Disclaimer: I own nothing. Obviously.
Notes: This was written for the VAMB Secret Santa exchange 2015. My request was from Hester for a scene showing how the relationship between Miral and Admiral Janeway developed. Thanks to Froot for the quickie beta job.
Never a Question
2404 – House of Korath Cavern
“You're dismissed, Ensign.”
The dismissal took Miral by surprise. She’d been the one doing all the negotiations; she was the one that knew all of Korath’s moods. “But, Admiral, I really think that-”
“I can take care of myself.”
Of that, Miral had no doubt. “With all due respect, I've been working on this for six months-”
“And you've done an exemplary job,” the admiral cut over her. “But it's over. Understood?”
It wasn’t a question; it was never a question. It was the tone she knew so well. The one she both hated and respected. Miral lowered her eyes. “Yes, ma'am.”
Her godmother gave the smallest acknowledgment that she knew her actions were unexpected and gently squeezed Miral’s arm. “I happen to know your parents are anxious to spend some time with you. Take a few days of leave. Go and see them.”
Then she was gone, and Miral found herself standing alone, cut loose. Bereft.
One of Korath’s so-called warriors came out and stood guard by the door where the admiral had entered. He sneered at Miral. She dug her fingernails into her palms as she stalked away. Her angry stride carried her down the corridor towards the shuttle bay and her improvised living quarters. It took less than two minutes to tear down the small space she’d been allotted for the past six months and throw everything onto her shuttle.
Go and see her parents.
Maybe she would and maybe she’d tell them just exactly what the admiral had had her doing for the last six months. She was sure her mother could come up with all sorts of reasons the admiral would want a black market device built by the mad scientist Korath; she’d come up with more than a few possibilities herself as to what, exactly, the admiral was doing.
But she knew she wouldn’t tell her parents anything. The admiral had a plan, and even though Miral didn’t know all the details of it, she trusted her godmother. They shared a bond that went beyond blood.
2388 – USS Voyager
“Ghuy'cha'!” she spat. “Stop treating me like a child!”
“You are a child and watch your language.”
“I’m not a child; I’m ten!”
The growl of frustration was not unexpected; it was a sound made by children everywhere in every species when young, unfounded superiority was challenged by older, wiser authority. The hormone-driven scream of battle rage, however, was more unique. It reverberated off the walls of the holographic dojo as Miral charged her opponent.
As a rule, Klingons didn’t allow adolescents experiencing jak’tahla to serve or live aboard their ships. The mood swings and aggressive tendencies didn’t mix well with life aboard space faring vessels.
Voyager didn’t have much of a choice.
Miral Paris attacked with abandon, driving her opponent backwards, forcing the older woman to constantly give ground. The blunted bat’leths clanged and scraped against each other as metal struck metal again and again. She was winning; she had the advantage, and yet she couldn’t seem to break through her captain’s guard. Every attack was deflected; every thrust was parried. It was infuriating.
“Stop being such a todSah and fight me!” Miral yelled, pressing her attack again.
Kathryn Janeway smirked as she easily redirected the young woman’s weapon straight into the deck, momentarily pinning it. “Why should I expend my energy when you’re doing all the work for me? Your attack is sloppy and undisciplined.” She released the hold and quickly skipped backwards out of range. “Try again.”
“Or maybe,” Miral sneered, showing her teeth, the weapon moving deftly between her hands, “you’re just a BiHnuch like my mother.”
Miral barely got her guard up in time as the captain attacked. Janeway hooked her weapon into Miral’s and wrenched the bat’leth out of her young hands. Miral watched in shock as the weapon skidded across the holodeck floor. Her inattention cost her as the captain’s boot landed squarely against her chest, knocking her backwards and flat onto her butt.
“Captain!” She rubbed her chest. Her pride hurt more than her chest, but the ferocity of her godmother’s attack had come out of nowhere. “What the he-?” Miral froze, the shocked question stuck in her throat as the tip of Janeway’s bat’leth hooked underneath Miral’s chin, dangerously close to her exposed neck.
Janeway knelt down so she was at eye-level, the hold she had on the bat’leth never wavered. “Never insult your mother in my company again.”
