Nightmare's End

A Triangles Series Story by jamelia

It's the dreams, I think.

I've been getting them off and on for almost seven years now.

I'm not the only one who gets recurring dreams. Some of my friends from my days on Voyager also admit having recurring nightmares. After all that happened while we were in the Delta Quadrant, it's hard to imagine anyone NOT suffering from a nightmare every now and then.

Mine seem different, somehow. They're not always exactly the same, but when I get one, it seems so real. Many seem more like memories than dreams.

There's a pattern to them. I always seem to be looking back on something that happened in the past. It's not like regular dreams, where you feel like you're in the middle of the action, you know what I mean? It's always me, feeling bad about the repercussions of something already over and done with. Remembering, trying to live with myself, and sometimes attempting to rectify whatever mistake I made that I feel so bad about.

Usually, it's guilt over what I've done wrong, but not always. There's the dream of Tom being my father-in-law, for instance. I'm the dad to a kid named Andrew (who looks like me, I must say - at least the dreams are consistent that way).

Miral is a baby! I don't want to have to wait THAT long to get married!

But in the Tom-as-my-father-in-law dream, Miral isn't the name of my wife. It's Linnis. Kes is my mother-in-law, not B'Elanna. I always wake up extremely confused after one of those dreams. Confused and sad. They're not really bad dreams, just a jumbled up mess. Impossible.

The ones that are the most upsetting are the ones where everyone is dead but Chakotay and me. The two of us are heading back to a frozen planet. We're going to try to save everyone from being buried for eternity inside a Voyager encased in ice. Most of the time, we dig up Seven and resurrect the Doctor. He extracts Seven's Borg implant to send a message into the past. A few times we resurrect Seven directly, and she sends a message to herself to save Voyager. They're so insane. I keep telling myself this is simply how my brain copes with that almost-accident, when we changed course during our attempt to use the slipstream. Afterwards, our telemetry told us Voyager would have crashed onto an ice planet if a course correction hadn't been made. Except, I never sent the course change. It would have been my fault if we did crash. I wake up in cold sweats whenever I get that one.

Looking into the ice and seeing faces I know there - that dream comes up over and over again. Like it really happened, in another time dimension. I have the sneaking suspicion it actually did happen. Afterwards, Captain Janeway told me there was a message of encouragement from a "future Harry," directed to me, along with the course correction that saved Voyager. No one has an explanation for how that could have happened, unless a Chakotay and Harry Kim from the future did change the past. If it's true, that makes at least three other Harry Kims who have touched my life - that I know of.

I really am a Harry Kim from another time dimension. That's not a nightmare or a fantasy. It's fact. Just a pure and simple stroke of good luck for me, and bad luck for every other person on the Voyager I had known up until then. I carried a newborn Naomi Wildman away from her true mother on that duplicate Voyager, saving her from the Vidiians. In the time dimension in which Naomi and I now live, our Samantha Wildman's child died at birth. Just trying to explain all that clearly is enough to give me a headache. Captain Janeway says she gets one every time the subject of time travel or temporal displacement comes up.

Captain Janeway - the one who really is my Captain Janeway now - she told me, when I said I felt weird about what happened, "We're Starfleet officers, Mr. Kim. Weird is part of the job." That helped calm me down - a bit. I've always felt a kinship with Naomi that's stronger than with almost anyone else, because we came from the same alternate reality. No one has ever been able to explain the temporal mechanics of how that happened. A couple of scientists actually had the nerve to tell me it was a mass hallucination!

Sorry, guys. My memories of running through smoky corridors, dodging Vidiians trying to snatch me for body parts: that was no hallucination. The stuff of nightmares? Oh, yeah. That, they were. The recurring dreams of me running for my life through Voyager? Okay. Those are nightmares. Definitely. I always wake up from those. That's one scenario where I can tell the difference between my memories and my bad dreams.

But what was the reason I always felt like I was in the middle of an illusion when I was living with Libby? Sometimes I'd fall out of bed, and I'd feel like I'd fallen from a great height, from Someplace Else. I could perceive two realities superimposed one over the other, each fighting for supremacy. In one reality, I never set foot on Voyager. I'm living with Libby, commuting to my job on an advanced propulsion shuttle project. In the other, I'm living with Libby while working on an advanced propulsion shuttle project, but only after I've returned from the Delta Quadrant on Voyager. The second one is my current reality. I'm working with Tom Paris, B'Elanna Torres, and Annika - formerly Seven of Nine - Hansen. In that first one, I realize I'm not in the right place. I know I have to go back to Voyager. A very different Tom - a wastrel who practically lives in Sandrines - gives his life to help me get me back there because his life is so bad, he'd do anything to have a different life.

I'm always glad when I wake up and find out my friend Tom got his wish. He hasn't died for me. The truth is, he would actually die for me. That's how he is. I'd never want him to lose the life he's living now with B'Elanna and Miral.

In those two versions of my life, the common thread is Libby. In the Tom-the-Martyr version of my life, my good friend Danny Byrd was lost on Voyager. In the one I'm living in now, my fiancée Libby gave up on me when I was lost with Voyager and married my friend Danny Byrd. He was killed in action at the Battle of Betazed in this life, leaving behind Libby. She put aside her widowhood and hooked up with me again when Voyager returned in triumph from the Delta Quadrant. I don't know if Voyager was really lost with all hands when Danny was there in my place, or if Danny was bound to come back some day, too. I also wonder if I was destined to be killed during the Dominion War, if I'd remained with Libby.

One thing I do know: when we made it home from the Delta Quadrant, it's like I slipped back into the other reality I'd dreamed about so often while on Voyager. That's my Voyager, which made it home with the help of an Admiral Janeway who came to us from the future. She sacrificed her life and allowed herself to be assimilated by the Borg. By doing so, she eliminated the Borg as a threat for the foreseeable future. She pushed us through the collapsing Borg transwarp corridors, back to Earth, saving us. According to my Captain Janeway, Admiral Janeway told her about a Captain Harry Kim in that future timeline.

