Disclaimer: A lot of these folks are mine; I think they play with the regular folks quite well.
"Captain Janeway, we'll be landing soon .. thought you'd like to know."
The shuttle pilot's crisp words knocked Edward Janeway out of his reverie... or rather his attempts to make sense out of the last few months.
He and Claire had finally decided that fifteen years of starship life was enough; especially since Michael and Kate had made it clear they'd prefer to live in one place.
Claire had no sooner retired, and he had taken a post at Starfleet Command, when the Cardassian situation had kicked up again. Next thing he knew, he was posted at the new DS9, planning battle tactics.
But his annoyance had turned to sheer terror two days ago .
The message was from his father-in-law. He was ordered home. Emergency leave.
"What's happened? Claire? The children?" Too many possibilities crowded his mind.
"No, son. They're fine. It's your mother. She's in the hospital. It's serious," Michael Hayes said.
He should have expected this. Mom and Dad weren't exactly getting younger. But somehow, he couldn't believe it. That after 15 years in the Delta Quadrant, and a life lived on sheer will power, that something as mundane as illness would fell her.
Not Kathryn Janeway.
He was out of the airlock as soon as it was safe; Claire was waiting at the debarkation point, and he gave her a kiss that would probably earn him a reprimand from the protocol police.
"I do have good news," she said when she could finally catch her breath. "Mother's better ... Ra'kka sent her home today."
Edward had to smile. His brother-in-law adored Mom; and she could sweet-talk him into about anything ...even if it was against his medical judgement.
"So, how's everyone getting along," he asked as they walked to the hovercar. "Are Mom and Dad disappointed that our children won't be the next generation of Starfleet officers?"
"Doesn't seem so," she replied. "Did I tell you that Mother is teaching Michael to paint?"
"That's interesting," he laughed; then turned serious. "So, what happened?"
Claire shook her head. "Papa said she was packing to go to the trade conference on Cochrane...."
"What!" Edward hit the brakes and swerved the hovercar into the curb. "Cochrane? The same Delta Quadrant space station whose dedication she refused to attend 10 years ago? And what the hell does a retired admiral want with a trade conference?"
"I don't know ... Papa won't say," Claire said crisply. "Now get back on the road before you cause an accident."
"Sorry," he muttered, pulling back into traffic.
"Anyway, she collapsed. But by the time the med crew got there, she was arguing that she didn't want to go to the hospital."
"That's a good sign," he laughed.
There was a hovercar in the driveway of his parents' home; Ra'kka's he presumed. He took the porch stairs two at a time, and walked in without knocking.
Tallie was in the living room, and he gathered her into a hug. He'd seen so little of his sister during the last decade ...
"Come into the kitchen; Mom wanted to sit on the back porch." He followed her in, but stayed out of view; he didn't want to announce his presence just yet.
Dad was a bit grayer ... not that he could talk. But Mom .... her porcelain skin was a shade whiter than usual .. almost as white as her hair.
He couldn't look. He pulled Tallie back into the living room. "What the hell happened?"
"An old injury to her heart," she said quietly.
Noting his puzzled look, she continued. "It happened on Voyager .... before you were born. Ra'kka had to dig through the doctor's records.
"The ship was taken over by a race called the Hirogen ... bloodthirsty bastards. The put the crew into violent holodeck situations. Mom was in a Klingon battle .. she was stabbed through the heart. "
Edward closed his eyes in pain. "Gods...."
"She doesn't remember ... neither does Papa. All he knew is that they woke up in some war ..."
Almost on cue, Chakotay walked into the kitchen.
"Paka, I'm glad you're here," he said, pulling his firstborn into a hug.
"How are you, Dad? I know this has been hard."
Chakotay didn't say anything .. not that he had to, Edward realized. And for the first time, it hit him: When the time came, he would lose both his parents.
"Come on, your mother has been anxious to see you," Chakotay said, pulling him onto the porch.
Kathryn turned at the sound, and her smile made everything all right again. "I'm so sorry to haul you back," she said as she embraced him.
"So, how are you," he asked, not really expecting a truthful answer.
She laughed. "Ask Dr. Simone," she said, nodding toward Ra'kka.
Edward turned toward the Bajoran; the man who had been his closest friend at the Academy; who ended up marrying his baby sister.
Ra'kka's smile was reassuring. "Actually, you're doing fine. Couple of weeks and you can do anything you want."
Kathryn's grin was downright wicked. "And what about sex?"
Edward looked at his father, who could barely contain his laughter. Ra'kka, however didn't change expression. "At least wait till the rest of us leave, will you?" he deadpanned.