Miral didn’t flinch away from the hardened blue-grey gaze, but she wanted to. She could feel herself trembling, but she raised her chin defiantly. “You always said I could tell you anything.”
“You can,” Janeway agreed, unmoving, “but you will say it without insulting your mother. Understood?”
It wasn’t a question. Miral swallowed carefully. “Yes ma’am.”
“Good.” Kathryn moved the bat’leth away and regained her feet. “Now, do you want to try it again, or did you have something you wanted to talk about?”
Miral stayed on the floor. The last thing she needed was for her godmother to see how much she was shaking; the woman’s ferocity had rattled her and she found she couldn’t look at her.
It irritated Miral that her godmother acted like it was a normal day, how the woman continued to pretend that everything was fine. “You can tell me the truth, y’know.”
Janeway lowered her bat’leth down to her side. “The truth about what?”
“My parents,” Miral said, speaking more to her feet than the woman standing over her, “and why they aren’t back yet.”
Janeway’s shoulders straightened and the relaxed grip on the bladed weapon at her side curled tighter. “Their shuttle was delayed. We already talked about this.”
Miral scoffed. “I’ve been sleeping on your couch for a week, Kathryn.” She looked up finally. “They were only supposed to be gone for three days.”
All the emotions that had shown so easily on the captain’s face only moments before flattened into a blank expression. For someone that didn’t know Kathryn Janeway well, they might think her appearance was a portrait of calm, but Miral knew better. No matter what her godmother said now, she felt that blank mask had just confirmed all of her worst fears.
“They’ve been delayed; that’s all.”
“A delay is a day, maybe two,” Miral argued. “It’s been four.”
The muscle along the bottom of Janeway’s jaw pulsed briefly before she exhaled heavily. She reached up and pinched the bridge of her nose. “I’ll admit,” she said slowly, “that it’s taking longer than expected for them to return, but it is still just a delay.”
Miral gave a short nod. “They’re dead, aren’t they?”
“What?! No.” Janeway dropped down to a crouch and placed her hand on Miral’s leg. “No, Miral. Don’t ever think like that. Not when we don’t know…” she trailed off.
She’d said too much, more than she meant to, and Miral saw the blood drain from her face. “When we don’t know if they’re dead,” Miral said for her. “That’s what you were going to say, wasn’t it?”
There was a denial forming on Kathryn’s lips, but even as she opened her mouth to speak it, she stopped. She briefly closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Yes,” she exhaled, “that’s what I was going to say.”
Miral tried to keep her composure. She felt the tears well up in her eyes and twisted her expression in an attempt to keep from crying, but then Kathryn Janeway was pulling her into an embrace. She felt the tears spilling over her cheeks as she threw her arms around her captain’s middle.
Her godmother didn’t offer her any empty platitudes or assurances. Kathryn simply held her and let her seek the comfort she needed. After several minutes, Miral calmed enough to ask, “What happened to them?”
“We don’t know yet,” Janeway answered, allowing Miral to push back from her. “All we know right now is that they weren’t at their scheduled rendezvous site. We’re tracing their flight path now to try and find them.”
“So they could be dead?” Miral persisted.
Kathryn didn’t answer right away and instead used her thumbs to wipe the moisture away from Miral’s cheeks. “They could be,” she allowed finally, “but I refuse to believe that.”
Miral was surprised at the confidence her godmother’s answer inspired. “Why?”
Janeway actually smirked. “Because your mother and your father have gotten me and this ship out of more scrapes than I can count, and with their combined talents, I can’t believe there’s a single obstacle in this quadrant that stands a chance against them.”
Miral sniffed. “Mom always says that I’m going to be the death of her.”
“And what does your dad say?”
“That I’m going to be the best pilot in the galaxy.”
Kathryn laughed. “It wouldn’t surprise me.”
Miral was quiet for a minute, then asked, “You really think they’re okay?”
“I really do,” Kathryn promised, “and I will do everything in my power to bring them home to you.”