If you're counting, that's the fourth Harry Kim. Me, myself, I, and that other Harry Kim who was a captain. No wonder these dreams always bother me so much. In every one of them, someone sacrifices his or her life for mine. It's a burden, let me tell you. Another temporal headache for my Captain Janeway. Bad dream time again for me.

My life has settled down somewhat, despite the dreams. I no longer look over my shoulder to see if there are any Vardwaar, Hirogen, or insane photonic beings trying to destroy me. Life isn't without its stresses at any time, of course, but it's nothing like the dangers we faced regularly in the Delta Quadrant.

All of the regular Starfleet officers were promoted as soon as we got back home. We'd been held back from the normal pattern of rank increases since we were out of touch for so long, but Starfleet made it up to us. In fact, I'm already a full lieutenant, after barely a year in Junior Grade. Captain Janeway tells me I've earned it - that all of us have.

Once the parades and the political wrangling was over with after our return, I asked for another ship posting right away. Instead, I was assigned to the Delta Flyer adaptations project.

"The perfect man for the job," everyone told me. Tom, B'Elanna, Seven and I built the original Delta Flyer, so maybe I was the best man for the project at the time. The real reason, I knew very well, was that they had to straighten out Tom's and B'Elanna's situations before the real "perfect people for the job" could be assigned. At least Seven - I should say Annika - was hired on as a civilian consultant a week later, which helped a lot. When we put the Delta Flyer together in the Delta Quadrant, we had to scrape up the resources to build it, as we always did with shuttle construction. Now, all the resources of the Federation were being funneled to us. Starfleet wanted the Flyer class to become the new standard for shuttles in the Federation.

Tom was totally tickled by that, and he couldn't wait to get on the team. First, the Outmate Board had to rule on his status. That was a no-brainer. He'd served a "sentence" under Captain Janeway that was already more than twice as long as his maximum sentence at Auckland had been, once his time served in New Zealand was added to the total. So, Tom was a free man.

The question now was: would Starfleet let him stay in the uniform Kathryn Janeway had given him to wear? That was a bit stickier. Tom's discharge from Starfleet for lying about Caldik Prime was the main obstacle. While the circumstances of his actions at the water world of Monea also hung over his head, that General Discharge in Lieu of Court Martial was the elephant in the room.

It took a while for a decision to be made, and it took a pardon from the Federation president, expunging his record of the General Discharge, for him to be confirmed as a Starfleet officer. Privately, Tom's been told he won't ever have to worry about becoming an admiral like his father. Expunged or not, the brass will not forget his record of transgressions. And you know what? Tom is just fine with that. "I never wanted to be an admiral, Harry. Give me a ship and a star to steer her by, and I'm set for life - as long as B'Elanna and Miral are with me. I never want to leave them behind because of my 'career ambitions.' All this does is make it official: I'm never going to have to make that kind of choice. Actually, I'm more worried about B'Elanna leaving me behind! She's the rising star in this family!"

The president's action was mostly geared to settling the "Maquis Problem." When the pardon for the Voyager Maquis was announced, the president included all of the Maquis, wherever they were. Anyone still in prison on charges stemming from acts taken as a Maquis was freed. We were all happy about that. The brevet ranks Captain Janeway had given to the Maquis in our crew were confirmed. Those who wished to stay in Starfleet, like B'Elanna, Tabor Galen, and Mike Ayala, received promotions just like the ones the rest of the Starfleet "regulars" had received. A fair number of the Maquis were freedom fighters at heart, like Ken Dalby, Mariah Henley, and Gerron Tem. They never had any real intentions about making careers in space. With this pardon, they received a nice hunk of back pay and benefits to help them start over. Even better, the families of the Maquis who gave their lives on the journey home, such as the families of Kurt Bendera and Mike Hogan, received the same financial benefits package as the rest of the Maquis. Kurt left behind a wife and two children. I hear one of his kids has already asked for entrance to Starfleet Academy. It's likely she'll get in, too. I've heard she's a very gifted child, with good leadership potential. I'm sorry I never got to know Kurt better. He was one of the first killed after the two crews were blended together. From all the stories I've heard about him, he was a great guy. Hogan was, too.

I understand Michael Jonas' sister even received compensation, despite his treachery. I think Starfleet wanted to keep that entire incident under wraps. I've never heard Seska's name mentioned even once at any of the memorial services. It's like she never even existed. Since she was a Cardassian undercover agent, I guess one could say "Seska" never really did exist.

The Equinox Five, after a great deal of discussion, ended up being pardoned, too, although for them, it wasn't complete amnesty. There was a lot of gnashing of teeth over what they did. What tipped the scales for them was the logs Captain Ransom sent over to Voyager. His log entries clarified why he told Captain Janeway that those five were "the best of us."

The initial deaths of the aliens were confirmed to have been the result of the Equinox crew acting in self-defense. The aliens attacked them first. Once their energy-producing properties were discovered, Marla, Noah, Morrow, Tessoni, and Sofin at first refused to follow their superior's orders to murder those aliens for fuel. However, in his personal logs, Max Burke mentioned he had threatened to "space" all of them if they didn't go along. In fact, he'd collared Marla Gilmore and was getting ready to open an airlock door to shove her off the ship as a "demonstration" of what was going to happen to all of them before the five caved in to his demands.

There were still plenty of people in the admiralty who said the threat of death was not an excuse. I can't say I wouldn't have gone along with those orders if I'd been threatened like they were. I doubt a lot of the sanctimonious hard-liners would have been any more willing to give up their lives in the same situation, either. The upshot was, the five were pardoned, but all of them chose to resign from Starfleet. I don't know if that was something they did spontaneously, or if there was some sort of deal. Thanks to the pardon, though, they didn't lose their benefits. Marla was allowed to keep Aimee, the little Borg baby she'd adopted. They all claimed they wanted nothing more to do with space, except maybe to travel somewhere they could call home (and, not so incidentally, where people didn't know who they were). The only one still on Earth is Marla.

