She turned the seeds over and over in her hand. They were so small - like nothing she'd ever seen before.
Of course, that wasn't quite accurate. As a scientist she had seen many things much smaller. But it was their delicacy, their fragility, the absolute smallness of them. And their absolute beauty as well. The husks were shiny and black - so shiny, she could almost see her reflection in them. Kathryn didn't think she'd seen anything like them ever before.
They weighed almost nothing in her hand. Whether there were ten, or twenty, or thirty seeds, it didn't matter. She still seemed to be holding only air. And yet, as she worked them around her palm, worrying them with her thumb, there was something in their touch that was reassuring. That was calming. That, in some strange way, made her feel that everything was all right.
Of course, if she were truthful, everything was far from all right. After all, they were still stranded in the Delta Quadrant. They were making a good fist of things, sure, but there was barely a month that they weren't low on supplies, tempers fraying from a lack of shoreleave. And they were always seemed to be utterly friendless, pursued by some one or other.
But right now? Well, maybe things weren't really so bad. They had found a planet, everyone was having their badly needed shoreleave, and they ought to be able to scare up a few supplies before they left.
Maybe she should give the calming powers of these seeds a little more attention. She was certainly feeling better.
Then again, maybe it was just having the time to sit and think, by herself, that was calming her so well. Voyager was a big ship, but it wasn't big enough at times. There never seemed to be a chance for her to be on her own. The only way she had ever managed to find extended solitude was to lock herself in her quarters, and that had met with resistance from more than one person.
She tossed the seeds lightly up and down in her hand, relishing the gentle patter of them on her skin as they fell. Their touch was so light, so delicate and gentle, it could almost be called a caress. She savoured the moment, the feeling she had been missing so long. The sensation of touch.
She felt herself drifting into contemplation, but knew that wasn't a good idea. She shook her head to clear it - to wake herself up - and let the seeds fall from her hand onto the dusty ground.
It was a strange planet they had found themselves visiting. Earth-like, and yet so foreign to Kathryn. It was warm and dry, and from the local flora, it seemed that it was fairly dry no matter what season it might be. The foliage of the plants was a dull grey-green that seemed to have no variety at all, and yet cast a character upon the landscape that convinced you of its beauty. The tree trunks were broad, created to elicit every millilitre of moisture from the ground. The trees themselves were tall, the long, thin leaves clustered around the crown, but here and there a drooping branch swept at the pale dusty ground.
Kathryn was sitting under one of these trees, stretched out, leaning back against the trunk, using it to shade her from the strong sunlight. The warm air enveloped her, like a comfortable blanket hanging from her shoulders. It wasn't an oppressive heat, merely a gentle warmth. A warmth that seemed to keep her safe, that seemed to be a friend.
The black seeds were a stark contrast to the pale dust they lay on. Slowly, Kathryn put down her hand among them, and began to draw. She pushed the seeds into lines, the sharp ends against the broader ones, or side by side, until she found she had created a picture of Voyager. Even in the alien seeds on a dry dusty planet, the lines of the ship were sleek, and there was something about the image that comforted her. After all, it had become her home.
But with a swift brush of hand, she had destroyed the picture of Voyager, and let the lines of seeds wander aimlessly and without thought.
She didn't know how long she sat there, letting whatever came to mind be formed in the seeds and the dust. In fact, she lost all sense of time.
She was so engrossed she didn't hear the step behind her, and didn't notice the other presence, until a voice spoke.
'Now, why does that look familiar?'
Kathryn started, and turned to see Chakotay standing behind her. She looked back at her drawing in the soil.
'I have no idea why I would have drawn that picture,' she replied, smiling, as she looked down at the perfect replica of his tatoo.
Tilly sighed in satisfaction. Finally, after all the places they'd visited, Voyager had come to a place where she was entirely comfortable. She looked up at the trees that reminded her so much of her own home, and smiled. B'Elanna and Kit smiled back at her, pleased to see their friend so delighted by the surroundings.
'Would you look at that!' exclaimed Tilly, heading straight to a tree with branches weighed down by seed pods. She reached up and took a handful of the silvery pods, opening them to reveal the tiny black seeds inside. 'If I didn't know better, I'd say these were Acacia,' she said, lifting her tricorder to scan the tree.
'What's so special about that?' asked B'Elanna.
'They're wattle seeds. A lot of people at home think you can tell your fortune by them. Like tea leaves.'
'Neat!' said Kit, looking puzzled. 'But how do you tell a fortune with seeds?'
'Haven't you ever had your tea leaves read?'
'I'm from Minnesota - I drink coffee.'
Tilly glared, and B'Elanna rolled her eyes.
'It's not that funny, B'Elanna,' said Tilly, catching the engineer's expression. 'I don't happen to believe in it myself, but it's a fun thing to do. With tea leaves, you look at the pictures your tea leaves form in the cup after you've drunk the tea. With Acacia seeds, it's a little bit different. It's almost part of a meditation, really. You put them down on the ground, and let whatever picture comes to mind be drawn. Whatever pictures you draw, they will be a part of your future.'
B'Elanna snorted. 'Kit, don't be gullible! It's all a load of rubbish!'
'Have you ever tried it, B'El?' asked Tilly.
'No - but how could something like that possibly work?'