2404 – Miral’s Shuttle
Kathryn had kept her word. Her parents’ shuttle had experienced some random malfunction that had stranded them a day off course without communications or propulsion. Miral had been woken in the middle of the night by her mother kissing the faint ridges of her forehead. That had been the last time Tom and B’Elanna had recreationally gone off ship together. After that trip, her parents had stuck to the holodeck for romantic getaways and anniversary celebrations.
Miral let her head drop back against the pilot’s seat as the shuttle’s autopilot took over the controls. She tried to exhale her frustration at the admiral’s curt dismissal; it was no use trying to compete in a battle of wills with her godmother. Kahless knew she’d tried (and failed) many times over the years. Kathryn was up to something, and Miral was both disappointed and concerned that she was being kept out of the loop.
When she’d been young, Kathryn had always been her godmother and default babysitter, but after that day when they’d both been forced to acknowledge the possibility of her parents’ death, Kathryn had become something more to Miral. She’d become family.
And Miral had become the captain’s shadow. Looking back, she was quite sure she had been nothing but pure annoyance, studying in the ready room, hanging out in Kathryn’s quarters, following beside the captain on tours of the ship. Eventually though, Kathryn had not only accepted her company, but embraced it.
By the time she was thirteen, Miral was officially the captain’s assistant, acknowledged by Voyager’s personnel if not officially by Starfleet. She delivered PADDs, kept the captain’s schedule, and spent a lot of hours bearing silent witness to life as a captain. There had been a lot of report reading, report writing, and report approving. Miral had stayed quiet through many mission briefings, captain’s logs, and status updates. She’d learned to be a shadow, and half the time she was quite sure the captain had simply forgotten she was there.
Like the time she had been sitting at the table completing her astrophysics lessons and the captain had come in from visiting Tuvok in his quarters. Miral had watched as Janeway walked to her desk, placed her fisted hands on the surface of the desk, and dropped her head to her chest. Her shoulders had started to shake and the captain had very quietly cried for several minutes. Miral hadn’t known what to do so she’d stayed frozen in place, watching wide-eyed as she saw a side of the captain she’d never seen before. Eventually, the crying stopped, and Kathryn straightened. She’d cleared her throat and without ever turning to face Miral said, “I’d appreciate it if you kept this to yourself.”
I’d appreciate it if you kept this to yourself.
Those had also been the exact words she’d used when she’d requested Miral negotiate the deal with Korath. Her inclusion on the mission hadn’t been an order; it had been a request. An order would’ve required an official record, and Korath’s name was not to be found in any official records. Miral’s official orders had been more circumspect and included language that Admiral Janeway’s assistant was conducting multiple liaisons on behalf of the admiral regarding future encounters.
Miral’s mother had been the only one that voiced suspicion about the orders. She’d given Miral a good, long side-eye before admitting that she too would be doing the admiral a favor. Miral had been quite sure that if anything had happened to her on this mission, B’Elanna would’ve been having a very personal chat with Kathryn Janeway.
She got up from the pilot’s seat and moved to the replicator, ordering a raktajino. She paced as she took the first few bracing sips. She couldn’t shake the feeling that whatever the admiral was up to was inherently dangerous. She shouldn’t have left her there alone, but Janeway had ordered her to leave. And she’d sworn a blood oath to always follow the admiral’s orders.
Kathryn had insisted on the oath when accepting Miral as her official assistant. She’d insisted on the oath because Miral hadn’t always obeyed her.
2393 – Delta Quadrant - Planet Roereikia
Miral coughed. Gasped and then coughed again as she forced air back into her lungs. She sucked in as much dust as she did air which made her cough more. It hurt. She tasted blood in her mouth and felt like she’d just gone ten rounds in her mother’s fighting program – without the safeties engaged. What the hell had happened? An earthquake maybe…or whatever would be this planet’s equivalent.
She slowly rolled onto her side and pushed herself up to a sitting position. Her right wrist was broken and she instinctively cradled it against her chest. Her head was pounding as she looked around. There was settling rock and dust all around her with weak shafts of light barely illuminating her immediate space. She looked up to the upper street levels and saw just how far she’d fallen when the collapse had happened. It was at least ten meters to the surface; she was lucky to be alive.