She grinned again, and squeezed Chakotay's arm. "Why don't you two go inside? I need to talk with Paka." She winked. "I'll see you later..."
"Not too long ... you are supposed to be resting," Chakotay murmured before he and Ra'kka left.
She waited until they left, then fixed him with that steady gaze. "So, how bad is it?"
Always the Starfleet officer. No sense lying. "It's bad, Mom. We're preparing for war."
She shook her head. "Every generation. You'd think after the Dominion, they would have had enough."
"I went to Bajor to see Ra'kka's parents .. to persuade his father to leave. He won't."
Kathryn nodded. "I'm not surprised. Vedeks can be as stubborn as Starfleet officers."
"Talking about yourself?" he teased. "Now, quit stalling. Why the hell did you agree, after all these years, to go to Cochrane?"
"Trade mission," she grinned.
She looked offended. "Edward, " she admonished. "I was going to meet a trade delegation ... on a diplomatic mission. Which is why you're here. I've asked that you go in my place."
Edward was beginning to suspect that his mother's mind had been affected. "Mom, I'm no diplomat."
There was no mistaking the steel in Kathryn Janeway's voice. "You are a Starfleet captain. That makes you a lot of things."
He looked at the floor, suddenly feeling like an errant ensign. "I need for you to take my place, Paka," she said, more softly now. " It's important...."
Tala and Chakotay watched from the kitchen. "Think he'll do it, Papa?" Tala asked.
Chakotay laughed. "He never could disobey one of your mother's orders .. no more than the rest of us can. He'll go."
Space station life must be interesting, Tala thought. Not that she knew. The only other station she'd seen had been a way stop on Voyager's course back to Earth, and she barely remembered that.
She and Edward were sitting in a cafe on the promenade, sipping drinks. Her son, Paul, cheerfully ignored them, preferring the latest Delta Quadrant vid game. With a start, she realized her big brother was smirking at her.
"So, Dr. Janeway. How do you like being back in the Delta Quadrant."
She grimaced. "I will kill the next person who asks. What was I, four? Can't say I remember much." She paused. "How about you?"
He shrugged. "I remember a fair amount; but then I hear about things like this Hirogen business, and I realize just how much Mom and Dad protected all of us."
She nodded. "I think sometimes how brave Mom ... actually everyone on board ... was to have children. So much could have happened."
He shrugged again. "No guarantees, kiddo. You just take precautions and hope for the best ... keep living."
"Precautions? Like Tuvok's safety drills."
Edward laughed. "Standard starship protocol. Just ask my kids."
He was quiet for a moment. "You're sure about this, Tallie?" he asked. "You didn't agree to come here, to meet this delegation from Zenardi just to please Mom?"
Tallie bit down a flash of irritation. "Being a bit hard on Mom, aren't you?" She sighed. "No, dear. This was my idea. When Ra'kka told me about the Zenardi delegation .... about Ambassador Paulo ... I had to come. Mom was just keeping a promise to me."
"That she'd do whatever she could to help me learn about my heritage ... my birth family."
Edward looked at the table. " I can understand why you'd want to meet the man who rescued you. I guess I never realized that the rest of it was important to you."
Tala sighed. How could she explain? "You and Thomas had it easy. You had 200 years of Janeway family history to draw on, and more than that from Papa's family ... not that you paid attention to it," she teased.
Edward blushed. Chakotay's attempt to introduce him to his spirit guides was nothing short of a disaster. Tala decided to ignore his discomfort, and went on....
"But me .... you found me under a rock .. and the story got worse from there. Besides, try being the only one of your kind in the quadrant. Most people think I'm Bajoran ... I don't even know what a full Zenardi looks like."
"Mom and Dad tried," he argued. "There were the teachings from Paulo ... we celebrated Zenardi holidays."
"And Federation holidays, and Papa's tribal festivals, and Prixin, too ... at least until Uncle Neelix died." Tala laid a hand on his arm. "I'm not blaming anyone. Mom and Papa are my parents ... but I owe it to myself to meet these people. I owe it to him too, " she said, nodding toward Paul, still engrossed in the game. "He sees himself as Bajoran, with some human thrown in. He needs to understand there's more to his heritage."
"Careful," Edward murmured. "Paul could disappoint you the way I disappointed Dad."
She shook her head. "Doesn't matter. It's still there, just like yours is. The Janeway genes just won out in your case..."
"Captain Janeway? Forgive me, but I was expecting Admiral Janeway." The elderly Zenardi man looked puzzled.
