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A Night At The Opera

A Night at the Opera
Ginny — 16 Sep 1998, 5:43 PM

Blushing, Clare introduced herself. "I'm Clare Darrow, and I used to be a lawyer reknowned for her mental acuity and proficient language skills. Now, I'm either a sunstroke victim or a complete moron."

The young man laughed again, throwing his head back and exposing his long, elegant throat and chest in the vee of his western shirt. Clare couldn't help but stare. Holy, moly. Forget about going back to town and hiring a chauffeur. I'm moving in. The young man unexpectedly caught her hand up in his and bowed over it in a showy gesture. "I'm Tom Janeway. Come on into the house, and I'll get you something cold to drink." And he pulled her, smiling, toward the ranch house.

"Mother will be very pleased to see you. You made pretty good time getting here, didn't you?" Clare shrugged noncommittedly--anything to keep this living doll talking. Tom's face sobered. "I'm really glad you're here to help Sevenita. She's in pretty big trouble this time, and I'm worried about what might happen to her."

Oh, ho, Clare thought. So that's how the land lies. "I met Sevenita earlier today, Tom, and we've already discussed elements of her defense. Just out of curiosity, are you two...?" Clare let her sentence trail off.

Tom looked surprised and then thoughtful. "No-o-o-o. Sevenita's just a good friend. She's kind of naive about some things, you know. The code of honor she learned as a child is a bit...harsh, and she has a tendency to rush to judgment and then act on that judgment immediately. It's gotten her in trouble before, and I'm afraid that that may be what's happened again."

Wow, Clare thought. He's sensitive, too.

Tom continued. "Anyway, Sevenita's too young, in a lot of ways, for me. I'm sorta seeing the daughter of the ranch foreman right now. She's really...something." Tom smiled and absently rubbed his cheek.

I hate her, thought Clare. They had reached the ranch house's front door, and Tom led her inside. "Have a seat, Miss Darrow--it is Miss Darrow, isn't it?" Clare nodded, and Tom's smile widened. "You just sit down and make yourself comfortable. I'll have the cook fix you some lemonade, and I'll go find Mother."

A Night at the Opera, cont.
Ginny — 17 Sep 1998, 7:42 AM

Author's note: This will probably be my last entry for a while. I'm having trouble continuing my story and having it remain consistent with Eric's and D'Alaire's and God knows who else's thread. Maybe someone else could pick it up and go from here. I would have stopped already, but this two-part installment just had to be written for the sake of prurience and my own peace of mind.

A wholesome, clean cut youth, little more than a child, really, emerged from behind a side door holding a glass, which he carried carefully over to Clare, who was still sitting on the couch.

"Here's your lemonade, Miz Darrow," he said, handing the glass to her and drying his hand on his apron.

Clare took the glass and said, "Why, thank you kindly, Mr...."

The boy responded promptly, "Freddie. Freddie Bristow. I'm the cook's assistant."

Clare sipped the liquid in her glass. "This is wonderful lemonade, Freddie. Did you make it yourself?""

Freddie looked pleased and glanced down at the floor shyly. "Yes, ma'am."

Clare took another sip and favored the sweet-natured boy with a long, considering look from under her beautiful brown eyebrows. "It really is delicious. Would you have a minute to sit and keep me company while I drink it, Freddie?"

Freddie shrugged. "Well, sure. I guess so." He bashfully rubbed his hands on his apron and sat down on the edge of the couch next to Clare. The lawyer casually stretched out her legs, crossed her silk-clad ankles, and leaned back against the couch. "So, Freddie. Do you like working for the Janeways?"

Freddie nodded enthusiastically. "Yes, ma'am. Miz Kathryn is a fine woman--stubborn as a mule, if you don't mind my saying so, but brave and and smart and generous. She always lets me have time off to practice for the four-square tournament."

"Four-square tournament?" Clare inquired encouragingly.

"Yes, ma'am. It's an annual sports event in Voyager City. Last year, B'Elanna--that's the foreman's daughter--kicked my butt in the finals, but this year is gonna be different."

Clare smiled, although not altogether pleasantly. "You really must tell me more about this B'Elanna person later, Freddie. But what about the rest of the Janeway clan? How do you feel about them?"

Freddie replied, "All I know is they're good to me, Miz Darrow. There's not a sweeter girl alive than Miss Kessie. And Tom..." Freddie paused.

