It approaches....

"I don't see why I can't return to duty." K'Leena Paris hated this.

"Starfleet regulations require...." Deanna Troi began, only to be interrupted.

"Psychological evaluation and treatment to any personnel held in captivity. I know, I know...but I'm fine, really. I just want to go back to work."

"Are you still having the nightmares?" Deanna knew she was. Lucas told her how often they woke her up. Her son was very concerned for his fiancée. Troi was counseling K'Leena in the couple's home because it helped the younger woman relax.


"Why don't you tell me what they're about?" Two months of counseling K'Leena and Deanna had managed to glean nothing more than a rudimentary description of what happened during her captivity. And she thought B'Elanna was hard to counsel. What did Tom call her? Stubborn Klingon--it sure fit. For both of them.

"They're not important," K'Leena dismissed them.

"I think they are. Lucas tells me you wake up almost every night."

"Lucas has a big mouth."

"He's worried about you. A lot of people are."

"I'm fine. I keep telling everybody that."

"K'Leena, tell me about the dreams."

"You aren't going to okay my return to duty until I do, are you?"

"I wouldn't be much of a counselor if I did. You need to talk about this."

"Oh, all right," she forced out between gritted teeth. "They really aren't anything to speak of. It's just the feeling of being trapped and unable to move. And the darkness. It's always dark...," her voice caught. She took a deep breath to steady herself.

"Tell me about the darkness." Something was here, Deanna could feel it.

"What do you mean?"

"Tell me what bothers you about the darkness." What was it? There was more going on here. Why hadn't she sensed it before?

"It lurks in the shadows. The light doesn't dispel it completely. I can't get away from it, it's always there. It wants to hurt me...and Lucas. There is such hate in it...," K'Leena stopped when she noticed Deanna's stricken expression. "What?"

"K'Leena, can Lucas come in here? Would you mind?"

"I guess not." It made her a little uncomfortable, but he was her mate and knew all she was anyway.

Deanna left the living room and went to get her son from his office.

Lucas looked up when his mother entered. He sensed her distress instantly and rounded the desk to stand in front of her.

"Something's wrong."

"Yes, I need your help."

They rejoined K'Leena in the living room. She looked confused, though not upset. Lucas couldn't figure out what his mother was so concerned about. He sat down next to his mate, picked up one of her hands and laced his fingers through hers.

"Lucas, have you ever seen K'Leena's nightmares?" It was not uncommon for Imzadi to share dreams.

"Always, why?"

"Just tell me what you see, please."

"It's always the same. Darkness that clings to everything. Hidden evil. Terror. Pain. She can't move. She can't breathe. She screams and nothing comes out. She can't escape, and I can't get to her. I don't know where she is. I can't -feel- her. I can't find her...." Lucas' eyes met his mother's, comprehension dawning. "These aren't just dreams, are they?"

"I don't think so."


"Do you think your mother is right? That we're picking up on some type of conspiracy that involves us?" K'Leena asked Lucas.

"Yeah, I do. It all makes a morbid kind of sense. The dreams never had much to do with the Breen incident. You never seemed that upset by what happened to you, not like the dreams upset you. I just kept assuming the nightmares were about what happened. It didn't occur to me that they might be something else."

"I'm angry about the Breen. I'd like to go back and personally kill a couple of them, but it was -why- all this happened that upset me the most. I don't like the idea that they used us like that. It frightens me."

"It frightens me, too." Lucas said quietly.

They were getting ready for bed. She sat at the end of the bed brushing her hair. The red-gold waves reached almost to her waist. Maybe she should cut it short, like her mother's hair. It was a pain to deal with everyday.

"Don't you dare!"

K'Leena looked up surprised. Damn telepaths.

"Get out of my head, Lucas. I'll cut my hair if I want to," she said with mock severity.

"I like being in your head," he came up behind her on the bed. His voice was low and husky. "As a matter of fact, I like being inside just about any part of you."



"Umm hmmmmm."

His hands slipped into the v-neck of the robe and found her bare beneath it, much to his delight. When his fingers brushed across her nipples she gasped in surprise. They were so sensitive it almost hurt.

"Like that?" he purred.

"Ummmmm, yes."

Her head fell back against his chest and she leaned back into him. The sash of her robe was undone and he stripped it from her in a matter of seconds.

She stood up suddenly and turned around. Both hands flat against his chest she shoved him back...hard. Before he recovered, she was straddling him. Their mutual state of undress made for no delay in her taking him in.

Lucas moaned at her tightness, somewhat surprised she could accept him without foreplay. Concerned, he looked up at her. He felt, rather than saw, the brief pain caused by her haste. When she opened her eyes, she looked right into him.
He saw an almost feral gleam in the passion-dark blue depths.

Smiling slowly, she lowered her head to kiss him. Or so he thought. Instead, she bit his lip so hard it bled. Sinking her fingernails into his shoulders she tore the skin there.


K'Leena threw her head back and laughed as the word reached her mind. Rolling her hips in slow torturous circles, she dared him to do something about it.

Lucas returned her grin. It didn't take much to flip her over and pin her to the bed.

"You may be one-quarter Klingon, but you're a hell of a lot smaller than I am."

He grabbed her hands, laced his fingers with hers and held them above her head as he leaned down to bite her shoulder, drawing blood himself. She surged against him in response, growling her approval. He slid back into her with a sudden thrust, making her climax violently the moment he was inside her. It took all he had not to follow, when he felt the intensity of her pleasure.

After she came down and opened her eyes once again, he began to move in deep forceful strokes, keeping their gazes locked the whole time. It was incredibly erotic to see her like this. Wild and uninhibited, she was meeting him thrust for thrust. It wasn't long before she came apart under him a second time.

Vainly he struggled to stay in control of his passion. He was losing his grip on his emotions. It didn't happen very often, but tonight he couldn't hold back. Lucas ground into her, desperate to go deeper. His mind seized hers as his body demanded more. He wanted everything, every thought, every desire, every response, everything....

"Wrap your legs around me, 'Leena," his voice was thick. She wrapped them tight, locking her ankles. "That's it, baby, let me in."

She cried out when he drove into her, taking him in more completely than ever before. His hands were biting into her hips now, bruising the pale skin. There was a little pain with her pleasure and that small part of her that was Klingon reveled in it. She matched him sensation for sensation, touch for touch, bite for bite. And demanded more. She was in a state of frenzy, clawing and desperate.

"Put your arms around my neck and hold on," he told her.
She did.

He withdrew from her slightly and pulled up to his knees, keeping one hand firm on the small of her back to bring her with him and the other braced on the bed to lever them up. Finding the edge of the bed with his foot he stood up then buried himself once again inside her heat as she clung to him. A few short steps and her back met the wall. Their eyes met in expectation. Blatant desire. Lucas didn't disappoint. He began to move and her head fell back with a moan. He angled her upper body away from him, causing her hips to tilt up, giving him the full access he needed. Setting his legs, he thrust into her...out of her...through her. Using the wall to brace herself and placing her hands on his shoulders, she met him with everything she had. Wild, out of control passion engulfed them both in a maelstrom of fire and heat. Tonight, nothing was enough for either of them.

Lucas slid his hand from her hip to behind her, caressing her bottom, then moved under her to the point of their union. He drew his fingers back from where they were joined until he found what he was looking for. His teeth nipped at the soft skin just below her ear as his fingertip circled the tiny opening. Her breath caught in anticipation. He wouldn't. He would. She cried out in shock and delight as this new intimate invasion sent her wildly over the edge. He kept her going, stroking her in rhythm. She lost count of how many times she climaxed, reality began to fade along the edges. Wave after wave of ecstasy crashed over her, into her. Nails raked down his chest and she screamed, losing her grip on consciousness when he finally thrust one last time. Reaching his own release he slowly sank to his knees, using the wall to support them both, his breath coming in ragged gasps.

When she came to, he was looking down on her with a concerned expression.

She grinned broadly, "Kahless, Lucas,...where did you learn to do -that-?" and he laughed out loud.

He had never been with a woman like her before. She could do things to him with just a look...or a growl.

God...he loved Klingon night. Lucas Riker was a lucky man.


She ran and it stalked her relentlessly. She screamed and no one heard her. The darkness came closer and closer. Cold and evil. Soon it would have her...and then it would have him. They would be the tools in its rise and the others' destruction. It had waited so very long for this. Soon, they would pay....

K'Leena opened her eyes and stared into the night, still shaking from the dream.


Strong arms pulled her trembling body close.

I know, Imzadi.


...and manipulates....

Mike Burns sat at the bar of the Officer's Club, nursing a beer. Six months ago he and Lucas would have been here together. Not that he begrudged his friend the happiness he'd found. Far from it. K'Leena and Lucas belonged together, anyone could see it. Even someone as jaded as he couldn't help but notice how incredible they were together. But he missed his friend. His life seemed so empty compared to what Lucas had. Maybe it was time for him to start thinking about settling down as well. The thought stayed with him for about half a second then he dismissed it. He wasn't the same as Lucas, he would make a lousy husband. There were far too many women out there that interested him.

Like that stunning brunette sitting alone in the corner, drinking a glass of wine. The last thing he wanted was to spend yet another night alone. Putting on his most charming smile he walked over to her.

"What's your name?" Mike asked the heart-stoppingly beautiful woman. Young woman, she couldn't have been more than twenty or so. Far too young for him only a year away from thirty, but he couldn't help himself.

"Tessa," she replied warily.

"Dance?" He held out his hand in invitation. She took it after a moment of hesitation.

They moved with fluid grace. She seemed built for him. Being well over six foot himself, Mike didn't like tiny women. Of average height, she fit to him like a glove. Generous curves filled his hands perfectly. When her enormous clear blue eyes met his, he was lost. He had to have her. His hand moved up her back to cup the nape of her neck as he bent his head to hers.

"Come home with me?" his lips lightly brushed her ear as he spoke.

She didn't know if it was his touch or the provocative words that sent a shiver of desire straight through her, but whatever it was made her want him like no one ever before.

Tessa pulled back to look once again at the pale green eyes of the handsome man holding her. He was serious. She shouldn't, she knew, but no one ever wanted -her-. Men never wanted her: they were repulsed by her, frightened by her, but they never wanted her. -He- wanted her. He had to know who she was, everybody did, but she could see nothing other than desire in his eyes.

"Are you sure?" she asked, shocking herself with the realization that she was actually considering his offer. It was probably the wine talking, she never could handle her alcohol very well.

"How old are you?" Mike suddenly realized she might not be as old as she appeared.

"Twenty-three," came her slightly amused reply.

"Then, yes. I'm sure," he told her with a dazzling smile.

"Okay, I'll go with you." She threw caution to the wind. It might be her only chance at this.

"Come on, I don't live far," he said, grasping her hand and leading her from the bar.


He was good, she had to give him that. They weren't in his apartment ten minutes and Tessa was completely undressed and sliding between his sheets with him following right behind her. Mike was incredibly good looking. The hard flat planes of his body caught the moonlight and the sight made her breathless. He was hard everywhere. Not an ounce of spare flesh on him. Dark brown hair was liberally sprinkled across his chest and down his belly. His legs were long and heavily muscled. He looked like a very strong man. Tessa should probably be leery of him, she didn't know him from a Breen agent, but she just couldn't find it in herself to distrust him. His eyes were too clear, his touch too gentle, his voice too kind...and no one had -ever- made her feel this way before.

Mike was reeling at the woman in his arms. She was perfection personified. From the raven black hair to the long slender legs entwined with his, she was everything he ever wanted in a woman. Her response to his touch was driving him to distraction. She surged against him, offering herself to whatever he wanted. He could feel it in his bones. There were no masks tonight, no hidden agendas, no pretenses. She wanted only to be with him now, to give herself completely and to be taken as completely.

It was a heady, overwhelming feeling for him to be so utterly out of control.

He settled down next to her, his hand roaming freely over her body. Her lips softened, opening under his. His tongue explored her mouth, tangling with hers as his caresses became more focused. Her breasts swelled at his touch. Fire streaked through her at the light teasing touch flirting across her erect nipples. She was trembling with anticipation when he finally lowered his head to take one peak with his mouth. Hot. Scorching hot. She cried out, surprised at the intensity of feeling he lit in her.

His hand kneaded her belly as he played with her breasts. Something was nagging at him to go carefully, something so out of place that it managed to work its way into his fevered thoughts. What, he couldn't say, but he knew instinctively rushing her headlong to release would not be wise. His touch slowed to a languid stroke. Smooth, soft, gliding over her heated skin. Finding her mouth again, he kissed her thoroughly. His hand explored every inch of her body. Every curve, every plane, he wanted to know all of her.

Tessa was drowning in sensation, completely unprepared for what was being done to her. She hadn't realized it could be like this. Fire and heat, tension and excitement, desire and fear all swirled together in a hurricane of passion. The bold evidence of his arousal pressed into her hip. Tentatively she reached out and caressed the amazingly silky skin that covered such hardness.

Mike groaned at the feather light touch and his hand slid down her stomach to the junction between her legs. Fingers parted the dark curls, now damp with arousal, and he found the center of her pleasure. Circling it gently, slowly, he let her feel each light touch of his finger. Tessa shuddered and gasped against his mouth. Mike ran his hand down the top of her thigh to grasp her behind the knee, he began to draw her leg up. She tensed slightly and resisted his pull. Stroking the soft skin on the underside of the joint his lips moved to whisper in her ear.

"Spread you legs for me, Tessa, I want to touch you."

He was nonplused when she hesitated a moment before doing as he asked. Again, something hovered at the back of his mind, something he should know. Then she opened herself for him and he was drawn back to his goal. Fingers pressed inward. She was scalding hot and very wet. He stroked the slick folds, slowly, softly, bringing forth more moisture. Reaching deeper he touched at her entrance with the very tip of his finger. Her legs parted even more and she drew her knees up, inviting him in. He slid a finger into the hottest, tightest passage he'd even known. Mike tore his mouth from hers with a groan.

"Gods, it's been a while, hasn't it?"

"Hmmm...," she murmured against the base of his throat, licking the hollow she found there while he stroked her, sending new waves of desire coursing through her.

Mike moved over her then, she parted her legs further to accommodate him but was surprised when he didn't cover her. Opening her eyes, she caught his smile as he moved lower to lay between her wide spread thighs.

