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"You don't seem concerned by your parents' departure." Dohn said, as he followed Kel and H'Ree out of the mess hall.
"I'm not. You'd just have to know Kim to understand." Kel said casually.
"What do you mean?" Dohn asked, as the group approached the lift.
"She's just like that. If she needs something, she'll call and ask for it. It doesn't matter to her if you're off duty or on lunch or asleep." Kel said frankly, then pressed the button on the lift to take them down one level.
"So she does not observe the same standards of courtesy and conduct as others on this ship?" Dohn asked carefully.
The doors of the lift opened and Kel considered the question for a moment as he led the way off the lift.
"She does and she doesn't. I think she tries to follow most of the rules, but some of them are just too confusing to her, so she does those things her own way." Kel said in distant thought.
"Would this be an example of how people of differing species make allowances to accommodate the variations in behavior?" Dohn asked carefully.
"Yeah. We all know that that's the way that Kim acts, so no one is upset by it. She doesn't expect us to act like her and we don't expect her to act like us." Kel said with a smile, as he pressed the button to open the cabin door.
"Go ahead and sit down. I'm going to try putting Angel to bed. If she starts fussing, then we'll try rocking her." Kel said as he walked across the room.
"Will you sit with me Dohn?" H'Ree asked hopefully.
Dohn looked at H'Ree curiously, then saw that he was indicating the recliner.
"Sure. Come on." Dohn said with a smile, as he took a seat in the comfortable chair.
H'Ree snuggled into Dohn's side, then said, "Make it go back."
Dohn leaned down and pushed the lever forward to recline the chair.
"I might fall asleep like this." Dohn said peacefully as he relaxed in the soft chair.
"Me too." H'Ree said, as he snuggled even closer.
Kel walked out of his parents' bedroom to see the two boys snuggled together in the recliner.
"I think your beds are both ready if you want to go to sleep." Kel said quietly.
"Do we have to go in there?" H'Ree asked irritably.
Kel smiled and said, "No. You can stay right there if you want to. I just wanted you to know that there are beds available if either of you want to use them."
"I like it right here." H'Ree said, as he closed his eyes.
Dohn noticed that Kel was looking at him and raised his eyebrows in question.
"Nothing." Kel said quietly, then looked away in deep thought.
* * * * *
"What's going on Kim?" Paris asked as he hurried onto the bridge, followed closely by Bey.
"Look at these sensor readings." Kim said, as she indicated the main monitor on her control panel.
"It looks like a sensor echo." Bey said curiously.
Kim remained silent as she watched their inspection.
"Yes. But an echo of what?" Paris said carefully.
"Do you think it might be a wormhole aperture?" Bey asked as he moved a little closer to look at the sensor readings.
"No. Whatever this is, it isn't naturally occurring. Look at the cyclical redundancy ratio, that's artificially generated." Paris said carefully.
"That was also my conclusion." Kim said quietly.
"Do you have any idea of what it might be?" Paris asked in thought.
"I have insufficient information to form a theory. But the fact that this... anomaly, exists seems sufficient reason to take pause and investigate." Kim said carefully.
"What is it about this thing that's making me think 'wormhole'?" Bey asked carefully.
"Wishful thinking?" Paris asked with a quick smile at Bey.
After a chuckle, Bey said, "Besides that."
Paris looked more closely at the readings, then said, "Maybe it's the general configuration. This... whatever it is, seems to have the general properties of an aperture, but Kim is right, it's not a wormhole."
"What else could it be?" Bey asked distantly.
"Does the computer have anything useful to add?" Paris asked in thought.
"Our computer has an eclectic mix of basic information that we were able to scavenge from the computers in the ship graveyard. Although all the information that could be retrieved is intact, it is not possible to integrate much of the information without common frames of reference. Of that information that can be accessed, I can find no match to this phenomena." Kim said frankly.
"If she could, we wouldn't be here." Bey said as he gave Paris a playful nudge.
Paris chuckled and said, "Right. Then let's look at what we know... it's outside the Ocampan system, it's artificial, it has some vague similarities to a wormhole..."
"When you put it like that, it sounds like it could be a mass transportation link of some kind." Bey said carefully.
"How do you mean?" Kim asked with interest as she turned in her chair.
"In Humanoid societies, it's typical to congregate into groups like cities or towns. Those towns need to be connected by some sort of mass transportation link. Something like roads or designated thruway passages where everyone agrees not to obstruct them so everyone can use them for travel. If you expand that reasoning to an interplanetary scale, this looks like it could be an entrance to a mass transportation link." Bey said carefully.
"That is a rather large assumption to make based on so few facts." Kim said carefully.
"That's why we're here isn't it? If logical analysis could have given you the answer, you'd already have it." Paris said in defense of his husband.
"I thought a different perspective on the situation might provide added insights." Kim said noncommittally.