I see her every now and then, although Libby was never crazy about that friendship.

That was one of the things that finally got to me about Libby. She was very possessive. She wasn't only jealous about me going over and spending a little time with Aimee and Marla. She was unhappy when I had anything at all to do with one of my female ship mates, no matter how public the event or limited the actual contact.

Libby loved the attention I received from being one of the "Voyagers." The spotlight shining on me always shone brightly on her, too, whenever we were trotted out for a publicity event - and there were lots of those, especially once the Equinox Five had been shoved out of the picture. Libby loved to be interviewed about what it was like to have her fiancé come back from the dead and return to her. She always managed to mention her poor late husband Danny at least once - after the first interview, when she didn't mention him. I complained she shouldn't ignore him that way. Mostly, she gushed about how miraculous it was for me to be back in her life. At first, I admit, I was flattered. As time went on, those interviews no longer seemed so wonderful to me.

When she described our relationship, I had trouble recognizing the Harry Kim she was describing. Libby didn't seem to have a handle on who I really was any more. Seven years as a castaway, even with a crew of a hundred and fifty or so survivors sharing your plight, changes a person. To Libby, I was a cross between the Harry who'd said goodbye for what was supposed to be a three or four week mission and the saintly guy she'd built up in her mind.

Early on our journey, I used to groan to Tom that I was "Harry-read-me-like-a-book Kim." As time went on, I wasn't quite that transparent. I thought of myself as "honest Harry Kim." Yes, I'd say what was on my mind if it was pertinent to what was going on. By the last couple of years, though, I kept a lot more inside. Things happened. Confronting the Borg. That Memorial when we relived a massacre. Recurring nightmares, which I never really talked about with anyone, including my closest friends Tom and B'Elanna. When I tried to convey this to Libby, she smiled at me - and then went right on talking about our lives as if we were still back in the early days of our engagement. I was reminded of Seven when she demoted me, or when she said I wasn't on the list of men she wanted to date. My opinions didn't count for much.

Maybe that's why we had trouble setting a wedding date. I was her fiancé. That seemed to be good enough for Libby. Whenever we spoke about wedding plans, she didn't want to include my Voyager family. She couched it in terms of "we don't want a really big wedding, do we, Harry?" And then she'd turn around and talk about inviting a bunch of admirals we'd met at big social functions - admirals I barely recognized, let alone knew well enough to say "hello" to.

At the social events, she usually steered me away from former shipmates who were there. Libby didn't mind Captain Janeway. She had no problem with any of the men who attended. But my female crew mates were a different story. Jenny Delaney. Amanda Lang. Tal Celes. Sue Nicoletti. Marla Gilmore. She barely tolerated B'Elanna, who was happily married to Tom Paris and had a baby with him, for Pete's sake! And Annika Hansen, formerly Seven of Nine, even when she had Chakotay on her arm, was always a thorn in Libby's side. I guess she thought that, no matter what I claimed, I still clung to the memory of my crush on Seven. It was ridiculous. Impossible. Seven and Chakotay were an item. Libby still hated her.

Things finally came to a head at the dinner marking the first anniversary of our return to the Alpha Quadrant. No parade this time, thankfully, but what politician can resist a public appearance celebrating a happy event like that one was? The Borg menace had been erased for the immediate future. Break out the brass bands!

Sorry. Tom says I'm getting cynical in my old age. I think I was getting pretty cynical by the end, too. Once we lost Joe Carey, so close to the end of our journey, I was a lot less rah-rah and more, "Let's protect as many of us as we can. Life is short enough as it is."

Anyway, at the dinner, the command staff was on the dais, where everyone could see us. We had to at least look like we were paying attention. Libby was sitting at a table with several other relatives. I think she would have been pretty annoyed, except she was sitting next to Admiral and Mrs. Paris, Tom's father and mother, with Tuvok's wife T'Pel was sitting on her other side. Libby loved associating with admirals. I'm not sure she said more than two words to T'Pel all night.

Captain Janeway didn't have a date that evening. Chakotay, who after several spirit quests had finally accepted the captaincy he had been offered, sat to her right. Seven sat next to Chakotay. Neither one was ever the life of the party at such events, but both seemed exceptionally reserved that evening, even for them. Seven appeared to converse more frequently during dinner with our Doctor than she did with Chakotay. Tom and B'Elanna, as usual, were very animated. I was happy to be sitting next to them. B'Elanna had to jab both of us a couple of times with her elbow during the speeches to keep us in line. The wine was really good. It was from the Picard family's vineyard, as I recall. Picard was one of the guests at the dinner.

After the speeches were over, the senior staff sat around one of the tables and enjoyed spending time with each other. As a group, we seldom had the opportunity to be together any more. It was especially nice because Tuvok and T'Pel were there. I hadn't seen him for over six months. Captain Janeway mentioned that everyone was pushing her to accept a promotion to admiral. Tom asked Captain Picard, who was sitting with us, why he'd never accepted any of the offers made to him. Everyone knows the admiralty had been after him for years.

Picard responded in his mellifluous voice, "I'm happy in a captain's chair, which happens to be located on the flagship of the fleet. My work is rewarding, just as it is. I prefer being out where the action is, making the best choices I possibly can, where I may utilize my past experiences as well as my knowledge of policy. I'd rather not be asked to pass judgment on a captain's decisions well after the fact, when I wasn't there to perceive all that was going on at that decisive moment. As you know better than anyone, Kathryn, the paper pushers think they know what's going on. Many of them have been away from that captain's chair for so long, they've forgotten what it's like in the middle of a crisis, when information is lacking and instinct is what one needs to rely upon. No offense meant, Admiral Paris!"

