By Shayenne

Disclaimer: Paramount owns everything. Not me.

Yes, I'm a J/Cer. But sometimes a story comes along that captures the heart and imagination and in the immortal words of the Borg: 'Resistance is futile'. This story is an epilogue to Cassatt's wonderful C/P story, 'The Shape of Shadows', and this won't make much sense unless you have read that story. I highly recommend it, and you can find it here or from Cassatt's C/P index here.

This story is rated PG-13. It depicts a loving relationship between two men, but contains no graphic description. 'The Shape of Shadows' is rated NC-17 in its entirety.

Codes: C/P, A/K, and J/Jaffen

For Cassatt. An exceptional writer and a wonderful friend. Grateful thanks to Cassatt's SO, Johnny, for all the careful beta-reading.

Graphic by Cassatt
Feedback? Please. Shayenne


The gray wolf with the golden eyes dipped her head once more in salute and left, sliding through the rocks and out of sight. Chakotay sat for a few minutes longer, letting his mind return to the present and to the world he inhabited. Earth. Not Dorvan, or Voyager, but Earth.

Voyager had returned to Earth almost thirty years ago, but many of his waking moments still took on the timeless quality of shipboard life. Every morning, for a few fractured seconds he would think he was still onboard Voyager. He wondered if he would live out the rest of his days thinking of that time.

The sun was creeping over the horizon, spilling fingers of light through the cacti-covered plains of the Sonoran Desert, illuminating the harsh landscape to a surreal softness. Chakotay rose stiffly to his feet and started back along the beaten path. The adobe house blended into the landscape. The sight of the washed terra cotta walls with the faded blue shutters never failed to please him. Their house; his and Tom's. Together they had searched out the site; close to the desert to soothe Chakotay's soul, with a wide white sky to let Tom soar free in the shuttles that he tested for a private company. Close to a transporter station for both of them to commute to work.

They had built the house together, a project of love, and an unspoken reaffirmation that their life would be spent together, here on Earth, away from the artificial environment and community that had been Voyager. Chakotay had built the framework by hand, latticing the timbers together in the old, traditional way; a sturdy frame, one designed to last. He had mixed the first batch of the mud daub with his hands, mixing in the local earth with concrete and water, letting the thick mix coat his forearms, feeling the viscous dirt move through his fingers.

Tom had watched him, silently for a minute, and then had gone to the trailer they lived in while they worked on the house. He had returned with a cloth bag. Together the two of them had opened the bag, which contained several smaller ones. Tom gestured for Chakotay to go first. Deliberately, Chakotay selected one of the sacks, and opened the tie.

"Vhnori," he said, and emptied the small bag of soil into the mix. Soil from the planet where he had been brainwashed into fighting their wars for them.

Each small pouch contained earth, the truest thing about the substance of a place, taken from planets that held special meaning. Deliberately Chakotay emptied the rich dirt of New Earth, the scorched, irradiated soil of Dorvan and the light loam from the airponics bay -- still bearing, it seemed, the gentleness of Kes's touch -- into the adobe. Tom added his vial of water from the Monean water world and soil from other Delta Quadrant planets that held a piece of his heart. They alternated their pouches until only one remained.

Tom picked it up, hefting its slight weight from hand to hand. "Umbra," he said.

Umbra where they had finally acknowledged their love. And where Chakotay had realized a destiny that spanned the quadrants of the galaxy, releasing the captured souls of the orphans, and pointing the way for the next Chosen One to lead the planet back to the light. Umbra, where they had spent their first night together, and learned that their own destinies were intertwined.

Tom's hand shook slightly as he opened the pouch, and Chakotay covered it with his own. "Umbra," he said, and together they poured the soil, heavy and dark, into the cornerstone of their house.

There was a part of each of them in this house. Chakotay had picked the stone-washed blue for the shutters, the blue of his lover's eyes. Tom had picked the pale golden tiles that lined the floors inside, the warm color of his lover's skin. And the house had grown, nurtured under their touch, until it stood as Chakotay saw it now; a haven of warmth and love, sturdy and strong, a cocoon of love that was theirs alone.

