To Those Who Wait
Summary: A chance meeting leads Phoebe and Sekaya to realise they have more in common than over-achieving elder siblings.
Characters: Phoebe Janeway, Sekaya, Mark Johnson, Kathryn Janeway, Chakotay
Codes: Sekaya/Phoebe Janeway
Disclaimer: Paramount owns the dollhouse, we just play with the dolls.
Note: This is a work in progress and will be continued when I've cleared a few other stories out of my brain.
Chapter One: São Paolo, Brazil – June, 2360
For the first time in weeks I’m in the zone. The windows are wide open, the samba pumped up loud and the soapstone is finally cooperating. Fine veins and feather-strokes take shape under my chisel as effortlessly as the drum-beat keeps my feet moving.
Thank God, because until today I was on the verge of giving up everything I’ve worked for. What’s the point in calling yourself an artist if you can’t seem to bring anything beautiful to life?
It’s only when the music comes to a hip-shaking crescendo and falls silent that I realise somebody’s finger is jammed on the door buzzer, and probably has been for some time.
I tug off my dust-mask and toss it onto the table. “Coming,” I yell as I clatter down the single flight of stairs.
Standing on the doorstep, wearing a threadbare tweed jacket on a day that’s far too warm for it, is Hobbes – excuse me, Mark – Johnson. I suppress a sigh.
“Kathryn sent you over to check on me again?”
He shrugs amiably. “I was in the neighbourhood anyway.”
“You were in Curitiba,” I retort, “four hundred kilometres away. And I’m twenty-one years old, Hobbes. I don’t need a sitter.”
“Mark,” he corrects me, unoffended.
I roll my eyes. “Don’t you have better things to do with your time? I thought you were pontificating at some ultra-Vulky conference.”
“Only eighteen percent of the symposium attendees are Vulcan,” Mark answers.
Sometimes I can’t tell if he has absolutely no concept of sarcasm, or if he’s secretly laughing at everyone from behind that genial mask of his.
“Whatever,” I mutter, stepping back into the cool hallway. “It’s cocktail o’clock anyway. Want a caipirinha?”
He follows me up to the airy salon and snoops around as I busy myself making our drinks. He doesn’t hide his fascination with the enormous picture windows that spill natural light across the polished-concrete floor, or the wrought-iron spiral staircase that leads up to my sleeping platform, and I find myself approving: he’s lingering over all the features that made me fall in love with this place.
“Nice apartment,” is all he says when he’s finished his inspection. “Who owns it?”
“Friends of the family.”
“Must be good friends.”
My back is toward him, so Mark doesn’t see the curl of my lip as I chop a lime rather more violently than necessary.
I know full well it was guilt that prompted my late father’s good friend, Admiral Owen Paris, to offer this place to me when I decided the Universidade de São Paulo was just the place to finish my Visual Arts degree. And I also know that all the beautiful apartments in the galaxy will never make up for what happened to my sister on his watch.
“Is this yours?”
“Huh?” I turn to see Mark standing beside my partly-formed mass of soapstone. “Oh. Yeah.”
He tilts his head. “What’s it going to be?”
“You can’t tell?” I ask sarcastically, tossing ice into two glasses. I hate that question.
Of course, I’ve forgotten that sarcasm is wasted on Mark. He looks at me patiently.
“It’s supposed to be Nekhbet,” I mutter. “The assignment theme is metamorphosis.”
“The Egyptian vulture goddess, who eats death and turns it into fuel for life,” he muses. “I like it.”
I shrug, pleased despite myself. “I figure the phoenix is far too predictable.”
“I doubt anyone’s ever accused you of being predictable, Phoebe.”
There’s an undercurrent in his voice that I interpret as patronising, and it makes me bristle. “Well we can’t all be the boring, dependable type,” I snap at him.
Mark says nothing; just smiles at me faintly n a way that makes me want to smack him.
“You know, you don’t always have to do whatever Katie tells you.” I tip extra cachaça into Mark’s drink, diluting the taste with sugar, and hand it to him, waiting until he sips before I add pointedly, “It’s not like you two are dating or anything.”