Paris and Bey shared an amused look, then looked at the sensor readings for more clues.
"If we were to work under the assumption that this was a transportation link as you suggest, how would we access it?" Kim asked carefully.
Bey considered for a moment, then asked, "If we were using the original sensor configuration on the Kazon ship, would we be able to see this thing?"
"No. Kazon sensors do not have the acuity to scan in this range. Even Federation sensors would overlook this, unless they were specifically tuned to detect this variant frequency." Kim said frankly.
"Then how are we seeing it?" Paris asked curiously.
Kim considered for a moment, then said, "The Amalgam's sensors were constructed in the same manner as the rest of the ship, with component parts scavenged from the ship graveyard. One of those ships must have been designed to scan specifically in this frequency range."
"If there's some way that we can find out which ship this scanning array came from, we could check it's computer information and maybe come up with a way to use this thing." Paris said seriously.
"It could take a number of hours, perhaps days, to retrieve that information if, in fact, it even exists." Kim said in a slow, considering voice.
"If this is really a link to a mass transit network of some kind, it might mean that we could catch up with Voyager in a matter of months rather than a matter of years." Paris said frankly.
"I will begin the records search immediately." Kim said without hesitation.
"Is there anything we can do to speed up the process?" Paris asked cautiously.
"No. I will call upon the services of those who worked on modifying and installing the sensors. Until we can locate the source of this portion of the scanning array, there is little more to be done." Kim said carefully.
"Call us if there is anything we can do to help. I don't like hanging out here in the middle of open space." Paris said seriously.
"Agreed. Perhaps we could use your husband's method of cloaking to make our presence less obvious." Kim said with a speculative look at Paris.
After a moment to consider, Paris nodded and asked, "Who did Janeway name as duty officer for the Beta shift?"
"Chapman." Kim said as she glanced at Doyle Chapman at the helm station.
Paris nodded, then turned and said, "Chapman, notify all stations that we're going to be going to minimal power and running silent until further notice. Non-essential parts of the ship are to be evacuated and powered down. All communications will be text only."
"Yes sir. Right away." Chapman said quickly.
"Can you think of anything else?" Paris asked as he glanced at his husband.
"The engine. We need to do a full shutdown. Otherwise we'll be broadcasting our presence to anyone within two light-years." Bey said hesitantly.
"I think Janeway will want to be the one to make that decision. I'll go talk to her before we take that step. Will you tell the boys what's going on so they don't get too scared?" Paris asked with concern.
"I think Kel will recognize what we're doing, but I'll go down to help him explain to Dohn and H'Ree." Bey said as he gave Paris a quick hug.
"I'll see you back in the cabin." Paris said, then gave Bey a quick kiss.
"Love you." Bey whispered.
"Love you too." Paris said, then broke the hug to find Janeway.
* * * * *
As Angel, Dohn and H'Ree all slept, Kel found himself staring at the boys and dreaming about what possibilities might lay ahead for them.
He hoped that Dohn and H'Ree would choose to have the genetic alteration treatments so that they could live out their lives together. It would hurt him to watch them grow old and die when he was barely reaching the beginning of his adulthood.
The realization came upon him that this must be the same thing that his fathers were feeling when they tried to find a way to slow his natural aging process. Because they loved him they wanted to be able to spend their lives with him.
Kel focused on Dohn and considered his own feelings.
Dohn was certainly attractive. His features were pleasing to look at and his personality seemed to range from timid and vulnerable to strong and protective.
Kel wondered if he was in love.
But Dohn had all the qualities that Kel found attractive and if it turned out that Dohn began to show some interest in return...
The lights dimming suddenly broke Kel out of his thoughts. He turned in time to see a text message appear on the terminal screen by the bedroom door.
"All Hands. All non-essential systems will be shut down and power usage will be reduced to minimum consumption until further notice. Communications will be limited to text only and should be limited to vital ship's services. Please discontinue use of all non-essential power. Thank you."
Kel walked to his parents' bedroom and turned off the light, then the door.
Next he walked to the bathroom and reduced the light to a barely visible dimness, then discontinued power to the doors.
He locked open the doors to the two other bedrooms then opened the door of the cabin and shut the door power off.
Finally he adjusted the light in the living room to about half illumination before going back to sit on the couch.
* * * * *
"How are you doing Old Man?" Bey asked quietly from the doorway.
"I'm fine. I have everything shut down except for this light and the one in the bathroom." Kel said quietly.
After peeking into the bedroom to check on Angel, Bey walked to the couch and took a seat beside Kel.
"It's just like being back on the ship before we came to the station." Kel said as he snuggled into Bey's side.
"It's like that, but it's so much better. Now we don't just have each other. We have our whole family here who love us like crazy." Bey said as he wrapped Kel in a warm hug.