Edward was uncomfortable. He and Tallie had tried to keep things low-key, especially since they were unsure what kind of reception she would receive. Maybe they'd been a bit too low-key.
"That's right, Ambassador. I'm Kathryn Janeway's son."
The delight shown in the old man's eyes. "Kathryn's son! Forgive me, I did not recognize you."
"Well, I have grown," he allowed.
"I remember you now," the ambassador said fondly. "You were quite an inquisitive child. But where is Kathryn?"
Edward explained the situation quickly, watching the old man's face change as he absorbed the news, and getting the vague feeling that Mom had not told him something.
"I am sorry ... I had hoped to meet her again ... and to see your sister."
"Well, you're in luck, " Paka said as he spied Tala in the doorway of the reception hall. He motioned for the ambassador to follow him, and in a few quick strides, was at Tala's side.
"There you are. I ....." Tala's voice trailed off as she saw the man standing next to Edward, resplendent in his deep red ceremonial robes. Could it be? She reached for her brother's hand; he squeezed it reassuringly.
"Ambassador Paulo, " he began softly, his voice building as he gained confidence. "may I present my sister, Dr. Tala Janeway."
Across the room, the young attaché watched as the ambassador put his arms around the woman from the Federation. She must be the one, he thought. Well, he'd just bide his time ....
Tala leaned back into the couch and smiled as she watched Paulo listen intently as Paul explained his Paresi Squares strategy. The last few days had been joyous ones. Meeting Paulo had made it all real ... every story Mom had ever told her. She had always pictured him as an ancient knight ... this man who had risked his career, his life to help her. She hadn't expected a grandfather. But that was all right, too.
And Paulo was a doting grandfather. He was intensely interested in her and Paul ... wanting all the details of their lives, her career. He made sure to introduce her to his fellow delegates, prodding them to talk about their lives, share the culture with her.
But some things were disquieting. Paulo confided her heritage to only some of the delegates; to others, he only introduced her as the daughter of an old friend. She'd called him on it
"Are you ashamed of me?" she asked, with a bit of heat. "I'm not ashamed of my heritage."
He smiled. "You certainly were raised in your Federation," he teased, then sobered. "I am not ashamed of you. You are a wonderful young woman. But Tallie ...... please understand. We don't send mixed Zenardi to the colony any more .... that stopped about ten years after you were born. But old hatreds die hard. Those people still have a hard time."
He took her hand. "Perhaps I am a coward, but I want to protect you from that ... I want you to learn about our culture, even if it means getting information from people who would choke to death rather than talk to a mixed Zenardi."
The ridges in his forehead crinkled as he broke into a mischievous grin. "Besides, it gives me great pleasure to watch those pompous asses fawn over you."
Paul excused himself to go to bed, leaving the two of them alone. "Paulo, I have something to ask you."
"Certainly." He'd wondered about her so many times over the years ... if Kathryn had gotten them home .. how she turned out. He'd certainly never expected to see them again ... not even when Zenardi scientists perfected light drive, making interstellar travel possible.
"Does my birth family know I'm alive?
The question brought him up short. For a moment, he considered not answering. But no, he couldn't lie to her.
"They do ... now."
He shifted, a bit uncomfortable now. "After I left you with Kathryn, I told your uncle, Jaysar, that your mother had died in childbirth, which was true; and that your grandfather had died from grief, which may or may not be true. He took it hard; he loved your mother very much. He's a decent man; I didn't want to tell him that his father and his sister had dishonored the family. No offense, dear."
She let it slide ... "And so?"
"A few years ago, Jaysar came to me. Your cousin, Kenvar, had political aspirations, and portions of my story didn't add up. So I told him the truth.."
He sighed. "Jaysar was not pleased, to say the least. To find that out about your father ..... it also finished Kenvar's intended career."
"I thought you said things had changed."
"Only to a point. As I've told you, old hatreds die hard. And for a politician, to have a mixed Zenardi in the family, plus the resulting scandal....." He shook his head. "I called in all the favors I could to get your mother and grandfather properly buried. But some people knew, and if word got out .....
"Jaysar and I haven't spoken since. I have no idea what he told Kenvar ... or how he feels about you."
The young security officer's whispered words pulled Paulo from the nightly reception. A message from home .Emergency. His wife was not well .... perhaps.
The origination code was not familiar to him, and when he keyed it in, neither was the young woman whose face appeared on the screen.
"Ambassador, I am Karine, daughter of Jaysar. You may not remember me. I was very young when you served with my grandfather, Signar."