Picard smiled at Tom's father, who bowed his head and replied, "None taken, Jean-Luc." The admiral turned to Captain Janeway and added, "Jean-Luc has given you his reasons for rejecting our overtures, although he is eminently qualified - I dare say, from what he's just said, probably more qualified - than many. I admit, I'd be flattered if you did become an admiral, Kathryn. Since you're my protégée, it would reflect rather well on me! But, as Jean-Luc so ably points out, it's your decision. It's your life to live. We may enjoy your expertise while you teach at Starfleet Academy for a brief time, but if you choose to remain a captain, eventually you will get another ship if you want one. Would you prefer a position of power? Or perhaps I should say, what sort of position of power would you prefer to occupy? In the admiralty or in a captain's chair, you'd have power, just of very different types."

Captain Janeway smiled that crooked, rueful smile of hers. "What type of power do I wish to have? I hadn't really considered that aspect, Admiral. As long as I'm a captain, I can always look forward to a step up from that. As an admiral, the only thing I can anticipate is retirement!"

Everyone laughed, but suddenly I didn't feel like laughing. I remembered something about our last "adventure" on Voyager. When the future Admiral Janeway arrived on board, she told her younger counterpart that the trip home in her reality took twenty-three years. Many more of her crew died on that trip, before her Voyager reached home safely. My Voyager made it home in seven years. If my captain becomes Admiral Janeway, would she be forced into making the same sacrifice as that other Admiral Janeway? If she'd given me a vote at that table, my advice would be to stay a captain. We were home now. Becoming an admiral would not change that fact. I didn't want my Captain Janeway to sacrifice her life for my future. My nightmares told me that sort of thing had already happened too many times.

As we were leaving, I noticed Seven standing by herself by the archway of the exit. She was dressed in a simple but elegant gown, with her supportive corset just barely visible beneath its folds. Since Libby was chatting with Admiral and Mrs. Paris, I walked over to my colleague and former crew mate. Seven looked a little lost, something I hadn't seen for several years. I asked her where Chakotay was.

"Captain Chakotay asked to converse with Captain Janeway. Alone."

"Ah," I said. There was a coldness in Seven's voice, and I was glad I wasn't going home with her tonight. Of course, when I glanced over at Libby, I saw she hadn't missed the fact that I was speaking with Seven, either. Libby was glaring at me rather intensely.

I turned back to Seven. "I'm sorry we didn't get more of a chance to visit with you and Captain Chakotay this evening. Are you going to be free anytime in the next few weeks? Libby and I have been wanting to go to Sisko's again for a while now. The food there is excellent. It reminds me a little of Neelix's better efforts - when he forgot to over-spice his dishes! Maybe we could have our own 'welcome home' celebration. Cut out the speeches. Just enjoy each other's company. What do you say?"

She answered that she would discuss it with Chakotay. At that moment, we saw him approach. He had Captain Janeway on his arm. They were smiling, looking a lot like they did during the first couple of years on Voyager, before Seven came on board.

I extended the invitation to go to Sisko's in two weeks to everyone at the table. As popular as that restaurant is, I doubted I could get reservations any sooner. Tom and B'Elanna tentatively accepted the invitation, although they weren't sure how long they'd be able to stay. Mrs. Paris was celebrating her birthday the following day, and this would be the first time Tom would be able to celebrate with her at their house for many years. Between Caldik Prime, the Maquis, prison, and his exile on Voyager, Tom hadn't been home for his mother's birthday in over ten years. Even last year, although we were back in the Alpha Quadrant by her birthday, Tom was unable to leave the ship because of his unsettled status. Until his Outmate review was over, Tom was essentially confined to quarters - except when he was being trotted out for display at some sort of official "welcome home" event, of course.

Tuvok and T'Pel had to turn us down. They were returning to Vulcan by the end of the week. Captain Janeway also gracefully declined, saying she was planning an extended vacation at her mother's home in Indiana. Her mother had complained her daughter was "always running off" when she'd promised to be with her. The captain said she needed to stay with her mother for the entire visit this time, unless she was called back to San Francisco for an emergent situation. Her mother, as the widow of an admiral herself, knew that could not be avoided. A dinner with friends, however, "just won't cut it with my mother," she said. Chakotay, however, confirmed he could come and would be very be glad to accompany Seven that night.

We said our goodbyes. Libby couldn't hustle me out the door of the ballroom quickly enough to suit her. She was very upset I'd set up a social engagement without consulting her first. She had this idea that keeping our social calendar straight was her responsibility. It kept her in control of our social life, too.

I never did learn what Captains Janeway and Chakotay discussed that night. However, the next day, the brass announced that Captain Janeway had agreed to teach for another full term at Starfleet Academy. The press release made no mention of any promotion to admiral.

I was right about not being able to get a reservation for six at Sisko's any sooner than two weeks. The best night, of course, turned out to be the night before Mrs. Paris' birthday. She'd assured Tom and B'Elanna they should stay for the entire meal. When they arrived at Sisko's, however, they said they needed to get back early. Miral was teething and had been fussy all day. They wanted to comfort her as much as possible tonight. Since Tom's mother's birthday was going to be a splashy affair, they hoped a well-rested Miral would be up to the festivities.

We'd been at the restaurant and nibbling on appetizers for several minutes before Seven arrived. She was alone. "I regret Captain Chakotay will be unable to attend this evening after all," was all she said.

As they'd warned us, Tom and B'Elanna left early (with a couple of "take home" orders of Jambalaya - Tom wasn't about to miss a good meal from Sisko's, even if he had to rewarm it once they got home). That left just Seven, Libby, and me. That wasn't a great combination.

I can't even remember what started it. Right after we'd placed our orders for dinner, Libby took umbrage about something Seven said. When I didn't agree we should leave immediately, Libby stormed off to transport home alone. Our party of six had turned into a relatively intimate dinner for two.

"It would be permissible return for dinner on another night if you wish, Lieutenant Kim," Seven said quietly. I realized she had refused to be baited by Libby, which was notable in and of itself. In my experience, Seven seldom backed down from anyone acting as belligerently towards her as Libby had behaved. I hadn't noticed previously how subdued she was. If anything, Seven was even quieter than she'd been at the big dinner a fortnight before.