He saw the confusion in her face. It angered him at some primitive level he didn't even know he possessed. She didn't understand what he was doing, she'd obviously never been pleasured like this before.

"Relax, you'll enjoy me."

Enjoy it?! If ever there was an understatement, this was it. It was the most amazing thing she'd ever felt. He kissed, licked and sucked at her until she shattered. Strong hands held her hips firm to the bed as she thrashed and he drank deeply from her.

She was drifting, floating in a sea of pleasure, she never felt it when he rose above her. The firm nudge of his hips, spreading her thighs wider caused her eyes to blink open in surprise. His face was drawn taut with desire, his expression fierce.

He watched her as he reached down and parted her. She was ready for him and he could hold back no longer.

Then he was inside of her, unbelievably hard and burning hot. Tearing agony lanced through her and she screamed. Her head drove back into the pillows when her body arched off the bed at the sudden invasion.

Mike had gone absolutely still after his forceful thrust. Looking down on her in shock, he fought to get his mind around the undeniable truth. He hadn't been gentle at all, his desire taking him totally, he'd sheathed himself completely in one stroke. The speed and force of his entrance prevented him from stopping when he finally realized what had been nagging him all along. He had torn through her innocence, burying himself inside her without stopping.

"Goddammit, Tessa!" he swore through clenched teeth and groaned when she tensed about him even more. "Why didn't you tell me?" he asked in a whisper, dropping his head down next to hers, unable to find enough air to even breathe much less speak.

Her scream was still echoing through his head. He flogged himself mentally. He'd never hurt a woman like this before and hated himself for losing control and hurting her now. She was in pain, tensed about him so tight she was shaking, her breath coming in shuddering gasps. He slid one hand under her shoulder while the other cupped her hip to hold her close in an effort to comfort her, and fought the overwhelming urge to lose himself in her heat.

"Are you all right?" he asked gently against her hair.

She nodded into his chest. Feeling the wetness of tears on her face he cursed himself again.

"Are you lying to me?"

There was a moment of hesitation before she nodded again. He grimaced and pulled up carefully to look at her. Even that small movement caused her to flinch.

"I'm sorry, Tessa, I didn't mean to hurt you," he apologized and his hand came up to brush the tears from her face. "Why didn't you tell me it was your first time?"

"I didn't think it mattered," she began, her voice shaking and broken. "I didn't think it would...."

"....hurt so much?" he finished for her, berating himself all over again.

"Yeah," she said so quietly he almost didn't hear her.

Mike gave her a pained look. "It wouldn't have if I'd known. I could have made it easier for you."

"Oh...," it was a half-sob, half-laugh.

His hand slowly stroked her trembling body, soothing her. Lips brushed across her forehead.

"Relax, Tessa, I won't hurt you anymore," he whispered softly, using his voice to calm her more.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity to Mike, her locked muscles eased and he could withdraw from her. It was almost impossible for him to do, all he wanted was to stay buried inside her and let his passion loose. Every muscle in his body was rigid with the effort it took to deny the urge. But he'd hurt her enough. Slowly he pulled back and she hissed in pain.

"I know, honey," he said, hoarsely.

When he pulled out completely and moved off her, Tessa looked at him in confusion.

"Aren't we going to...."

"No, not now. I hurt you too bad, Tessa. I'm going to get the regenerator and repair the damage I've done and then we're going to sleep. I don't know about you, but all of a sudden, I'm exhausted."

Her face flamed. "You don't have to...I'll just get dressed and go, I can handle...."

"No!" he cut her off forcefully. "You're staying here tonight and you're going to let me take care of you."

Something about the tone of his voice warned her not to push him. She shrank back from him slightly. He frowned.

"I'll be right back," he told her softly.

Mike padded into his bathroom and flicked on the light. He stopped short at the sight of her blood on his member. How bad had he torn her? Grabbing a washcloth, he cleaned himself off, not wanting her to see the evidence of his carelessness. He took a fresh cloth and wetted it so he could use it to clean her. Pulling the regenerator from the drawer he shut the light off and went back to his bed. She hadn't moved, but she was very tense.

Kneeling on the bed next to her, he gently pulled the sheet down. Mike knew he would need some more light, but he didn't think she could handle being exposed in the full glare of a lamp. A quick glance to the head of his bed solved the problem. His reading light. He flicked it on, it would be enough. Grasping her leg behind the knee he carefully lifted it to the side. She turned her head away in embarrassment. He almost reconsidered and let her be, until he saw the blood on her thighs. With a grim expression he gently wiped it off, cringing at her gasp when the cool cloth touched her burning skin. Working quickly he used the regenerator. She relaxed noticeably when he'd finished. Mike drew the sheet back over her and pulled the comforter up as well. He set the regenerator on the night table, turned off the light and tossed the washcloth in the refresher before climbing back into bed.

She was curled up on her side, away from him. He hesitated for just a moment then slid down next to her, pulling her full length to him. She lay unmoving and stiff, but she didn't pull away.

"I'm sorry, Tessa," he told her again, his lips lightly brushing across her temple.

"I am I."

He could hear the tears in her voice. "Hey," he turned her to look at him.

Her eyes were bright with unshed tears and she gave him a tremulous smile. "It was just so nice, up till...."

He smiled warmly and touched her cheek with the tips of his fingers. "It will be the next time too, I promise."

She searched his face with her eyes. He didn't know what she was looking for but after a moment she seemed to find what she wanted. Tessa reached up and brought his head down to hers. Their lips met and she pressed herself closer to him.

It was tempting, but only an animal would continue after what he'd done to her. He kissed her tenderly then pulled back.

"Tomorrow, Tessa," Mike promised.

Pulling her with him he rolled onto his back. She fell asleep with his arms wrapped securely around her, her head resting in the hollow of his shoulder. Mike stared unseeingly at his bedroom ceiling still reeling from the events of the night...and the emotions running wildly through him.

Why, after all these years and countless women, did this wide-eyed innocent touch him like no other?


"Mike, get your ass out of bed!" Lucas called out upon entering his best friend's apartment. It was their standard greeting in situations like this, much to his mate's annoyance. Mike had caught them in the throes of passion on more than one occasion. Striding into the bedroom Lucas turned on the light and stopped dead in his tracks.

Mike was already sitting up, shaking off the haze of sleep. When the light came on the woman next to him startled and came up off the bed with a cry, clutching the blanket to her chest.

"Tessa?" Lucas asked, stunned.

"Lucas?" she asked in reply, her eyes wide.

"You two know each other?"

"From the day she was born," Lucas told him, testily. He didn't like the idea of Mike playing with Tessa. She'd been through too much the last several years.

Tessa looked at Mike and suddenly realized he didn't know who she was. Oh God! He was going to be furious. She began to tremble, she didn't know if she could deal with an emotional scene right now.

Mike's eyes narrowed as he looked at her. Terror, absolute terror looked back at him, she was shaking from it. What the hell was going on?

"Tessa?" he reached for her, but she stepped back and he let his hand drop.

Lucas walked forward and took her in his arms. "It's okay, Tessa."

"I thought he knew who I was," she whispered into his chest.

"I know, don't worry, I'll take care of it.... Why don't you take a quick shower and get dressed while Mike and I talk then I'll take you back to our place. You can stay with K'Leena tonight, okay?"

Mike watched in confusion as she nodded, wiping the tears from her face. Lucas shot him a look and he got out of bed. Grabbing a robe, he went to the outer room to afford her some privacy. A few seconds later Lucas joined him. He'd known Lucas for damn near six years now, and one thing you -never- did was cross the man. And somehow, without even realizing it, Mike had done just that.

"You didn't even find out her last name, Mike?" Lucas asked, tersely.

"It didn't seem important at the time."

"Do you have any idea who she is?"

"Just that she's Starfleet, I met her at the Officer's Club."

"Before I tell you who you just slept with I'm going to let you know -exactly- how things are going to go after you find out, got it?" Lucas ground out. Mike glared at him but nodded curtly as Lucas continued, "You are not going to do anything more than say goodbye to her in the nicest tone you can muster. Then, I'm taking her home. And you're getting dressed and hauling your ass down to Command to deal with the little mess LaForge has. I will be there as soon as I get Tessa settled with K'Leena. Understand?"

"Lucas," Mike bit out angrily, he'd had enough of this. "I don't know what kind of a man you think I am, but what happened tonight was consensual, trust me...she enjoyed it."

"-Don't- push me, Mike," Lucas' eyes flared with fury. "You don't know what happened tonight."

"Okay, fine, then tell me."

"Kim, her last name is Kim. Her father is the Captain of the Federation's Flag ship and her mother is...."

"Commander Annika Hansen-Kim, also known as Seven of Nine," Mike finished for Lucas, his chest constricting painfully. She was Borg. The woman of his dreams was Borg.

"Precisely," Lucas' lips thinned. "And you're not going to take this out on her. She thought you knew who she was, that you could handle it. The last thing she needs to deal with is your prejudices. She gets too much of that as it is."

"What is it you think I'm going to do?" Mike was curious.

"I don't know, and frankly, I don't care. Whatever you're feeling right now, keep it to yourself. I never understood why everybody was so damned scared of her anyway. She's no different than any of us, not really."

"It's been hard for her?"

"People are terrified of her, Mike! What do you think? Ignorance is dangerous."

"Dangerous?" Mike asked, deadly quiet. "How dangerous? Has she ever been threatened?"

"Yeah," Lucas admitted, sensing Mike wasn't angry, but concerned. "More than once. There's been a couple attempts on her life as well. It's not something that's general knowledge, we keep it 'in the family' so to speak."

Mike stared at Lucas in shock. Things like this just didn't happen in the 24th century. Prejudice shouldn't exist anymore. The Federation was made up of hundreds of races.

"She's been threatened and almost killed more than once?" he was furious. "The little fool! What the hell is she doing coming home with me?! I could have been anybody. I could have done anything! Gods, what the hell was she thinking?!"


"K'Leena, honey, wake up."

"What are you doing back here?" she asked, confused.

"Tessa's in the spare room...I think you should check on her."

"Tessa? Why?"

"I found her with Mike...It's complicated but I think she needs you right now."

"Mike?! Kahless...Lucas, I don't think she's ever been with a man before." She got up and pulled on her nightgown as she spoke.

He knew damn well Tessa had never been with a man before tonight. He'd seen the absolute proof of it on the sheets of Mike's bed.

"I know, K'Leena...that's why she needs you. I have to get to Command, I don't know when we'll be back. Take care of her...and yourself." He kissed her gently before he stood up.



"Be careful."

"I will."


"Hey," K'Leena said softly to her friend. Tessa was sitting on the edge of the bed looking completely lost.


"Want to tell me what happened tonight?"

She shrugged. "I met a man and I went home with him, what's the big deal? It happens to other people all the time."

"But not to you."

"No...not to me."

"Are you okay? Do you want to use my regenerator?"

"No, Mike took care of that."

K'Leena raised an eyebrow. "He did?"

She blushed. "Yeah, he was really sweet."

"Mike?" K'Leena began to wonder if they were talking about the same man who had no qualms about striding into her bedroom at all hours of the night yelling, "Get off that gorgeous woman of yours, Lucas, we have work to do!"

"You sound surprised, I thought you knew him?"

"So did I," she mumbled.

"What was Lucas doing barging into Mike's bedroom anyway? It was kind of rude, yelling at him to 'get his ass out of bed', like that."

K'Leena smirked. "They've known each other for years. They work together. Trust me, Mike's done worse to us."


"Yeah, really. How did the two of you get hooked up? I know for a fact you don't run in the same circles."

"I stopped by the Officer's Club to drop off a PADD for Admiral Gellis and decided to have a glass of wine. Mike was there, he asked me to dance, then...."

"Then the next thing you knew you were in his bed," K'Leena said disgustedly. The man could talk just about anyone into his bed, she'd seen it more than once.

"I wanted to go with him, K'Leena. He didn't seduce me. I thought he knew who I was and still wanted me, no one ever has once they found out who I was."

"Oh, Tessa...."


Mike looked up when Lucas strode into his office.

"You going to do the over-protective-brother-thing again?"

Lucas scowled. "It's amazing how different you view things when it comes to women you know. It's a wonder I wasn't pounded to death by a phalanx of angry brothers, fathers and friends."

Mike chuckled. "I didn't know who she was, she said she wanted to be with me. If you were me would -you- have turned her down?"

"No...but I still don't have to like it."

"Neither do I," Mike replied grimly.

"For crying out loud, Mike! It's not like she's contagious! You're not going to be assimilated!"

"You know," Mike began darkly. "We've been friends for a -long- time, Lucas. I'm starting to get a little angry with the fact that you seem more than ready to believe the absolute worst in me tonight. I am -not- afraid of her. Or of being assimilated. I've met Captain Kim and his wife. If you ask me, he's one hell of a lucky man." He paused and raked a hand through his hair before continuing, "What I didn't like about what happened tonight was that she came with me so easily. The damn woman is going to get herself killed being so trusting."

"I don't know why, but tonight was different. This was not something Tessa would normally do...not something she's ever done."

"Yes, I am -very- much aware of that fact." Unfortunately he became aware of that fact a moment too late.

"Damn...did you hurt her?"

Mike looked up, taken aback for a moment. Lucas didn't usually listen in on his thoughts unless a mission depended on it, he sometimes forgot that the man could hear them whenever he wanted. He gritted his teeth, Lucas was treading on thin ice with him tonight.

"What the hell do you think?" he snapped. "Did you hurt K'Leena the night we rescued her from the Breen? Did she scream when you took her virginity?"

"That's enough, Mike."

"Yes, it damn well is. This is none of your business, Lucas. Don't push me anymore. You've trusted me with your life on more than one occasion. Don't you think I can be trusted with Tessa?"


Tessa put down her coffee cup and smiled when K'Leena came into the kitchen.

"I hope you don't mind, I can't deal with morning without at least two cups of coffee."

K'Leena laughed. "You sound like Aunt Kathryn."

Tessa grinned. "Momma never did learn to like it. I think it still drives Aunt Kathryn crazy that the closest thing she has to a daughter can't stand coffee."

"I think you might be right."

K'Leena got herself a glass of orange juice and sat down with Tessa.

"How you doin', kiddo?" she asked Tessa.