Then she remembered. “Captain!” Miral scrambled to her feet, wincing as her knee throbbed when she braced her weight against shifting debris. “Captain!”
They’d been walking through the marketplace. The captain had seen something during an earlier tour that she’d thought Chakotay would like to have. Miral had been delighted. The past few years had seen a thawing of the frost that had seemed to always exist between the captain and commander. Her father had told her it hadn’t always been that way between the command team, that they’d once been very good friends, but they’d had a falling out when Miral had been very young. As the renewed friendship had seemed to make the captain happy, Miral had encouraged the “thaw” every chance she’d gotten.
Shapes and figures were starting to emerge from the shadows and rubble. Moans of pain accompanied by sounds of fear were building as Roereikians dug themselves out. She could hear sirens coming from the city above. Miral pushed her own emotions down; she could deal with them later. It was what her mother had taught her; think through the crisis first and then feel it later.
“Captain!” Miral yelled again. A few concerned Roereikian faces turned her direction. She tried her combadge and heard nothing but static. “Come on, Kathryn. Where are you?”
Miral scrambled over piles of rubble, constantly looking, trying to see any glimpse of uniform or pale skin. They’d been standing right beside each other when the ground had dropped from beneath their feet. If Miral was down here, then so was Kathryn. “Captain Janeway!”
Two Roereikians stumbled past her, supporting a third between them who had the dark, purplish blood of his species rolling down the side of his face. He gurgled something and the trio stopped. He gurgled again and the two supporters looked at her. Miral felt for her combadge; it wasn’t working. The universal translator wasn’t working. The fear she was trying hard to ignore sparked into a flame. “I’m sorry…I don’t…I don’t understand-”
The alien gurgled a third time, and the supporter standing closest to her pointed with his free appendage towards a darkened area across the pile of debris. Miral squinted in the direction he indicated. She’d come from close to that area and hadn’t seen anything. She turned back to the Roereikians but they had already begun moving again, taking their friend to safety.
Everyone that was able seemed to be moving away, towards an upper-level access point, she supposed. The escape was opposite the direction the Roereikian had indicated. She began trudging back the way she’d come, moving back towards the shadows. Two other Roereikians tried to stop her, indicated she should come with them, but she ignored them. She felt their eyes on her, watching for a few moments as she pushed past them.
She was at the discernible edge of the rubble. There was more cavern in front of her, space that she could sense more than actually see in the darkness, but she still hadn’t found the captain. How far into the darkness did she dare to go without light? She looked up again at the gaping crevice in the road above. Where could the captain have fallen?
“Captain?” she called, flinching at the way her voice seemed to be swallowed up by the darkness. She sounded small. Debris shifted behind her and she saw a Roereikian picking himself up a few meters away; he was limping as he made his way across the pile of broken street and damaged stone. He too followed the stream of aliens leaving the area. Very soon, in a matter of minutes, she was going to be very much alone in this pit of wreckage.
Miral faced the shadows again. She moistened her lips as best she could, glanced over her shoulder to reassure herself that she was where the Roereikians had pointed, and then took a step forward. She took two more before she heard a moan coming from her left. She froze; the sound was behind her and it wasn’t any noise the aliens would make. She spun on her heel and scanned the edge of the debris. The weak rays of light glinted off a dented combadge lying in the dirt.
“Captain!” Miral rushed forward, swiping up the combadge and searching furiously through the nearby rubble. Finally, she saw the swatch of red uniform she’d been looking for and pushed a large chunk of crumbling rock off her commanding officer, eliciting another moan. “Captain...oh Kahless.”
Janeway’s hair was damp and matted; a dark mix of blood and dirt coated one side of her face. She groaned again but didn’t open her eyes. Miral eyed her and quickly cleared off debris from her legs, noticing immediately that one was clearly broken. Kathryn had landed awkwardly; the lower half of her body was on a ledge of stone, but her torso was dangling half-tangled in a mess of wire. Miral hesitated. Ideally, she wouldn’t move someone as injured as Kathryn obviously was, but the situation was hardly ideal. She looked around. Less than two steps away was enough area that she could lay the captain out flat and make her more comfortable until help arrived.
