Chapter Twenty-Four

"Well, the stage is set, and the foundation is solid." Q said to his companion as they watched the now sleeping mates. "Nice work for a newbie."

"I've been around a lot longer than you have, Q." Dawn smirked at him. "I might not meddle with the lives of lesser beings, as you call them, but that doesn't mean that I don't know how."

"Do you think they can handle the obstacles in their path?"

"Kathryn Janeway and Buffy Summers can get out of impossible situations better than any other Champion I've ever seen. Between Kathryn's ability to outmaneuver her enemies, and Buffy's ability to pull off the improbable, I think they could finally clean up the problems of the Delta Quadrant once and for all." Dawm smoothed back damp blonde hair, smiling softly when Buffy's lips curved and she whispered Dawn's name as she unconsciously turned into the ghostly caress. "After all, that's why Janeway was brought here in the first place. The problem was, she never should have been brought here with no help. In a sense, she was treated just as bad as the Slayers."

Q actually looked startled. "By that Caretaker character?"

Dawn shook her head. "There are forces here in this dimension similar to The Powers. The Caretaker was simply the means used to get her here."

"The Powers? Here?" Q did not like the sound of that. Especially since this is the first he's heard of it.

"Don't worry about it." Dawn reassured lightly. "They're not the same ones as in the other universe, and they don't make a habit of interfering, only when the circumstances are dire. For example, the girl, Kes, had to take the Enlightened Path and make the Change. Her relationship with Janeway made it possible for Kes to accept the need to grow and do what she needed to do, and her development was essential to the future of this dimension. The Ocampa themselves also have a role to play in the future."

"What, and where, are this Powers?" Q asked.

"They're out of your reach." Dawn said simply. "They can wipe out the entire Continuum with a spare thought, so don't bother them. Let them do their work in peace."

There was no response.

"I mean it, Q. Do not interfere." Dawn said crisply, her expression suddenly hard, before turning back to the group on the bed. "I've helped them as much as I can. Given them as much as I could. They have to clean up the messes that The First left behind, as well as fulfill Kathryn's original mission as she makes her way back home."

"Her original mission?" Q asked, interested despite his frustration with her previous news.

"Did you ever look into the future of this Quadrant before Voyager's arrival, or were you too busy playing your useless games?" The Key asked. "If Voyager had not been diverted to this quadrant, the Kazon would have gained control of the Caretaker's array, destroyed the Ocampa and became a powerhouse second only to The Borg, but still they would be hunted almost non-stop by the Hirogen as well as the Viidians. The war between The Borg and Species 8472 would have escalated until The Borg were nearly annihilated and then Species 8472 would have moved on to eradicate all life in normal space. Her presence here, the battles she has fought, have kept some species in check as well as given other species, that she has never encountered, the space and the opportunity to grow that they wouldn't have had otherwise. Even your Continuum."

"The Continuum?" Q's mouth dropped open in shock.

"Of course. Only Janeway would have handled those situations in the way that she did. Anyone else would have made an arbitrary decision regarding the Q that wanted to commit suicide. That decision would have still led to the civil war, but you would never have come up with the idea for a child. The civil war would have continued, the singularities would have grown in frequency and strength, and you would have destroyed whole sections of the galaxy before something was done to stop it."

Q closed his mouth and stared at the classic features of his beloved captain for a moment. Though he'd never actually tell anyone, she was the first lesser being to make him feel. It wasn't love, per se, but it also wasn't the need to fulfill his often macabre amusement. He knew, first hand, why the people on this ship, and so many others, were so willing to fight and die for her. After all, he had been willing to actually 'mate' with the woman. Shaking his head as he realized how maudlin his thoughts had become, he bowed out, leaving The Key to say her own goodbyes and returned to the Continuum. Being near the girl made his insides shiver.

Dawn smirked as he vanished in a flash of light. The Q were such stuck-up little kids sometimes. They reminded her of Cordelia. She turned back to the group in the bed. "Be safe and be happy, Buffy. You long ago accepted that normal was never going to be something that you could have. Now, you have everything that you've ever wanted or needed right there in that bed. I may not be able to feel my love for you after I return, but I'll never forget what it feels like."

She pressed a soft kiss to Buffy's temple and, as the blonde stirred in her sleep, vanished in a swirling cloud of green mist just before Buffy's eyes opened tearfully. "Goodbye, Dawnie."