She shrugged. "I'm fine. It's not like the experience was life was just sex."

"Uh huh."

Tessa put on her most uninterested facade and continued, "How long have you known Mike?"

K'Leena hid a grin. "A couple of years now. He and Lucas work together."

"He's a pretty nice guy, huh?"

K'Leena almost snorted, then became serious. Mike was a decent guy. He and Lucas relied on each other in some pretty dangerous situations and Mike had never let him down. They were close friends. She remembered the night they rescued her from the Breen. Mike had come to Lucas' quarters very late with something for Lucas to see. They had thought she was sleeping....

"Sorry, Lucas," Mike apologized for disturbing his captain.

"Don't worry about it, I wanted to see this," Lucas said.

Mike glanced over at K'Leena, curled up in Lucas' bed. It didn't take a genius to figure out what had happened, especially since Lucas was sporting a rather nice bite mark on his cheek. He was happy for them. This was the second time in a few short months that he'd almost lost her. He didn't envy his friend, however. He had the feeling keeping K'Leena out of trouble was going to be a lifetime commitment for Lucas. He shook his head at the thought, he knew full well Lucas was more than happy to be her keeper.

"How is she?" he asked, concern lacing his voice.

"As well as can be expected, all things considered."

"They really did a number on her, didn't they?" Mike asked grimly. He'd been horrified when Lucas showed him the Doctor's report. K'Leena had been beaten severely. Mike had been almost surprised to discover she hadn't been raped as well with as brutal as they had been.
"Yeah, they sure as hell did," Lucas replied with barely repressed fury.

" all right?" he asked, seeing how shaken Lucas really was.

Lucas hauled in a deep breath. "Yeah, I'm okay. Just regretting the fact that I didn't kill them when I was there," he said with a rueful grin.

Mike smiled without humor. "You're a better man than me, Lucas. I'd have done it in a heartbeat."

"Trust me," Lucas said darkly. "The only thing that stopped me was the fact that she needed medical attention desperately."

Mike was silent for a long moment then said, "Go back to bed, I've got the bridge. You aren't much use up there anyway, when your mind is here with her."


Mike had stayed a few more minutes while Lucas gave him some miscellaneous orders before he left.

Lucas shrugged his robe off, turned the lights down again and slid back into the bed with her. K'Leena turned to him instantly, her clear blue eyes meeting his. She reached up and traced the bite mark on his face, as if she still couldn't believe what had happened. He turned his head and captured her fingertip with his teeth, drawing it into his mouth to suck on it lightly. Warmth radiated from him and seemed to sink right into her. Deftly he pulled her under him and kissed her gently. His large hands positioned her hips and she felt him hot and hard, probing her damp softness. She sighed into the kiss. His lips trailed along her neck, nipping her along the way.

"Are you too sore?" he asked softly, his hand covering her breast.

"No...," she was, but it didn't matter. She urged him closer, her eyes closing in rapture when he slowly pressed in....

K'Leena shook herself back to the present and met Tessa questioning gaze.

"Mike's a good man, Tessa."


...and hovers....

The darkness swirled around her. She couldn't move. It almost had her, it was so close. And it was familiar. She'd been in it's grasp before. Where? When?

It was taunting them now. It could take her anytime, it was just waiting for the right moment. He was gone now, she was vulnerable, but it wasn't time yet. It would have to wait....

K'Leena woke with a silent scream, blindly reaching for Lucas before she remembered he was gone.

She drew in a shuddering breath and turned on the light. He'd been gone four days now. She wasn't sleeping well because of it. Getting up, she walked over to his dresser and picked up the sweatshirt he'd left laying on top of it. He'd worn it for a couple of hours after work one night last week. She pulled it on over her nightgown and was comforted immediately by his scent. Crawling back into the bed on his side, she buried her face into his pillow and tried to go back to sleep, leaving the light on. She lay trembling for a long time.

Then she felt him.

I'll be home soon.


"I missed you," she told him, pulling him close.

"I missed you too," Lucas replied and looked down on her with a concerned expression. She looked exhausted, more tired than he could ever remember seeing her. "Are you all right?"

"I'm just a little tired.... I didn't sleep well while you were gone and I haven't been feeling that good either."

"Nightmares?" he asked almost distractedly while his gaze raked over her face, taking in everything.

She nodded, laying her head against his chest. "I'm glad you're home."

"So am I."

Lucas tighten his arms for a moment then bent down and swept her up. She squeaked in surprise.

"What are you doing?!"

"Taking you to bed, you need sleep."

K'Leena pouted. "Just sleep?"

"For now," he told her with a devilish grin.

A short time later Lucas watched as she slept, concern etching his features. She really didn't look well. With a sigh he brushed his lips across her temple and settled down next to her, his hand coming to rest on the slight swell of her stomach....

Very slight swell. One that wasn't there two months ago. His hand flattened and pressed gently. Firm. Not once since they'd been together had she had her period. He thought it was stress after all she'd been through. Propping his head up on the other hand he looked at his mate in stunned disbelief. She had no idea, he would have sensed it if she did.

"Only you, Blaze, only you...."


Mike waited outside the door of Admiral Gellis' offices. Tessa, he had learned, was his aide. It was late but she hadn't left the building yet. Something else he had learned, she was very dedicated.

"What are you doing here?" she asked when she came out of the suite.

"Waiting for you."


"Because I think it's time you and I talked." He'd been able to wait a full week before coming to her, if only because five days of it was spent on the last mission.

"About what?" she feigned indifference.

Mike's eyes narrowed. "Nice know damn well 'about what'?"

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you who I was...I thought you knew. Everybody knows...."

"I don't care about that," Mike told her.

"You don't?"

"No, it doesn't matter to me. What I want to know is why you came with me that night? You didn't have any idea who I was and you still left with me...why?"

"Because you wanted me."

"You would go with any man who wanted you?!" Definitely not what he wanted to hear. She was testing his temper to the limit.

"I don't know. No one ever has before," came the quiet reply.

This brought him up short. "No one? Ever?"

She shook her head. "Not anybody I wanted as well. I know I shouldn't have left the bar with you, but you were so...gentle and kind. I just wanted to be normal for one night."

"Gods, Tessa, I'm sorry. Lucas is right, I deserve to be thrashed thoroughly."

"Why? You didn't do anything wrong."

"I took advantage of you."

"How? I chose to leave with you. I wanted to have sex with you. You gave me plenty of opportunities to change my mind, if I remember correctly. You even came right out and asked me if this was what I wanted before we ever got into bed. And I'm willing to bet if at -any- time I told you to stop, you would have."

"It doesn't make it right. I'm older than you, I should have -known-! Hell, I did know! I -knew- something wasn't right, but I kept ignoring it--I wanted you so bad."

"And I wanted what's the problem?"

Mike looked at her a little stunned. What was the problem? It's not like it was the Middle Ages, women didn't become tarnished when they lost their virginity.

"I still want you...that's the problem."

Wide-eyed astonishment stared back at him for a moment then a slow wicked smile spread across her face.

She stepped closer to him, laid both hands flat on his chest, tilted her head up to say, "I still don't see what the problem is...."

Mike groaned and his lips met hers. Desire was like a flash point between them. She melted in his arms and the flare of possessiveness he felt was startling. She was -his- and only his. His arms tightened around her while his kiss deepened. Rational thought was fast leaving him. Her hands slid up to entwine in his hair. Reluctantly he broke off the kiss after a few moments. A well traveled hallway at Command was not the place for this.

"Have you had dinner?" he asked her.

Tessa's head was spinning. She didn't even register the query at first. "Huh?...Oh, ummm, yeah, a while ago."

"Do you want to go back to your place, or come home to mine?"

"I share an apartment...let's go to your place," she told him breathlessly.

Mike smiled and led her down the hall.


Tessa woke to Mike's insistent hands stroking her to a fevered pitch...again. He was behind her, his hands roaming freely over her body. Pulling her close against his chest, she gasped in surprise when he effortlessly slid into her.

"Again?!" she asked on a breathless whisper.

"And again...and again...if you'll let me," he rumbled.

Tessa's eyes closed in ecstasy as she moved with him. She couldn't be sure, but she had the feeling that four times in one night was not the norm. And from the sounds of it...he was planning on making it more. A shiver of pleasure went through her at the prospect.

They moved slowly, languidly, savoring each stroke. Mike's hands caressed her with equal deliberation. Across the flat of her stomach, down the length of her thigh, along her rib cage to the undersides of her breasts. But he wasn't touching her where she -needed- to be touched now. As each minute passed she grew more frustrated.

"Damn you!" she hissed at him, grabbing his wrist.

Mike covered her hand with his and kissed the back of her neck. He'd forgotten she was so new to all this. It was easy to do, she responded to him so naturally. His lips moved to her ear and his tongue traced the little hollow under it. With deliberation he moved her hand lower until she was touching the place that so desperately needed attention.

"Take yourself there, Tessa," he said huskily. His fingers knowingly pressed hers into the damp softness. "Reach for it, honey, find it yourself."

The idea was stunning, it never occurred to her, but her fingers began moving under his almost immediately. She was so close, it didn't take long. He followed right behind her, grasping her hips harshly as he quickened the pace and intensity of his thrusts.

After they returned to the living they didn't move, not wanting to lose their connection. Tessa played with the hair on the forearm he had wrapped tightly around her waist.

"Do you mind?" she asked him timidly.

"Mind what?" Mike was confused.

"Having to teach me...about sex. Do you mind?"

"No, Tessa," he told her tenderly, kissing the top of her head and pulling her closer still. "I don't mind...I'm honored."

She didn't know why, but his declaration touched her deeply. With a contented smile she sank back into his embrace and drifted off to sleep.


"I'd like to see you again," Mike told her as she zipped up the jacket of her uniform. She had her back to him and he couldn't see her expression, but he could almost feel the stiffening of her spine across the room.

"Sure, we can go out for a drink every once in a while, if you like."

"That's not what I had in mind, Tessa. I'd like to get to know you better." That was a surprising thing to him. He always had casual affairs, with women who expected nothing more than what he was willing to give. The fact that he wanted Tessa -more- now that he'd had her was staggering to him. And it wasn't just the physical, he wanted to -know- her. Completely.

"I'm not really looking for anything like that now, Mike," she tried to keep her voice steady. It was a tempting thought, but somehow she knew it would be difficult with him. And the last thing she needed in her life was more problems.

He came up behind her and put his arms around her middle.

"Neither was I, but things have changed. I'd like to see what we could have here. I think it could work."

She turned in his arms to face him. "I wouldn't mind seeing you occasionally, like last night...but I'm not interested in a relationship, Mike. I'm sorry," she said with determined regret.

Somewhere in the universe the gods were laughing at him, he just knew it. Talk about cosmic justice.


Lucas stood outside the bathroom door when she emerged. It was the third morning in a row she woke up sick. He led her back to bed and laid down next to her.

"Ugh...this is awful. I must have picked up some kind of virus. I think I'll go over to Medical later. Three days is enough of this nonsense." Thankfully the nausea was subsiding, for now.

Lucas chuckled into the back of her neck as his hand moved in soothing circles over her stomach.

"I don't see what's so funny. I hope you catch this." K'Leena grumped, which brought even more laughter from him.

"I don't think that's possible!"

The jerk was laughing so hard now he shook from it.

"Lucas," she growled in warning, trying to decide -how- she wanted to kill him.

"K'Leena," he gasped in a struggle to contain the amusement. "You're not sick! You're pregnant!" Leave it to his mate to have to be told.

"Don't be ridiculous," she scoffed. "You just updated your booster a month ago."

"They've been known to fail before," he reminded her gently. "It's rare, but it happens."

K'Leena went completely still in his arms. He waited, breathless, for the information to sink in. Slowly, she turned around to look at him, more than a little shocked.

Things had been so crazy over the last couple months. The wedding plans, moving in with Lucas, her dad's promotion and the counseling--it all kept her so distracted she hadn't noticed. She counted back the weeks, all the way past their first night together. More than two months ago.

He watched intently as the reality of it hit her.

"A baby?" She whispered the word like she didn't completely understand it.

"Our baby," he replied softly.

"When did you...."

"I started to suspect a couple of days ago." Truth be told, it occurred to him a month ago, but he dismissed it as stress, considering what she'd been through. It was the recent onset of morning sickness that made him realize she was indeed carrying their child.

K'Leena still couldn't quite grasp it. A million thoughts collided in her head all at once. Slowly she rose from the bed and walked over to the glass doors. She stared unseeingly out them, her emotions running wild. A baby. Kahless...what was she going to do? What kind of a mother would she make? She couldn't keep -herself- out of trouble, much less anyone else. And so quickly. They hadn't even had time to enjoy being together as a couple. It was too soon, too much.

"Are you upset?" Lucas asked, watching her closely He was having a hard time reading her emotions they were in so much turmoil.

"I don't know," she answered honestly, quietly, still looking out on the city. "How do you feel about this?"

He was thrilled, but didn't want to put any pressure on her. This was unplanned and much sooner than either one of them ever expected. Still, he wanted the child... a lot. Something about it felt so -right-. He knew instinctively she had conceived the very first time he made love to her.

Can you hear my thoughts, Imzadi? I can hear yours.

Lucas startled when the words touched his mind. A touch of an evil grin played at her lips. She loved doing that to him. He could get into her head whenever he wanted, but she could only do it if his guard was down.

"Very funny. Okay, you know how I feel." Lucas became serious. "I want to know how you feel."

She turned and looked into those amazing black eyes of his, seeing the concern...and the hope.

"Give me a little time, okay?" she asked, her breath catching slightly.

Lucas nodded, he could feel how shaken she was.


"Doc, I need some information." Lucas began.

"If I can, Captain."

"How often does a contraceptive booster fail?" He hadn't wanted to alarm K'Leena, she was upset enough as it was, but something bothered him about this unexpected pregnancy.

"It doesn't, not without extenuating circumstances."

"Such as."

"Wrong dosage, malfunction in the equipment, use of the antidote...that type of thing. Why?"

"Because K'Leena is pregnant and I find it hard to believe it just happened by accident."

"Have you kept up to date with your boosters? You weren't lax in getting them on time, were you?"

"No, never. Is there a way to check if it was given to me properly?"

"A scan for the drugs components will determine the date of your last injection." The Doctor flipped open his tricorder and proceeded to scan Lucas.