Decision made, Miral squeezed into the area between stone and wire and began to untangle her captain while also trying to support her. She flinched with every moan the captain made but was finally able to slide her arms underneath Janeway and slide her off the ledge. The older woman was dead weight in her arms as Miral moved her as gently as she could, her knee and wrist painfully reminding her that she wasn’t in great shape either.
A few minutes later, Miral sat back on her heels, wiping sweat and dirt from her face, breathing heavily beside her motionless captain. She wasn’t sure what to do next. She didn’t have water or medicine. She couldn’t communicate with anyone, and it was quite possible she’d soon lose the light. Carrying Kathryn out was also out of the question. Her knee was becoming almost impossible to walk on; she wouldn’t be able to put double the weight on it and expect it to hold up.
Surely, Voyager was aware by now of what had happened. Their sensors would have registered an…event of that magnitude. Whatever it was. They’d be looking for them. Miral breathed easier with that thought. Chakotay and her parents and Uncle Harry would find them. Her mother would leave no stone unturned. She just needed to wait.
“Can’t just…sit here…wait.”
“Kathryn!” Miral jumped out of her own thoughts at the sound of the gravelly voice. “You’re awake! Are you-" She knew it was an asinine question even as she spoke it. "Are you all right?”
Janeway didn’t even have her eyes open. “You need…to go." She tried swallowing. "Get to the…surface.”
Miral frowned. “You’re injured, Captain. I don’t think you should try to move too much.”
“Not me,” Kathryn argued her voice fading in and out as she breathed. “You. Go.”
“Captain,” Miral began hesitantly, "what about you?"
"I'll be...fine," she breathed.
Miral rolled her eyes. She shouldn't have been surprised by that answer. “I’m not going to just leave you here.”
“Yes, you will.” Kathryn opened her eyes, focused on Miral. “It’s not safe…here. You need…get out.”
Miral looked up. There were small bits of debris and dust continuing to fall through the open space that had been rent in the upper levels of the city. Clearly, it hadn’t been built to par with Starfleet standard safety levels, but it seemed solid enough. Then again, it had felt perfectly solid up until it had dropped out from beneath her feet. Maybe she should go, follow the Roereikians out and up to the surface, bring back help for the captain.
"They'll be coming..."
Yes, help would be coming. Voyagers would be searching for them. It was why she should stay. She doubted tricorders would be working very well done here. She'd be able to keep an eye on the captain and when help got close, she could call out to them, guide them closer.
With surprising strength, Kathryn's hand clamped onto Miral's forearm. "I don't want you here...when they find me."
Miral frowned. "Why not?"
"Street collapse...wasn't an accident."
A chill ran up Miral’s spine. “What?”
Janeway grimaced, her eyes closing briefly. “Roereikian security was with us in the market…disappeared just before…it happened.”
Miral looked back over the pile of rubble and thought about the two aliens that had tried to get her to leave with them, about the Roereikian that had directed her to Janeway in the rubble. Had they been trying to help her? Or keep her here? Had they all known? Was this something they did to offworlders? They had all seemed rather unfazed by the situation.
“Miral.” Kathryn squeezed her arm again, regaining her attention. “Listen to me. Go.”
Miral was shaking her head before she even opened her mouth. “No, I’m not leaving without you.”
“Miral, go. Get out of here. Find somewhere safe…stay there until someone from Voyager finds you.”
“But, Captain, you’re hurt,” she tried. “If someone finds you down here, you won’t be able to defend yourself.”
“That doesn’t matter,” Janeway insisted. “What matters…is your safety. I can’t protect you…so I need you…to run. Hide.”
It wasn’t the thing to tell a Klingon, even someone who was only one-quarter Klingon. There was something instinctual, something primal inside Miral that was appalled by the suggestion that she should run and hide. That she needed protection. She wasn’t a child; she was fifteen. Kahless had probably sent a thousand enemies into the afterlife by the time he was fifteen. She got to her feet and began surveying the debris.
Janeway watched her warily. “Miral?”