- - - BtVS - - ST: Voyager - - -

"Buffy, honey, what are you doing out here?" Kathryn asked, standing in the bedroom doorway, naked and yawning. "Are you all right?"

"Dawn was here." Buffy sniffed. "I think she came to say her final goodbye."

"Did you see her?" Kathryn asked without hesitation. Even though she had sensed nothing, she didn't discount the connection between the sisters.

"It was just a feeling. It woke me up." Buffy shook her head and hugged the stuffed animal closer. She had found Mr. Gordo sitting on the replicator when she had come out for a drink of water after she woke up to the loss of her connection to her sister. Shielding herself from her sleeping mates, she'd grabbed the stuffed toy and curled up on the couch to cry. She should have know that she couldn't keep her N'mina completely out. "I don't think I'll ever see my sister again, Kathryn. I'm going to miss her sooo much."

Joining her mate on the couch, Kathryn pulled Buffy over to straddle her lap, holding her close as The Prime of the S'Terrans sobbed into her neck. The one chink in that steel reinforced armor that Buffy presented to the world had always been her family. She glanced over to the bedroom when she heard Faith and Willow stirring in their sleep. 'Stay. Let me take care of her for now.'

She felt the acceptance as she continued to hold the trembling blonde. The sobs had died down and, after a moment, Buffy raised her hand to look into Kathryn's eyes. "Thanks. Sorry I got you all wet."

"That's all right." Kathryn smiled and rubbed her back. "Do you want to talk about it?"

"For so long, she was the only reason I stayed alive." Buffy sniffled. "I wanted so badly to go back, but at night, I could hear her nightmares. She was screaming for me to come back, that it was supposed to be her. Now, when everything's finally getting good, she can't even enjoy it with me."

"She did what she did to protect you and make you happy." Kathryn kissed her softly. "She would have liked to stay with you, but she couldn't."

Kathryn placed gentled kisses all over Buffy's face, first in comfort, then slowing in rising passion. Massaging Buffy's back, she kissed her harder, sucking on her tongue until the blonde whimpered and shifted her body restlessly. 'Shh. Slowly, love.'

Spreading the folds of her robe that Buffy was wearing, she traced gentle fingers over trim curves, pulling away from the kiss to nip down tanned flesh to take a turgid nipple into her mouth. Buffy gasped and buried her hands in the captain's hair, holding her closer as she arched into the suckling sensation. She squeezed tense, trembling thighs, pressing her nails in just enough to make the former Slayer groan in need.

"Kathryn, please." Buffy groaned.

'Can you feel my mark, mate?' Kathryn growled in her mind. 'I can feel mine, throbbing, wanting you to sink your teeth into my skin again.'

"Yessss." Buffy hissed, purrs began rumbling through her body.

'My teeth are throbbing as well.' Kathryn told her silkily. 'Would you like me to...'

"Yes!" Buffy choked through clenched. Her grip in Kathryn's hair tightened as she pulled her head back up to her neck. "Do it!"

Kathryn smiled ferally, biting down hard, but not enough to break the skin, just as she slipped slender fingers deep into her body.

"Oh, goddess!" Buffy groaned, climaxing fast and hard. Kathryn didn't stop there. She thrust slowly but deeply, wrapping her other arm around Buffy's waist to lean the younger woman back and give herself leverage for more arm power. Buffy reached out to grab the back of the couch, using her stomach and thigh muscles to move her body to the rhythm that Kathryn set. "Ohhh."

'Come for me!' Kathryn demanded as she bit down harder, finally breaking skin. At the same time, she used her thumb to press into the previously neglected hard clit, and growled herself when Buffy suddenly clutched the handful of red hair and yanked Kathryn's face up to kiss her hard as her body and mind imploded. Kathryn moaned at the feel of clutching muscles and turned her fingers so that she could press into her lover's sweet spot. The sharp, intense surge broke though Buffy's mental walls and washed through them all, throwing Faith, Willow and Kathryn in climaxes along with her.

'I love you all.' Buffy sent to them, her mental voice filled with her overflowing emotion.

'We love you as well.' Kathryn responded, and they felt the sleepy acknowledgement of her statement.

"Kathryn?" Buffy murmured sleepily.

"Hmm?"

"Now that we have my old loves, isn't it time go get yours?"

The End of Book 1