"I am happy to meet you again, but what is the meaning of this message?"
"I need to know if my cousin, the mixed Zenardi is with you ... if so, I have information you must know."
Her next words horrified Paulo. "Are you sure?"
She nodded. "Kenvar has brooded about this for a long time. We don't know how he found out, or how he got attached to the delegation. My father is on his way to the station, but I fear he won't get there in time."
"But I would have recognized his name," Paulo began .... Karine shook her head. "He is probably using another name ... a stolen identity, perhaps. I will send an image... perhaps you can find him before it is too late."
Some time later, Paulo walked into the station's security office, handing the image to the constable on duty.
"I must find this man ... it's an emergency," he said.
The constable was confused. "Excuse me, but he's with your delegation. You don't know him?"
"Oh, I know him," Paulo said. "And I know if we don't find him, someone may die."
Tala slipped into quarters quietly, not wanting to wake Paul. She was about to order the lights on when something heavy slammed into her, knocking her against the wall.
The weight ... a body .... partially pinned her against the floor .... still stunned, she fought back instinctively, shoving her hand where she assumed the face would be. The ridges she felt told her that her attacker was a Zenardi. "Who the hell are you?" she yelled. "What are you ...." her words muffled by the hand that partially clamped across her mouth. She bit, hard, and the attacker reared back just enough so she could roll free.
She could see him in the starlight now .... he wasn't familiar. "Who are you?" she demanded, as she dived behind the nearby desk.
He laughed, harshly. "I'm the man whose career you ruined, you dirty half-breed bastard ...."
"Your career ... what are you ..." Then Paulo's words came back to her. "Kenvar?!"
He laughed again. "Hello, cousin." He spat the word out. "Your mere existence ruined my life. I could have been a minister, better than that ..... but no ..."
"Computer! Intruder alert!" she screamed, breaking for the door. Whatever happened to her, he couldn't find Paul. Gods, she prayed. Don't let him find Paul
He was on her in an instant, grabbing her shirt. "I don't know who saved you from my grandfather. But no one's going to save you from me!" he roared.
She saw the flash of the knife now ... but instead of the panic that had seized her, a growing calm took its place. In her mind, she could hear Chakotay's voice. "Right hook, Tallie. A mean right hook will win a boxing match every time."
"Papa, help me," she silently prayed as she balled her fist.
Then she swung.
She heard the crack first ... whether it was his jaw or her hand, she didn't know. In the next instant, pain exploded up her arm.
It was enough ... he reeled back for just an instant. Enough so that a small, dark form could charge into view, knocking Kenvar off his feet. Paul!
Kenvar flailed at the little form, but Paul held tightly, wrapping his small body around the grown man's legs. She had to do something, Tala realized. That SOB could still have the knife. She grabbed something off the table with her good hand ... a statue ... who cared? And with a quick, short swing, brought it down on Kenvar's head. He grunted, then went limp.
Paul let go and ran to his mother. Tala gathered him in a hug, and both of them sank to the floor .. where security, followed by Paulo and Edward, found them.
In sickbay, Edward ruffled Paul's hair affectionately.
"That was a brave thing you did to help your mom," he said. "Your dad teach you those wrestling moves?"
Paul shook his head. "No. Grandfather Verka did."
Edward burst out laughing, to Paulo's puzzlement. "Paul's grandfather is a Bajoran ... priest .. holy man. Not your usual self-defense expert."
"Well, I suppose priests have to know a bit about everything," Paulo replied affably. He was so glad to see Tallie and Paul still alive, he'd of believed anything.
"So, Doctor, who taught you to throw a right hook?" the station's physician asked as he ran the regenerator over Tala's hand. "Your friend over there," nodding toward the biobed where Kenvar lay behind a force field, "has a broken jaw and the imprint of your fist."
"Actually, my father did," she said, grimacing against the sting of the regeneration process.
Her brother's mouth dropped open. "Dad taught you?"
Tala gave him a look that she could have only learned from her mother. "Paka, you and Thomas weren't the only ones to get boxing lessons."
"Edward, I am so sorry," Paulo said. He was sitting on the couch in Janeway's quarters, head in hands. "If I had known."
"You didn't," Paka said, handing him a drink. "Stop blaming yourself. Tallie and Paul are fine. Though I'm a bit concerned about the violent tendencies in Tallie's birth family."
"I think ambition's the more likely character flaw," Paulo said ruefully. "Well, at least there is one lucky thing."
"And that would be?"
Paulo grinned. "I don't have to explain this to your mother. Much as I wanted to see her."