"No, that's okay. Libby always cools down pretty quickly. She'll be fine once I get home. We shouldn't leave right after ordering. It's not fair to the restaurant staff." I leaned over and whispered, "Libby has been a little on edge lately. I'm sure it's nothing."

"I see," Seven replied. She arched her biological brow like Tuvok always did when he detected a prevarication on someone's part. I don't even know why I tried to explain away Libby's behavior. It had been inexcusable.

"I'm looking forward to my Jambalaya! Would you like a little more wine?"

Seven said she preferred water and sipped a little from her glass.

After pouring myself a little more wine - which by then I really needed - I asked, "So, where is Captain Chakotay tonight?"

Seven took another sip of water and placed her goblet very deliberately on the table. "I do not know. We have not spoken in over a week."

The shock must have shown on my face. "Seven, what's going on between the two of you?"

"We have come to an agreement not to see each other anymore. He removed his belongings and his person from the quarters we shared several weeks ago. He is attached elsewhere."

I was momentarily unable to speak. I finally managed, "What do you mean?"

She folded her hands in her lap. "Lieutenant Kim, Captain Chakotay continues to have feelings for Captain Janeway."

I sighed. I wasn't sure what I should say. I didn't want to tell her I had thought the same thing myself. Eventually, I did. "Seven, at one time he did seem to have feelings for her, but I don't believe he'd ever act on those feelings. There's no evidence he did during our seven years in the Delta Quadrant. They could have been together there if they'd wanted to be. I'm sure the crew would have understood."

"Even when they were exiled on the planet they called New Earth?" Seven's eyebrow was raised again, much higher this time.

"They're the only ones who know what happened there. After they got back on board the ship, they were always friendly, but I never got the impression they'd been lovers there."

"I have reason to believe they were. That was before I arrived on Voyager, and several years before I began my relationship with Commander Chakotay. I have no cause to berate him over actions he took before I came on board. However, what has occurred to him in the past affects our current relationship. While I have enjoyed our association, I recognized some time ago it was not likely to be permanent."

"Maybe he'll come around, Seven. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder! Look at Libby and me."

"I do look at you. I do not sense your relationship with Libby will be any more permanent than mine with Chakotay."

I was saved from responding to her opinion about Libby and me by the arrival of our dinners. The waiter asked what he should do with Libby's order of blackened swordfish. I asked him to package it up for me to take home to her. Then I babbled on, telling him she'd left because she was feeling poorly. When I turned back to Seven, I saw her mouth pursed, as if to prevent a sardonic smile from appearing on her lips. I shook my head and admitted, "I don't even know why I bothered to excuse her behavior to the waiter. He couldn't have missed Libby's tirade."

"You have always tried to facilitate social relationships, Lieutenant Kim. I remember how you once tried to make me 'part of the team.' Your attempt to help everyone in this regard is worthy of praise. It is often futile, but it is commendable you continue to try."

I had to laugh at her observation. We spent the next several minutes eating our dinners. Despite the dramatics we'd experienced, I enjoyed my Jambalaya. We agreed the chef's preparation of our meal was without fault, but until we'd finished, we said little else. I wanted to address what she'd said about Chakotay, but I was unsure how to begin. I should not have been concerned. Seven was, as always, willing to say what she had on her mind.

"I know you have questions about our earlier discussion, Lieutenant Kim. I have contemplated parting with Captain Chakotay for several months. I admire him greatly. He is a very fine man. However, I do not believe that I love him. Whenever I observe Lieutenants Paris and Torres interacting with one another, as I had a brief opportunity to do this evening, I realize I have never had feelings for him which are as intense as theirs are for each other. Your relationship with Libby appears much more like mine with Chakotay than it does with that of Lieutenants Paris and Torres."

My initial response to this comment was to feel I had been insulted. And then I thought about it, and I realized, as usual, she had a point. I couldn't let it rest completely, however.

"Tom and B'Elanna do love each other very much, but that doesn't mean they don't have squabbles like Libby and I did tonight. They've had some major disagreements over the years."

"That is true. Their relationship is not without its difficult moments. It has not escaped my notice that many times, they seem to enjoy provoking each other into arguments, which are followed by periods of extreme closeness. When we were on board Voyager, they were known to participate in something called 'make-up sex' after their arguments. I heard several remarks of this nature from our crew mates. The Doctor also commented upon the subject several times."

"Was this during your research project into human sexual behaviors?" I asked her with a grin.

"And at other times as well," she replied, confirming my supposition.

"I see."

The waiter came by to remove our empty plates from the table and asked if we wished to order dessert or coffee. We both chose to order a latte. As good as the desserts at Sisko's are, I had no desire to indulge in sweets that night. For the few minutes it took for our server to meticulously remove the crumbs from our table, Seven and I said nothing more to him or to each other.

After he stepped away, Seven lifted her wine glass. I poured her a little of the Chardonnay she had not deigned to drink earlier in the meal. She was still silent. I got the feeling she was deciding whether to say anything more on the subject of human sexual behaviors, and I prepared myself to cut her off suddenly if necessary. Seven could say the most outrageous things when discussing sexual matters, and this was a very public place. There were some elements of her life with Chakotay, for instance, I had no wish to know - or allow anyone else to know, either.

Finally, she said, "I once tried to experiment with their technique of confrontation with you. It was not successful."

"When was this?" I asked, genuinely puzzled.

"When I 'demoted' you during our research concerning the Omega Particle."

"Really? You mean my work wasn't bad enough for me to be reduced to Two of Ten?"

"Your work was not inferior enough to warrant such an action," she admitted, smiling slightly. "I chose to test you, to see what your reaction would be if I was unfair to you in this manner. Your response was not at all like Lieutenant Paris' would have been in a similar situation."