"I take it you found something?" Lucas wasn't surprised.

"According to this, you haven't received a booster in more than six months."

"That's what I figured."

"Why would someone do this?"

"To let me know just how close they are...and how vulnerable she is."

"Correct me if I'm wrong," the doctor began, "but you and Admiral Paris' daughter have only been together for a couple of months. Since the Breen incident. Someone set this in motion well before that."

"Yes, they did," and that's what worried him the most.

Whoever did this has been watching him for a long time. They knew about his feelings for K'Leena long before he acted on them. This was a fail safe. In case the plan with the Breen failed, they would still have leverage against him.

Lucas Riker was beginning to feel like a puppet made to dance to some unknown tune. Every time he turned around his strings were being pulled. It was going to stop.

"Doc, would you be willing to see to K'Leena's pre-natal care in our home, and keep it a secret?"

"Of course."

"Thank you. I don't want anyone to know about this. I'd rather whoever did this not know it worked."

"I understand, but you do realize that in a few months no one will be able to keep this a secret."

"Yes, I know, but for now, I don't want anyone to know."


...and exploits....

"I don't get it, how did someone know that long ago?" Admiral Tom Paris asked his soon-to-be son-in-law. Lucas had decided it was time to tell K'Leena's father about the baby. He hadn't been able to find anything out on his own over the last couple of months and was hoping to enlist his help.

"The reunion. I think whoever is behind this had someone watching us at the last Voyager reunion." It was the only thing that made sense. "Some...things happened between K'Leena and I that weekend. If we were being watched, it would explain how they knew our relationship was changing."

"Watching you? When?" the Admiral asked. He did not like the implications of that. The reunion was held at the family estate. Only close friends and family were there.

Lucas looked at Tom for a long moment while he tried to decide what to tell him. 'Someone must have been watching when I almost took your daughter on the floor of your office,' just didn't seem like a good idea.


"What?" K'Leena asked Admiral Riker in a dangerously quiet voice.

"You're grounded and on restricted duty for the next twelve months. If you'd rather, I could put you on leave for the year," Will offered, he knew she wouldn't like 'desk duty.' A year off might appeal to her more.

"What I want, is to do my job."

"Sorry, it's not an option."

"Why?" she growled menacingly.

"You know why. I won't put you in a dangerous situation when you're pregnant."

"Other officers don't get hauled off duty because of that. Why me?"

"I'm not going to argue with you about this. The decision is final."

"This is Lucas' doing, isn't it?" K'Leena was furious. "Where is he? I'm going to kill him."

"Lucas didn't...," but she stormed out of his office before he could continue.

K'Leena slapped her comm-badge as she walked through the hallway.

"Computer, where is Lt. Lucas Riker?"

--Lt. Riker is in Admiral Paris' office.--

She spun around and headed to her father's office.

Tom and Lucas looked up from the desk in shock when she flew into the room. Her mate felt her anger like a physical blow.

"K'Leena what's wrong...."

"As if you didn't know!" she snapped. "How could you do that?! Didn't you trust me enough not to put our child at risk?! I can't believe you would be so underhanded. Dammit, Lucas, I trusted you! Why couldn't you trust me?"

"I don't know what you're talking about." Lucas was confused.

"He didn't do it, K'Leena," Tom interrupted. "I did."

"What?" she was stunned silent.

"I grounded you. It was my call. I went to Will yesterday, after I learned you were pregnant. I'm in command of Starfleet Flight Operations. This was my decision."

Lucas looked at him in shock. Tom never even told him he was going to do this. He could have warned K'Leena, she wouldn't have gone into it blind. Tom had guts, he wouldn't have crossed his mate like this. No matter how much he might have wanted to.

"Why?" she asked, her voice laced with hurt.

"I don't think you're fit to fly," Tom told her honestly. "You've been through too much recently, the accident, the capture by the Breen and now this. After the baby is born and Deanna's released you, I'll reinstate you."

He could not have hurt her more if he'd struck her. Being a pilot was all she knew. It was the constant in her life. The one thing she would always have. She learned at an early age, life was uncertain. K'Leena accepted the fact that her parents were Starfleet officers and at constant risk. She grew up knowing the danger of starship life. The transient nature of it. Losing friends when their parents were posted elsewhere. Even losing Lucas when his father made Admiral. But she always had flight, now it was gone. Of all people, she thought her father would understand. If she couldn't fly, she was nothing. Being a pilot defined her.

She left the office without another word.

"K'Leena...," Tom called after her.

"Don't, Tom," Lucas said quietly. "Let her be.... I wish you had told me you were going to do this. I could have talked to her."

"I didn't want her to think you had anything to do with it. I knew she was going to be upset."

"Upset?" Lucas was astonished at Tom's callousness. "This goes way past upset."

"She'll get over it, it's just temporary."

"You know," Lucas said thoughtfully. "I thought you knew her better than this. When we were growing up, it always amazed me how close the two of you were. She worshipped the ground you walked on. The measure of a man for her is by your standard. Believe me, I know. I've -seen- what she'll sacrifice for you. Hell! I -am- what she'll sacrifice for you.... We were -happy-! She had a good life with -me- and she gave it all up for -you-.... You have no idea what you've done to her."

Lucas held the older man's gaze for a tense moment, somewhat surprised at the primitive feelings raging through him. It didn't matter who Tom was, he had hurt his mate. Lucas had to forcibly rein in his anger and aggression. He actually -growled- at the Admiral before he went in search of K'Leena.

"I do know," Tom told the empty room in a pained voice.

It was better for her to be angry at him than to have to face a Caldik Prime. He would live the rest of his life with her hating him if he had to, if it meant protecting her from herself.


K'Leena sat on the bench next to a yellow rose bush, idly playing with the closest blossom. She was still in shock. How could her father do this?

"Commander Paris, it is good to see you," a voice from the past greeted her. K'Leena looked up with a grin.

"Tuvok!" She leapt up and hugged the Vulcan, not caring that it always made him uncomfortable. Deep down, she knew he loved her as much as she loved him.

"May I sit with you?" he asked.

"Of course." They sat side by side on the bench. "What are you doing here? The last I heard you were on Vulcan, Starfleet Liaison."

"I am here to help your father," Tuvok said cryptically and raised an eyebrow when she growled at the mention of Tom. "Is there something wrong?"

"Just an overprotective father," she replied, angrily.

"It would not be the first time."

"No, but he's gone too far -this- time. He grounded me, Tuvok! Said I was unfit to fly."

The Vulcan silently contemplated the younger woman. He spoke with Tom last night and knew the situation. He even warned the Admiral that this might be over-stepping his bounds, but Tom never did listen to logic. Tuvok knew what motivated his friend, it was difficult to argue logic against old wounds.

"Perhaps, your father has some reason to be concerned?" he suggested gently.

"Perhaps," she admitted, grudgingly. "But he should have talked to me first!"

"You are probably right. However, I have known your father for a long time...he would not do something like this without good cause."

"Maybe...I still think he's overreacting."

"How much do you know about your parents' time on Voyager?" Tuvok asked.

"I don't know," K'Leena was taken aback by the sudden change in topic. "A lot, I guess. I've read the official logs, heard enough stories from the 'source'."

"I am not talking about the experiences. I am referring to what they went through as people and as a couple."

"I'm not sure I know what you mean."

"When we were stranded in the Delta Quadrant personal problems needed to be put aside for the ship and her crew. Everybody made sacrifices. It was necessary to ensure survival. Your father received a second chance at life aboard Voyager. One that would never presented itself if the ship had not been lost. He carried a great deal of guilt because of the situation. His freedom came at the expense of others. It was the pain your mother went through that was the most difficult for him. There was never enough time to heal on Voyager. Old wounds were constantly reopened and new ones inflicted almost daily. He could not protect her...even from herself."

"But he can protect me," she said softly, beginning to understand.


"For a man who doesn't feel emotion, Tuvok, you certainly have a good grasp on what they are."


"I guess I should try to be more understanding, huh?"

"It may be of some value to discuss this with your mother. There were events that occured that would assist you with this understanding."


"Are you okay?" Lucas asked tenderly.

"Can we go home? I don't want to be here," K'Leena evaded his question.

"I have to stop by my office to pick up some stuff, then we can go." He held out his hand and she got to her feet.

Mike was still working when they got to Lucas' office.

"I told you to go home an hour ago, Lieutenant," Lucas said, a trifle angry.

K'Leena looked at him in surprise, it wasn't like him to be so testy with Mike. Then she glanced at Mike...he looked like hell.

"I wanted to finish this."

"And I told you it could wait," Lucas ground out.

"I'm almost...."

"That's an order, Lieutenant!"

Mike gave Lucas a wry smile. "That's not playing fair, and you know it, Lucas. I've never disobeyed a direct order from you."

"I know it. If it's the only way to get your ass out of here...."

"It's better than going home to an empty house."

K'Leena's lips twitched. "She still won't see you, huh?"

"Oh, she'll see me...dinner, some dancing maybe, back to my place for the night and then 'thanks for the great time'," he said sourly. "I have to play by her rules, you see. No personal questions, no pushing her for more than what she's decided to caring about her."

"I bet that stings," she said, not unkindly.

"Yeah, and I know I deserve every bit of it, K'Leena, but it doesn't make it any easier to take."

"Actually," K'Leena began slightly annoyed. "I think Tessa is behaving like a spoilt child. You've never played with someone's affections like this."

"So...what should I do?"

"I have no idea. It's not that she doesn't have good reasons for the way she's acting. In a way, I really can understand it...but it's not fair to you. The strange thing is, I think she -wants- to be with you. That's why she will go out with you, but she's too scared to open herself up."

"I -know- that!" he bit out. "I wouldn't have spent the last two and a half months jumping through her hoops if I didn't think we had something together! But I don't know how to get through to her. Patience and understanding obviously aren't working."

"Maybe you should stop being so accommodating, Mike," K'Leena suggested thoughtfully. "Maybe you should just be yourself and see what happens. It can't get much worse than this."

He laughed harshly. "No, I don't suppose it can."


Tessa wasn't watching where she was going. It was late and the Admiral had kept her working longer than she would have liked. She was stifling a yawn when she collided with Mike. His hands shot out instantly to steady her.

"Sorry," she said automatically, then realized who was holding her. "What are you doing here?" she demanded.

"I wanted to talk to you," there was a hard edge to his voice that was new to her. She looked at him questioningly.

"Well, I'm on my way home, I don't really feel like 'talking' tonight, Mike. Maybe next time."

His jaw clenched in anger. "I said talk, Tessa, and I meant it. We need to work some things out."

She raised that damned eyebrow of hers at him and he just about snapped.

"What could we possibly have to 'work out'?" she asked imperiously.

"I'm done pretending, Tessa, and so are you. This stops tonight." He grabbed her arm and propelled her down the hall.

She thought about pulling away from him and was startled when he seemed to read her mind.

"You can come back to my place and we can talk or we can do this right here, right now. I personally don't care either way, but I have the feeling you don't want an audience for this."

For an instant she considered calling his bluff--he wouldn't cause a scene here? would he?

"Do you -really- want to find out?" he asked dangerously.

She was seething by the time they reached his apartment. She yanked her arm from his grasp the moment they were inside.

"I don't know who the -hell- you think you are, Mike Burns, but I -won't- be treated like some errant child!"

"Then stop acting like one."

Her lips pursed. "Just what was so important that you felt the need to manhandle me here?"

"I want to know where we are going with this," he told her.

"With what?" she asked blankly.

"With us, Tessa. I want to clarify our relationship."

An eyebrow shot up. "Clarify our relationship? That's simple--we don't have one.... Can I go now?"

Mike gritted his teeth. "No, dammit! We are going to talk about this!"

"About what?!" she all but yelled at him.

"About us!"

"What don't you understand?! There is no 'us'! There never has been. You're just a nice way to spend an evening, Mike. That's it," she said cruelly and was shocked at the tearing pain in her heart. Lifting her head higher she met his gaze defiantly.

"Does it make it easier for you to keep telling yourself that?" he asked softly, his anger having left him completely at the vulnerability she tried so desperately to hide from him.

"Make what easier?" she asked warily as he moved closer.


His lips met hers with tender passion. She tried to steel herself against the ruthlessly gentle assault on her senses, but he knew her too well.

"I thought we were going to talk...not have sex," she tried to sound harsh, but it came out breathless and soft.

"We're not having sex. I'm making love to you...there's a big difference," he said huskily.

"It doesn't feel any different to me," she was lying through her teeth and he knew it.

"It will...."

It did. She felt like he was worshipping her body. Every touch was designed to show her how much he felt for her. Every kiss was a declaration of his intent. She was not so naive to not realize what he was doing. But neither could she stop him.

When he finally joined them she was shaking from emotion. He showered kisses all over her face as he moved slowly in and out, loving her deeply and completely.

"Love me, Tessa," he commanded gently, tenderly...firmly.

"I can't," she gasped.

He moved even deeper, touching the very mouth of her womb, sending shock waves of pleasure straight through her.

"Love me," he demanded again...and she did.


"K'Leena came by to see me today," B'Elanna told Tom quietly.

They were sitting outside, watching the surf. The sun was just disappearing on the horizon, filling the clear skies with a myriad of brilliant colors.

Tom Paris knew a storm brewing when he saw one.

"What did she have to say?" he asked, trying to sound unconcerned.

"That was the interesting part," she paused to look at him. "She wanted to know about things that happened on Voyager. How everything affected us. How -you- handled it."

"Voyager?" That surprised him.

"Why did you ground her, Tom? You never even talked to her before you did it."

"She's pregnant."

"I know, she told me today. I don't see what the problem is."

"She's not fit to fly, B'Elanna. She's a danger to herself and everyone else."

"K'Leena!?" B'Elanna exclaimed in disbelief. "I can't believe that. From the first time the two of you set foot in a simulator, you drilled 'safety first' into her. I've never seen her launch without doing a pre-flight at least twice. She may be reckless in other areas of her life, but never at the helm of a ship."

"She's been through too much, she's not thinking straight. I want to give her time to work through everything."

B'Elanna paused then asked softly, "Give her time, or give you time?"

Tom stiffened, "What do you mean?"