Paka put down his drink .... "I hope you don't mind my asking, but I got the distinct feeling that there was something about your relationship that Mother never told me...."
Paulo sat up in shock. "You don't think.....?" He shook his head. "Edward, I will certainly admit I found your mother to be very attractive .... even if she wasn't of my people. That red hair certainly caught my eye." He laughed again. "No, while your mother is quite remarkable .... I had ... have a wife, and your father, as I remember, is a very large man."
The vid screen chirped then, demanding attention. Edward looked at the originating code and laughed.
"Paulo," he said as he opened the channel. "Your luck ran out."
Kathryn Janeway was in full bore, which Edward was secretly happy to see.
"Paka, what in hell is going on? We got word that there was an ... incident .. involving Tallie. Ra'kka's ready to commandeer a starship; and Thomas and your father are ready to go with him."
"I don't know, Mom, I wouldn't trust Thomas around a stardrive ... he's not that kind of engineer." The joke merely earned him a steely glare. "Tallie's fine, Mom. So's Paul. As for explaining ... well, there's someone here who can do it a bit better than I can..." he said, pulling Paulo toward the screen.
Kathryn involuntarily put her hand to her mouth. "Paulo!"
"Kathryn, you are as beautiful as ever," Paulo said with obvious affection.
There was no mistaking the twinkle in Kathryn's eyes. "And you, my dear man, are still a politician."
She crossed her arms and gave him a mock glare. "Now, give!"
Tala answered the chime to see a graying Zenardi man in the entry.
"Yes," she said warily. Her hand still hurt, and it had taken two hours before Paul would consent to go to sleep without her presence. All she wanted right now was a drink and a hot bath.
"Dr Janeway .... I am Jaysar."
Her uncle. She sighed. Somehow, his presence wasn't exactly comforting. "I'm sorry if I seem rude, but I'm just not up to any more family reunions for the night ....."
He looked puzzled at first, then snorted. "I can understand. I had no wish to meet you, either."
The remark pulled her up short ... and stung. He saw her reaction, and his face softened. "I am sorry. I did not mean to be unkind. It's that .... I ... I couldn't condone what my son tried to do ... or my father for that matter. I wanted ... to apologize, even if it meant opening up old wounds."
He was obviously struggling, and despite herself, Tala felt a pang of sympathy. "I suppose we both have paid for what our family has done," she ventured.
He was looking at the floor. "I loved my sister very much ... and my father. When I found out .... I was angry ... at them, at you. Over the years, I've had time to think .... " He looked up, into her face, and she could see something, regret, perhaps, in his dark eyes. " I realized that ... at least a part of my sister will go on with you. I couldn't let my son take that away."
"I thank you for that," Tala said softly, unsure of what to say next.
She hadn't noticed the package until he offered it to her. "My daughter put this together. She said that no matter what, you should know something about your mother."
Tala was finding it hard to see through the tears, but she managed to compose herself. "Please," she said, "Please come in."
"You ready? The ship's due to leave in an hour," Edward said as he walked though the door of his sister's quarters. However, she wasn't paying much attention. She seemed to be looking quite intently at something that resembled a PADD.
"What's that?" he asked, settling on the couch beside her. Without a word, she handed him the device. It held an image, that of a young Zenardi woman, barely out of her teens. Dark hair, mischievous dark eyes ... she was laughing.
"That's Callah," Tala said quietly.
It took a moment for the name to register. Then it hit him. "Your birth mother?" He looked again at the picture. "You have her eyes."
Tala said nothing, just smiled sadly.
"Is this from Paulo?"
She shook her head. "No, Jaysar."
He considered this for a moment. "How did that go?"
"All right," she sighed. "But I don't think he'll invite me to spend the high holidays with them."
Edward put his arms around her then. "Tallie ... I'm so sorry. This has been a mess."
"Yep," she agreed, sagging against his shoulder, but only for a moment. "But something wonderful did happen. I finally met Paulo ... and we've agreed that when the new communication links are complete, we'll keep in touch."
"Ah ... that's terrific, Tallie. That's one good thing. And another," he said, gently touching the image. "You found your mother."
He wasn't sure how to interpret the look on her face. "Well, I have to think about that one .... considering my , uh, introduction, to my birth family. Right now, I'd just as soon they stayed in the Delta Quadrant."
No answer to that, he realized, so he kept quiet.
Tala looked at the picture again ..... "I do know one thing," she said, almost absently.
"That is ...?"
The smile she gave him was pure Kathryn Janeway. "That I've always known who my mother is. And right now, I'd really like to get back home to see her ....."