"You're right about that. He would have gone toe to toe with you and demanded you rescind your decision. Or maybe he would have admitted he could have done better and demanded to be no worse than Six of Ten, or something."

Seven nodded her head in agreement. "I believe he would have expressed his opinion quite forcibly, whatever it was."

"I've never been very good at confrontation, Seven. In fact, I always took a step back whenever B'Elanna got belligerent around me. That's one reason Tom was better for her than me. B'Elanna and I have been great friends from the first time we met in the Ocampa caverns. We've always worked well together. Some people on Voyager were taking bets we would get together some day. But when B'Elanna gets angry, I've always wanted to run the other way. Tom has no fear. He just gets in her face! I like to help people get along. I always tried to make sure everyone was included in the Voyager family. That was always my role."

"Which was what you tried to do for me when I first came on board. Which I refused to accept."

"You were having a lot of problems adjusting when you were first cut off from the Collective. You'd been with the Borg for so long, your new life took a lot of getting used to. I understood what was happening. When the captain took you under her wing, I backed off."

"As you always do."

"Yes," I laughed. "As I always do." I didn't want to tell her it was all I could do to control my hormone levels whenever we were together in those days. Even when she clunked me on the head, I was willing to make excuses for her.

Fortunately, she didn't mention that, saying instead, "We always worked well together."

"We did. We still do."

Seven took a tiny sip of her wine. "Your Libby does not appreciate us working together."

I had nothing to say to that. No need. It was plain to everyone - even the innocent bystanders in the restaurant that evening.

"When I received dating advice from the Doctor, you were perturbed," she noted.

I knew where she was going with this. Maybe bringing up when she hit me on the head would be less painful. After a swallow of my own wine, I admitted, "It would have been nice if I had at least made your list, even if you still went out with Chapman on your 'first date.' He was a very nice guy. Even if he was about as comfortable about confrontation as I was."

"You had been dating the Varro woman. I did not believe you had an interest in pursuing a relationship with me any longer."

It never occurred to me this could be a factor in my not making her "Acceptable Mates on Voyager" list. "Really? Is that why you didn't consider me as a possible mate?"

She looked at me gravely. "Perhaps I was offended you no longer showed interest in me."

Our lattes arrived. We both took a couple of sips while I contemplated a lost opportunity, thanks to my head being turned by Tal. Thinking of lost opportunities brought someone else to mind who had been important to my companion.

"You could have stayed with Axum, Seven."

"Yes." She said nothing for an extended period, long enough that I was about to say it was time to call it a night. The words died on my tongue as she suddenly raised her eyes to mine and said, "Many times, I have thought it would have been better if I had stayed with him."

"You truly loved him, Seven?"

"At that time I was still unacquainted with the full concept of love. Perhaps I was. However, when I examine that decision, I cannot fault my continuing on with you on Voyager. It is only during more recent intervals of time I have experienced any regrets."

"Because you broke up with Captain Chakotay?"

She was silent again, but this time, I waited more patiently for her answer. When she first spoke, I initially thought it was something of a non sequitor.

"I wished to explore my humanity. Chakotay is a very attractive individual. When we began our association, I believed I had made the best choice for both of us. However, as with my decision not to remain with Axum, I find I have regrets about beginning a relationship with Chakotay."

"Because of his feelings for Captain Janeway?"

"Chakotay and I are very different people. We look at everything in very different ways. I was Borg. I appreciate efficiency and logic above all things. At first, I was attracted to his spiritual nature because it was so different a way of approaching life than mine. I also wished to explore the concept after Captain Janeway told me I had had a "spiritual experience" when I glimpsed the perfection of the Omega Particle. However, I discovered that one encounter with the spiritual realm appears sufficient for me. Opposites do not necessarily attract indefinitely. Experiencing life through another viewpoint can be stimulating and instructive, but it can also be irritating. When two individuals have much in common and a similar approach to life, their daily association is less stressful. As you just said concerning Lieutenant Torres and yourself, over time, I realized I do not suit him as well as another does. He is better suited to Captain Janeway in personality. And he does have feelings for her, which predate my arrival on Voyager.

"Yes, we all thought they were in love with each other at one time."

"Until the Equinox Five incident?"

"That was a difficult time for them. Captain Janeway went way too far with Noah Lessing. Commander Chakotay tried to stop her from doing something she'd always regret. But I don't think that was the real problem. They always adhered to the protocol that captains should not have a relationship with anyone in their chain of command. How many years can two people refuse to act on their love for each other before love burns out?"

"I do not believe their love ever has 'burnt out,' as you put it. They still care deeply for one another. I have seen the way they look at each other whenever they are together. I can no longer ignore the obvious. Chakotay does not love me the way he loves her. He never has."

"It's painful to have a relationship break down, Seven. If there is anything I can do . . ."

"I do not believe your Libby would appreciate your doing anything for me, Lieutenant Kim."

"Call me Harry, Seven. We're not at work now."

"Harry, then. Libby's anger at you when she abandoned you here tonight suggests any attempts at comforting me would not be taken in the proper light."

It was my turn to be silent. She was, of course, correct.

Seven continued, "I am not happy my relationship with Chakotay has ended, Lieutenant . . . Harry, but in my research regarding sexual relationships, I found many references to 'first love'. The couple involved in such a pairing seldom remains lovers for life. It appears to be very much the exception rather than the rule for them to remain together forever. Thus, I find the 'pain' you speak of is bearable. My work is important. I believe my attention to my duties on the shuttle project will mitigate any sorrow I might feel from the failure of my relationship with Captain Chakotay."

While Seven spoke matter-of-factly about breaking up with her lover of over a year, the crisply efficient Seven I had known for five years did not seem to be the one who was speaking. Every now and then, I had glimpsed a lonely Annika Hansen in the years I had known her. Annika seemed to be the person who was explaining away a relationship she had valued greatly, no matter what she was trying to tell me now. I thought about asking her if she had any friendships outside of work. Had she met others who were not from Voyager or from our working group with whom she could associate? Continuing to associate with those she had known when she was still intimate with Captain Chakotay might not be the best way for her to get over him.