Chakotay entered the house through the unlocked door, passing along the tiled hallway until he came to the master bedroom. The desert sunlight, weak and wintry, streamed in through the slatted wooden shutters and painted his lover's skin in alternating stripes of sun and shade. Tom was sleeping, his face still boyish, even now in his sixties. The blond hair, thinning and wispy, was pressed into the pillow. Tom's fingers were loosely curled, palm up.

Chakotay watched him from the doorway for a moment, feeling the familiar clench of love twist his heart. How he loved this man. How lucky they were. He crossed to the bed and lowered himself onto it.

Blue eyes opened, a faded wash of color. "Chak…" Tom turned, still half asleep, and rubbed his face into Chakotay's palm.

Chakotay let his fingers curl around Tom's cheek and bent to kiss him, softly on the brow. The temptation was overwhelming to lie down next to him, wrap an arm and a leg over his body and drift back to sleep. But he didn't have the luxury of time today. They were expecting visitors for lunch, and Chakotay knew that Tom wouldn't cook.

With a final stroke of Tom's cheek, Chakotay rose and stiffly made his way to the shower.

*  *  *

It was a day for reminiscence. Chakotay puttered in their large kitchen, preparing simple food, chilling a crisp white wine from their cellar. He could hear Tom singing, loud and off-key, in the shower. Then he heard the bang of drawers and muttered curses as Tom searched for his socks. Each morning he could never find clean socks. He continued his preparations for the salad, and smiled as two damp arms closed around his waist.

"Chak…" Tom's voice reverberated down his spine and his hands smoothed the lean plane of his belly. "Good morning. I missed you when I woke."

Chakotay turned in his lover's arms and kissed him, slipping his tongue into Tom's warm mouth. "I was on my meditation rock."

"Ummm," Tom hummed the syllable into his mouth, as his hands caressed Chakotay's back. "Good vision quest?"

"Yes. Very peaceful. I've been wandering the pathways of old times."

"Good times, I hope." Tom's hands stroked down his hips, an aimless, meandering caress that Chakotay knew would lead to them both gasping into each other's mouths, pushed up against the kitchen cabinets if he didn't stop him now.

"Very. Although it was unsettling. I feel like I'm waiting for something to happen today, but I don't know what."

Tom stepped away and leaned against the work bench. "Something good?"

"I don't know. I feel that something will come full circle today."

Tom considered, absently eating the cucumber that Chakotay had prepared for the salad. "Maybe," he said, eventually. "Your guide is usually right about such things." He grinned, the boyish smile that never failed to melt Chakotay's heart. "Don't suppose your guide happened to mention where my yellow socks are, did she?"

*  *  *

"They're here!" Tom's voice echoed through the tiled kitchen. Chakotay heard the murmur of voices, which grew louder. Then his arms were full of Kathryn Janeway.

"Chakotay!" She accepted his hug, stretching up to press a kiss on his cheek, reaching behind him to tug affectionately on his braid. "This gets longer each time I see you. It suits you. Even the gray looks good."

He clasped hands with Jaffen for a moment, then turned away to offer them both a drink. "Tom says gray hair is distinguished."

"Tom loves you. He's biased." Kathryn looked warmly at her ex-pilot.

Lunch was a comfortable gathering of old friends, a relaxed mix of teasing banter and serious conversation. He watched Kathryn, cataloging the small changes he saw each time they met. She was aging gracefully. The fox-red hair was grayer now, but her eyes were as piercing and sharp as ever. Her waist was thicker and her face was softer. He watched her lean into Jaffen, his arm close around her and his lips briefly brush her hair. Love had softened his friend, blurred the hard captain's edges, allowed her to be more herself. They were good together, she and Jaffen. They must have been together for thirty years now. With a start, he realized that it was longer than that for him and Tom.

The unspoken arrangement was that Tom and Jaffen would do the dishes. Kathryn looked at Chakotay with bright eyes, and demanded to see how the Talaxian tomatoes were coming along. It was an excuse, he knew, there was something she wanted to speak to him about. He clasped her elbow and escorted her into the garden.