Miral pulled a long, jagged piece of metal from the nearest debris pile. She tested the weight of it in her left hand. “It’s not exactly a bat’leth, but it’ll have to do.”
The captain tried to push herself up to a sitting position. She only partially succeeded. “Miral, what are you doing?”
“I’m staying here to protect you, Captain.”
“No. You’re not.”
“You need me, Captain.”
“Miral Paris, I am ordering you…to go. Leave this place,” she was gasping for breath and still managed to imbue authority. “Now.”
Miral ignored her and scavenged another piece of useful metal from the pile.
“I gave you an order, Paris.”
“I know, ma’am.” It was definitely crunch time. “But I will not abandon my captain.”
Janeway glared at her for several long moments before slowly lowering herself back to the ground. Miral was smart enough to hide her grin and went back to looking for more things she could use as weapons.
“When we get back to the ship,” Janeway said, “there will be repercussions. Understood?”
It wasn’t a question.
2404 – Miral’s Shuttle
There had been repercussions. Not from her parents or Uncle Harry. Not even from Commander Chakotay who had given her a very cheeky smile and said he understood her decision perfectly. No, the repercussions had come from the captain.
They’d never found out what had truly happened that day on the planet. Voyager had been the first to find them and Miral’s makeshift weapons stockpile had been for naught. The planet’s government had claimed no knowledge of any plot. The doctor had had the captain in surgery when Voyager broke orbit. They’d already traded and gotten the needed supplies before the incident occurred. Chakotay made the call to leave and everyone on the senior staff had supported it.
That had been the last ‘away mission’ where Miral had accompanied the captain of Voyager. Miral had often wondered how long her exile from Janeway’s side would have lasted had they not made it back to Earth within the next six months.
A few years later when Miral was set to graduate from the academy, she’d put in the request to become Admiral Janeway’s assistant. She’d thought the position was a lock for her, finally making her childhood job official. Her godmother hadn’t seen it as quite so cut and dry. Admiral Janeway, in full uniform, had shown up at Miral’s dorm room unannounced with the application in hand demanding an explanation.
Sitting in the cockpit of her shuttle, Miral smiled fondly at the memory. Everyone in the dorm had known about her connection to Voyager, but it hadn’t been common knowledge that the legendary Kathryn Janeway was her godmother. Or that she was on a first-name basis with the admiral. Her roommate had made excuses and left the room faster than a Ferengi could palm a bar of latinum.
It had taken Miral over an hour to convince Kathryn that not only was she the right person for the job, but that she truly wanted the job. Yes, she was a good pilot and had a natural aptitude for engineering, but she’d simply had no desire to go out on a starship right away. There were still plenty of places on Earth that she wanted to explore. Kathryn had relented, finally understanding that unlike most ensigns chomping at the bit to be out amongst the stars, Miral’s upbringing did put her in a unique position.
The final bone of contention between them had been the away mission to Roereikia. Miral’s oath as a Starfleet officer to obey her commanding officer wasn’t enough for the admiral. Janeway wanted her own oath, a blood oath, that Miral would obey any lawful order that Janeway gave her. There would not be a repeat of the incident on Roereikia. If Janeway gave Miral an order to save herself, Miral would do so. Janeway’s acceptance of Miral as her assistant was contingent upon Miral swearing the oath; reluctantly, Miral had agreed.
That had been three years earlier and up until today, Miral had never regretted her choice. But today, leaving the admiral with Korath was gnawing at her. It was wrong. Every fiber of her being was rebelling, but she’d given her word a long time ago. There was nothing else she could do.
There was nothing else she could do.
Miral jumped back into the front seat of the shuttle and keyed up the communications access. “Computer, contact the USS Rhode Island and indicate a priority one access call for its captain.”
She sat back in the seat while the ship’s computer made contact and picked at her nails. She wasn’t breaking her oath. Not really. Janeway hadn’t ordered her to not tell the others about Korath; she’d requested Miral keep the mission to herself.
Still, she should probably begin looking for a new posting.
The computer alerted an incoming hail. “Shuttle Carey, this is Captain Harry Kim. How can I be of service?”
“Harry, I need a favor, and I need it to stay within the family. Understood?”