"Yeah, but it's nice to be like this with you again for a little bit, just the two of us running at minimum power with only each other to talk to." Kel said in a dreamy whisper.
"You're right. That time we spent on the bridge will always be one of my most precious memories." Bey said as he gazed off distantly.
"Back then, I thought I was going to follow you back to your people and you would be my new master. And that was the happiest future that I could imagine for myself. I didn't have any other dreams." Kel said quietly.
"I didn't realize at the time just how fragile you were. Actually, I'm glad I didn't know or I might have made some other decisions and I wouldn't want for one single thing to have turned out differently." Bey said honestly.
"Me too. I tried to act strong so you'd want to keep me." Kel said with a chuckle.
Bey leaned in and gave Kel a quick kiss on the top of the head.
After a long silent moment, Kel quietly asked, "Dad?"
"How did you know you were in love?" Kel asked quietly.
Bey smiled and said, "It wasn't that hard for me. You really need to talk to your father about that one."
"Why?" Kel asked curiously.
"Because he fell in love with me first. I liked him from the moment I met him and I admired him as soon as I got to know him but... I think he loved me from the moment I opened my eyes. I don't know what he saw when he looked into my eyes the first time, but whatever it was, there was no denying it." Bey said distantly.
"So when did you know you loved him too?" Kel asked quietly.
"It's kind of hard to explain it since you've never lived in the Federation." Bey said hesitantly.
"Well, neither have you." Kel said with a grin.
"True... but I have the memories of some people who lived in the Federation, and so do all the others. The thing is, everyone else, the Humans, the Bajorans, the Bolians even the Vulcans were all enemies of the Cardassians." Bey said frankly.
Kel sat up and looked at Bey with surprise.
The hum of the engines stopped and the room became completely quiet.
"What happened?" Kel whispered with concern.
"They shut down the engines so no other ships will detect us. And you don't have to whisper, sound doesn't carry in space, only energy signatures." Bey said gently.
"Oh, yeah. What were we talking about?" Kel asked slowly.
"One of my genetic donors was a spy on Chakotay's ship." Bey said and coaxed Kel to snuggle against him again.
"Did Paris know that?" Kel asked as his mind raced.
"I'm pretty sure he knew the moment he saw me." Bey said absently, then continued, "So when all these Federation people woke up and figured out who and what they were, they looked in my maturation tank and... surprise! One of their worst enemies was laying there asleep and defenseless."
"I'm surprised they didn't kill you in your sleep... or that they ever let you wake up." Kel said in thought.
"I know. It was your father who was responsible for that. He took responsibility for me and made sure that no one hurt me. He protected me and had confidence in me and after a lot of hard work, made me see my own worth." Bey said with a gentle smile.
"I didn't know that. I just thought you were another member of the crew." Kel said in wonder.
Bey chuckled and said, "No. At least not at first. Paris loved me and never gave up on me. Finally the day came when I realized that if he had so much faith in me, that maybe he was right and all I had to do is accept that regardless of my species or genetic donors, I was�free to be whoever I wanted to be. And I wanted to be the person that Paris thought I was."
"So when did you know you were in love?" Kel asked as he snuggled tighter into Bey's side.
"I guess the moment that I really knew for sure, without any shadow of a doubt, was when I was stealing the shuttle to try and find us a ship." Bey said with a chuckle.
"Are you serious?" Kel asked with wonder.
"I think I loved him before that, but it wasn't the same. It wasn't until I was willing to give up everything to get him a ship that I really knew it in my heart. To tell you the truth, I didn't want a ship. I don't particularly want to go back to the Federation." Bey finished with a chuckle.
"You don't?" Kel asked with surprise.
"No. There's nothing for me there. I'm a half Cardassian with a Human husband. There's no place for me in the Federation or on Cardassia. There might not even be a place for me on Voyager if we can catch up to them." Bey said frankly.
"I didn't think of that." Kel said grimly.
Bey kissed Kel on the top of the head and said, "We don't need to worry about it. We've got your father watching over us so we'll be fine. Trust me when I say that he'll never let anyone hurt us."
Kel smiled as he said, "*That* I understand."
* * * * *
"How are my favorite guys in the whole universe doing?" Paris asked cheerfully as he walked into the open cabin door.
"Shhh. The boys are asleep." Bey said quickly, then motioned for Paris to join them on the couch.
"How is Angel?" Paris asked more quietly as he took a seat between Bey and Kel.
"She's sound asleep in her crib." Bey said as he snuggled against Paris' side.
"Yeah, she went right to sleep after dinner." Kel said as he hugged his father gently.
"It looks like she's not the only one." Paris said with a smile as he looked at the boys asleep in the recliner.
"A full belly and a comfortable chair can do that." Bey said with a chuckle.
"When did you know you loved Dad?" Kel asked his father carefully.
"What brought this up?" Paris asked with surprise.
"I just wanted to know. That's all." Kel said evasively.