He chokes on his drink and I scoop up my glass and stride out onto the terrace, satisfied at finally getting under his very thick skin.
At least, until my conscience starts pricking.
“Sorry,” I offer when Mark follows me out and leans on the railing beside me. “That was mean of me.”
“Not really.” His tone is as mild as ever. “Kathryn and I aren’t dating. Yet.”
And I wouldn’t hold your breath on that one, I think, seeing as she’s still in mourning for the love of her life. Besides, you’re hardly her type.
Aloud, I mumble something about giving her time, and Mark nods as though it’s a foregone conclusion. As though all he has to do is wait.
It annoys the hell out of me. Kathryn and I rarely see eye to eye and can quite happily go for months without speaking to one another, but the thought of my sister ending up with Hobbes fucking Johnson makes me want to scream. Or drink heavily.
Which, come to think of it, isn’t such a bad idea. Especially considering I’ve well and truly fallen out of the elusive creative zone. The mass of soapstone that, half an hour ago, had such potential now looks to me like a formless, stolid lump.
“Let’s get out of here,” I decide. “I feel like blowing out the cobwebs and there’s this great little bar –”
“What about your sculpture?”
“Forget it.” I wave a hand, already striding back into the living room and tugging my dust-streaked shirt over my head. “Give me ten seconds to change. Call Katie if you want to. You can tell her you’ve discharged your responsibilities…”
“I’m not sure she’d see me taking you out drinking as particularly responsible…”
“So lie.” Halfway up the staircase to the sleeping platform, I turn, bare from the waist up, and toss my shirt at him; Mark catches it easily, managing to keep his eyes focused on my face. “Or invite her along. You know you want to.”
He mutters something in reply, but it’s lost to me as I clatter the rest of the way up the stairs, already focused on finding the perfect outfit.
Something that screams irresponsible.
Mark sips cautiously at the cocktail I’ve forced into his hand as I hop onto a bar stool and cross my legs, surveying the room. It’s tipping over into evening and the bar is beginning to fill up. Ambient chatter rises above the low, heavy beat of the music.
“Is Katie coming?” I already have to lean in and raise my voice for Mark to hear me.
“She said she’ll transport over in her lunch break.”
I roll my eyes. Kathryn’s stint in command school is due to finish up in a week with an exhausting array of tests; the fact that she’s taking time out of her schedule right now means she’s more concerned about me than she’s letting on. It’s a good thing, I guess. For a time, after the accident, she didn’t really care about anything.
I down half my rum concoction in a matter of seconds and scan the room with more intent. It’s been awhile since the last time I went home with someone whose name I couldn’t remember the next morning. And I might be secretly pleased that Kathryn is back to her old self, but if I’m going to be forced to listen to a sisterly lecture I intend to spend the rest of the night giving her good reason to lecture me again.
A woman enters through the open door, tall and slender, her stride long and graceful. The crowd parts for her as she straight-lines it to the bar. She slides onto the stool beside me and crooks a finger and the bartender presents himself immediately.
In a low-pitched, mellow voice she says, “Please give me something that will taste disgusting and get me very, very drunk.”
Intrigued, I swivel my stool toward her and study her openly. She’s human, her skin a gorgeous tawny shade and her hair like a shining jet waterfall. She’s wearing something loose and simple in unbleached cotton, and sandals on her feet. Most of the patrons in here are dressed in bright colours and tight, skin-baring fabrics, myself included. But she doesn’t look out of place – she looks like she owns the place.
She eyes the bartender as he slides something topaz-coloured toward her. “What is this?”
“It’s a Sazerac,” he answers. “It tastes like crap, but it’ll make you see the dead.”
The woman stares at him, then bursts into laughter that borders on hysteria. “Thank you,” she manages, wiping her eyes. “It’s perfect.”
She tastes the cocktail, hides a cough discreetly in her palm, then downs the rest of it in one swallow and gestures for another. Fascinated, I watch her pick up the second drink, wondering if she’ll throw this one back as well, but she sips it far more judiciously this time. All signs of amusement have left her and she stares at the wooden surface of the bar, gloom cloaking her shoulders.