"She's always been your little girl, Tom. From the day she was born, it was love at first sight. I don't think you like that someone else has taken your place in her life and you aren't the man she goes to when she's hurt or in trouble....That it isn't your job to protect her anymore."

"Protect her?! He can't protect her. He couldn't even make sure she didn't get pregnant. How can I trust him?"

"He loves her, you know that."

"Sometimes it's not enough. I remember loving you more than my next breath and still hurting you," Tom reminded her.

"And I remember knowing that you never intended to."

"He still got her pregnant."

B'Elanna's lips twitched, "And that -never- happens to other people." She was rewarded with a dark scowl.

"He hates me, you know."

"Lucas? Of course he doesn't."

"Yes, B'Elanna. He remembers. He knows what she did and that she did it for me. His whole life was taken away in an instant and he blames me."

"How is that possible?"

"I don't know. Lucas is the strongest telepath I've ever known. Maybe that's how. Does it matter? He's seen it. He knows."

"He doesn't hate you, Tom. He might be angry with you, but I don't think Lucas could ever truly hate you.


"After the time jump I was thinking...," K'Leena began, unsure.

"Mmmmm?" Lucas asked sleepily, pulling her closer.

"I was wondering....Well, I thought maybe...that maybe...we could...."



"There's nothing I want more in the world than to make you pregnant. I'll give you as many babies as you like, but can we go to sleep now? We have to be at Command early tomorrow."


"Really. Now go to bed."

K'Leena smiled and wiggled back closer to him. He bit back a groan when she settled against the part of him that was already in a state of half arousal, bringing him fully awake and at attention.

"You're a witch, you know that?"

"And you love me for it."

" want to get a head start on this baby making business, do you?"

"Couldn't hurt to practice a little...."

Lucas woke to an empty bed, disoriented from the dream. These glimpses into their other life were unsettling, to say the least. Sitting up, he hauled in a huge breath, desperate to regain his inner balance.

Moonlight filtered through the window blinds, illuminating K'Leena's still form as she looked out the glass doors of their bedroom. He got up and went to her. His arms came around her from behind and she leaned back against him. One of his hands traveled to rest on the soft swell of her stomach.

"I'm so sorry, Imzadi. I never imagined he would ground you."

"I know. I'm sorry I thought you did it. I should have known better."

"A part of me wanted to. I'd do anything to protect you, but I knew I couldn't. I had to trust you."

"I was going to ask your father to reassign me to the academy. They still need a flight instructor. Now I can't even do that," her voice broke with a sob.

Turning her around in his arms, Lucas looked down into her tear streaked face.

"You don't...," he took a deep breath. This was almost impossible for him to say. "You don't have to have the baby. We could wait."

"!...I want the baby." K'Leena was shocked to realize how much she did. The admission stunned her. "Kahless...this is our -child-. I could never do that." It horrified her that he thought she could.

"I just want you to be happy."

"I -am- happy. I guess I'm just being selfish, that should be enough, shouldn't it? It shouldn't matter if I can fly or not."

"Hey...there's nothing wrong with wanting something for yourself. I know what flying means to you. God, K'Leena, you're the best thing I've ever seen at the helm. You fly circles around other pilots, myself included. I would never ask you to give it up, it's part of who you are."


...and threatens....

She was gone when he awoke. Damn her! She'd slipped away like a thief in the middle of the night, taking his heart with her. Mike threw off the blankets with a growl. If she thought she could just walk away from this, she had another thing coming. Stubborn little fool.

Stalking into the bathroom he stepped into the shower and planned his next move ruthlessly. After all, he was an expert at tactical situations. Tessa Kim didn't stand a chance.

Smiling grimly on the thought he wondered just what you wore to a Betazoid wedding, then laughed out loud. Talk about an oxymoron.


K'Leena watched her father fidget with wicked pleasure. She was still angry enough with him to -really- enjoy his discomfort. His expression, when she and Lucas informed her parents that they would be having a 'traditional' Betazoid wedding, had been priceless. He was just lucky Lucas was insisting on only immediate family for the ceremony. If K'Leena had her way, she would have invited just about everybody. Including the Delaney sisters.

Even though he thought he was keeping the real reason for why he wanted the ceremony secret from her, K'Leena knew what motivated Lucas. At five months, her pregnancy was visible when she was unclothed. Lucas didn't want people to know about the baby and she had a pretty good idea why. She let him keep his illusions of protecting her, though. He was worried about everything enough as it was. He didn't need to know she was aware of it all as well.

Besides, her Aunt Ani's raised eyebrow had been enough. Who would have thought? K'Leena had the feeling her parents younger days were a -whole- lot wilder than she ever imagined.

On the small of her parents' backs was a tattoo. A double heart, that intertwined so you couldn't tell where one ended and the other began. Below the image was the Klingon word "tlqwlq"--of one heart. K'Leena knew the old legend well. Smiling, she caught Lucas' eye. He was looking at her with such intensity, her breath caught in the back of her throat.

Not even the gods....

...can stop the beat of a Klingon Heart.

It's a strange feeling when you realize your -parents- were actually people before you came along. That they loved and laughed, hurt and cried, and maybe knew more about life than you thought.

When she faced Lucas to exchange their vows, K'Leena said a small prayer that they would know the love her parents did.

Mike watched his friends with a small smile. He'd caught Lucas' eye as K'Leena had walked down the aisle. His questioning look at her obvious pregnant state garnered only a rakish grin from his friend. Mike had to work at not laughing out loud...until he looked over at Tessa. She was sitting with her parents on one side and the Paris family on the other. She was holding hands with K'Leena's younger brother Robbie. He had the most powerful urge to go over there and haul her into his arms to show everybody here, especially Robbie Paris, that she was -his-.

Teeth clenched, he turned back to the front. It was now Lucas who was looking at -him- with all too knowing eyes and a half-smile. Damn telepaths.

Tessa was a nervous wreck. Of course Mike would be here, he was Lucas' best friend. Why hadn't she realized it? The sight of him had sent her reeling. She could feel his eyes on her, too, causing her to tremble slightly. He was furious with her. Rightfully so, if she was honest with herself. She was a coward. He deserved better.

Robbie sat next to her, concerned. He hadn't yet relinquished his loose hold on her hand. Something was upsetting her. He could almost feel the tension coursing through her body. His fingers tightened around hers and he placed a reassuring hand on the small of her back as he leaned over to whisper in her ear.

"Are you all right?"

She squeezed his hand back and sagged slightly against him. "No..., don't go far today, okay?"

Now she was scaring him, blue eyes met blue. "I won't."


"Tessa?" Mike stopped her in the hallway just outside her room. She turned around with a sigh. It had been a foolish wish that she could avoid him. One thing she'd learned about this man was that he didn't like to take no for an answer. Damn, where the hell was Robbie?

"What?" she asked wearily.

"We really need to talk."

"Whatever for?" Suddenly she became very aware of the fact that neither one of them had any clothes on.

"First of all--I didn't like how you left last night. It's not safe for you to be wandering about the city that late alone."

"Well, as you can see, I'm just fine. You really don't need to worry about me. I can take care of myself."

Mike almost snorted. "It's still my place to make sure you're safe."

"Your -place-?" she raised one eyebrow. "And just where would your -place- be?"

His eyes narrowed at the haughty question. The woman was pushing all his buttons...again. She was hell bent on annoying him until he left her alone. Two could play at that game. He'd had more than enough of her arrogance recently. It was about time someone brought her down a peg or two.

He bent slightly to whisper in her ear, "Between your legs," and he could feel the shudder that went through her.

Mike backed her up against the wall. She went to push him away. Instead her hands wound around his neck, pulling him down. His mouth met hers with insistent pressure. Grasping her hands, he held them above her head. He leaned in further with his body. With her breasts crushed against his chest he could feel the nipples harden. The kiss deepened as his tongue plundered.

Her head spun as her body betrayed her and flared under his. How had he done this to her so fast? Sensation after sensation moved over her. Hot, wet opened mouth kisses. Knowing fingers teased while the other hand still held both hers captive. Arousal dampened her thighs and he knew it. His hand found it. One finger, then two. She arched off the wall, wanting more. A low moan escaped her lips. His thumb found her center and flicked until she was frantic.

"What do you want, Tessa?" came the whispered question.

"You...," she gasped, surging against him.

"All of me?" he asked and she went still. She knew what he was asking. He wanted a relationship, not just sex. She didn't know if she could be with a man like him. Damn him, why couldn't he just leave well enough alone?

"No," she finally said.

His jaw set and he stepped away from her. She slid down the wall a little before regaining her balance.

"Sorry, Tessa, it's all or nothing where you're concerned."

"Why? Why can't I be like all the others?"

"You know why."

"Tessa?" Robbie came around the corner, searching for her. His sharp blue eyes didn't miss a thing. The defensive way she was backed to the wall. The barely leashed anger in Mike's stance. The slightly dazed and passion drunk look in Tessa's eyes. Her kiss-bruised lips. Robbie instantly went to red-alert.

"Is everything okay?" he asked, taking a step closer and holding out his hand to Tessa. She took it and he pulled her to him, placing himself between her and Mike.

"Everything is fine...Mike was just leaving," she told him.

"For now, Tessa. We'll finish this another time," Mike promised quietly then left them alone.

Robbie placed his hands on her shoulders and turned her to look at him.

"Did he force himself on you, Tessa?"

The shock in her eyes was genuine and it reassured him.

"Mike?! No, he would never do that. It was just a little...disagreement, that's all."

Robbie had the feeling it was a -lot- more than that, but he also had the feeling she didn't want to talk about it.

"Go and get dressed, the reception is about to start and I want to dance with you," he told her with a smile.

"Okay, I'll be right out."


"Yeah, go ahead and laugh," K'Leena grumped. "You try getting a date on a Saturday night when your father is the Captain of the ship. After Lucas left, I had nobody to hang around with."

They were all gathered in the large living room of the Paris Estate, reminiscing over their days as children on the Enterprise.

"I hate to tell you this, sis," Robbie began with an evil grin. "But Dad wasn't the reason no one would take you out."

"Oh, really? Are you implying that no one wanted to date me because there was something wrong with me?"

"Far from it, I remember several of the guys wanting to ask you out the minute Lucas left."

"Then why didn't they?" she asked, a sneaking suspicion creeping into her mind.

Kyle began to laugh. "Because my dear brother let it be known that you were -his- girl and no one had better mess with you...or else."

K'Leena turned to her husband. At least he had the grace to look ashamed of himself. "Well, you were," he said in defense of his actions.

"Didn't you trust me?"

"It was them I didn't trust," he growled.

B'Elanna burst out laughing. "Kahless, the men in this family! You'd think we were all helpless, simpering little weaklings that can't handle the slightest problem."

K'Leena shook her head.

It's no wonder I was a twenty-eight year old virgin.

You were only that because I let you be it, 'Leena. You've always been mine.

Blue eyes met black.

"Well, the rest of you can stay up all night long talking about our Enterprise days...but this is my wedding night and I have more interesting things to do," Lucas said with a wicked smile as he got to his feet and pulled K'Leena with him. "Come on, Mrs. Riker. The guest house awaits."

K'Leena smiled back. "Mrs. Riker...I like that."

Lucas swept her up into his arms and carried her out the patio doors. "So do I."

They all watched the newly wedded couple disappear into the night before turning back to the conversation.


Mike saw Tessa pull Robbie down so she could whisper in his ear. After a second he nodded and they walked out of the room arm in arm. She hadn't left his side all day and Mike was more than a little frustrated that her maneuverings worked. And the fact that she and Paris were so comfortable with each other really didn't sit well with him. With a large gulp he finished his drink and left the living room as well. Even an empty bed was starting to sound good.


Robbie walked Tessa to the door of her room. She was reluctant to let go and to his surprise, so was he.

"Do you want to come in?" she asked him.

His eyes widened. "I don't think that would be a good idea, Tessa."

"Why not?"

He cupped her cheek with his hand. "Because I might not leave once I'm there." His lips brushed across hers.

She reached behind her and turned the handle, swinging the door open. Taking a step back she pulled him into the room with her.

"Then don't," she told him.


He was not generally a man prone to violence. He would rather plan and execute a flawless covert operation than resort to any kind of bloodshed. It was what he did and he was -very- good at it.

However, at this moment he was seriously contemplating the benefits of pounding the living daylights out of Robbie Paris. He felt like his heart had been ripped from his chest when Tessa invited the other man into her room. It was all he could do not to go up there and tear Paris apart.

"She loves you, you know."

He spun around to see the younger Paris leaning against the patio door, his arms crossed in front of him.

"She has a funny way of showing it," Mike snapped. He -was- going to kill him. The man had a lot of nerve coming out here to speak to him.

"There are things you don't know about her, Mike." He moved to the edge of the patio to stand shoulder to shoulder with the other man as they both looked out over the crashing waves.

"I know that, Paris. I'm trying to be patient. She just makes it so damn hard!"

They turned to face each other and Robbie considered the man before him. "You're in love with her too."

Mike stiffened at the words and opened his mouth to deny it, "Yes."

"She couldn't do it," Robbie told him, suddenly, looking back out on the ocean. "I had her in the bed, under me and she realized she couldn't do it.... Quite the blow to my pride, actually, when she looked up at me and said 'It's not the same, you don't make me feel like he does.'"

The muscle along Mike's jaw leapt furiously but he said nothing. Robbie continued:

"She's damn lucky she chose me...most men wouldn't have stopped. And some might have even been angry enough to hurt her."

Mike sucked in a steadying breath. Paris was right. And it was all his fault. He was the one pushing her into something she was unsure of, something she didn't think she wanted. He had created this situation with his own demands and unbending positions.

"Thank you," Mike said.

"Don't thank me, I didn't do this for you. I love Tessa and want what's best for her. Believe it or not, I have the feeling that's you...but I'm warning you Burns. You hurt her...and you'll answer to me."

"You and every other man in her life," Mike said grimly. What was this now? the -fourth- time he'd been warned? Lucas, Kyle Riker, Harry Kim and now Robbie Paris.

"I wouldn't worry about the rest of them," he told Mike with cool confidence and a hard look. "By the time I'm done with you, there won't be much left."

Mike's eyes narrowed as he viewed the younger man. Paris had a relaxed easiness about him that was remarkably deceptive...and dangerous. He had a great deal of his father in him. Mike didn't doubt a word of what he was telling him.