She seemed reluctant to begin. Her toe dug small gouges in the earth of the vegetable garden, and she dropped to her knees to fasten up a trailing briar on Tom's raspberry canes. "The garden looks good," she said eventually. "It reminds me of New Earth."

"It does a bit," he agreed. He could have been happy there eventually, with her, if he had had to be. They were comfortable together, they could have been lovers, and probably would have been, if he could have let the sadness at leaving Tom behind fall away from him. But what they had now was better. He and Kathryn; dear close friends. And, the man he loved with all his soul, washed the dishes in their house.

"What's on your mind, Kathryn?" He took her hand and pulled her to her feet. She was stiff too these days, a slight limp from an arthritic left hip.

"I could never keep anything from you, could I?" She allowed him to take her arm again, and they moved off, feet instinctively following the beaten path out into the desert.

"I had a message from Tuvok yesterday. He's well." Swiftly she forestalled his question. "Getting old, like all of us, but in surprisingly good health. He asked me to pass on a message from Neelix to you." She pulled a PADD out of the pocket of her tailored pants. "Tuvok said to tell you it was about Umbra." She was looking at him quizzically, the significance of the name was not lost on her.

"Thanks." He put the PADD in his own pocket. "I'll read it later, I think. What else did Tuvok say?"

"He is preparing for his own retreat into the desert on Vulcan. He says it will be his final sojourn." Kathryn's eyes were focussed on a distant point. "Now that T'Pel has gone, it's hard. He values Neelix's communications greatly."

Chakotay nodded. One of Voyager's most unlikely friendships had been forged on Umbra, and had endured steadfastly, until Neelix had followed his own destiny and remained with the Talaxian colony, forming his own bonds of love and family. He had missed Neelix keenly, and with an ache that was unexpected. Neelix was a friend, an unfailingly cheerful, unflaggingly steadfast friend, and although he knew he would miss his company, the ache went deeper than that. Neelix had been there on Umbra, and had shared the experience, had felt it deeply, maybe more than any of them. Neelix had seen a vision of the burning children that none of the rest of them had shared. It had taken him a long time to accept that he couldn't change the past, but eventually he had, helped along by the companionship of the other five.

When Neelix left Voyager, the small and close-knit circle of friends had been broken. He and Tom had often spent time with Harry and Greg, but Tuvok had withdrawn from their company, retreating once again to spend the bulk of his free time in meditation, or occasionally with the captain. The five of them hadn't spent an evening alone together since Neelix's departure. He thought that he would read Tuvok's communication later, alone with Tom.

He clasped Kathryn's elbow and the two of them ambled back to the house to rejoin their mates.

*  *  *

The Vulcan moon climbed steadily into the sky, spreading the soft yellow light over the desert. Tuvok sat inside the simple stone house, his gaze fixed on the single meditation candle. The air was harsh, a rasping dryness in Tuvok's throat as he breathed with steady rhythm. He was preparing himself for his final journey into the desert; a meandering trip from which he would not return. He was not old by Vulcan standards, but in his heart he was tired. He had lost the most enduring bond that a Vulcan possessed; his mate T'Pel had been killed in a shuttle crash. And strangely, insidiously, he found he missed the ties of friendship with Mr. Neelix. The communication which had been established with the Talaxian colony in the Delta Quadrant was slight comfort, albeit a poor one.

He had retreated into meditative practices, once again striving for the elusive mental command of a Vulcan Master. But he was weary. So very tired. And when the idea came to him, during a two-day meditation he knew it was a sound and logical decision. He would undertake a ritual trek into the desert, but he would not return. And in doing so, he hoped to obtain some soulsease, some elevation of consciousness before he lay down to die.

Mr. Neelix, strangely, understood and had offered his support. And then he had sent the message. The only person Tuvok had contact with now from Voyager was Kathryn Janeway. So he had passed the message to her, trusting that she would deliver it.

The moon completed its pass through the sky, unnoticed by the man below.