“Hey,” I address her before I can check the impulse, “are you okay?”
The woman turns toward me and I realise just how striking she is. High brow, smoky-black eyes, wide mouth, and that smooth dusky skin … My fingers itch to sculpt her.
Then she quirks one winged eyebrow at me, and suddenly my fingers are itching to do other things.
“I’m Phoebe,” I blurt from a suddenly-dry throat. “And I didn’t mean to intrude, I just … okay, I did mean to. I’m nosy. Sorry. You looked sad, is all.”
Her lips curve upward slightly. “That’s very observant of you, Phoebe.”
“Thanks,” I answer, “being observant is kind of my thing, you know? I mean I need to be, for my career. You know.”
Oh God, I beg myself internally as the woman’s eyebrow rises higher, shut up, please just shut up!
Beside me, I hear Mark give a soft, choked snort and I whip round to glare at him. “This is Hobbes – I mean, Mark,” I grit, turning back to the woman beside me, “but feel free to ignore him. I prefer to.”
“Nice to meet you,” Mark says politely, and she inclines her head in response.
“So,” I turn my back to Mark again, focusing on the woman, “why are you sad? If you don’t mind me asking.”
She sips her drink thoughtfully. “Do you have a brother, Phoebe?”
“Oh.” She looks down and I feel terrible, as if I’ve disappointed her.
“I have a sister,” I offer. “And sometimes she makes me sad, too.”
“You are observant.”
“So what did he do, your brother?”
“I’ve barely seen him since he left home thirteen years ago,” she says, her beautiful voice flat, “and he has no time for me. He thinks of me as a child and believes I’m provincial and uninformed. He doesn’t listen to me.”
Her voice rises in frustration toward the end of her outburst.
“How much older is he?” I ask sympathetically.
She subsides with a rueful sigh. “Six years,” she admits. “And your sister – she’s older than you?”
“Four years,” I confirm. “And she thinks I’m naïve and flighty and have no idea how the real world works.”
“That’s not true,” Mark says mildly from behind me, and I jump slightly; I’d practically forgotten his existence.
I roll my eyes at my new friend. “You would say that,” I retort over my shoulder, then turn back to whisper conspiratorially, “According to Mark, my sister is perfect in every way except one: she hasn’t screwed him yet.”
“Phoebe,” he reproves.
“Oh,” the woman says, “then you two aren’t…?”
“God, no,” I splutter.
I feel Mark shift to his feet behind me, clearing his throat. “Kath,” he calls, more animated than I’ve seen him all night. “Over here.”
Kathryn is winding her way through the crowd in the command-red uniform I’m still not used to, the sun behind her setting her hair afire. She looks whippet-thin but lively, her cheeks slightly flushed; nothing like the pallid wraith I’d painted six months earlier.
“Phoebe,” she addresses me in that half-amused, half-exasperated tone she’s used on me since she was thirteen, “do you ever do any schoolwork or do you spend all your time in bars?”
“You two really are perfect for each other,” I deadpan, and Kathryn’s focus switches to Mark, her expression softening.
“Yes, some chaperone you are,” she teases him.
Whenever Mark looks at her his whole face changes. I might make fun of him for his devotion to Katie, but I can only hope that someday, someone will look at me like that.
For tonight, though, I’ll be satisfied with something less devoted and more debauched.
I turn back to my new friend. “That’s my sister, Kathryn,” I explain unnecessarily.
“Hi,” Kathryn offers. “Are you a friend of Phoebe’s?”
“We just met,” the woman replies, her voice noticeably cooler, “Lieutenant.”
Kathryn blinks. “Oh.”
There’s a palpable chill in the air; I shift on my stool and beckon the bartender. “Four more of those things my friend here was drinking, please.”
“Not for me,” Kathryn interjects quickly, “I’m due back at HQ in an hour.”
“Blow off the afternoon,” I grin at her. “When was the last time we got drunk together, Katie?”
“We’ve never gotten drunk together,” but her mouth quirks up at the corner. “Maybe when I’ve passed my finals, okay?”
“Sure, sure,” I roll my eyes at her, “then you’ll be posted to some starship and I won’t see you for months, and you’ll be too busy to comm …”
The woman beside me makes a scornful sound and everyone’s attention switches back to her. “Isn’t that the Starfleet way?” she says, eyes defiant.
“Your brother left home to join ‘fleet,” I realise, and the twitch of her shoulders tells me I’ve guessed correctly.
“Is he stationed on Earth?” Kathryn asks her politely.
“He’s an instructor at the São Paolo flight school.” Her tone is clipped.
“Enlisted or officer?”
My companion draws herself straight, eyes flashing dark. “Would you like his name, rank and serial number?”
“Hey,” I interject gently. “It’s not Katie’s fault your brother pissed you off.”
Almost immediately, shame washes across her elegant features. “You’re right,” she turns to Kathryn, “I apologise. That was unfair of me, and very rude.”
My sister smiles, extending her hand. “Shall we start over? I’m Kathryn.”
The woman hesitates, then clasps Kathryn’s hand in hers. “My name is Sekaya.”
Then for the first time she smiles, dimples scoring prettily either side of that lush, soft mouth, and I feel my jaw drop as lust spirals deep in the pit of my stomach.
“Your brother hasn’t been home for five years? Not even to visit?”
“Mm-hm.” Sekaya picks up the shot-glass I’ve pushed across the bar in her direction. “So I hitched a ride on a supply freighter and came all the way to Earth to hunt him down. Didn’t tell anyone – just left.”
She tips her head back to toss the vodka down her throat – her long, elegant throat that reminds me of a Modigliani – as Mark and Kathryn exchange a glance.
“Won’t your family be worried?” Kathryn asks.
“Oh, I let them know where I was headed when the freighter stopped at the first starbase we came to. And yes, my father was livid.” A wicked grin spreads across her face. “But why should I always be the dutiful daughter? My brother does exactly as he pleases and always has, but me? I’m twenty-five years old and until now I’d never been out of the Dorvan sector. My parents have always assumed I’ll stay on Trebus, become a healer and settle down, just like a true daughter of the tribe.” She snorts. “My father says one contrary in the family is enough. Well, my brother can let me take a turn in the role – I think I’ve earned the right to be a little wayward. Are you going to drink that?”
Wordlessly Kathryn shakes her head, so Sekaya snatches up her full-to-the-brim shot-glass and throws it back.
“Maybe we should slow down a little,” I find myself urging her. “The night is young, you know?”
“And you don’t want to be stuck looking after me when I’m stumbling drunk. I get it.” Sekaya levels me with a glance that might be withering if she hadn’t spoiled it by snickering. “Don’t worry, Phoebe, my brother has an over-protective streak. He knows where I am and I’m expecting him to show up after his shift ends, which should be in about,” she squints at the old-fashioned watch strapped to her wrist, “ten minutes, give or take.”
I can’t help pouting: this evening isn’t shaping up the way I was starting to hope it would when this gorgeous, exotic woman sat down beside me. “Is he going to take you home?” I sulk.
“Not if he knows what’s good for him.” Sekaya’s smile turns brilliant and my lips curve in response.
“Good,” I murmur, and holding my breath, I reach out for her hand. “Because I want you to stick around.”
She looks down, eyebrows arching as I wind our fingers together. Hers are long and tapered, capable-looking; mine slender and pale with stone-dust under my fingernails. I watch as her white teeth dig lightly into her cushiony lower lip. When she glances up from under her lashes, her smile has turned coquettish, and I sigh in mingled relief and delight.
“I think that’s my cue to leave,” Kathryn announces, hopping down from her stool.
Mark gets to his feet as well. “Want me to walk you to the transport station?”
“No, I’m good. You’d better stay and look after these two.” She pats his chest briefly, lowering her voice to add, “Good luck – you’re going to need it.”
“Promise you’ll come party with me the weekend after your finals,” I demand as Kathryn leans over to tousle my hair.
“Okay, I will,” she laughs. “Be good, Phoebes. It was nice to meet you, Sekaya, and don’t be too hard on your brother – I’m sure he loves you to bits.”
‘It was good to meet you, too,” Sekaya’s voice softens with sincerity and I squeeze her hand impulsively.
“I’ll call you later,” Mark calls as Kathryn turns to leave, and she flashes a smile over her shoulder as she strides for the door.
“Don’t mind me,” Sekaya says dreamily, still gazing at Kathryn’s retreating back, “but even in that uniform, your sister is a knockout.”
“Hey,” I mock-glare as Mark sighs in agreement.
“Seems we’re not the only ones who think so.”
I follow her line of sight in time to spot a tall, dark-haired man, also in Starfleet red, swivelling to watch the sway of my sister’s hips as she passes. When Kathryn is out of sight the man turns in our direction, eyes scanning the crowd.
“Chakotay,” Sekaya calls. “Over here.”
The man’s handsome face lights up in an eerily familiar, dimpled grin.
“That’s your brother?” I ask, eyes wide, and when Sekaya nods I mutter, “Talk about a knockout.”
“Maybe I should’ve saved my attention for the other sibling tonight,” Sekaya leans in to tease me. The brush of her lips against my ear makes me shiver. “Maybe you should have, too.”
“No thanks,” I murmur, inching closer so that our knees press together. “I’m happy with the first one I met.”
“Me, too,” she whispers as her brother politely edges his way through the crowd toward us.
“Sekaya … how much have you had to drink?”
The voice is masculine and smooth as aged wine rather than a husky feminine alto, but the tone is exactly the same as the one Kathryn used on me earlier: exaggeratedly patient, amused, and just a little bit patronising.
Just as I had when my sister addressed me, Sekaya drips sarcasm in response. “Not nearly enough to put up with seeing your face, Chakotay.”
Two matching sets of dimples appear again as they smirk at each other. I squirm in my seat, trying to suppress dirty thoughts. The movement attracts their attention and I watch big brother’s gaze drop to where my hand is still linked with Sekaya’s.
“Hi,” he offers in that mellow voice. “I’m Chakotay, Sekaya’s brother.”
“This is Phoebe,” Sekaya announces, shifting closer to me on her stool as her voice turns slightly defiant, “I’m going home with her tonight.”
“You are?” I turn to her, unable to keep the grin from breaking over my face.
“You don’t mind, do you?” she purrs.
I shake my head emphatically.
Sekaya and I are still beaming at each other when her brother leans around me to introduce himself to Mark. They shake hands and exchange pleasantries and all I hear is white noise, because Sekaya’s other hand has found its way onto the strip of bare skin between my tight bodice and my low-slung pants.
Chakotay clears his throat pointedly, and Sekaya eases back from me, reluctant, keeping her hand in mine. He turns his attention to me. “Phoebe, right?”
“That’s right.” God, I could listen to that voice all day; it’s almost as sexy as his sister’s.
His dark eyes track from my face to Sekaya’s. “I’m not sure which of you to warn off the other one,” he says finally, his lips curling at the edges. “I’m pretty sure you’re both trouble.”
Mark snorts out a laugh. “My bet’s on Phoebe.”
I roll my eyes at him. “Make yourself useful and get in another round of drinks, will you?”
Chakotay has pulled up an extra stool and settled into conversation with Mark. I can’t hear much of what they’re talking about – the sun has set and the bar and the street outside are now packed tight with warm bodies, loud laughter and music – but from the occasional, audible phrase I deduce that Chakotay made the fatal mistake of asking Mark what he does for a job. Mark’s hands are waving around the way he does when he gets on a roll, and Chakotay – to his credit – is nodding and smiling attentively.
“You keep looking at my brother,” Sekaya murmurs. “If you’re having second thoughts about taking me home, tell me now before I humiliate myself.”
“No,” I answer vehemently, winding an arm around her waist to draw her even closer. “No, I’m absolutely certain that you’re the one I want to go home with. You have no idea the filthy things I want to do to you.”
“Good.” Her teeth close lightly on my earlobe and I shiver. “Stop looking at him.”
I give her a sheepish glance. “It’s just that he reminds me of someone.”
“An ex of yours?”
“Of my sister’s, actually.” I tug her against me. “But it’s a sad story and it isn’t mine to tell.”
Sekaya’s lips are tracing the length of my neck and her hand has slipped down the back of my pants, tight as they are. “Then what do you say we get out of here?”
I lean over to punch Mark lightly on the arm. “We’re leaving,” I shout above the music.
“I’ll walk you home.”
“The hell you will. Good night, Mark.”
Sekaya and her brother are having their own stand-off beside us. “Don’t cramp my style, big brother,” I hear her order, and with a sigh he backs down.
“Take care of her,” Chakotay says to me.
“I’ll get her home safe in the morning,” I assure him, then give Sekaya a lascivious look. “But between now and then, all bets are off.”
She laughs, her arm winding back around my waist, and we make our way through the bar and out into the restless night.
Her lips are cushiony-soft, a stark contrast to her sharp collarbones and angular limbs. She presses them to my arched throat as I loop my arms behind her, my fingers tugging at the fastener to her dress. It slips, baring her shoulders, catching between our bodies, and I slide both hands upward over her narrow ribcage, hook my thumbs into the top of her dress and drag it slowly down. When it crumples to the floor I reach for her, my hands spread on her small, high breasts, and she almost crumples too.
“Do you like that?” I whisper to her.
She’s taller than I am and a few years older, but I’m the one leading this dance tonight. In spare phrases and carefully-chosen words, she’s painted her upbringing for me – a village, a close-knit community, the weight and comfort of tribal expectations – and while she clearly isn’t sexually repressed, I don’t think she’s very experienced. She’s alluded to a boy, someone she’s bonded to in some undefined way, but when I ask her if she’s been with a woman before she shakes her head, her smile turning shy at the edges.
So I’m taking it slow: soft kisses and light, teasing touches, verbally confirming her body’s responses. Because I want this to be good for her. I want it to be special.
I bend to swirl my tongue around her nipple, enjoying her sharp intake of breath as it tightens, repeating the action as she starts to shake. When I suck her nipple into my mouth she gasps and nudges me backward, creating some space so she can yank at the ties to my bodice.
“Take it off,” she commands, her voice a low growl, “I want to see you.”
So much for slow. I shrug out of the corset top and straighten my spine, smiling at her as her gaze fixes on my breasts. As though she can’t help herself, she steps forward, cupping them in her hands.
“You’re so pale,” she says softly, and I look down at the contrast of her tawny-coloured hands against my skin. She pinches my nipples and I suck in a breath as they harden, flushing rosy-pink.
Sekaya bends to lick at one experimentally and I close my eyes at the warmth of her mouth. Her hair slides smoothly forward to fan over my bare shoulder and I can’t hold still any longer. I wind one hand up into the hair at the back of her neck to hold her to me, and the other slides between her legs, all the way up until I can cup her through her panties.
She shudders, her teeth closing over my nipple as I stroke her with one finger on the outside of the damp fabric. When she slides her hands down the back of my pants to cup my ass I slip one finger inside her panties, dragging lightly through her wet folds. When she pushes the pants down over my hips I curl my finger inside her, and when she throws her head back to moan, I sink to my knees at her feet and eagerly, greedily press my mouth to her.
Sekaya is still sleeping after the sun has crested the tallest buildings: stretched across the bed on her stomach, one hand curled loosely against the pillow, her face partly hidden by silky black locks of hair. I perch on the edge of the mattress in an oversized T-shirt, scraping my own unruly mass of curls into a knot on top of my head as I look at her.
I’ve never been with someone so present in the moment, so focused on wringing every last drop of sensation from an experience. Being with her last night wasn’t just sex – and I’ve had plenty of it; I should know – it was transcendent.
It reminded me of that elusive feeling I get when I’m painting or sculpting or drawing and the beauty just flows from my fingers. When everything is right in a way I can’t define or explain.
If I’m honest, it’s a little frightening. She’s leaving soon – for her brother’s apartment, then back to Trebus – and I’ll probably never see her again. And even if I did, I’m in no way ready for the kind of emotional commitment it would take to be with her. There’s too much sorrow in me and too much unrest.
“Hey.” Her voice is warm with sleep, her eyes heavy as she looks at me through a tangle of hair. “What are you thinking about?”
I shrug, smiling at her. “Just stuff. I didn’t know you were awake.”
Sekaya props up on one elbow and reaches for my hand. “You looked sad,” she says softly. “Tell me why.”
I let her pull me down beside her, stroking her hair back from her face as I try to find words. “I lost my father a little while ago.”
“I’m sorry … were you close?”
“Not particularly. Kathryn was always his favourite; I’m closer to my mom. But the last time we spoke I yelled at him. I was angry at him for … well, it doesn’t matter.”
“Are you still angry?”
“Yes.” My voice shakes. “I still don’t understand why he couldn’t see … How he could let her –” I break off, pressing my lips together.
Sekaya is watching me. “You don’t have to tell me,” she says, laying her fingertips against my jaw. “But I get the feeling you haven’t told anyone. And I know how to keep a secret.”
It’s so tempting to tell her why I’m angry, how everything that’s ever gone wrong for my family is Starfleet’s fault. How my mother lost her husband years before she was widowed, how I grew up barely knowing my father, because of Starfleet.
I want to tell her about my father’s death in that shuttle accident, and Justin’s, and what those losses did to my sister. About how it was Starfleet’s fault that her life, the life she deserved, was ruined.
And I want to tell her about the terrible things that happened to Kathryn before that. The things I’m not supposed to know but pieced together from intuition and half-heard snippets of conversation; things about clandestine missions and Cardassians and sealed Starfleet records.
But Sekaya is from the border colonies; there’s probably nothing I can tell her about Cardassians that she doesn’t already know. And these aren’t my secrets to tell.
So instead I thread my fingers into her hair and answer, “Let’s just say I share your opinion of Starfleet, and leave it at that,” and I move in close to kiss her.
We walk hand in hand, our steps slowing by silent accord as we approach the transporter station. Sekaya seems as reluctant to leave as I am to let her.
“How long will you stay on Earth?” I ask.
She makes a face. “Not much longer. My brother just got a promotion so he’ll be out on a starship next week. And I really only came to see him.”
“I’m sorry to have taken your attention away from him.”
“I’m not.” She tugs me to a stop just outside the station, looping her arms around my waist.
“You should make the most of the time you have together.” I stretch up to kiss her lightly, then lower my heels back to the ground, debating whether I should go on.
“What is it?”
I shrug. I’m thinking about the secrets I wanted to tell her, about the lessons I’ve learned over the past couple of years.
“Your brother made his choice,” I answer haltingly, feeling for the words as I go. “It’s not the choice you’d have made, but if there’s one thing I’ve realised it’s that you can’t choose someone’s path for them. No matter how badly you wish you could.”
Sekaya leans in close to trace my cheekbone with her lips. “I know,” she says softly. Her mouth quirks to one side. “At least I have the next week to get to know him before I have to go home and explain myself to my parents.”
I laugh. “You could stay here. Find your own way.”
“My way is already chosen, too,” she shakes her head. “I’m a healer, and I belong with my people. Maybe I needed to run away to realise that.”
“I’ll probably never see you again, will I?”
“If we’re meant to meet again, we will.”
I can’t help snickering. “That’s the most mystical thing I’ve heard you say. Maybe you are destined to become some spiritual tribal leader.”
Sekaya pulls me close for one final kiss, one I never want to end, then lets me go suddenly. “Goodbye, Phoebe.”
“Bye,” I whisper, watching her turn to hurry into the transporter station.
There’s a haze blurring my vision as I trudge back along the street toward my apartment. But then an image coalesces in my mind’s eye – Sekaya’s long Modigliani neck arching as I kissed her, her silken fall of hair, the haughty tilt of her chin – and I picture my vulture-goddess, Nekhbet, emerging from a block of soapstone under my fingers. A sense of purposeful excitement lifts my heart and quickens my pace.
I burst through the apartment door and clatter up the staircase, snatching up my goggles and apron and laying my hands on the stone. I can see the fierce and graceful arch of Nekhbet’s wings, the elongated curve of her neck. And I know that this is the path I’ve chosen. This is who I am, and where I belong.
Picking up a file and chisel, I get to work.