Thunder rumbled in the distance as the two men faced each other. Robbie's eyes flicked to the skyline then back.

"Tessa is afraid of storms," he said matter-of-factly.

This surprised Mike. Tessa didn't strike him as the type to be frightened by a storm. "Why?"

"That's for her to tell you, but you might want to check on her."

"I was planning on it, anyway."


She was sitting on the window seat, watching the storm roll in. Closing the door softly behind him, Mike walked over to her.

"I didn't do it," she told him, still staring at the sky.

"I know."

"He was sweet and sensitive and I'm sure he's a wonderful lover, but in the end, he couldn't be what I needed him to be."

"What did you need him to be?" Mike asked quietly.

She looked up at him, there were tears in her eyes. "You."

Mike bent down and kissed her tenderly then drew her up to stand in his embrace. "Let me in, Tessa," he pleaded. "I want to be so much more to you than just an occasional bed partner. I want all of you. We would be so good together, I know it."

"How?" she asked desperately, her blue eyes searching his for answers. "How can you be so sure?"

"I know you don't believe me, but what we have is special. I've been with other women and it's never been like this with any of them. I've never cared about who they were. I've never wanted to know more about them. And I've never felt so utterly out of control with -any- of them like I do with you." Mike smirked in self-derision.

"You know, I'm usually a pretty easy going guy--cool, calm, collected. I once had a woman tell me I was the most mechanically flawless lover she'd ever known and that it was such a shame I didn't -feel- anything when I made love to a woman...but not with you. With you it's a constant struggle to control my temper. And I don't like it at all. Within seconds of being close to you, my self-control is in shreds. I operate on instinct. When I make love to -you- it's pure emotion. Blinding white-hot emotion that I have absolutely no control over. And as much as I hate that, I also know I wouldn't want it any other way. We're -meant- to be together. I -know- it as sure as I know the sun will rise in the morning. You belong to me, Tessa...and I belong to you--body and soul."

She looked at him in wonder. He loved her. It was a startling revelation, as much for him as it was for her by the sound of it. She couldn't deny what he was saying, either. What happened with Robbie had convinced her of that. What she and Mike had -was- special. Soulmates in the truest sense of the word...but she didn't know if she could be with him. He was domineering and possessive, both of which went against what she wanted in a mate.

"I don't know...."

"Can we at least try, Tessa? Can you give me that much?"

She stared at him for such a long time. He had no idea what he was asking of her. It had been such a struggle to make an independent life for herself and he was asking her to give it up now. Let him be part of it. And if she knew him--and she did--let him control it. She couldn't do it. She just couldn't. It would be like living with her mother all over again. He would be just like her, over-protective and controlling in the name of love. Love. Damn! Why did he have to love her? Why did she have to love him? How could she love him? How could she have let this happen? He was looking at her with such concern, it made her heart ache. She had to say no. End it now, before it went further.

Tension wound them tighter and tighter. And the storm grew closer and closer. Tessa closed her eyes briefly then opened them and met his gaze. She couldn't do it. She couldn't hurt him like this. God! what was she supposed to do? She couldn't say yes and she couldn't say no! Tears welled up in her eyes.

"Yes, we can try," she told him, quietly.

Maybe he was right. Maybe they could make it work. She hoped so, because if they couldn't she didn't think she was going to survive this relationship.

If he doubted he loved her before, he didn't anymore. There weren't words to describe what he was feeling, but he was pretty sure 'love' was an understatement.


The darkness was all was time. was time.

K'Leena screamed as she came awake, but a hand covered her mouth. She panicked, thrashing against the man who held her.

'Leena! It's me.

She calmed immediately, collapsing in his arms.

It's here, Lucas! Now!

I know, I can feel it. Get dressed, hurry, we have to get out of here.

K'Leena bolted out of bed and grabbed a top and shorts from her bag along with her phaser. By the time she was dressed Lucas had pulled on his clothes and was trying to use his communicator. He also had his phaser.

Damn...they've got some kind of dampening field going. This thing is useless.

Now what?

Now we get out of here and up to the house.

They weren't ten feet from the guest house when a phaser blast barely missed them. Lucas hauled K'Leena against him and ducked under the tree limb. Lightning flashed so close electricity charged everything around them. Thunder came on the heels of the flash almost instantly and K'Leena lost her footing on the slippery rocks. She impacted the ground with a cry. If Lucas hadn't been holding her arm she would have struck her head on the boulders. As it was, she tore a large gash in her leg and hip.

"Damn," Lucas swore. "Are you okay?"

She nodded her head and got to her feet, ignoring the stabbing pain in her side. She leaned on him for support as they made their way up the retaining wall.


Tessa lay spent in his arms, shaking violently. The storm was upon them and she trembled with each lightning strike.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Mike asked gently.

"I...," she began when a flash of red illuminated the room.

Mike sat up, instantly alert. Phaser fire? He leapt out of bed startling Tessa.

"What the hell?!" she exclaimed.

"Something's wrong," he told her, pulling on his pants hastily before he left the room.

Tessa stared at the wide open door for a moment then flung her nightgown back on and followed him. He was in his room grabbing his phaser and communicator. He tried to activate the comm-badge but got nothing.


"Someone's set up a dampening field," Tessa said. Interesting. "Why would someone do that?"

Mike didn't answer.


"Just stay here, Tessa. I have to check on Lucas and K'Leena."


Mike found them scrambling over the top of the large rocks that served as a retaining wall. K'Leena collapsed on the ground once they made it, she was hurt and bleeding.

"Get her back to the house and wait for me," Lucas told him. The wind howled in fury all around them. Lightning flashed and thunder roared.

"You can't do this alone, Lucas," Mike yelled to be heard over the raging storm. Rain began to pelt them mercilessly.

"That's an order, Lieutenant! She's your responsibility until I return, understand?"

It's her they want.

Mike hesitated for just a moment then nodded and bent down to pick K'Leena up.

"I can walk," she snapped.

"Let him carry you, Blaze, you're hurt."

"I'm fine...."

"K'Leena, I'm not putting you down, so just shut up and live with it," Mike told her as he strode steadily toward the main house.


Tessa impatiently knocked on Robbie's door.

"Come in," came the muffled response.

She rushed in to find both Robbie and Kyle wide awake and already dressed. Kyle had his communicator on and phaser in hand.

"What the hell is going on?" she asked.

"We're not sure," Kyle told her setting the phaser on the bed to quickly pull his boots on. "I just know Lucas is in trouble and K'Leena is hurt."

"How do you know that?"

"Lucas. He needs back up. Mike is on his way back to the house with K'Leena," Kyle informed her leaving the room with Robbie right behind him carrying his med-kit. Tessa followed in confusion.

"I didn't think you were a telepath, Kyle," she said.

"I'm not, but I'm empathic enough for Lucas to reach me," he replied as they reached the bottom of the stairs to see Mike approach the glass doors with K'Leena in his arms. The storm raged and when lightning flashed, the blood running down K'Leena's leg was plainly visible.

Tessa ran to open the doors for him. Mike quickly laid K'Leena on the couch.

"You need to go out and help him, Mike," she said trying to get up.

Robbie pushed her down and grabbed a blanket, she was wet and shivering. "Lay back, K'Leena," he told her, opening his med-kit to get the tricorder.

"I can't, K'Leena, he gave me a direct order," Mike said regretfully.

"I'm going," Kyle broke in. He met Mike's gaze and an unspoken command passed between them. Mike nodded and Kyle slipped out into the night.

K'Leena tried to get up again, Robbie's firm hand on her chest prevented her from rising.

"You need to go too, Mike. He can't do it alone," she begged.

"No, I won't disobey a direct order. Lucas has to know he can count on me to do as ordered."

Tom and B'Elanna came into the living room at that point, the commotion having awakened them. Fast on their heels were Will and Deanna and Harry and Seven. A fleeting thought crossed Mike's mind as B'Elanna, Seven and Deanna flew into the room in nothing more than nightgowns: It should be a crime for women old enough to be grandmothers to look as good as they did.

"What's going on?" Tom demanded to know.

"We've got intruders on the grounds, K'Leena was hurt when she and Lucas tried to elude them and get back up here," Mike said in full Starfleet mode.

"Where are Lucas and Thomas Kyle?" Deanna asked.

"They're trying to capture whoever is out there, but I think it's too late. I'm betting whoever did this was long gone when they missed their target," Mike replied grimly.

Tom and Will exchanged meaningful looks. Mike was right. They wouldn't stick around for a second chance once they were discovered.

"Daddy, Mike needs to go and help. Tell him I'm okay with all you," K'Leena started to get up again and Robbie threw his hands up in disgust.

"Goddammit, K'Leena!" Mike yelled at her. "You try and get off that couch again and I will tie you to it! Stop being so difficult and let Robbie check you out. Lucas put me in charge of your safety and I promise you, you're not moving until he returns."

"There are -far- too many bossy men around here lately," K'Leena grumbled.

"That's what I keep saying," Tessa laughed and Mike shot her an annoyed look.

"K'Leena, please, I just want to make sure you and the baby are all right. A fall like that can cause damage that isn't apparent right away."

At Robbie's words she settled back onto the pillow quietly. "I could lose the baby?" she asked fearfully.

"I'm not going to let that happen, just relax," Robbie told her as he scanned with the tricorder.

"Are you in any pain?" he asked gently, she opened her mouth and he continued. "The truth, K'Leena, it's important."

"Yeah, a little," she admitted.


"Along my side where I fell on the rocks."

"Check for an abruption," Tom told his son, hovering over his children.

Robbie nodded and scanned her abdomen. "Some moderate bruising, no sign of an abruption, thank goodness."

"Make sure to scan for...," Tom began again.

"Dad," Robbie said, exasperated. "I do know what I'm doing here, you're not the only doctor in the family."

"I've been a doctor since before you were born, Robert Owen Paris, now do as I tell you."

Robbie looked at his Dad, then over to his Mother. "Mom, get him out of here before -he- needs medical attention."

B'Elanna laughed and grabbed Tom's hand, pulling him away.

"Come along, Dr. Paris, haven't you ever heard the one about too many cooks spoiling the soup?"

"Damned arrogant kids," Tom grumbled under his breath.


Kyle found Lucas almost immediately, down by the beach. The storm was intensifying.

"They're gone, Lucas," he yelled through the thunder.

"I know, they were gone as soon as they missed their chance at K'Leena." Lucas turned toward his brother and they headed back to the house.

"What the hell is going on?" Kyle asked.

"I wish I knew."

Lucas ate up the distance to the house with huge strides, he needed to see K'Leena. Make sure she was okay.


I'm coming.

They reached the house a minute later and K'Leena flew into his arms the instant he was inside the doors.

"It's okay, I'm here," he soothed her. "Are you all right?"

She nodded. "Just some cuts and bruises, Robbie fixed me up."

"I still want her off her feet for the next couple of days. Just to be on the safe side," Robbie told Lucas, knowing K'Leena would ignore his instructions.

Lucas nodded and picked K'Leena up. "We're going to spend the rest of the night here," he told her.

"Do you think they'll come back?" she asked as he carried her to the empty downstairs bedroom.

"No, I want to be close to Robbie in case you need him."

"What a way to spend our wedding night, huh?"

"Just once, Blaze, I think I'd like a little less excitement in our lives, you know?" he asked ruefully

"Yeah, I know."


...and taunts....

They were hiding something. Both of them. They knew what this was all about and had no intention of telling him. Lucas was getting angrier by the minute. He couldn't even read their thoughts. Being involved with empathic mates for so many years, both his father and Tom were able to block him. That in itself was rather interesting--it took a great deal of mental discipline to lock out a telepath as strong as himself.

"So that's it? Just 'We'll handle it Lucas.' Go about your life like nothing is wrong?"

"You don't need to concern yourself with this any longer," his father told him.

"Leave it to us," Tom said.

"This is -my- family that is being threatened," his voice was deadly quiet. "-My- wife, -my- child! I've been watched and manipulated for -months- now. I can't keep them safe if I don't know what the threat is. Where it's coming from. Don't you understand? This may have started with the two of you, but it's about -me- now. For some reason that only you know, it has become imperative for these people to control -me-. Nothing is sacred to them. My own son was conceived because of their designs. I can't walk away from it and I will not 'leave it alone'. Not unless you can give me a -damn- good reason!"

"That is precisely why you -have- to, Lucas," his father told him. "You're too close to it, you can't see the danger."

"I am better equipped to deal with this type of situation than either one of you are. I've been -trained- for this, dammit! This is what I do. You wouldn't know where to even start."

"There are things you don't know, Lucas," Will said. "Tom and I can handle this, trust us."

"I can't."

"Then I'll make it an order, Lieutenant. You will drop this matter immediately," Tom said firmly.

The pair faced each other. Eyes battled. For an instant, Tom thought he was going to have to defend himself and he began to doubt the wisdom of crossing Lucas like this. Suddenly, the younger man backed down.

"Yes, sir!" Lucas ground out between gritted teeth, then turned on his heel and left the office.

"He's not going to follow that order, Tom," Admiral Riker said. He knew his son, Lucas would not drop this.

"I know...I'm counting on it."


Lucas entered his apartment, tossing his mission case on the couch in disgust. Then he realized how dark and quiet everything was. K'Leena was here, he could feel her. He went in search of his wife.

Curled up in the middle of the bed, sound asleep at eight in the evening, was his wife. Lucas frowned. The pregnancy was harder on her than she admitted. You couldn't miss the constant tiredness in her or relentless morning sickness. Lucas was glad she'd been put on restricted duty. She couldn't have handled anything more. He had the feeling the Doctor was going to pull her off duty completely the next time she saw him. It was not an argument he was looking forward to. The Doc warned them hybrid pregnancies could be difficult. K'Leena, of course, wouldn't admit to any of it. She was just fine, thank you very much. With a shake of his head, he took off his clothes and slipped into bed as softly as he could to pull her into his arms.

"Lucas?" she whispered.

"Shhhh...," he hushed her. His hand moved over her slightly rounded stomach. She was carrying the baby like a Klingon pregnancy, deep within her pelvis. At almost six months she barely looked pregnant, but the unfortunate side effect was the never ending backache she endured. "How's your back? Want me to rub it?"

"No....It's not too bad," she replied, snuggling deeper into his embrace.

