn't account for much.
Well, she thought. I suppose I'm not the closest one to him on board anymore.
And truly, Janeway didn't mind. She'd had a good father figure in her life, Holly hadn't. Holly's father loved her, but never enjoyed spending time with her. She had been just a pet to him, one that could be kicked when he had felt like it. Janeway had learned all this years ago, when the nightmares had still haunted Holly. Janeway didn't have time for that now, so she pushed the bubbling memories back for later.
The captain's thoughts moved back to Tuvok. He was still reserved with her, maybe a little too professional. He never mentioned his family or home, his hobbies or likes. But apparently he did with Holly. Was Janeway jealous, though? Not particularly, because they were both still her friends. She turned beaming up again at Holly.
B'elanna stood from the ottoman and moved to the armchair the captain was occupying before, pulling it even closer to Tuvok and Holly. It looked like a small sharing circle from grade school. Kathryn looked at B'elanna questioningly.
"What? Everyone else had gotten all close. Am I not welcome?" Holly's lips ticked up in her version of a smile again as she reached over and squeezed B'elanna's knee.
"So," Kathryn started. "Is there any good news from home for me?"
Holly's smile dissipated slightly. "Your mother got a dog in honor of you, and named her Voyager."
The captain looked pleased as punch, but was just very happy for a change of subject in her thoughts "Oh, marvelous! What breed?"
"She is a beagle. Your mother also found out the day before I arrived that the dog is now pregnant with four puppies. Your mother plans to name them Hope, Love, Faith, and Wish. She sends her dear love and tells me if you don't return safely, she'll give away your teacup collection." She made it sound like a threat, with an undertone of joking, yet still managed to maintain the air of someone just giving a simple mission report.
Kathryn smiled and her eyes watered. She gracefully wiped them before the tears could spill over.
Meanwhile, on the bridge, Chakotay's "Kathryn-senses" were tingling. He wondered if his captain was crying and would have to make sure she was alright later. He had developed a sort of "sixth-sense" for that woman.
Back in Holly's new quarters, Holly grabbed a tissue from the adjacent table and dabbed Kathryn's cheek with it. She mouthed a thank you and took the tissue from Holly, wiping her face with it.
"That's… That's good to hear. I can't wait to see them when we get home. They may be all grown up by then, but… but that's okay. Did…"
She swallowed and took a deep breath, allowing her the capability to speak clearly once again.
"So you saw my mom. I bet she still loves you, eh? Still remember when I brought you home for Christmas the first year?"
Holly's smile disappeared completely now. "Yes. I'm still unsure as to why you did that, though I did enjoy the chance to study ancient Earth customs more closely."
Janeway frowned, her eyebrows coming together. "I did it because it was either take you home with me, or let my friend spend the holidays at the academy. I had to take you home!"
"As educational as the experience was, and as much as I enjoyed your company and appreciated the presents I received, it was still a disaster."
"How was I supposed to know you were allergic to cranberries?"
"I am not allergic to anything. If you had paid attention in Races of the Alpha Quadrant class, you would have known that certain earth berries contain an enzyme that is dangerous to our neural system. At Christmas dinner, I told you I would like to know what was in the dish you presented me before I tasted it. You told me you had made it yourself and you would be hurt if I didn't try it. Do you recall what happened afterwards, which I did for the sake of trust and friendship?"
Kathryn said nothing and they all turned to look at her. She had gone scarlet in the face. She looked down slightly smiling before speaking up.
"Well, after you swallowed it, you dropped your fork. Then you stood, covering your mouth and ran outside. I ran out after you, only to find you puking in the grass. But I did hold your hair back for you and took you to the hospital when you passed out, not breathing."
"And I spent the next week in a med bay, promising that one day I would become a doctor of medicine and do away with poor hospital treatment."
"And I've apologized to you all my life for that. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!"
"And I've forgiven you. But it does make for an interesting tale, does it not?" B'elanna laughed and Tuvok raised an interested eyebrow.
Janeway just shook her head slowly and laughed. "I suppose it does. Anyways, did you hear from my sister?"
Holly's eyes darkened and her teasing light dissipated. Her words came slower now, more forced. "Yes. I spoke with her. You were there when she married Remy, were you not?"
"Yes, I was there. I was her first bridesmaid, a few months before Voyager left. She looked beautiful! I on the other hand, looked like a puffed up daffodil. Ugh, yellow dresses."
"Indeed. I was there as well, if you recall, as her second bridesmaid, and also looked poor in the yellow dress."
"Nonsense! You looked beautiful. So what's new from her?"
"She and Remy decided to have a child a few years back. She had her first child four years ago," She paused. "A girl, named Katie, after her beloved aunt. But, when I left, she had just lost her second child in a miscarriage. He was to be named 'Chance', for the chance that Voyager will return. When I went to see her, she was so desolate all she could tell me was 'get her home to me.'"