*  *  *

It wasn't until later that evening that Chakotay remembered the PADD. The day had passed swiftly, conversation, wine and laughter blending into the warm mix that characterized their days spent with friends and their time alone. And inevitably, after Kathryn and Jaffen had left, Tom had cornered him in the hallway, pressing his body against Chakotay's, holding his face as he kissed him; the slow glide of his tongue a sensual distraction, the laughter forgotten in the reaffirmation of love.

They had made love on their wide bed, the sweet fusion of tongues leading to the press of bodies, entangling of limbs and the final mingling of seed. Tom rested with his head on Chakotay's chest, his hand idly tracing patterns on his belly.

Chakotay relaxed onto the pillow, closing his eyes, content to lie and hold his lover. A quick flicker of a vision danced behind his closed eyelids, a flashback to a dark room, an oppressing silence, and rows of small desks covered with dust. Moving Tom to one side, he retrieved the PADD.

Tom watched him through slitted eyes, and moved back to his sprawled position on Chakotay's chest when he returned to the bed. "This what Kathryn gave you?"

"Yes. It's from Tuvok." He activated the PADD and began to read aloud. It was addressed to him alone, but he didn't even consider reading it himself first. If it concerned Umbra, then it belonged to Tom as much as it belonged to him.

"Commander." Tuvok's terse greeting jumped out at him from the first line. "Greetings, and I trust that you and Mr. Paris are in good health. What I have to say to you concerns Umbra.

"The other day I received a communication from Mr. Neelix. He is aware of my wish to undertake a spiritual retreat into the desert; one from which I will not return. When I do so, the bonds between us, formed on Umbra will be broken. Mr. Neelix has been trading in a limited fashion with Umbra. Loumien, the Chosen One wishes for us to experience the changes on his planet. It can be done through the link the six of us share, and the Commander's vision quest. If you are willing, the opportune time is coming. In two weeks, the moons on Vulcan and Earth will both be full. The moon from the planet, Carpelle, will also be full, and will be visible to the naked eye from the Talaxian colony. When the three moons are full, the Chosen One will facilitate the link.

"You will need to contact Captain Kim and Commander Ayala. We will need their presence for the link to work." The message closed with the traditional Vulcan farewell. "Live long and prosper."

Tom met his eyes. "You want to do it, don't you?"

Chakotay nodded. "Yes," he said. "I do."

"Me too." Tom turned his head and kissed him. "It feels like something we should do. I'll contact Harry tomorrow. Last I heard, he and Greg were close to Earth. They could come here."

"Yes. We can let Greg eat us out of house and home again."

"And Harry can bring the beer." Tom rolled over onto his side in the soft bed, pulling Chakotay down so that their bodies were aligned. "I want to know, Chak. I want to hear what is happening on Umbra. You did something good there, I hope it's continued that way for them." He pulled loose the leather thong binding Chakotay's braid and ran his fingers through the graying hair.

Chakotay closed his eyes and gave himself up to the sensation of sensitive fingers massaging his scalp. The years may have crept up on both of them, wasting the defined muscles, wrinkling skin and marking both their bodies with the stamp of time, but it didn't matter. Each small imperfection was a mark to be treasured. When the fingers moved to trace his mouth, Chakotay gave in to his desires and pulled Tom closer, taking his mouth with familiarity, leading his lover back into pleasure.

*  *  *

Greg and Harry arrived the day before the link, and the four renewed their friendship. Harry's ship, The Tuscany, was on routine patrol near Earth, and it had been easy for Harry and Greg to take leave. Chakotay watched them, observing the little subtleties of their relationship. Funny how Greg, the strong one, still protected Harry, yet Harry was the captain. Greg said he wouldn't have it any other way, and had indeed refused his own captaincy. If he'd taken it, he would have been separated from Harry. There could only ever be one captain on a ship.

The years had been kind to Harry. His hair was thick, only faintly streaked with gray, still in the short, tufty Starfleet style. He looked like a benevolent badger. Like many of his race, he aged slowly. His skin was still firm, sallow and unwrinkled. Greg sat protectively close, a long held habit, even when there was no need. His swarthy looks were fiercer, the sharp eyes keen. A long scar ran down the left side of his face. Greg the Protector had saved his lover in a bar-room brawl in the Beta Quadrant, moving in front of the knife to protect Harry. He kept the scar as a reminder of how close he had come to losing his love.