Unfortunately, the waiter chose that moment to ask us if we wished anything more. We told him we did not, and after settling the bill, we left the restaurant.

I walked with Seven to the nearest transport hub, which was located three blocks from the restaurant. We said very little. It was a pleasant evening. Seven has never been one to indulge in small talk, and we had already dissected her situation, as well as mine, sufficiently for one night. As we walked the last half block, Annika said to me, "I believe I was in error when I rejected what you had to offer me on Voyager, Harry Kim. I misjudged your intentions. I realize now you offered me friendship. I regret I was still too Borg to recognize that. I am sorry."

"It's all right, I share some of the blame for our misunderstandings. I was a little too blinded by your . . . unique attributes . . . to approach you as carefully as I should have. To let you see we could associate without copulation! We are friends now, I hope."

"We are," she said, quite emphatically. A slight smile came to her lips, and she gave me a very soft kiss on the cheek. Seven had never kissed me before, except in my dreams. It's too bad the dream of Seven and me making out that was sent to me by those sleeping aliens wasn't one I experienced over and over again. I don't think I'd have minded reliving that one every now and then! Even if that alien still invaded the dream and stared at us, I wouldn't have minded it one bit.

"There is one more thing I wish to discuss. If I am to refer to you as 'Harry' when we are outside of the work environment, I believe you should call me 'Annika Hansen.' Or simply Annika."

"That is acceptable, Annika, who was Seven-of-Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One - see, I do remember all of it!" I grinned at her. She responded by smiling more broadly. It was a very lovely one when she allowed it to bloom without restraint over her face.

We said our farewells. Annika stepped up to the platform. The transporter dissolved her away, to what promised to be a rather lonely weekend, from what she had said over dinner. I stepped up to the next platform and transported back to San Francisco.

As I walked back to the apartment I shared with Libby, I contemplated my own existence, to coin a phrase Seven of Nine had used all those years ago. I came to the uncomfortable conclusion that Seven had been right. I was not very happy with my life. I was restless. Something was lacking, and Annika had pointed out exactly what it was. I was no happier in my relationship than she had been with Chakotay.

Given my desire to smooth over problems and help everyone get along, I can't say what might have occurred if Libby had been contrite when I walked in the door. If she had been only mildly miffed at me for remaining with Annika after she had stormed off, my doubts about our relationship might have been shunted aside once again. Perhaps we would have had a wonderful session of make-up sex. What Seven had said was true. Tom always said it was some of the best he had with B'Elanna. I also suspected he provoked her deliberately at times, just to be able to indulge in it after they'd made up.

Instead, Libby was as belligerent as B'Elanna at her most unreasonable. I saw a side of Libby she had successfully hidden from me up until then. As I walked through the door, she screamed and threw a potted plant at my head. It crashed against the wall, scattering broken pottery, soil, and the poor broken plant all over the floor. Libby accused me of going off with "that bitch Seven" and sleeping with her.

I patiently explained that Annika and I had simply been sitting together at the restaurant, talking about her broken relationship, until I walked her to the hub.

"Did you kiss her?" Libby demanded angrily.

"She kissed me on the cheek, yes. Do you want to do a DNA screen to see if she kissed me anywhere else?" That wasn't the time to be sarcastic, I admit, but I was really ticked off.

Libby howled in anguish and accused me of wanting to leave her for Seven. I stood there, wondering if that was, in fact, what I wanted. I honestly didn't know. Seven and I had a history, but it wasn't one to make me think I could ever be her lover. As Seven, she'd been enticing and, in a very real sense, the kind of unattainable woman Tom always claimed I pursued. As Annika, the woman she seemed on the verge of becoming, I didn't know. Only time could tell whether we might have any kind of future together.

Leaving Libby, now, that was a completely different issue. As Libby screeched incoherently at me, I realized I'd already left her, eight long years ago. Libby had been so eager to have me back in her life, I'd ignored any doubts I may have entertained about getting back together. It was time to face facts. The time we'd spent apart, and all the things which had happened to us both during those years, had erased any possibility we could pick up where we'd left off. Libby
was Danny Byrd's widow, not the fiancée who had patiently awaited my return. She hadn't waited.

Finally, Libby calmed down sufficiently to say, "Harry, you're scaring me. You're not the man I thought you were."

"Now that's something I agree with. I'm not the guy who kissed you goodbye eight years ago. I grew up in the Delta Quadrant. Being lost for all those years on Voyager changed me. We've both changed, Libby. For months, we've been going through the motions of a life we thought we'd have. It's as if you never had that other life with Danny. And you did."

I walked over to her and wrapped my arms around her shoulders. "Libby, I loved you so very much. I think a part of me will always love you. But we aren't right for each other any more. It's over." I bent down and gave her a chaste kiss. I gently wiped the tears away from her eyelids and gazed into her huge brown eyes.

I saw the same thing in them I was sure she could see in mine. Relief.

It took only a few minutes to gather up enough personal items and casual clothes to get me through the weekend. As I threw them into a duffel bag, I told her I'd be back for the rest of my things on Sunday. I was pretty sure she wouldn't be there when I came back to get them.

She wasn't.

I'm living with my parents again for now. From their neighborhood, I don't need to take a transporter to my job. Most days, I walk.

Mom was pretty upset when I showed up on their doorstep that Friday night. She kept asking me if I was sure I wanted to break up with "the love of my life." I know Mom loves me dearly, but she's so eager to be a grandmother, I don't think she could see what was obvious to my father. That night he just looked at me and nodded his head. The next morning, he said, "I was wondering how long it would take before you saw through her."

It's nice being back home. I can walk to where Marla and Aimee live, too. I visit them every now and then. Sometimes I babysit for her when her sister is busy. Once I brought Aimee to the house so Mom could spoil her. Mom's an expert at spoiling kids. I should know! And she's so ready to be a grandmother. Now she keeps asking me if there's anything going on between Marla and me. I like Marla a lot. But no, I don't think Marla will ever be more than just a good friend.