His hand moved in slow circles over her stomach. The baby moved in response to his touch. Lucas could sense the child, had been able to for months now. It was a boy. His son. He never thought much about being a father it still surprised him that he was so looking forward to it.


Lucas sat straight up in the bed. It couldn't be! He had to be wrong.

"K'Leena, wake up, I need to talk to you."

"What?" she was still half asleep.

"Wake up, this is important."

Slowly she rose and forcibly shook off the haze. Kahless, it was three in the morning.

"This better be good, Lucas, because if you woke me up to have're a dead man," she growled.

"Why does your father hate covert operations?"


"Why does he...."

"I heard you," she snapped. "I just can't believe you woke me up to ask it."

"Just tell me."

"I never found out for sure, but I know it has something to do with Aunt Ani and my Dad's life before Voyager."

"Before Voyager?"

"Yeah, why, what's this all about?"

"I'll let you know when I'm sure. I have to get to the Valiant, will you be all right for the rest of the night?"

"I'll be just fine, there'll be no annoying husbands waking my ass up for question and answer time," she grumbled and laid back down.

Lucas laughed softly and brushed a kiss across her forehead before he left the bed.

"I'll be back in a couple of hours."

"Just don't wake me up, okay?"


Lucas sat down at the desk of his ready room. The Valiant was still in spacedock. The damage done to her hull during the Breen incident had been extensive. It would be at least another month before repairs were completed. At this time of night the ship was deserted, which suited Lucas' purposes perfectly.

"Computer, recognize authorization, Riker, Alpha Team, one."

--Authorization recognized.--

"List the names of all former Alpha Team members."

--Unable to comply. That information is restricted, Command Authorization only.--

"Authorize, command, one, omega, alpha, zero."

--Accessing information.--

Lucas scrolled down the list. There it was. Thomas Eugene Paris. He scrolled further down. William Thomas Riker. They hadn't served together by the looks of the stardates. Or had they?

"Computer, what is the current status of Alpha Team members Thomas Paris and William Riker?"


Lucas sat for a long time thinking. It had to be something they worked on together. So it had to have been during their Enterprise days.

"Computer, list all missions Tom Paris and Will Riker worked on together."

There were more than a dozen entries. The first just three months after Tom and B'Elanna came aboard the Enterprise and the last just before his Dad made Admiral. It made perfect sense. What a cover. Two of Starfleet's highest profile officers. Federation heroes on more than one occasion. "To hide in plain sight."

"We'll just take them one at a time," he said to the empty room as he called up the mission logs.

"The Badlands."

Lucas wasn't startled at Mike's voice. He'd felt him beam on board a few moments earlier.

"What are you doing here?" he asked his first officer.

"Same thing you are, obviously," he smirked. "You know, it's no fun sneaking up on a telepath."

"Sorry," Lucas chuckled. "What about the Badlands?"

"I over heard Admiral Paris and Captain Kim talking this morning before Tessa and I left the estate. Tom was warning Harry, Lucas. Told him to let Seven know because it was starting all over again. Harry was furious. Told Tom he should never have allowed them to enter the Badlands. He said that if Seven or Tessa were hurt he was going to hold Tom and Will responsible. What the hell is going on?"

"If I knew that, Mike," Lucas began darkly. "We wouldn't be sitting in my Ready Room discussing the matter. But I'll tell you this, I don't think it's just K'Leena, Tessa and myself that are in danger. It's all of us. Something the six of them did years ago has come back to haunt them and -that- is what we are dealing with now."

"What's the plan?"

"First we figure out just who and what this is all about, then we'll decide on how to handle it."

"Cross reference all known Enterprise missions that were in close proximity to the Badlands. I think it's a good place to start," Mike told him.


Two hours later they had narrowed it down to a timespan of around three months after Tom and B'Elanna had come on board the Enterprise. The very first mission Will and Tom worked together as Alpha Team members. Not only were the Alpha files completely wiped, but the Enterprise's official logs during that time span were glaringly perfect. Not a single thing looked out of place--which in itself was a dead giveaway. Lucas and Mike served on starships together for the last six years, they knew as well as anybody official logs were never this neat.

"Okay, we know when it happened, now we need to figure out what," Mike said.

"I think the only way we're going to do that is for me to take a little trip," Lucas told him.

"I should go."

"No, it'll be noticed if you leave. I'm expected to be on my honeymoon for the next three months. My leave starts tomorrow. No one will think anything of my absence."

"Are you taking K'Leena with you?" Mike asked.

"Hell no!" Lucas exclaimed. "She's going to stay with you. That way I'll know she's safe and you can keep her out of sight until I get back."

"Great, just what I wanted to do for next two your hard-headed wife."

"Don't forget bad-tempered," Lucas grinned evilly. "She's not going to like this one little bit."

"You don't say."


...and torments....

K'Leena jabbed at the locking mechanism again. She was running out of ideas. Who would have thought his code would be so hard to break?

"Try your Grandmother's name," the voice from the dark startled her.

"Grandpa! You scared me half to death!"

"For a Special Ops Officer, you don't know much about stealth maneuvers," he teased her.

"I didn't think anyone was home. Aren't you supposed to be in France?"

"I came home early. Good thing, too. Looks like you could use a hand. Try Isobel." He motioned to the pad again.

K'Leena typed in her Grandma's name and the door opened.

"How did you know?" she asked.

"Lucky guess."

"Why are you helping me? Daddy's going to be mad."

"I can handle your father. Besides, I just consider this payback. I'm sure you won't dump his beloved Flyer into Lake Tahoe, so do me a favor, bang the thing up a little before you bring it back."

K'Leena laughed at the twinkle in her Grandpa's eye.


"Who's there?" Lucas asked, his eyes scanning the darkened tree line. He anger flared when he opened his mind and realized who it was.

"Captain Proton can't battle the forces of evil without Blaze," K'Leena replied, her voice full of mirth.

"What the hell are you doing here?!" Did she -ever- listen?

"Is that anyway to greet your wife?"

"K'Leena," Lucas all but growled at her. "I don't want you here, it's not safe."

"Nowhere is safe right now. Besides, you need me. You can't get a ship, I have one."

"And you're grounded. Who the hell gave you a ship, anyway?"

"My father," she said neutrally.

Lucas looked into her eyes and took note of the little gleam there.

"Hmmmmm....Grand Theft Shuttlecraft?" he asked with an eyebrow raised.

She shrugged, "Granddad tells me it's a genetic thing."

"Fine, tell me where it is and I'll go. You can go back home," he told her in a no nonsense voice.

"No way. I'm coming with you."

"Not a chance. Think about the baby, K'Leena."

"I am!" she said fiercely. "Do you really think we're safe here? They know exactly where I am. I'm being watched constantly. I can feel it, I know you can too. Besides, 'stronger together than apart', remember? We do this as a team, or not at all. Got it?"

"No, K'Leena, that's final."

"Lucas, if you leave me home, a week after our wedding when we are supposed to be on our honeymoon, it's going to look awfully strange. If we go together, it won't arouse any suspicion, it will be safer for -everybody-!"

"That's why I'm leaving you with Mike! No one is supposed to know you're still on Earth!"

"I won't hide out, Lucas," K'Leena told him defiantly. "Take me with or I tell everybody you went off somewhere without me and wouldn't tell me why."

Lucas groaned in frustration. She was stubborn enough to do it too.

"All right, you win," he sighed, knowing he was going to regret this, but she was right. She was probably safer with him than here alone.


Admiral Tom Paris looked out his office window, deep in thought. It was very late, the building was empty and the streets below vacant, but he wasn't alone.

"We should have seen this coming, Will," he said to his old friend.

"I's been so long. I had hoped...."

"What?" Tom smirked, "that they forgot?"

"Not forgot...forgiven, maybe," Riker said quietly.

Tom laughed with self-derision. "Have you forgiven yourself? I know I haven't."

"We did what we could."

"Do you think this is a second chance to do it right, or is it all going to stay the same?"

"I don't know, Tom."

"So, it begins...."


"Not a bad way to spend a honeymoon if you think about it," K'Leena said stretching languidly in the bunk of the Delta Flyer. Her skin was still flushed and dewy from their recent activities. The trip to the Badlands took them almost a full month and they enjoyed every minute of it.

Lucas chuckled as his hand roamed over her, coming to rest on her stomach. He splayed his fingers over the taut skin and felt the baby move.

"I think we woke him," he said with a wicked grin.

"Gee, I wonder how?"

No one could do the 'wide-eyed innocent' thing quite like his wife. Lucas roared with laughter.

She still had that look when she climbed on top of him. Lucas, however, stopped laughing the minute she ground her hips against him.


"K'Leena, wake up," Lucas shook her slightly. "We're here."

She rose slowly. "Why didn't you wake me? I would have flown the plasma storms."

"I've flown them before, it was no big deal. I may not be quite the pilot you are, but I can handle my own at the helm, you know," he teased.

"Come on, this planetoid had a large number of bio-readings. I think it's the best place to start."

The settlement was large. Three, four hundred people, at least. Children and adults of all ages. Incredibly diversified, too. Lucas counted more than two dozen different races represented. How could a colony so large be so isolated and survive, this planetoid was little more than a rock in space. There was no way these people had built this settlement without a great deal of outside help. Help from whom? and more importantly...why?

A middle-aged Bajoran woman dressed in long flowing skirts approached them.

"We don't get many visitors here," she informed them warily.

"I'm sure you don't," Lucas stated neutrally. "Is there someone we can speak to? Someone in charge?"

She hesitated a moment, looking intently at Lucas.

"Yes, follow me."


"Dad?" Lucas asked the man in front of him. It was his father, but it wasn't. What the hell is going on?

"Son of a...," the older man stared in disbelief for a moment then continued with a wry grin, "You have her eyes. I've wondered what you were like."

"Who the hell are you?" Lucas was fed up with everything, he wanted some answers.

"My name is Tom Riker and I guess you could call me your uncle."

"My father is an only child."

"Yes, I was. This will take some explaining. Why don't the two of you sit down? Your wife looks like she's ready to collapse." Tom noted with some concern as he looked at the obviously pregnant young woman.


Ro Laren viewed the other woman intently.

"You're B'Elanna's daughter," she stated with plain conviction.

K'Leena returned the gaze, surprised.

"You know my mother?"

"A long time ago. In the Maquis. We were friends."

"Really?" Her mother never talked about her time in the Maquis. B'Elanna was a very private person. There was a great deal about her K'Leena didn't know.

"I knew your father too, at the academy. The best damn pilot I ever saw."


"Do you really think Lucas would take her all the way to the Badlands in her condition?" B'Elanna asked her husband.

Tom looked at her incredulously. This was -K'Leena- they were discussing.

His wife smirked grimly. "Yeah, you're right. We'd better get packed."


K'Leena and Lucas stayed with the settlers for almost two weeks. It was amazing what they had accomplished. Even if they did have some help....

"We couldn't have done it without Tom and Will," Laren told them.

"Yeah, I can see that," Lucas replied.

"Your secret is safe with us," K'Leena said.

"But you're not the ones that are the real threat, are you?" Tom Riker asked.

Lucas met his intense gaze. "No, we're not."


...and imperils....

"What do you mean you don't know how to fix it?!" Lucas asked angrily. "Your mother is an engineer for crying out loud! You fly these things for a living!"

"And your mother is a councilor, Mr. Sensitivity," she snapped back. "I'm the one eight months pregnant, stuck in a powerless shuttle, on the edge of the -Neutral Zone- I might add, and you're yelling at ME!? I just fly 'em, I -don't- fix 'em."

"Great, just great," Lucas mumbled in disgust.

"Besides, we've got a -much- bigger problem to deal with," she told him tersely.

"And what could -possibly- be a bigger problem than -this-?" he asked sarcastically as he turned around, only to swear feelingly.

"Goddammit, K'Leena! You can't do this to me!"

Lucas dropped to his knees next to where she was doubled over in pain. Carefully, he pulled her into his arms and helped her to the floor. When the contraction ended she raised her eyes to his and he saw the absolute terror he was feeling reflected in them.

"You are going to be the death of me, woman," he said grimly and pulled her tight against his chest. "I suppose it was -far- too much to hope for that you would give birth without getting into trouble, wasn't it, Blaze?"

"How much does Captain Proton know about childbirth?"

"I'm hoping enough to save your ass yet again."

He sounded so damned annoyed with her she couldn't help it, she began to laugh. "My hero."

Lucas growled and cast a gaze to the ceiling, praying for patience, strength and a whole lot of luck.


"Lt. Burns, please have a seat."

"What can I do for you Admiral LaForge?"

"I've been informed that the Valiant's repairs are done. I don't think I want to wait for Captain Riker to return from his honeymoon to test her. I want you to take her out for a two week shake down. There will be no need for you to report in during this time unless there is a problem.... Understood?"

"Understood, sir."

"Oh, one more thing. Steer clear of the Neutral Zone, we picked up an Alpha Team distress call from the vicinity a couple of hours ago, and since we -know- Captain Riker is on Risa with his wife, it must have been a sensor error caused by the ion storms in the area. Correct?"

"Correct, sir."

"Very well, -Commander- Burns. The Valiant is your ship until her captain returns."

Mike startled for a moment then grinned, "Aye, sir."


Lt. Commander Mike Burns exited the turbo lift and walked to the command chair of the Starship Valiant.

"Computer, recognize authorization Burns, Alpha Team, two."

--Authorization recognized.--

"Transfer command codes to Lt. Commander Michael Ryan Burns, tau, gamma, three, zero, one."

"Transfer complete. U.S.S. Valiant is now under the command of Michael Ryan Burns."

"Helm, set a course for the Neutral Zone, warp nine point nine."

"Aye, sir.... Course laid in."



"Ow! Ow! Ow!" K'Leena hit him in the shoulder with her closed fist, punctuating each exclamation.

"Hey! What are you hitting -me- for?"

"Cause it hurts, dammit! And it's all your fault!"

"It's supposed to hurt. You're having a baby."

She was just going to have to kill him, that's all there was to it. Lucas was going to die without ever seeing his son. She was in no mood to spar with him.

"Not here! I'm supposed to be in a hospital, with doctors and pain killers! -Lots- of pain killers! Kahless, this is so much worse than I thought it would be!"