Kathryn frowned, and then smiled, before closing her eyes and leaning her head forward to rest against Holly's leg. Holly ran her hand over Kathryn's hair, comforting her. She gently hushed her quiet sob of both joy and sorrow. Finally, she addressed B'elanna.
"I visited your mother, Bell. She misses you." Holly said softly.
"Yeah, sure," B'elanna scoffed. "She always thought I was an honor-less p'tak! And she was never afraid to tell that to my face." She enunciated the last words carefully.
Holly put on a face of impatience, like dealing with a small child. "Bell, ten years ago when Voyager was lost, your mother was crushed. She prayed to Kahless that you were still alive. She apologized to your Klingon ancestors for being so dishonorable in her ways of teaching you, explained it was all so you wouldn't grow up to make the same mistakes she had.
Three years later when you were all able to contact star fleet through the alien communications array, your mother wanted to write to you, but couldn't find anything to say that sounded right. I was not considered a family member and was not allowed to write to any of you. When your mother heard that the crew from your Maquis ship had been pardoned and had joined the 'honorable' cause aboard Voyager she wept with joy. Her daughter, whom she had always loved, had finally 'chosen an honorable path', but she couldn't care less. All she cared of was that you were alive and well."
B'elanna smiled a genuine smile. And just said, "I always knew she loved me, she just had a funny way of showing it. And I bet she was happy to see you, Holly."
"She was. But I am no replacement for her daughter."
B'elanna smiled and asked, "Well? What about Tuvok?"
"Attempting to change the subject from you, Bells?" Holly performed a small shrug. "As you wish."
She turned her head more towards Tuvok, without taking it off his shoulder. She was comfortable leaning on him so closely, but not at all in a strange way, more in a completely parent/child way. Holly looked comfortable and Tuvok was as well.
It's the most human those two have ever looked. The captain and B'elanna thought at the same time. It's so weird.
Holly smiled her small, barely-a-smile smile and said, "Suffice it to say, Tuvok's family is doing well and hopes for his speedy and safe return."
Tuvok nodded, accepting this news and all went quiet. B'elanna and the captain looked expectant. That couldn't possibly be all, so B'elanna spoke up;
"Well? What else?" The captain nodded in agreement.
Holly took a slow breath through her nose. She mumbled some Vulcan words to Tuvok;
T'nash-veh yeht sa-mekh. Etek dungi stariben t'skann svi'awek tab-mar.
Tuvok looked at her, apparently knowing what she said, and quickly said something back. It sounded like a question;
Sanu, ra qual ik khart-lanna'du?
She straightened at what sounded like a question to B'elanna and the captain. Holly looked right at Tuvok and said;
Katrene qual t'kam dahshauk k'war'ma'khon.
Whatever she had said, she'd said it fiercely. Tuvok nodded and began rubbing his niece's arm with his hand. Janeway and B'elanna were sure it was an act of affection and compassion, until he said to Holly,
"Your arm is cold. Computer, increase the environmental temperature by two degrees."
The captain suppressed her curiosity about what Holly had said for the moment, knowing if they wanted to, they would tell her later. She gave B'elanna a look, conveying to also suppress her curiosity. B'elanna nodded infinitesimally, acknowledging the captain's order.
Holly's eyelids were flagging, even though she was diligent in maintaining an alert look about her. They all stayed and caught up on things that had happened on Earth while they were gone. But, eventually, Tuvok noticed Holly's exhaustion, and decided to act. She would not heal if she was not well rested.
"T'Para, you require rest. You are tired."
"Is that so? I am not tired."
"You are lying."
"I am not lying. And I am not tired. You have no evidence of either."
Tuvok raised one eyebrow, begging to differ.
Your eyelids appear to be attempting to send an encoded message in the classic 'Morse code', your esophageal track has tightened rhythmically in accordance with suppressing a yawn once, on average, every 48 seconds. Also, there are dark circles underneath your eyes that you have hidden poorly with a powdery substance."
"That is untrue."
Tuvok frowned at her, incredulously. He held her face still with his left hand and raised his right hand up towards her face. She stayed still as he wiped under her eye with his thumb. The captain noticed how odd it was that Holly had light, cream-colored skin and Tuvok had dark mocha chocolate skin. It was easy to make the comparison when their skin was right up next to each other.
She wondered how they could be related. Then she remembered that on Vulcan, with all of the arranged marriages and mixed genetics, it was almost common for a cream-colored-skin couple to have a dark-skinned child. Both Tuvok and his wife and all of his children were dark-skinned, but T'Pel's sister and Holly were both light-skinned, because T'Pel's parents, Holly's grandparents, were one light-skinned and one dark-skinned.