Intrigued, Clare leaned forward and raised an eyebrow. "And Tom," she prompted.

"Well, Tom's a great guy. Not a snobby bone in his body. He went through a pretty rough time a few years back--he blamed himself for his little brother Harry's death, you know--and made some real bad choices for a while. Even spent some time in Marshal Tuvok's jail. But Miz Kathryn--she never gave up on him, and he finally turned hisself around. He's been a credit to the family ever since." Freddie leaned closer to Clare and said confidentially, "They're real close, you know."

"Who? Tom and his mother?"

Freddie nodded. "Folks are always commentin' on it."

Clare pursed her lips and pondered that statement in silence. She drank some more lemonade. "What about Sevenita? What's her connection to the family?"

Freddie shrugged. "I don't know that much about how that all happened, ma'am. But Miss Sevenita--she means an awful lot to Miz Kathryn."

Clare started to ask Freddie another question, when Tom Janeway came down the stairs to the rear of the living room. He had on his arm a slender, red-haired woman with steely blue eyes and marvelous bone structure.

A Night at the Opera, Part Trois.
Ginny — 17 Sep 1998, 8:32 AM

Freddie stood up respectfully. "I reckon I better get back to work. It was nice meetin' you, Miz Darrow."

Claire smiled up at the fresh-faced youth. "You, too, Freddie." Freddie nodded to the approaching couple, saying, "Miz Kathryn, Tom." and left the room through the side door.

Kathryn released Tom's arm and strode purposefully across the room to the couch. "Hello, Miss Darrow. I'm Kathryn Janeway of the Ranch Delta Q." Clare started to rise, but Kathryn waived her back down to her seat on the couch. Tom dropped his lanky frame into an overstuffed chair across from the Clare, and Kathryn perched lightly on the chair's arm, settling her hip against Tom's shoulder and resting her elbow on the back of the chair behind his head. Her long fingers played idly with a stray curl of hair beneath the young man's ear.

Hmmm, thought Clare. This could be more interesting than the opera.

"It's good of you to have come all the way out to the Delta Q to see us, Miss Darrow. Tom tells me that you've already spoken with Sevenita."

Clare set her lemonade down on a low end table. "Yes, I have, and I have a few questions that I'd like to ask you both about Sevenita's relationship with your family."

Tom and Kathryn shared an amused, curiously intimate glance. "It's a long story," Tom said, an enigmatic look on his face.

"Indeed," Kathryn added, lazily stroking the soft skin down one side of Tom's throat. "But, to use one of Marshal Tuvok's favorite expressions, a fascinating one. A little over a year ago..."

Kathryn's story was interrupted by the unexpected sound of the front door swinging open with such force that the doorknob slammed against the opposite wall. Standing in the open doorway, legs braced, fists clenched, was one of the most unutterably gorgeous men that Clare had ever seen.

Dam-nation! the lawyer thought. What is it with the men in this town? And could it be bottled and exported?

The handsome dark-haired man stepped through the door and looked around the room, his angry chocolate brown eyes coming to rest on Tom and Kathryn. Clare noticed an elaborate tattoo on his temple and wondered at its significance. Kathryn rose slowly to her feet and stood facing her agitated visitor. The two of them silently exchanged a look so potent, so passionate, that Clare unconsciously shifted in her seat.

"Chakotay," Kathryn finally said, evenly. "Do you wish to speak with me?"

"Yes, I do," Chakotay snapped at her, barely able to restrain the fury in his voice.

"About what?" Kathryn asked, still calm, but with an edge to her voice. Tom apparently heard it, and he rose immediately to his feet and moved to stand close behind her. He watched Chakotay over Kathryn's shoulder, and the big man moved a step closer, almost as if drawn in by the younger man's look. Gray eyes locked with brown, the temperature in the room went up a couple of degrees, and Clare found herself tugging at the front of her blouse and reaching for her lemonade.

Chakotay finally ripped his gaze away from Tom and looked again at Kathryn. "About your deceitful, dissolute, disreputable excuse for a son, that's what!"

Well, well, well, Clare mused to herself. This *is* more interesting than the opera. And she settled herself comfortably back against the couch again, surreptitiously slipping a small legal pad and a pencil from the pocket of her maroon silk jacket.