It took a while, but Libby and I are speaking again. She's finally acknowledged that she tried to bury her grief over losing Danny by becoming over-involved in my life. Denying her feelings of loss wasn't good for her. Recently, she moved to Hawaii. The change of scenery should do her good. I will always wish Libby well, but just as a friend.

Annika and I are also friends, as well as colleagues. We've always worked well together, and we're even more in step now. She's not as abrasive as she used to be.

The Doctor is on Starfleet Medical's staff. Annika and I visit him sometimes "to ingest nutritional supplements," our code words for going out to lunch. We get together socially once a week with Tom and B'Elanna and Miral. B'Elanna finally appreciates "the Borg" and her ability to solve engineering problems. That's made it a lot easier on all of us.

I can't say there ever will be anything more between Annika Hansen and Harry Kim than friendship. I'm not saying there can't ever be anything more, either. We are attuned in ways I never thought possible when Seven of Nine was demoting me and telling me I wasn't on her list of acceptable mates. I'm not sure if that's because of the ways she has changed, or if it's because of how I've evolved over the past several years. It's probably a combination of the two.

Annika was absolutely right about Captain Janeway and Chakotay. The way the two of them interacted during the early in the Delta Quadrant, when they seemed to be the perfect team and complemented each other in so many ways - that's been resurrected. Or maybe it's been there all along, but they were afraid to show it in front of the crew.

I understand Captain Janeway had a little talk with old Boothby, the gardener at the Academy. He's renowned for dispensing excellent advice, along with the occasional rose or two. I'm not sure what he told the captain, but it seems to have made a difference in her relationship with Chakotay.

And why not? They hold the same rank now. They're friends, colleagues, and co-workers, but they're no longer in the same chain of command. The protocols prohibiting them from getting together in the Delta Quadrant no longer apply here - unless Captain Janeway breaks down and accepts that promotion to the admiralty they've been dangling in front of her ever since we got home. She always claims she agrees with Picard and his reasons for refusing a promotion. She's not interested. I really hope that's the truth.

Captain Janeway is just as touchy-feely around Captain Chakotay as she was in the early days, when he was her first officer. He takes it all in stride, as he always did, but now I notice him touching her gently on the arm when they're together, too. They walk to lunch with us sometimes, with Janeway's arm tucked under Chakotay's. They laugh at private jokes when the six of us go out to dinner every month or so. Seven and Chakotay were a little stiff with each other in the beginning, but they've adjusted to their changed relationship well. There's no awkwardness any more.

No one is sure what the two captains' living arrangements are. Janeway and Chakotay both maintain their own apartments, but they never seem to be in their own homes at the same time. We always see them together.

This echo of our social life on Voyager, minus the red alerts and dangerous situations we faced all the time out there, won't go on forever. The Flyer project will wind up soon. Tom and I will be doing field testing on the prototype. He's even more excited about this version of the shuttle than he was about the original Delta Flyer. They've even allowed him to keep his anachronistic set of controls. He claims they're more precise. We'll see if they really are when we actually fly the thing. B'Elanna and Annika are both being reassigned to the Propulsion Laboratories on Utopia Planitia, to work on the new transwarp drive. Tom and I will relocate there, too. That's to be our home base for the Flyer series testing protocols.

Janeway and Chakotay aren't going anywhere any time soon. They plan on staying on at the Academy for the immediate future. Since our former crewmates, if they're still in Starfleet, have scattered to postings all over, the publicity events surrounding Voyager's return are finally coming to an end. New heroes are emerging, along with new challenges. Voyager's miraculous return is getting to be old news at last.

I am grateful for one thing. Since Libby and I called it quits, those recurring dreams haven't plagued me nearly as much. I still get them, but for some reason they're not as intense.

I'm not going to say it was all her fault. I'd had those nightmares many times in the Delta Quadrant, long before our return home, when Libby and I got back together. But, I have to think there was something about that living situation which helped trigger them. I described some of those dreams to Annika (although I left out the details about finding her body on the frozen Voyager). She also suspects I may be sensing some sort of correction to the time stream, especially when we consider the fact that I came from the duplicate Voyager.

So why aren't they as bad now? Was leaving that apartment, the scene of my overlapping set of memories, something I needed to do? Was it that I finally accepted my time with Libby was over the first day I stepped onto Voyager? Did repairing my relationship with Annika, so our respect for our working relationship takes precedence over any hormonal distractions we (really, I) had in the past, make a difference? Perhaps I simply needed time to adapt to being home after so many years away.

I know when I was separated from my parents, I always worried I might lose one or both of them before I got back. They were quite a bit older than most first-time parents are when they welcomed me into the family. If it had taken twenty-five years or so for me to get back, as it did in the Admiral Janeway timeline, I doubt I would have had the chance to see both of my parents again.

Unless we get a return visit from good old Captain Braxton and his Temporal Police, I have a feeling I'll never know what those nightmares really are about, or why they're less bothersome now. I'm just grateful to get a good night's sleep most nights.

I think I've learned to accept what Captain Janeway told me all those years ago, when the replacement Ensign Harry Kim, who is me, came on board her version of Voyager. Weird really is part of the job.

The End

Disclaimer: Paramount owns everything Star Trek. I do not, and I make no claims that I do. Although the studio and the producers decided what to do with the characters in "Endgame," Star Trek Voyager's series finale, that doesn't stop me from deciding what I think happened to the characters after that finale was over. Like all the "Triangles" stories, this one is told in the first person, by a major character of the series, and is contemplative in mood.

Spoilers for (among others) : "Non Sequitor," "Deadlock," "Resolutions," "The Omega Directive," "Timeless," "The Disease," "Equinox 1 & 2," "Someone to Watch Over Me," "Natural Law," "Endgame."

Marla Gilmore and Aimee's tale is told in my story, "Fostering."