So, after he wiped under her other eye, one could easily see, even in the low light, under her eyes were a deep purple. The captain gasped and scolded Holly. B'elanna cleared her throat to speak.
"I'm going to make it my personal goal to keep you in bed. This is awful, Holly. I won't let you do this to yourself."
Tuvok and the captain nodded in agreement.
Tuvok wiped the chalky substance off of his thumb onto a tissue. "You require more rest, Holly."
Holly frowned, out of arguments, exposed she and crossed and un-crossed her arms. B'elanna laughed out loud.
"Is there something amusing?" Holly asked, polite and emotionally showing nothing.
B'elanna took on a deep bass voice, obviously imitating Tuvok. "Holly, it is time for bed." She switched to a higher falsetto. "But, Dad! I don't want to go to bed! I'm not even tired!" Back to the bass, "You most certainly are tired young lady! Now bed!"
The captain and B'elanna began to laugh wildly as they realized how accurate the old human ritual was with these two. Tuvok and Holly looked at each other and both slowly raised a slanted Vulcan eyebrow. The parent arguing with the child about bed was a classic routine, it shocked the captain how well Holly and Tuvok played this role.
She'd never known before how they related to one another, she knew they were acquainted, but not like this. She thought about this as Tuvok began lecturing Holly on the importance of rest and a healthy schedule. Kathryn thought of how she and Tuvok were friends. He was still a very private man, but on the occasional instances that they had spoken of friends and family, he had only mentioned Holly once or twice, and usually only in passing.
The captain thought of how, after she'd left the academy, she and Holly talked twice a week, caught up, chatted, and helped each other work out problems. And when they were too far to call, they would write letters or send recordings and pictures. When Janeway had reached the rank of commander, right before Holly was assigned to Vulcan, Janeway told her there was a certain image to conform to as the second in command. She couldn't receive but one letter a week anymore. She didn't know why she had told Holly this, perhaps at the moment the command had gone to her head, but Holly had said she understood completely. Whether she really had or not, Janeway was never really sure.
Then when she had made captain, her pride had swelled once more and she'd told Holly that they'd have to cut back to once a month now. Holly had accepted graciously, once again claiming understanding. The captain wondered if she had felt like she was being pushed away. Janeway felt awful suddenly. Did she succeed in unintentionally pushing her friend away? Was this why she had never talked much about her family? Her other friends? Was it perhaps not her imagination when she had thought she noticed Holly's letters had become less and less personal? Did Holly still consider her one of her best friends? Or had Janeway thrown it all out the airlock?
If she had, she would have to fix this all, somehow. She would not push another loved one away for the sake of her command. She would mend it all, one way or another.
Suddenly, the captain snapped out of her reverie, pushing her thoughts to the back of her mind for later. B'elanna had given her a little nudge, getting her back to reality. She discretely patted B'elanna's knee, thanking her for waking her from her thoughts. Tuvok had taken a stern look with Holly and it appeared to the captain that she didn't miss much. B'elanna and Janeway smiled at how parental he looked.
Tuvok stood and told the captain, "I believe Holly is in dire need of food and rest. I will see to it. You should both go, you may visit with her when she is healthier."
He swept her into her arms again and B'elanna and the captain were sure that if she had the strength, she would be fighting. He took her to her bed effortlessly, and drew the covers back and placed her in.
Her face remained neutral. "Sa-mekh, you are being both ridiculous and rude."
The captain and B'elanna looked at each other, both wondering what sa-mekh could possibly mean. Maybe it was mean, fool or joker perhaps? Or perhaps it meant an endearing word like friend or teacher? They had no clue…
He frowned. "And neither of those will stop me from ensuring your recovery is as quick as possible. I will not have my ko-fu forcing herself to stay awake for the sake of stubbornness."
Now they wondered what "ko-fu" could possibly mean.
Holly sighed in wary defeat. He drew the blanket up around her sitting figure. She sighed again, mouth set into a hard line. "Tuvok, I am Vulcan, and therefore not stubborn."
Tuvok turned to give an almost sarcastic look to Holly, then looked at the captain. "I will take the shift for tonight."
The captain understood completely and nodded. Holly did not know that the doctor had asked someone be with her at all times, but through that one sentence, she figured it out. The captain and B'elanna took that chance to leave, sneaking into the hall while Holly and Tuvok continued to argue.
Through the door they heard Holly say "Shift? For watching me? This is highly illogical and inefficient, Tuvok! Surely you won't partake in something so absurd…"
They laughed quietly at their friend's antics and said good night, before heading off towards their own quarters. It was already 2200 hours after all…
Janeway and Chakotay have dinner next!