The four spent the day quietly and their conversation carried them well into the night. By unspoken agreement, the attempt at the link was not mentioned.

As agreed, they ate lightly at dinner, then Chakotay led the other three to his meditation rock, a flat red sandstone boulder, elevated slightly above the surrounding desert. A night zephyr stirred the dust at their feet curling through the fleshy cactus, winding through the boulders of the desert. A coyote yipped once and was silent. Above them the moon, fecund and glowing, floated over the horizon, its fullness lighting the desert with the brightness of day.

Chakotay arranged himself cross-legged on his rock, blending into the desert night with ease. He was at home here; this was his world, more than the recycled air and artificial gravity of a ship had ever been. He glanced at Tom, comfortable now in this world, although it had taken him some time to lose his unease of wild places. A 'fleet brat; Tom's world was the controls and consoles of the ships he flew, and his realm was above them, the wide band of the sky and swathes of stars.

Greg and Harry sat slightly apart from them, hands clasped; they would not participate in the vision quest. The joint quest would be his and Tom's alone. The Chosen One had told them that he would facilitate the wider link and they believed him.

Chakotay placed one hand on the akoonah, feeling the warm press of Tom's hand as he too moved to make the connection. He smiled, reassuringly at Harry and Greg, and began the ritual words that heralded his vision trace.

" Akoochimoya, I am far away from the bones of my grandfathers..."

His guide appeared swiftly, wending her way through the vegetation to greet him. It was night in his quest, the scene mirroring the one in which his physical body sat. He looked at Tom, and saw him greeting his own guide, the falcon, with bowed head. He watched the reunion, delighting in his lover's acceptance of this that was dear to him. The wolf approached, her golden eyes glowing softly in the night. Uncharacteristically, she came close enough for him to touch, wrapping her body around his hand, sinuously accepting his touch.

Come with me. She spoke the words in his mind. You and your friends.

Friends. He looked around him, but only Tom was in the desert clearing communing with his spirit guide.

They are here too, the Protector and the Holder of Information. You cannot see them, but if you let yourself, you will feel their presence.

Chakotay opened his mind. He felt the familiar wrap of Tom's love surround him, reassuring in its steadfastness, and distantly he felt the touch of an unfamiliar mind. The wide-eyed wonder it projected could only be Harry. And that firm and determined echo of a presence must be Greg. Grasping Tom's hand, he followed the wolf, as she slipped like a wraith through the shifting night-shadows.

He felt his Father's presence before he saw him, and instantly he knew that this was how it would be possible to reach Umbra. His Father and Grandfather stood in a small clearing, surrounded by boulders, piled, haphazardly on each other, enclosing the four of them in a natural amphitheater. His Grandfather's eyes were still clouded, but he stood straight, holding onto his son's arm.

I will watch over you. You will come to no harm. Golden canine eyes met his for a moment, then she was gone. The falcon winged his way to the top of the rocks and furled his wings.

"Father, Grandfather. It has been many months since you have come to me here." Chakotay spoke quietly to his ancestors.

"You did not need us before now." His Father's eyes were clear and calm. "You have Tom, he supports you in ways that I cannot."

Chakotay inclined his head, acknowledging the truth of the quiet words.

"There is not the time for talk now," Kolopak said. "The time for the link is here. You must each take my hand and that of your Grandfather. The circle will allow the Chosen One to speak.

Chakotay clasped his Father's hand, feeling the rough, dry skin and firm grasp. He reached out and took his Grandfather's hand. It hung slackly in his grasp. When Tom completed the circle, Chakotay felt the touch of other minds.

Tired. One mind was so weary, so alone, but so controlled. The logic sustained him even as it enhanced his aloneness. Tuvok's mind was sharp, there were no ramblings of age, he was as incisive as ever. Chakotay sensed the resoluteness that had determined Tuvok's decision to undertake his solitary quest into the Vulcan desert.