Paris looked over at the recliner, then back at Kel before saying, "I guess from the first moment that I met him. When he opened his eyes in that maturation pod it was like I could see everything he was thinking and feeling. I could see the hopelessness and the pain his memories caused him and I knew that Bey had to be a wonderful and genuinely good person to feel such despair over things that he didn't even do. After that, the big challenge was to get him to see the wonderful person that I did..."
Paris leaned down to whisper, "He fought me a little bit on that part."
Kel giggled at the statement, then said, "Thanks for telling me. I just wanted to know in case it happens to me someday."
"Give it time Kel. He has a lot of new stuff to sort through before he'll be ready to deal with his feelings. Just be honest with him and be there when he needs you and if it's meant to happen, it will." Paris said with assurance.
Kel looked at his father with surprise for a moment, then snuggled against him again and said, "Okay. I will."
* * * * *
"What happened?" Dohn asked as he blinked his eyes.
"You fell asleep in the chair." Kel said quietly from the couch.
Dohn looked around at the dimly lit room and noticed that all the doors were open.
"We're running the ship at minimum power. It's nothing to worry about, we're not in danger." Kel said quietly.
"Why are we at minimum power?" Dohn asked as he came more awake.
"The ship's sensors found something that could turn out to be a shortcut to find Voyager. So we're waiting here until we can find out if we can use it or not." Kel said as he sat up on the couch.
"Where are your parents?" Dohn asked as he looked around.
"In their room. They have to work in the morning so they went to bed." Kel said gently.
"Do you need to sleep too?" Dohn asked quietly.
"No. My job is to take care of Angel while my parents are working. She sleeps a lot during the day so I can sleep when she does if I need to." Kel said with a small smile.
"If you'll show me what to do, I can watch her while you sleep." Dohn said seriously.
"Thanks, I'll let you know if I need your help." Kel said as he stood and stretched.
"Would you take H'Ree? I need to use the toilet." Dohn said shyly.
"Sure. Hand him to me and I'll put him in my bed." Kel said quietly.
Dohn carefully shifted the recliner to it's upright position, then gently lifted H'Ree and handed him to Kel.
"When you're done I'll be in here."
* * * * *
When Dohn returned to the living room, he saw Kel standing at the doorway to his bedroom.
"Is H'Ree sleeping well?" Dohn asked as he approached.
Kel turned with a slight smile on his face and said, "Yeah. I was just watching him to be sure he didn't wake up."
Dohn looked in the door and smiled at the contented look on H'Ree's face as he slept.
Kel turned away and said, "Why don't I show you your room so you can go to bed when you're ready."
Dohn didn't answer except to follow Kel to the next room.
"I've turned the power off to the door while we're running at minimal power, but I'll turn it back on for you now so you can lock the door when you're ready.
"How do I activate the lock?" Dohn asked cautiously.
"Just press the red button. When you're ready to unlock the door you just press the green one. There's a way to put in entry codes, but you can learn about that later. You won't need it now." Kel said seriously as he restored power to the door controls.
"If you open the panel, there's a hand actuator that will allow you to manually unlock the door if it loses power. Just pull the lever, then you can slide the door open easily." Kel said as he demonstrated opening the control panel.
"That seems easy enough to remember." Dohn said seriously.
"There's one other thing that I wanted to tell you when H'Ree wasn't around." Kel said in a quieter tone.
Dohn looked at Kel with question.
"When I came here, I sometimes had problems with nightmares about what the Kazons had done to me. I would wake up feeling very afraid and alone. I just wanted you to know that I'm going to leave my door opened so that if you wake up during the night, you'll be welcomed in my room." Kel said carefully.
"I am sure that I will be fine." Dohn said seriously.
"I hope so. But just remember that I went through the same things that you did and I know how it feels. If you wake up feeling scared or alone, H'Ree and I will be in the next room. You can wake me up if you need to talk, or you can just crawl into bed with us. You don't have to be alone if you don't want to be." Kel said seriously.
Dohn stood silently for a moment, then quietly said, "I will remember. Thank you Kel. Thank you for saving me and listening and accepting me."
Kel was surprised when Dohn leaned in and pulled him into a firm hug.
After a moment to enjoy the tight embrace, Kel quietly said, "Thank you for choosing to stay. I know it wasn't an easy decision, but I really think it was the best one. Just please promise me one thing."
"What would you like me to promise?" Dohn asked hesitantly as he released Kel from the hug.
"Please just promise that you'll try to be happy. If there's anything wrong or bothering you, don't keep it to yourself. I'll do anything I can to help� you." Kel said gently as he looked up into Dohn's eyes.
As the story continues it is becoming more and more apparent that the people here are becoming a family. Has Kel fallen in love with Dohn? I wonder what kind of anomaly they have discovered. Maybe next time we will find out.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher