Phoenix Rising
By Janet Lynne

Part 2

See Part 1 for disclaimers

-3-

"Devon, my good woman," Jim said brightly as he plopped into the co-pilot's seat. "Are you going to tell me about it?" He glanced over at his dearest friend and then back out the viewscreen to the void beyond.

His friend looked tiredly at him. "Tell you about what, Jim?"

"About what has you in this foul mood. Now, normally, you're not the most jubilant person I know, but this is bad, even for you. What is it, Devon?" His concern showed in his eyes as he gazed at Devon.

She sighed and leaned back against the back of her comfortable chair. "I didn't sleep well, that's all."

"Hell, Devon, you never sleep well. Why was last night so different?"

She turned and gazed pointedly at her Engineer for several long moments before replying, "It was the thoughts running through my goddamned space-warped brain, that's what." She returned her gaze to the course that lay before them and watched the unmoving presence of the stars that lay beyond their system…so far away that their position never changed when they traveled at in-system, less than dimensional speeds.

Jim waited for clarification, but received none. "Well?"

"Well what? Can't my own goddamned, jumbled thoughts be my own?" She snapped.

He nodded. "Sure, Dev. Absolutely. I don't want to pry." He gazed back out at the stars and was quiet for a long while before adding, "Those thoughts wouldn't be concerning a certain cute, young doctor, would they?"

"God damn it, Jim! Mind your own fucking business for once, will you?" Incensed blue eyes fairly pinned him to his seat.

"I would, Devon, if I didn't think you were about to blow the best thing that ever happened to you."

"What?" The woman screamed, incredulous.

"You heard me."

"Towner, you don't know what the hell you're talking about," Devon grumbled.

"I know that she cares for you, and you must care for her too, since you're acting like a goddamned idiot, and the only time you act this way is when you're in love. Plus, I can feel the electricity between you too. You're a damn fool if you don't feel it and you're a double damn fool if you try to ignore it."

He stood up and gazed down at his sullen friend. "I'm only half psychic, but even I'm picking up on the connection between you two, and these things only happen once in a lifetime, if even that often, so think seriously about what you're doing, Devon." He moved to the door and palmed it open, then stood in the hatchway. Looking back at his friend he added, "You've only got one friend, Dev, and I'm not going to live forever...you should see about trying to get another."

"Shouldn't you be in Engineering monitoring the engines? We reach maximum velocity in a few hours."

"Yes, I should be." He turned and left the bridge, the door sliding shut behind him, leaving Devon in the solitude she pretended to love so much.

Then go do your job and leave me the hell alone.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"Have a nice sleep, Mrs. Sakai. I'll see you when we reach Mars." The doctor smiled kindly down at her patient as she lay in the chamber.

"Thank you, Doctor. Have a nice voyage."

"I'll do that, thanks. I'm going to sedate you now and then I'll seal the chamber."

The woman nodded and Kara pressed a key on the pad, injecting the medication into the woman's body through the I.V. in her hand. She watched for a few minutes as the older woman fell into a peaceful sleep. I wish I could make the rest of this run asleep.

She finished the tasks necessary to seal the woman safely in hypersleep and left the quarters. Her stomach let her know that it was past dinner time and she hadn't eaten, so after stopping in Medical to update her file on Mrs. Sakai, she made her way to the mess hall.

As she entered, Kara saw that Cyd was sitting alone at the large table, eating, while Rusty and Chad watched a vid together on one of the couches. She waved a friendly hello to the co-pilot, who returned the wave with her fork, and went to the galley to heat her meal. She stood in front of the pantry locker and perused the selections. Hmm, beef, chicken, pork or fish? Chicken tonight, I think…with noodles. And juice. She re-hydrated her meal and put the steaming packet on a tray, then grabbed a cookie from the large storage jar on the counter and picked up her juice, joining Cyd.

"May I, Cyd?" She enquired as she stood by the table.

Cyd smiled widely as she said, "Yes, please!" And patted the table next to her. "It's nice to have company. And pleasant company at that." She winked at Kara and smiled warmly at her.

"Why thank you!" Kara said brightly. "I could say the same thing. What are you having?" She asked as she leaned over to gaze at her new friend's plate.

"Beef stroganoff, and it's not bad. Andropoulos apparently doesn't spare the expense when she requisitions food."

"Mm, that's good, because I consider eating one of the greatest pleasures in life."

"Not the greatest pleasure, I hope," Cyd stated charmingly, eliciting a mild blush from Kara.

"No, not the greatest, but close!" She dug into her chicken, hoping the embarrassing turn to the conversation had run its course.

Devon walked down the long corridor that ran the length of the ship, preoccupied with thoughts that she would really rather not be having. As she neared the mess hall, she heard cheerful voices and happy laughter and was just thinking, I'm glad someone's happy, when she entered the mess to see Kara and Cyd eating together and visiting merrily. She noted the happy vibes that were surrounding them and thought sullenly, good, maybe they'll hook up and I'll be off the hook…no fucking pun intended.

The Captain strode across the mess hall, pointedly ignoring her crewmembers and went into the galley. She wasn't hungry but knew that she should eat something. She grabbed a food packet without noting what it was and prepared it as she spared a glance at the two women. Kara laughed at something Cyd said and touched her arm, leaning into her. Devon was struck by an irrational bolt of jealousy and she thought, she's flirting! She's fucking flirting with her. She shook her head and finished preparing her meal, too preoccuied with her morose thoughts to notice when Kara joined her in the galley.

"Captain, will you eat with us?" She asked brightly, laying a warm hand on Devon's back.

"No, I will not. I'm on bridge duty. Good night, Doctor," she snapped, leaving Kara standing in the galley. As she made her way back out of the hall, she said, "Mitchell, spell me in four hours, please. I need to get some sleep tonight."

"Aye, Captain."

Devon walked back down the quiet corridor toward the bridge, still feeling the warmth on her back from where the other woman had touched her. I need to avoid her. That's all I can do. And if she doesn't leave me alone, I'll fire her ass and leave her to find her way back from Mars on her own. Her mood was not improved in the least when she thought about said ass, and how undeniably cute it was.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

I must be an idiot, or a masochist, Kara thought as she made her way to the bridge some time later. She was drawn to the dark woman, as both her concerned physician and as her friend…or at least, she wanted them to be friends. She wanted them to be more, actually, but she had begun to dare not even hope for that eventuality. She depressed the pad and the door slid open.

The bridge was dark, lit only by the glow from the controls on the console. The green and amber lights of nominally operating equipment provided just enough illumination for her to make out the tall figure stretched out in the pilot's seat. It was turned slightly so that long legs could be stretched out more comfortably, to the side.

"You're a half hour early, Mitchell," the deep voice reported tiredly.

"It's not Mitchell, Captain, it's Kara," she replied quietly.

The reclining figure sat up stiffly and turned back toward the console. "Doctor, what can I do for you?"

"I'm concerned that you're not sleeping. Is there anything I can do?"

Other than curl up next to me and rock me to sleep? Sennaat… "No, I don't think so. Doctor, it's just the normal stress of beginning a new run. It will improve in a day or so, I'm sure."

Kara leaned back against the bridge door, assessing the situation. She didn't believe Devon, but knew she had to tread lightly with the complex woman. "I have a cup of chamomile tea for you. May I sit and drink mine with you?"

The Captain sighed audibly before turning her chair toward the doctor. She gazed at the small woman quietly, admiring her as she leaned nonchalantly against the door, the soft lights of the cabin highlighting her features most attractively. "Sure, thanks," she said as she indicated the empty co-pilot's seat.

Kara smiled, and Devon thought that it lit the cabin perceptibly. I have got to get a grip. She reached for the mug, her favorite, she noticed, and their fingers grazed again. Kara gently wrapped her fingers around Devon's, just briefly, and smiled warmly when the woman looked sharply into her face.

"Thanks," the Captain husked and brought the mug out of range of Kara's reach.

"You're welcome." Kara sat and sipped from her tea and turned to glance at the huge console before them. "I've never been on a bridge before."

"Never?" Asked Devon, surprised.

"No. I've actually done very little in the way of space travel. Only to Mars and the moon and back a few times. I, um, don't fly well," she added, somewhat embarrassed.

"Really? There's nothing to it. It's actually safer than traveling in aircars planetside."

Kara chuckled, "Yes, I've heard that, but aircars don't fall miles out of the sky, or disappear into unknown dimensions."

"Well, you don't have to worry when flying with me."

"So I've heard." Devon could feel Kara's smile as much as see it in the dim space.

"Oh, and who told you that?" She asked, interested, as she sipped at her tea, enjoying it very much.

"A certain Chief Engineer. He was bragging about your success. He seems like a good friend, Devon."

"Mm, yes. He is. I've known him all my life. He was, uh, a better father to me than my own was." As she sipped at her tea, she realized that the younger woman had addressed her by her first name, but curiously, she noted that it didn't bother her. In fact… "Sorry, did you say something else?"

Kara chuckled. "Yes, I said that Jim mentioned that your father was, or is, an Admiral in the Space Fleet."

"Oh, yes. Is. He uh, wasn't around a lot when I was a kid. My mom was in the Fleet too, and I usually shipped out with her."

"I see. So you were a Fleet brat, huh?" She smiled around her cup.

Devon chuckled, a thoroughly pleasant sound, and said, "Brat is right. I'm surprised that some of my mom's crewmembers didn't space me. Sennaat, I was a pest." She shook her head as old memories returned.

"Was she a Captain?"

"Yes, and a Commander. She, um, died several years ago...in service."

"Oh, Devon, I'm so sorry." The obvious concern and caring in Kara's voice warmed Devon and she closed her eyes, letting the warmth permeate her being for a few moments.

God, this woman makes me feel good…"Thank you. It was very hard. Still is, actually." She sipped at her tea and spared a glance at her friend.

"I know how it is…I've lost both my parents." Kara offered sadly.

"What happened?" Devon asked quietly, shocked that she actually did care.

"An accident. Did you, um, hear about that bad shuttle accident seven years ago? At the San Francisco Spaceport?"

"Sennaat, yes…they died in that?"

"Yes. They were coming to my joining ceremony on Mars." She added wistfully, "I should have taken it as an omen and called the thing off. It would have saved me endless heartache if I had." She looked up into concerned eyes, their blue having gone violet in the dim light. "I'm sorry, you probably don't want to hear the details of my personal life."

Devon shrugged. "I don't mind. If you want to share, go ahead." She looked down into her tea, wondering just what the hell she thought she was doing.

"Thanks. I believe very strongly that talking things out is therapeutic." She looked into Devon's glowing eyes and smiled shyly.

"You would…being a Psyche, I mean." She grinned, lighting her face from within and warming Kara's soul as well.

Kara laughed. "Absolutely! Well, um, I was contracted for seven years. She's not a bad woman, it was just a bad match. She basically just wanted me as support so she could do her research and not worry about supporting herself. I was in private practice and doing all right. I loved her, but I really didn't want a seven-year contract. I tried to talk her into starting with a three-year, but she wouldn't hear of it. I let her rope me into a seven-year. It ended three months ago and I can't express how happy I was to be out of it."

"Did she want to renew?"

"Oh, of course, even though we were no longer in love. But I stood my ground and left Mars....not before it got pretty messy, though. That's why I jumped at the chance to take this job. I desperately needed a big change in my life."

"I figured as much."

"So, what about you…ever been married?"

"Oh, God no! I, uh, avoid domestic situations like the Reticulan Plague. No, um, not even any long-term dalliances." She looked down into her drink again and back up into caring, dark green eyes. "I watched my parents badly abuse the concept of the marriage contract and decided at a very young age that I would never torture myself, or someone else, that way."

"Oh, I see."

"Well, um, this was good," she indicated her empty cup, "And I do feel more relaxed. Thank you." She checked the time readout on her console and said, "Mitchell should be here in a few minutes to relieve me."

"Oh, I should go then. It is quite late. Captain, can we have breakfast tomorrow…or lunch if that suits you better?"

Devon looked down at her hands and sighed, then said, "Kara, I appreciate what you're trying to do, but I really don't want any entanglements right now."

"What is it that you think I'm trying to do, Devon?"

"Become friendly, obviously."

"And you consider friendship an entanglement?"

"No…Sennaat. No, Kara, what I should have said is that I think that you want something from me that I can't give you…something beyond friendship."

Kara regarded her companion for a long moment before speaking. "Devon, since we're being honest, I'm going to go out on a very short and fragile limb and speak my mind." When no objection was forthcoming, she started, "Devon, I feel strongly that I need to tell you that I feel a connection with you that I've never felt with anyone else...ever. In fact, my intuition tells me that we have a very deep, very old bond and we didn't meet by mistake. And yes, I would like to explore that with you, because frankly, I think it could be wonderful, and I mean mind-bendingly wonderful, like neither of us has experienced in this life. However," she held up her hand as Devon tried to speak. "However, I am very perceptive and I do sense your unwillingness to become that close to me, so I will not push you. I care for you too much, already, to push you into something you feel you neither want nor need. I would like to be your friend, if that is possible, and I would ask you to please consider that option."

Devon leaned back in her chair and ran her hands through short, black hair that just rested above the collar of her flightsuit. "Jesus, you do believe in honesty, don't you? Kara, it's um, not so much unwillingness as fear, and I'm only just now admitting that to myself, so I will need time and patience, and I do not react well to being pushed. We can try the friendship thing, and see where that takes us, but honestly, I don't see myself being able to take that bigger step anytime soon. I'm sorry." She added, almost in a whisper, "And I care about you, too."

Kara's heart leapt at that statement, and Devon felt it. She actually felt Kara's emotion as she experienced a jolt of pure love for Devon. "Sennaat, Devon, I'm glad," Kara whispered, her voice hitching as the intense emotion she was feeling rose into her throat.

Devon was quiet for a moment before asking, "Kara, do you broadcast? Psychically?"

"No, I'm not a telepath, why?"

Devon shook her head, unable to believe what she was thinking much less that she was going to voice it aloud. "Because I would swear that I just felt your emotion…right here." She put her hand in the middle of her chest.

"In your heart center? Um, what did you feel?" She was almost afraid to know and not quite sure she wanted to hear it spoken.

"Um, well, uh…" she looked up and whispered, "Love."

Kara closed her eyes and dropped her chin to her chest. Jesus, Buddha, and Sennaat... Not looking up, she replied, quietly, "My God, we must be linked. Um, yes, that would be the emotion I just felt, yeah. I'm sorry."

Devon let out a breath and shook her head. "Don't be. I'm not. But it doesn't change anything, for now, and I'm sorry about that."

Kara swallowed hard. "It's okay, Devon. I understand." She rose and stood before her friend. "You didn't answer my question about breakfast."

Devon smiled, a crooked grin that warmed Kara from the soles of her feet to the top of her head. "Lunch would be better."

Kara returned the brilliant smile. "Lunch it is then. Sleep well, Devon."

"You too, Kara." Tentatively, she reached for Kara's hand and when it was given, caressed if softly with her thumb, just for a moment. The tingling they experienced traveled up both women's arms and quickly spread to the rest of their bodies, not to abate for quite some time.

An hour later, while lying alone in their beds, both women realized, at the same instant, that they had fallen in love.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Devon awoke feeling refreshed after a relatively good night of rest. It had been short, and the revelation she had made to herself just before falling asleep had unsettled her some, but not as much as she would have surmised. Strangely, after admitting that she loved Kara, a warm peace had settled upon her and as she nodded off, she felt as if things were as they should be…finally. It wasn't quite a conscious thought on her part, but it was close and she settled into the peace happily, letting herself drift off into an uncharacteristically peaceful slumber.

As she stood in the shower and spread soap on her body, she recalled the dream that she had experienced just before waking. It was of that ancient life that she had apparently shared with Kara. They were on horseback, riding together as they had been in her vision a few days previously, but in the dream, she actually experienced what the warrior woman experienced…reliving it in the dream state. She and her mate, a small woman who looked just like Kara and had blonde hair just a little longer than Kara's, were riding together and then stopped for an extremely pleasant interlude in some tall, sweet-smelling grass. She shivered as she remembered the erotic details of the dream/memory, realizing that though she had had wild, exciting carnal adventures in her life, nothing she had experienced approached what the warrior woman had with her partner.

She was still filled with the feeling of love she had felt for that long-ago mate, and was shocked at its intensity. I had no idea that it was possible to feel love like that. Devon was shocked further still when she realized that she was beginning to experience that same depth of emotion for the woman she had only just met three days previously.

As she thought about Kara, and pictured her in her mind's eye, her hands began to roam over her body, and she gave into the desire, deciding to feel the emotion honestly. For a change. She was startled from her pleasant musing, however, when a message came over the communications unit set into the wall of the small head. She stuck her head out of the shower stall and loudly replied, "Andropoulos here."

"Dev, Jim. I need you in Engineering when you have a moment, please."

"Problem, Jim?"

"Not serious, but it requires your attention."

"I'll be right there. Out."

She quickly finished her shower, determining that she would continue to examine the Kara situation when she had another spare moment to devote to it. The fact that she intended to continue to examine it was shocking in itself…she had tended, when in the situation previously with others, to run from it as fast as she could, both in her mind and physically, not wanting to become deeply involved. Never wanting to become deeply involved.

Stepping out of the shower unit, she grabbed a towel and dried quickly, then slipped into her bra shirt and briefs before shrugging into a fresh flightsuit. I'm glad I'm meeting her for lunch. I want to see her again. Jesus, Buddha, and Sennaat…do I know what I'm doing? She shook her head as she pulled on her boots and then left her quarters.

As she made her way down the corridor, she stuck her head into the Medlab to see what was up, or rather, to see who might be up, and was pleased when Kara looked up from her desk and smiled warmly at her.

"Good morning."

"Morning. I um, am needed in Engineering but I'll see you later for lunch, right?" The tough spacer asked almost shyly.

Her friend's warm grin answered the question for her. "Yes, absolutely. I'm not letting you out of it!"

"I don't want out of it. Bye." She graced Kara with a charming lopsided grin and waved before striding on her way.

"Bye, Devon," Kara said to the empty air where she had been standing, then sat back in her chair and enjoyed the rush of warmth that was flooding her system. Jesus…I've got it bad. She took a deep breath and tried to refocus on her work, but fifteen minutes later, she realized that she had read the same paragraph five times, and decided that a change of scenery was in order.

Devon strode purposefully down the corridor, past the passenger section where all of her passengers currently resided in hypersleep, and through the airlock into the cargo section. She slowed her pace and pushed off from the closed hatch, electing to sail across the large space instead of magnetizing her boots and walking across the metal floor. She reached the handhold at the far airlock and pulled herself to a stop, settling to the floor.

She exited into the Engineering section, feeling the drag on her body as gravity three quarters what it was on Earth reestablished itself in the revolving section. She passed the first door, which opened into Jim's quarters and strode into the large open section, which was filled with consoles, computers, and equipment. Rusty and Chad both sat at terminals and were intently focused on some task or another.

Jim, who was hunched over a terminal near the plexi partition in front of the huge, twin ion engines, looked up as Devon entered and motioned for her to join him.

She greeted him brightly, saying, "What's up, Jim?"

He looked her up and down, having been expecting to find her still in a foul mood, and finally, crossing his arms over his chest, he grinned, and said, "If I didn't know better, I'd think that you'd been laid." He was astonished at her mild blush, and his mouth dropped open. "No! You and Kara? Already?"

Devon frowned. "No!" But added with a small, abashed smile, "Not yet, anyway. What did you need to show me?"

"Not yet? Don't leave me hanging with that one, my dear. Spill it."

"Shit, Jim, we had a talk is all. Um, apparently you were right...there does seem to be some sort of bond between us." She held up her finger and pointed it in his face as she added, "But we're taking it slow! Now butt out of my business and show me whatever the hell it is that you need to show me."

She was unprepared for the hug he gave her and looked positively put out by it, frowning deeply. "Christ, Jim…"

"Okay, back to business. I ran a diagnostic on the dimensional drive during the night last night and it identified a problem."

"Oh, what is it?"

"Nothing major, actually, just an imbalance in the Reticulan-Tesla coils. I traced the problem to a faulty logic board. Unfortunately, I don't have a spare on board. We'll need to pick one up. I would highly recommend against doing a dimensional shift until it is replaced."

"I should think," Devon remarked dryly. "Okay, write up a requisition and we'll take care of it at Intrepid Base."

"Done, thanks, Dev." He punched in a command and turned away from the terminal. "So, you want to tell me about this little talk you and the nice doctor had, over lunch, perhaps?"

Devon looked embarrassed, something Jim had never, ever seen her do, as she replied, "Um, sorry, but it seems that I'm meeting the nice doctor for lunch."

Her friend beamed at her as he clapped her on the back. "Well done, Dev. Well done! Dinner then."

"Dinner." She nodded and smiled warmly at him before turning to leave the section.

My God, she is definitely in love, and not in a way that I've ever seen before. She's a different woman. It's about time. He smiled at his thought and returned to his computations.

Kara had decided that a little mid-morning exercise would provide her with the change of scenery she desired, so she headed to the mess hall to use the treadmill. She had inserted a favorite vid and was watching it as she ran. Her mind was not on it, however, as it had not been on her work. Her thoughts kept straying to the dark, beautiful, enigmatic Captain, and she found herself reveling in the revelation that she had fallen in love. I know she's spooked by this, so I'll be very careful, but I will not deny my feelings for her…to myself or to anyone else who may ask. I felt something the second I laid eyes on her and it has grown steadily into this wonderful, warm, fuzzy devotion. And desire.

She sighed as she ran, enjoying the rhythm of her footfalls on the soft, pliant surface. She fell into a relaxed rhythm as she pounded out the miles and didn't feel the admiring eyes that were focused on her. Not right away, that is. As she ran, she began to feel a curious warmth in her heart center…her heart chakra…that was reminiscent of what she had felt in Devon's presence since they had first met. She inclined her head slightly, trying to gauge what she was feeling. It's Devon…she's nearby.

Kara turned slightly and looked toward the doorway. There, Devon stood, transfixed, watching her run, and Kara gasped, "My God, I felt you watching me." She shook her head. "I mean, I knew that you were nearby."

Devon closed her eyes, then sighed deeply and looked at the floor before looking back up at Kara. "And I felt that you were in here as I approached…long before I heard the treadmill." She shook her head and entered the room. As she strode toward Kara, she enjoyed immensely the sight of her in her tight bra-shirt and shorts.

Kara reached down to switch off the machine and grabbed the towel she had hung over the handlebar. Stepping off the slowing tread, she wiped the perspiration from her face. Looking at Devon sincerely, she quietly stated, "Our heart centers are linked, and not by a simple cord. This is something unlike anything I have ever experienced, even as a medical intuitive. We each can feel when the other is nearby, you can feel what I'm feeling...wait…Gods." She looked openly into Devon's beautiful face and whispered, "I can feel what you're feeling, too." She looked at the floor and swallowed hard before saying, "The feeling is very mutual, Devon."

"Oh, and what feeling would that be?"

Green eyes sparkled up at her. "Do you really want me to say it out loud?"

Devon chuckled. "No, actually. I'm not sure I'm ready for that. But, um, I'm sure you picked up on the emotion correctly." She pinned Kara with her deep, blue gaze, to the point where the blonde would have happily, joyously, drowned in it, and then smiled rakishly.

"Oh, my God, Devon, don't smile at me like that."

"Why not?" She asked jauntily.

"Because something will happen that neither of us are ready for…that's why not."

"Yes," Devon stiffened. "Okay. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to tease. Especially when I'm the one who wants to explore this slowly. Supposedly."

"Right. It's okay. I, um, should get back to the Medlab. It's about time to check the readouts on the cryo units."

"Yes, and I really should relieve Mitchell. I'll see you back here for lunch. 13:00?"

"That sounds perfect. Have a good day, Devon."

"I already am, Doctor."

-4-

Devon made herself a strong cup of black tea and made her way to the bridge, mildly preoccupied, but happily so. The door slid open before her and she stated in a businesslike fashion, "Status?"

"All systems nominal, Captain."

"Fine, Mitchell. Get some rest and report again in six hours. Another night shift won't be necessary, but I'd like to train you to run diagnostics and introduce you to some of my flight procedures."

"Aye, Captain."

"Dismissed." She nodded curtly and took her seat, setting her tea on the console beside her chair as she heard the door slide shut. Devon's hands began running expertly over the consoles, beginning her daily routine of checks and maintenance, so used to the routine that she could do it in her sleep.

"SysComp. Bridge. Music. Schumann's Fourth Symphony."

The bridge cabin was filled with orchestral music and she sighed appreciatively. "Music volume, twenty-five percent." As the volume decreased slightly, she picked up her mug and leaned back in her chair, gazing out into the void in which she found so much solace, and retreated into her thoughts. Which were at that moment exceptionally pleasing.

Kara exited her quarters dressed again in her short, white lab coat over loose, comfortable flight slacks, which boasted numerous deep, zipped pockets. Returning to medical, she sat at her desk and resumed the work she had been trying to accomplish earlier. She was slightly more successful, but found her thoughts drifting to pleasant matters often. Rather than fight them, she let them be, reveling in the warmth they created, and then was able to refocus on her files for another short time.

"SysComp…location of crewman Lorenzo."

"Scanning," replied the mechanically feminine voice that inhabited the ship's computer. After taking a few seconds to locate the chip imbedded in his ident card, the machine replied, "Crewman Lorenzo is in the mess hall."

She resisted the usual urge to thank the machine and instead depressed a button on the comm unit. "Crewman Lorenzo, please report to Medlab at your convenience."

A few seconds later, a reply buzzed over the unit. "Will do, Doc." Thirty seconds later, the handsome young man bounded into Medical with a large grin. "Yes, Doc?"

Kara returned the grin. "I'd like to schedule a quick physical so that I can update your file."

"Sure, no problem. Is now good? I'm on break."

"Now would be fine. Have a seat." She indicated a chair beside her desk and he sat. She called up his file and as she gazed at her monitor, asked, "Is there any new information to be added since your last physical? Any injuries or illnesses that may not be noted here?"

"Nope, Doc. I'm as strong as a horse." He grinned rakishly at her and a small smile curled at her lips as she looked back at the screen. "All right, it is noted here that you haven't had an update of your fertility suppressors in a little over six months. Would you like another?"

"Oh, yes, Doc, absolutely. We've got shore leave in a few weeks." His winning smile tugged even at her decidedly non-bisexual heart.

"Fine. Do you need more hygiene aids?"

"Could always do with more of those."

"Good, I'm glad you make use of them. There's a new variant of Titan type d Syphilis making the rounds. I'll give you a handful before you leave and feel free to ask for more whenever you need them."

"Will do, Kara." She looked at him from under raised eyebrows but smiled anyway before returning her attention to his file. "So, Kara. Can we share a meal some time?"

"Yes, Chad, I would like that. But, just so you know…I'm not bi. Any relationship between us would remain at the friendship level."

"Well, Kara, I'm disappointed, but I appreciate your honesty. Still, friendship is fine with me. Does, uh, the Captain know of your gender status?" He asked with a sly grin and a wink.

"Why do you ask that, Chad?" She asked, knowing full well why, but wanting to hear it anyway.

He shrugged. "It's no secret…she's not bi either, mostly. Maybe you two can get together. Come to think of it, she's partial to blondes. I wish she would hook up…she'd probably be a hell of a lot nicer."

"Thanks for the information, Chad. Now, come sit on a bed for me, please." She gestured toward the adjoining section, where five diagnostic beds were situated and followed him in. She proceeded to give him a quick medical exam, her pleasant thoughts of her newly rediscovered soulmate receding to the back of her mind for the time being.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Devon finished a tactical diagnostic and glanced at the time. 12:50. Good enough. I'll finish this later. She keyed in the commands to note her place in the simulation and picked up her mug before standing. She gave the flight console a quick visual going over, then, satisfied that the ship was flying itself nominally, turned and left the bridge.

As she strode toward the mess hall, she felt an acute excitement and a little anxiety. Jesus, I haven't felt like this since I was fifteen and visiting my first pro. She shook her head, disbelieving what she was allowing to happen, but also knowing full well that she couldn't fight it. She, in fact, no longer wished to fight it. Sennaat…give me the strength to see this through without hurting either one of us, please. Grace to you. She nodded her head in reverence as she voiced the silent prayer.

When she reached Medlab, she peeked in, and noting Kara's absence, continued on to the mess hall. Entering, she happily noted that Kara was in the galley, and unhappily noted that everyone else in the crew, except the presumably sleeping Mitchell, was at the table, eating. Jesus…everyone would take a late lunch today. Shit… She joined her friend in the galley and was graced with a brilliant smile that warmed her nearly beyond belief.

"Captain."

"Doctor." Devon glanced quickly toward the large table and seeing that they were all intent on their lively discussion, looked back at Kara and smiled winningly at her. In a low voice, she asked, "Kara, would you mind if we ate in the Medlab? I, uh, would like a little more privacy than this."

"That would be fine. Actually, I've been delaying joining them for that same reason." She grinned up at her taller friend. "They're probably wondering what I can possibly be fixing that is taking so long."

Devon laughed quietly. "Good. Well, um, why don't you make your excuses and I'll make mine and meet you there." She pinned Kara with glittering sapphire eyes and an amused grin.

"Sounds good. I'll see you in a few minutes, then."

"Okay," Devon replied with a very uncharacteristic softness. She watched as Kara exited the galley station and made her way toward the door.

"Hey, Doc, where ya going?" Chad called.

"Oh, I'm in the middle of updating my records…I'd like to get right back to it. I'm used to eating at my desk. See you all later."

"Later," he called as Rusty nodded and Jim glanced conspiratorially at his friend standing in the galley. She pointedly ignored the look she knew she was receiving and a few minutes later, she carried her tray toward the door.

"You too busy, too, Cap?" The friendly young cargo handler asked.

"Yep, running tactical sims."

"Later, then."

She nodded as she made a show of sipping at her juice and left the room. A moment later, she entered the Medlab and palmed the door shut behind her, then turned to see a smiling Kara sitting at her desk. She returned the smile and sat beside Kara in the chair indicated, setting her small tray on a clear portion of the desk.

"It was a good idea eating in here, Devon. It's much quieter."

"Mm, much less crowded, too. I have a great crew, but I don't want to spend every minute with them, you know?"

Kara nodded as she added, "And, well, I wanted to eat with you alone."

"Yes, well, there is that, too," Devon added with a smug grin.

Their eyes met and they both noted the gentle, comfortable tugging at their heart centers before looking back down at their meals. They ate in companionable silence for several minutes before Kara, naturally, spoke up.

"So, um, I'm curious, Devon. You mentioned that we might make a run to B. Ret. Do you do a lot of trading with the Reticulans?"

"I do, actually. Early in my military career, I was assigned as a liaison in the Ambassadorial Office and I made some contacts there that have proven to be valuable. I'm still the only free trader that they do business with. I, um, respect them, and their ways, and of course, they know that, being telepaths, and they know also that I'm honest, so I'm welcome there."

Kara nodded, interested. "I've noticed that you refer to Sennaat a lot. Do you practice their spirituality too?"

Devon nodded as she sipped her juice. "I entertain elements of the philosophy, yes, though I don't really practice any particular religion. Though, I am adept at meditation and fighting arts, and I've attained pretty high levels of both."

Kara's eyebrows rose and she nodded. "Yes, so have I. And I feel pretty much the same way about my spirituality. I recognize the truth in the teachings of Sennaat, Buddha, and Jesus…realizing, of course that they were all the same energy! But I don't identify with any of the organized religious factions or adhere to their practices."

"Not so many people do anymore, since the dawning of the New Era…I mean, what's the point? The Grays pointed out that we are all one; that we are all spiritual beings created by the same Creator; that we're all engaged in karmic and reincarnational cycles, playing the "Human Game", or the "Reticulan Game", or the "Martian Game", as the case may be; and all eventually return to the Creator and add our life experiences to the tapestry."

"Mm, hm. Absolutely. I guess, at this point, almost a hundred and twenty years after First Contact, it's the lesser evolved souls who cling to the old ideas out of fear."

"Mm, yes. Fear of change. Also known as 'stubbornness'." Devon chuckled, but then cleared her throat gently before asking, "So, Kara, if we do make the Reticulan run, do you think you would be joining us?" Devon's tone was nonchalant, but she found herself holding her breath awaiting her new friend's answer.

Kara looked down at her food for a moment, then back into the eyes she had grown to love in such a short time, answering honestly, "Devon, at this moment I am very much looking forward to spending as much time as I can as a member of this crew."

Devon closed her eyes briefly and basked in the pleasure that Kara's statement evoked. "Kara, I can't tell you how happy I am to hear that."

Kara covered her Captain's large hand with hers as she remarked, "You don't have to Devon…I can feel it."

"Gods," Devon breathed as the electricity elicited by their shared touched spread the length of her body instantaneously. She removed her hand from under Kara's and lifted it to her cheek.

Kara leaned into the warm touch and sighed, "I know…I'm feeling it, too."

Devon was overcome by the warm sensations flooding her body. Her furiously pounding heart aided the spread of the warmth, and her hand trembled where it touched Kara's cheek. Softly, she said, "I need to explore this with you, Kara. I can't believe it, but I do. This is a step that I've never in my life taken with anyone else, but I'm so strongly drawn to you that I can't ignore it."

"Then don't, please," Kara breathed.

Devon answered her by leaning forward slowly and kissing her softly. Though the kiss was very gentle, the passion it ignited was not, and Devon found herself quickly overcome, as a very long-dormant passion erupted from her heart and sexual chakras simultaneously. She broke the kiss and pulled back slightly, gazing into the green depths of Kara's eyes for just an instant before leaning in again and capturing her lips more passionately. As she brought her hands up to gently cradle Kara's face, she brushed her tongue gently against her soft lips, which parted, granting it entrance. Kara grasped Devon's shoulders, pulling her closer as their tongues met and danced together. They savored and explored each other through the kiss for several minutes, until both women were breathless.

"Gods!" Devon gasped as she broke for air.

"Sennaat," Kara breathed as she held onto Devon. A passion unlike any she had ever experienced was burning through her body, threatening to overcome her.

"All of the prophets, Kara, every damn one you can name." Devon leaned into her friend again and rested her forehead against her temple, only to be pulled into a loving embrace. They sat together that way for many long minutes, both enjoying the warmth of the bond they shared and the blossoming love they had initiated.

Devon Andropoulos' tortured soul was set upon the path of healing then, as she accepted the love of her soulmate. She took a moment to feel absolutely amazed, as did her guiding spirits, at how quickly she had succumbed to the undeniable love that was pulling at her soul.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Over the ensuing week, both the Captain and the Doctor were so busy with their duties that they hadn't time to get together again, excepts for three shared tea breaks together, which included a few quick, stolen kisses, but nothing more intense. Devon was busy tutoring her new second-in-command on her ship's procedures, as well as teaching her tactical and defensive flight maneuvers, while Kara was deeply involved in administering physical exams to each of the crew, updating her files, and creating her hydroponics lab.

On flight day seven, both women found themselves caught up with their work by the end of the work day and shortly before dinnertime, Devon called into the Medlab.

"Doctor, Captain Andropoulos here. Can you speak freely?"

Kara smiled. "Yes, Devon, go ahead."

"Good. I'm finished for the day…you don't happen to be free for dinner do you?" The anticipation in her voice was obvious, and Kara smiled.

"I am free, thank you. What do you have in mind?"

"Dinner, my quarters, 1900 hours?"

"That sounds just fine. May I bring anything?"

"Nothing, other than your lovely self. Do you like pasta?"

"Oh, yes!"

"Perfect. 1900 hours, then."

"I'll see you then. I'm looking forward to it."

"So am I. Out."

Goodbye, Devon. Kara nearly rubbed her hands together in glee. She had missed interacting with her new friend all week and felt a deep need to spend some quality time with her. Some intensely personal quality time would do quite nicely. She closed her eyes and felt once more the deep love for Devon that had all but consumed her.

Devon actually did rub her hands together gleefully. Kara had mentioned that one of the things she missed most about not living planetside was the lack of fresh produce, and Devon had a nice surprise for her. She was shocked at how pleased she was at the prospect of pleasing Kara: she had never before placed anyone else's feelings or happiness before her own. But the thought of pleasing her new friend thrilled her.

Devon grabbed a quick shower and was putting the finishing touches on their meal when Kara buzzed the comm on her quarters door a few minutes early. Quickly licking a bit of white sauce from her finger, Devon made her way to the door and admitted her friend. The door slid open, revealing a smiling Kara holding a bottle of white wine.

Devon gestured her in as she said, "I told you that you didn't need to bring anything."

Kara laughed. "I know, but I don't like to show up empty handed, and besides, this is my favorite wine and I'd like to share it with you. It goes well with pasta."

"Well, thank you. I appreciate the gesture, and I will enjoy sharing it with you." She stepped forward almost awkwardly and reached for the bottle, then kissed Kara's cheek as she whispered in her ear, "I'm glad you're here…I've missed you."

Kara's heart lurched at the feel of Devon's breath in her ear and she leaned against her. "I've missed you too, Devon. Very much."

Devon pulled her into an embrace and kissed the top of her head. "Yeah, it was one of those weeks. It should be pretty calm cruising these next few weeks before we make Mars."

"Good," Kara replied as she nuzzled Devon's warm chest. They both basked in the love they were sharing and in the desire that that was beginning to cascade in their bodies, and neither wanted to move.

"God, Kara, you feel good," Devon said as she held Kara close and caressed her back with her free hand.

"Mm, so do you. I've needed this, Devon." She pulled back and looked up into Devon's brilliant eyes. "I don't mean to push, honestly, but I needed some contact with you."

Devon grasped Kara's chin gently as she said, "Kara, we are beyond the point of my not wanting to be pushed by you. I need you in my life and will not fight it anymore." She sealed her statement with a tender kiss, which quickly began to deepen. "God," she sighed after ending it, as a fire began to burn in her groin, and she felt herself swelling with need. She pulled back and grinned lopsidedly at Kara. "I'd better, um, finish dinner."

Kara grinned up at her. "Okay, I'm hungry."

"So am I," Devon drawled as she turned and pulled Kara by the hand over to her tiny galley area, and Kara knew that she wasn't talking about being hungry for pasta.

When they reached the counter, Kara saw the makings of a fresh salad strewn about the cutting board. "Vegetables!" Looking at Devon happily, she added, "You have fresh vegetables?"

Devon grinned widely. "I do...but only for special occasions and very special guests."

"I'm so glad I rate. Thank you, Devon, so much. That's a wonderful surprise. Here, let me chill that while you finish dinner. I'm sorry I was a little early." She held out her hand for the wine.

"I'm not. I hope you like Alfredo sauce."

"Oh, my God, yes. I love any type of pasta with any type of sauce, but I think Alfredo is my favorite."

"Good. Funny…I had a feeling you would like it."

"I guess you know me well already."

"I want to, Kara…very much." Devon replied seriously.

Kara wrapped her arms around Devon's strong waist as she replied, "And you will, if I have anything to say about it."

"Say yes."

Kara grinned widely and exclaimed dramatically, "Yes, Devon...a thousand times, yes!"

Devon pulled her close as she breathed, "God, you are my kind of woman."

"I'm so glad of that," Kara said softly as she gazed up into Devon's eyes.

"Sennaat, Kara…I may not get this dinner finished if we keep on like this."

"Well, we can't have that…I'm hungry. However, dessert may be another matter." She added coyly.

Devon's heart rate shot off the chart and she groaned as she closed her eyes. My idea exactly, Kara. No confection that I could whip up could even approach your sweetness. Kara helpfully turned her back around to face the counter and left her to her preparations, settling herself on the comfortable sofa.

Looking around her, she admired Devon's quarters. The space was sparsely but stylishly decorated and seemed to suit her perfectly. The predominant color was navy blue, which matched her crew's flightsuits and was represented within her company's colors. Her decent-sized bed was tucked into the far corner opposite the entrance, behind a privacy screen, and a comfortable-looking chair sat next to it. The small head was tucked into the wall nearest the bed, and the opposite wall sported her desk and shelving units. Beside, them, tucked into the corner was a small altar area, which held a small, bubbling water fountain, a few quartz stones, and an incense holder. Across from that, off of the living area, sat the L-shaped galley area, with three tall chairs sitting at one of the counters. The main part of the living area contained the sofa and several soft chairs that surrounded a low table. Presently, thick pillows sat on the floor around the table, which was set with two place settings, sitting intimately side by side.

As she admired her attractive friend, who looked very nice in loose flight pants and sleeveless shirt, Kara remarked appreciatively, "Your quarters are very nice, Devon. They're really very spacious."

"Thanks, I think they suit me," Devon said as she carried a tray to the low table and set it down. She admired Kara's form as well. She was also attired in the comfortable white flight pants and a loose-fitting sweater.

"They do. Is there anything I can help you with?"

"Nope," she said as she returned to the galley for the wine. She read the label as she carried it over. "Oh, Kara, I like this variety, too. Good choice."

"Well, like you said, I thought you would like it."

"I guess we both know each other's tastes already." She held her hand down to her friend and helped her to her feet.

"I guess we do," Kara said as she looked into her new love's beautiful eyes. She noted that Devon seemed shorter and looked down to find bare feet. "Hey, you're shorter without your boots on. How tall are you, anyway?" She asked impishly.

"Just under six feet…without my boots. You?" Accompanied by a jaunty grin.

Kara grinned. "Just under five and a half feet…without my boots."

"I like it."

"Oh, you like that I'm shorter than you are?" Kara asked playfully.

"Mm, hm. Here, I'll show you. Kick off your shoes." She waited for Kara to do so and opened her arms, inviting Kara into her embrace, where she settled happily. Devon laid her cheek against soft, blonde hair and sighed. "See, perfect fit."

"Yes," said Kara as her head lay cradled against Devon's shoulder. Her breasts fit perfectly beneath Devon's and they complimented each other in size. "Perfect." They stood together, enjoying the wonderful sensation of holding each other for several minutes, until Devon cleared her throat and stepped back.

"Come on." She led Kara to the table and helped her to settle at one end, then settled her own long frame beside her, tucking her legs agilely beneath herself.

Devon poured first Kara's wine and then her own, then picked up her glass and offered a toast. "Here's to the beginning of a beautiful relationship."

"Yes, to us."

"To us." As they sipped their wine, their eyes met and locked, and they both knew, without a doubt, that they were home. Finally, truly home.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"Oh, my God, Devon…I'm stuffed. I couldn't eat another bite."

"Come on, one more bite," Devon said playfully as she offered Kara a morsel of salad from her plate.

"One more, but only because you're feeding it to me," she said just before opening her mouth to admit Devon's fork. The salad was followed up with a tender kiss. "Mm, that was the best part."

"Well, here's another then." She leaned forward and shared another kiss with Kara, savoring her lips as she never had anything in her life. "God, Kara, you taste good," she breathed after pulling back.

"So do you, my love."

Devon closed her eyes and swallowed hard, and when she opened her eyes again, they were misty. "That is the best thing I've ever heard in my entire sorry life. Thank you."

"Thank you, Devon, for taking the chance."

"I had no choice in the matter, Kara. Absolutely no choice." She leaned back against the couch and expelled a deep breath. "Wow. I'm stuffed too. I'm going to have to hold off on dessert for a while."

"That's fine with me, Devon. I'm in no hurry to leave…unless you would rather I didn't stay late."

Devon hesitated a moment before replying, "Since we seem to have based this relationship on complete honesty, I'll tell you that I am in no hurry for this evening to end, Kara." She took another sip of her wine and added pointedly, "In fact, it can go on forever."

"God, Devon..."

"Come on," Devon said as she gracefully stood. Let's sit where its comfortable." She helped Kara to her feet and they settled together on the couch. Devon leaned forward and refilled both their wine glasses, emptying the bottle, and handed Kara hers before settling against the back of the seat and pulling Kara gently against her.

They sat quietly together in a comfortable silence, digesting their meals and just enjoying being in each other's presence. Kara noted that the warmth she had felt previously in her heart center had continued unabated all evening and she realized for the first time that it was Devon's energy signature. She was an adept, gifted in the use of energy for healing and diagnosis, yet had never encountered such a feeling before. She closed her eyes and centered herself, then reached out with her second sight, and when she opened her eyes again, she saw a brilliant golden glow linking her heart center with Devon's. As well, the glow surrounded them, as if bathing them within it's loving embrace, and expanded outward, nearly filling the living area.

"Sennaat, Devon," she quietly gasped.

"What is it, Kara?" Devon asked, concerned, looking down at the woman resting against her.

"I can see our bond. It's amazing. It's…breathtaking. It links us, surrounds us, and fills most of this room."

"I can feel it, Kara. It's the most wonderful thing I've ever experienced." She kissed the top of the lovely head cradled against her and then nuzzled it with her cheek. "But there is something even more wonderful and beautiful that I want to experience with you…if you're ready."

Kara closed her eyes as she responded. "I'm very ready, Devon. So ready. I feel that I've been waiting my whole life for this."

"I know I have, Kara. Of that I no longer have any doubt." She set her wineglass down and removed Kara's from her hand, setting it beside hers on the table in front of them. Gazing into her eyes, she declared softly, "I love you, Kara. May I make love to you? Please?"

Kara caressed the cheek of the woman she considered the most beautiful in the galaxy as she whispered, "And I love you, Devon. Yes, please let's make love to each other."

Devon pulled her love into a tight embrace as emotion and tears overcame her. "God...I haven't cried since I was a baby…not even when my mother died…and look at me."

Kara did look at her, and wiped away her tears as she did so. "There's nothing wrong or weak about crying, Devon. Let it out. I've got you."

Devon did let it out, for a short time, trusting herself to Kara as she had no other and eliciting tears from Kara as well, and they held each other as they let the strong emotion flow. A few minutes later, Devon pulled back and quietly said, "Thank you," before kissing Kara.

Kara deepened the kiss, pulling Devon close, and hands began to roam sensuously as tongues played and explored. They necked passionately, getting to know each other and basking in the glow of the special love they shared. Devon ran her hands under Kara's shirt and caressed the soft skin of her back, and Kara moaned into Devon's mouth.

"I want you, Kara."

"Yes."

Devon stood, still kissing her younger mate and led her to the sleeping area. "Lights, low," she commanded softly and the room complied. As they stood next to the bed, she kissed Kara again and pulled her close, running large hands tenderly down her body, loosening clothing as she did so. Kara raised her arms and her shirt was pulled off, revealing beautiful, full, pink-tipped breasts.

"Oh, God, Kara," Devon breathed as she gazed at her, then pulled Kara close again and kissed her deeply, communicating physically the love she felt for her. Kara pulled at Devon's shirt and managed to pull it off as well, only breaking their kiss for a brief moment. Lovely, full, dark-red nippled breasts crushed against her as their deep kiss continued. Devon ran her hands under the waistband of Kara's pants and pushed them down, falling to her knees to help them to the floor, and pulling her briefs off with them.

She buried her lips against Kara's stomach and moaned, then kissed her way up to a pert breast, running her tongue around the excited nipple. Kara buried her fingers in Devon's hair and moaned, encouraging her, and Devon continued the loving assault before pushing Kara gently onto the bed. She deftly removed her own lower garments and lowered herself to her lover's side.

Leaning down, she kissed Kara tenderly and reached a long arm down, gently caressing her skin in slow, downward moving circles. She gently, softly raked her fingers along Kara's inner thighs, eliciting a loud moan and spread legs. Devon responded by touching Kara where her need was greatest, starting with gentle circular caresses which then quickly became sensual strokes.

"Yes, Devon, thank you," Kara moaned, overcome by the pleasure sweeping her senses.

"My pleasure, baby. It's my great pleasure. I love you."

"Love…you…too. Oh, yes!" A gently inserted finger, accompanied by soft lips and tongue on her breast quickly sent her over the edge and she succumbed deliriously. "Devon…Devon…Devon…"

"Kara…" Devon was losing control just as quickly and took a deep breath to try to waylay the inevitable, just for a bit.

Kara perceived Devon's problem, and before her own waves of satiation had stilled, she rolled them over and began suckling and stroking erotically at Devon's breasts. "God, Kara…yes!" Devon fairly yelled, and Kara moved a loving hand down to tangle in soft, black curls. Her fingers skillfully found their mark and set Devon's release into motion. A few short minutes later, Devon was calling Kara's name…very loudly.

As her mate collapsed under her, weak and sated, Kara kissed her tenderly and remarked quietly, with a sly grin, "I hope the bulkheads are thick in this part of the ship."

Devon laughed deeply, and her laughter became tears of joy as she held her new mate. They cried and laughed and loved, and laughed and cried and loved again, repeatedly throughout the night, finally waking in each other's arms well into the next day shift, with a deep bond nearly as old as time reestablished.



Part 3

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