"Pain killers? That's not very Klingon of you," he taunted. Anything to get her mind off their dire situation. Even if it meant a broken bone or two for him.

K'Leena reached up and grabbed him by the collar. Her eyes blazed with ice blue fire.

"Listen to me, Lucas Riker," she said threateningly. "I've been a pretty good Klingon my whole life, and I'll happily be one again when this is over. But right now, I'M HUMAN! ...OH, Kahless, here comes another one."

Lucas brought her arms around his neck again. They were sitting on the floor of the shuttle, face to face, with her legs over his, slightly curled around his waist. The tricorder informed them she was experiencing 'back labor' because the baby was positioned face up for delivery. This position was the only one that allowed her to withstand the pains. When they began she would hold onto his neck and he would lean back just enough to take some of the pressure off. Unfortunately, the pains were coming so fast now, it didn't help much.

"Breathe," he reminded her gently as he leaned back on the bulkhead. She kept holding her breath against pain.

K'Leena drew in a ragged breath and tried to stay on top of the contraction. How could you forget to breathe? It had been more than a day since she went into labor. Kahless, how much longer could it go on? She had a whole new respect for her mother, that's for sure. Fifty-one hours of this? How the hell did she do it? Come to think of it, why would she have -ever- done it again?

Lucas placed his hand on the small of her back and applied counter pressure. He could feel her fear and desperation along with the pain. Why hadn't she stayed at home? Why didn't you -make- her! Traipsing across the quadrant eight months pregnant was a foolhardy thing to do. Dammit, she was so reckless. He raged internally at the whole thing.

"Lucas?" she asked weakly as the contraction ebbed. He brushed the damp hair from her forehead.


"Quit it! Believe me, I'm more angry at myself than you are."

"I'm sorry, Imzadi," he said with remorse. She didn't need to deal with his anger, too.

"What does the tricorder say?"

Lucas frowned as he read the bio-readings.

"Nine centimeters. We're almost there."

"Lucas, I was nine centimeters two hours ago. Something's wrong."

"We don't know that. The baby's heart rate is fine. Don't panic." Please, don't panic.

"What if the Doctor was right? What if I'm too small to deliver the baby?" There was such fear in her voice, Lucas began to tremble himself.

"That was full term. You're almost a month early. He's a lot smaller than he would have been. You'll be fine," he comforted her.



"You're a lousy liar."

He kissed the top of her head as it lay on his chest and was about to say something more when he felt her stomach begin to harden again.

"Oooooooooh...God, no! Not again...." she panted shallowly, trying to control the pain.

"That's it, baby. You can do this."

They were so intent on her contraction, the hum of the transporter beam didn't register. The newest occupant of the shuttle took one look at them and swore vehemently.

"Oh hell, K'Leena! I haven't delivered a baby in 25 years!"

"Daddy!" she breathed in relief, then asked in confusion, "How did you find us?"

The two men exchanged grim looks. "That's not important now," her father said.

Tom knelt down next to the pair and took the tricorder from K'Leena's husband. Lucas didn't like the scowl that appeared on his father-in-law's face when he checked the readings.

"Damn!" Tom swore again. Why couldn't the women in his family have babies without complications? He slapped his comm-badge in frustration. "B'Elanna, beam us over. K'Leena's in labor."

Once on board the runabout, Lucas helped his wife onto a bunk. B'Elanna brought a blanket and Tom lifted up the T-shirt she was wearing and checked the baby's position. He stopped palpitating her stomach when the next contraction hit and went to stand over by his wife while she rode it out with Lucas' help.

"What?" B'Elanna asked quietly. She could feel the tension in him.

"That baby's too big," Tom replied in frustration, "her pelvis is too narrow, we don't have a fetal transporter, or proper medical equipment, I haven't delivered a baby in more than 25 years...take your pick."

"Hey," she placed a hand on his cheek and brought his eyes to hers. "It will be all right. You can do this."

"Send out a priority one medical emergency distress call, if we're lucky there might be a starship close enough to help."

"Tom, we're so close to the Neutral Zone, what if...."

"B'Elanna, this is serious, even a Romulan Warbird would be a blessing right now."

Their eyes met in understanding.

Tom leaned down, rested his forehead against hers and pulled her to him. God...he loved this woman. Even after almost thirty years of marriage, they still shared a bond few would ever know. He tightened his embrace for just a second and whispered, "Go..." before turning back to their daughter.

"K'Leena, honey," Tom began gently when the pain ended. "The baby is facing the wrong way, you won't be able to deliver unless I turn him. He's too big. Do you understand?"

"Then it will be okay?" she asked.

"I hope so. He's a little bigger than I would like. Let's try this and see before we start to worry, okay?"

K'Leena nodded. Lucas read Tom's thoughts like a book.

This isn't going to work, is it?

Startled, Tom met Lucas' intense gaze. Damn telepaths.

I don't think so, but I have to try. The alternative is a Cesarean section.

What can I do?

Hold her down, this won't be easy. I have nothing to give her for the pain.

What limited medical supplies they had needed to be conserved if he needed to operate.

Lucas leaned over the head of the bunk and took her hands in his. He crossed her arms over her chest and brought his head down next to hers.

"Try to relax. Your Dad knows what he's doing."

She trembled with fear. Tears ran unchecked down her face. He felt her stiffen when Tom began to rotate the baby. Her breath came in ragged gasps. The pain tore at her from the inside out. Still, she tried to control it.

Another contraction began to build. Lucas felt it before she did. His eyes met Tom's.

Hold her.

K'Leena was losing control. This was too much for anybody. She bit through her lip to stop from crying out.

"Go ahead, let it out," Lucas whispered, his lips brushing her ear.

The tortured screams echoed through the small ship. Tears burned the backs of his eyes as he tried to soothe her. Her pleas cut into him, body and soul.

"Make him stop...please, Lucas...make him stop...."

"I can't,'re in trouble here," he managed to choke out.

Not only was he feeling her agony, but the pain radiating from Tom was intense. It was killing him to have to hurt his daughter like this.

Her back arched as she screamed again and Lucas had to use some force to keep her down. Then she went limp and lost consciousness.

"Done," Tom said, his voice shaking with emotion. B'Elanna had returned and placed a hand on his shoulder, comforting him the only way she knew how.

Lucas gently wiped the sweat from his wife's face. He shook with fear. What if he lost her?

"Wake her up," B'Elanna said quietly. "If she sleeps through the beginning of the next one she won't be able to stay on top of it. She'll come to screaming and out of control."

Lucas stroked his wife's cheek.

"Wake up, 'Leena. He's done now."

Her blue eyes opened slowly and looked right into his.

"Are you okay?" he asked, still shaking.

"I just want it over," she told him, crying.

"I know, Blaze, I know."

She took in a deep breath as the next pain began. Her eyes widened when it peaked. She needed to push.

"Lucas, I need to push," she told him. He looked to Tom who was checking the tricorder.

"You're fully dilated, you can push with the next one, okay?" her father said.

K'Leena just nodded. Finally she could -do- something other than wait for the pain.

And then her world became a haze of pushing, straining, pain and pressure. Everyone kept yelling at her to push. What the hell did they think she was doing?! Having a tea party?!

It seemed like hours, it might have only been minutes, she didn't know but then they were telling her not to push. The baby was in distress. She struggled against the urge but her body still pushed against her will.

"Lucas?" she called out weakly.

"I'm here, don't push, honey. The baby's in trouble, your Dad has to do a Cesarean."

"He's going to cut me?" she began to panic.

Lucas gathered her into his arms. "He doesn't have a choice, baby."

"I'm so sorry, this is all my fault," she told him shaking uncontrollably.

"It will be all right," Lucas was trying to convince himself as much as her.

"K'Leena," Tom began softly. "I'm going to give you something to make you sleep now, when you wake up it will all be over, okay?"

She nodded into Lucas' chest, then felt the hypo-spray against her neck. Darkness closed in and she knew no more.

Lucas felt her sag into him and breathed a sigh of relief that at least she was no longer in pain. He was just about to lay her down when the transporter beam captured them.


"It's about time you got here," Lucas said with a grin as he picked up his wife and headed toward the medical bay. "I sent that distress call almost two days ago."

"Sorry we're late, Captain," Mike smiled back.

"Beam the Flyer into the shuttle bay and tractor the runabout. We need to get away from the Neutral Zone," Lucas ordered, never breaking stride.

"I've already given that order, we were on our way the minute you were on board."

"Damn, I think I might have to put you up for promotion, Mike."

"You're too late with that too," he grinned back.


K'Leena woke slowly to the cry of a baby...a baby. Her eyes snapped open. She was in Lucas' quarters on the Valiant. How did they get here? Scanning the room she saw Lucas sitting at his desk, holding the baby. He was all right, thank Kahless. Tears gathered in her eyes. She needed to see him, to hold him, count all his fingers and toes.

"Hey," she said quietly. He looked up and smiled.

"Hey, yourself," he said, getting up and coming over to her. "How do you feel?"

"Okay, I guess. Kinda sore and tired," she answered him distractedly, her attention completely focused on the small bundle in his arms. Holding out her arms in silent demand he laid the fussing baby down next to her. She undid the blanket wrapped around the tiny body and ran her fingers over her son, seeing for herself that he was all right.

"I think he's hungry, I've tried to keep him quiet so you could sleep some, but I don't think I have what he wants anymore," he told her with a chuckle.

Without thought she undid the tiny buttons on her old flannel nightgown and pushed it open. After a few awkward starts he latched onto the nipple and began nursing vigorously. And she gasped in pain, paling visibly when her stomach cramped forcefully. Kahless, that hurt!

"Damn! Hold on," Lucas swore and jumped up to grab a hypo-spray off the desk. He pressed it to her neck and she relaxed as the medicine did its work.

"Sorry," he apologized. "Your Dad said that would happen and I forgot. We don't have a fetal transporter on board so he still had to do a Cesarean. You're going to be a pretty uncomfortable for a day or so. Mostly when you feed him."

K'Leena nodded as Lucas sat back down on the bed, her gaze focused on their son. "He's beautiful." She touched his tiny red cheek with her finger tip, completely awestruck at the amazing thing the two of them had created out of love.

"Just like his Momma," Lucas said softly. "Thank you, 'Leena.

"He's all right, isn't he? He's not...."

"He's perfect," Lucas reassured her. "Completely healthy and strong. Even his lungs, which your Dad was worried about since he was early. There's nothing wrong, K'Leena, relax."

She looked up at her husband, tears glistening in her eyes like crystal. "Kahless, Lucas...I was so scared."

Reaching out, he cupped her cheek and rested his forehead to hers. "So was I, Blaze. More than you'll ever know," his voice was hoarse with emotion.

"We almost lost him...and it was all my fault. I should have listened to you, I shouldn't have...."

"Shhhh...don't.... Everything is all right, none of that matters anymore, okay. You and the baby are fine, that's all I care about."

"I love you, Lucas. I'm sorry I've never said that to you before."

"I always knew. I love you too. The words aren't important, you know. Not with us." Never with us.

Maybe they're more important than we realized.

He looked at her for a long moment, then smiled gently. "Maybe they are."

"Lay down with us?" she asked him.

He didn't need to be asked twice. Stripping down to just a T-shirt and boxers he carefully crawled into the bed. Comforting arms slid around her as he fitted his body to hers and she closed her eyes in contentment. They were safe and together. The danger was still out there, but for now it couldn't touch them.

"Lucas?" she asked half-asleep, leaning back on him more.


"How did this nightgown get here? I haven't seen it in more than a year. You told me you were going to burn it."

Lucas laughed softly into her hair. "I kept it, you left it in my apartment the night you were attacked."

"And you brought it with you?"

"I almost -lost- you the next day, Blaze. You were still recovering when I had to leave. I guess I used it as some sort of talisman. It's been on board ever since."

"I was wrong, you are a romantic at heart," she said and promptly drifted off to sleep.

"Only with you," Lucas whispered quietly.

When the baby fell asleep at K'Leena's breast he slipped out of bed and picked him up. Holding him close he rubbed his tiny back to burp him, B'Elanna had showed him how. The chime to the door sounded as he walked with his son. Glancing over to make sure K'Leena was still covered he called out softly:

"Come in."

Mike walked in a second later and grinned like a banshee at the sight of Lucas holding a baby.

"I'd never thought to see the day, Lucas. How does it feel to be a daddy?"

"Better than I ever thought should think about it," Lucas taunted his friend.

Mike snorted. "I can't get Tessa to admit she loves me for crying out loud. I can just imagine the response to: 'Let's have a baby.'"

"It took K'Leena twenty-six years to tell me."

"Well, that makes me feel a whole lot better."

"Just trying to help."

"With friends like you, who needs enemies."

Lucas laughed. "What did you come here for?"

"Admiral Paris and his wife just left in the runabout. They said to tell you they would meet you back home. We're en route to rendezvous with the Enterprise. Captain Kim is going to take you and K'Leena back to Earth. I've got a two-week shakedown to run the Valiant through."

"How did you manage that?"

"I've got connections too, you know," Mike smirked. "I'm sleeping with the man's daughter."

"And I'm sure he just -loves- it when you announce it like that."

"Hey, she's the one who won't marry me."

"I wouldn't marry you either, you possessive, domineering Neanderthal," K'Leena told him from the bed, her eyes still closed.

"I love you too, dear. Don't bother thanking me for saving your ass, either. I know you really wanted to give birth on that shuttle."

"Damn straight...messing with all my plans. Have you even bothered to look at the baby?" she asked, propping herself up on one elbow to look at him.

"Don't they all look the same?" he shot back, but held his arms out to Lucas for the child.

He really was a cute baby. "Damn, he's so small."

K'Leena snorted. "Not small enough."

"What are you going to name him?" Mike asked with a laugh.

"Michael William Riker," she told him quietly, her voice breaking slightly. His head snapped up to meet her gaze, shocked. "Thank you, Mike, for everything. We owe you his life."

"No, K'Leena, you would have been just fine. Your dad was there, he knew what to do."

"Don't argue with me. We were in trouble, a runabout is no place to do major surgery."

"Argue? with you? do I look like I have a death wish?"

Mike left them after a few minutes and Lucas settled down with K'Leena again. He lay awake long after she fell asleep, knowing it was far from over and praying he could protect them

from what still lurked in the shadows....