And Neelix. Ah, the bubbling effervescence that permeated this mind. The simple joy in life, the love of his wife and family, tempered with a wistful longing for days gone by and his friends from Voyager. Neelix was truly content, surrounded by a community where he was their touchstone, their leader. Chakotay felt Neelix's unspoken delight that he was going to become a grandfather and his pride in his step-son, Brax.

He looked at Tom, and saw the mirrored emotion on his face. Tom was feeling the same connection with their friends that he was.

And then, there was another. Loumien, the Chosen One, in corporeal form, appeared in the center of the stones. He too had aged, appearing as an Umbran adult with the same bottomless black eyes that reminded Chakotay vividly of all that was eerie about Umbra. He was dressed in loose flowing robes of some indeterminate dark color,

Greetings. His voice echoed in Chakotay's mind, even though his lips had not moved. He moved to stand in front of Chakotay and extended a hand, palm out in greeting. You are The Link. I greet you.

Chakotay swallowed hard. This was more difficult than he had expected. Memories were surging up in him, vivid recollections of the sinister planet with its unnatural atmosphere. His stomach churned, remembering the atrocities committed on innocent children. Dimly he could feel the recoiling of Neelix's mind and knew that the sensitive Talaxian was remembering too. No. He couldn't let that happen, couldn't let Neelix suffer again. He pushed down the memories in his mind, refusing to allow them to overwhelm him. He trusted the Chosen One. Loumien wouldn't have initiated this link if it would be detrimental to them.

I understand. The voice was soft in his mind. I do not want this to be upsetting for you. The Nurturer is especially sensitive. And I did not ask you here to remember Umbra as it was, but to show you it as it is now. Watch.

Chakotay grasped his Father and Grandfather's hands harder. In the circle of their hands there was an image. It grew, coalescing into a picture that he remembered. The house, where they had stayed. The house where he and Tom had first made love. But it was no longer the imposing dark bulk he remembered. This house stood open, doors and windows wide to catch the light of the sun. Children played outside, pale slender Umbran children. As the image moved nearer, Chakotay could see that there were girls as well as boys, quietly moving around the house, walking, or sitting outside. He sensed Neelix's puzzlement at their lack of exuberance.

Umbrans are a quiet people. Our children do not play as others do. They are happy, in their way.

The image moved into the house, showing the rows of desks that Chakotay remembered. But here, instead of dust and dereliction, were children learning, eagerly grasping new knowledge and opportunities.

They learn the arcane arts as well as life knowledge. It is not time for a new Chosen One to come, but we have determined that the process will not be shrouded in fear and secrecy any longer. The arcane studies are open to all who wish to learn.

Chakotay felt the contentment permeate through him. This house had its share of shadows. They were still there, in dark corners, but an openness and the quest for knowledge surrounded him. He could feel in his mind that Harry was smiling. Gentle Harry, who so much wanted it to be right for everyone. He heard a quiet trill of clarinet music softly in his head, and realized that Harry had left a small gift to the Umbrans. A child could be seen, sitting alone in a corner, fingering an instrument that was almost identical to Harry's beloved clarinet. The child was diligently stretching her fingers trying vainly to finger the notes perfectly.

"Move your hand down slightly." Harry's whisper drifted past, unheard by the child. "The fingering will not be so much of a stretch."

Chakotay sensed the tears thickening Harry's voice, and his own throat closed over at the simple beauty of the scene.

Follow me.

The image moved outside again, into sunlit streets, down past houses. Their minds drifted unseen through the everyday life of Umbra. A street vendor sold crisp green fruit. A mother chased a toddling baby while the baby's father looked on benevolently. A farmer worked his fields, Chakotay saw the sweat beading his face, and the farmer straightened, wiped his face on his sleeve and stood for a moment, face turned up to feel the sun.

And finally, the image returned, back to the house where the children learned, past the rows of desks to a bedroom that was instantly and heart-tuggingly familiar. The room where he and Tom had first made love. The bath, still there, where he had come to Tom for the first time, his feet moving to Stygian's spell of movement. He could no longer sense the others. Only Tom was there, holding his hand. He thought that Greg, Harry, Neelix and Tuvok were being shown their own rooms, and were being reminded of what they had gained.

He turned to Tom, feeling the tears wet on his cheeks as they embraced. They held each other, closely, fiercely. As they stood together, small fingers tickled in his mind. He pressed his wet face further into Tom's neck and absorbed the small touches. The lost children. Neelix's lost children, the ones who had burned. The ones he had helped to cross over thirty years ago. In the vision quest, where the dead and the living meet, they returned briefly to acknowledge The Link. The one instrumental in their crossing.

You must go now. Loumien's voice was tinged with sadness. The moons are waning.

Chakotay felt the withdrawal of his presence, and abruptly he was back in the vision quest clearing. His Father and Grandfather were still there, but the circle was broken and he was in Tom's arms. Tom held him close, stroking his hair, the rhythm soothing and repetitive. Chakotay cried for the beauty of it, and the knowledge that although it may not be perfect, Umbra was back in the light.

Slowly he straightened from Tom's embrace and turned to his Father. "I love you," he said. Words he seldom had spoken to his Father, even in his life time.

"I am here for you when you need me." His Father grasped his Grandfather's hand tighter and the two of them moved off, away from the rocks.

"It's time to go back, Chak." Tom's voice was as thick as his own.

He nodded. It was time. As he left the clearing, he saw the waxy moon starting to descend into the trees.

*  *  *

The Nurturer returned slowly to his house. Above him, the glowing umber moon of Carpelle was sinking behind the mountains. He let himself in, moving slowly on dragging feet down the corridor. Opening the first door he checked on Felexa, his daughter. She was sleeping soundly, flaxen hair spread over her pillow. He drank in the sight of her, his precious sweeting. Moving to the next room, he checked on Selex, his son, sleeping soundly arms above his head. The third room was empty, save for a crib, a present for his grandchild, soon to be born. Neelix touched the smooth wood, rocking it slowly with a careful finger. A new generation; new life, new hope.

And finally he let himself quietly into the end room. Dexa was also sleeping but she stirred as he approached.

"Come back to bed," she whispered. "And tell me what you saw…"

*  *  *

The Holder of Logical Thought remained with his eyes closed. The meditation candle flickered and steadied, burning low in its holder. Tuvok bade a silent farewell to his friends, as they passed through his head in a steady procession. They would not forget. He would not forget.

The Vulcan moon was still high in the sky, hazed by the clouds veiling its face. Tuvok was now ready for his ritual journey.

*  *  *

The adobe house blended into the night, its terra cotta walls rising from the earth from which it was made. In one room, The Holder of Information lay spooned with the Protector, thighs shifting together in the sticky afterglow. Greg's hand curled around onto Harry's chest as they slept, their breathing, slow and rhythmic. Tomorrow they would return to their ship, and their own world. Soft clarinet music ran through Harry's head. Tomorrow, he would compose a new symphony, based around the recurring finger patterns of a small Umbran child.

*  *  *

On the wide soft bed, The Link and his mate, The Guide, were moving slowly. Their lovemaking had a stately cast to it, a reverent glissade of fingers across skin. Mouths moved, tongues mingled, tasting the familiar once again. The golden and the pale merged, a melding of skin tones, a giving and receiving of love. Chakotay came in a flood of sensation. A shuddering acceptance of how wonderful this was, how wonderful he was -- Tom, his lover and his partner and his equal. With mouth and hands he brought his lover to the same plateau.

The washed blue shutters were open to the night, allowing the soft sounds of a desert night to surround them. A coyote yipped and was silent. The light of the full moon, sinking slowly behind the jagged mountain range, painted the saguaro cacti with an ethereal silver glow. A small insect skittered through the vegetable garden, winding its way through the fallen raspberry canes. The moonlight streamed in through the windows, illuminating the entwined figures on the bed.

They slept.


Back to Shayenne's J/C Fiction   Back to Cassatt's C/P Fiction   Back to the final part of 'Shape of Shadows'

This epilogue was part of the winning entry in the Spooky Halloween Contest. Kudos to Cassatt.