The Hen Night
Written: January 2007
Codes: J/7 (post-Endgame)
Disclaimer: They belong to Paramount and this is just some fun! There’s no profit or personal gain, but there is an all female relationship so don’t read on if that’s not your thing.
Thanks: To my beta readers as always.
p.s. In case it doesn’t translate cultures, a “hen night” is a night out for a bride before her wedding, which only her female friends attend (no men allowed!). Typically (but not always) it’s the night before the wedding itself and it’s common that everyone gets very, very tipsy! I think the US equivalent is a “bachelorette party”.
The incessant beeping of my alarm clock nags at me for a good couple of minutes before I finally reach over and swat it off. Rubbing roughly at my sleep-filled eyes, I finally open them to stare at the ceiling. I’m not sure how long I lie there, trying to motivate myself to move. All I know is that it’s getting harder and harder to even get out of bed these days. What is there to look forward to after all? I got my ship home, I got my crew home, what now for this Starfleet Captain…correction, Starfleet Admiral.
My head flops to the side to look at the discarded insignia on my bedside table, four pips on a rectangular band. I’m still not sure whether it was a promotion or a punishment. Having got Voyager back, I’m certain there were those in Starfleet who wanted to see me hung out to dry for one of any dozens of violations of protocol. However, they could hardly court martial the victorious returning captain, so instead they stuck me behind a desk. It’s funny really, I spent seven years trying to get here and now I can’t wait to leave.
I finally force myself to sit up, pushing back the warm covers. I pick up the small insignia, running my fingers over it and concentrating on those four small pips. If I stare at them hard enough I might be able to ignore the much more potent reason why I’d rather be anywhere but on Earth, particularly tomorrow. It’s hopeless of course; those thoughts are unstoppable. My only hope is to try and keep them at bay long enough so I can get a few fortifying cups of coffee down me first. In search of that elusive first cup, I stumble out of my bed and down the stairs. The house is quiet as always, too quiet. There’s no constant reassuring hum of the warp engines to sooth my senses. I’m still fiddling with the coffee machine and hankering for the days of bad replicated coffee when the doorbell chimes.
On the way to the door I check my appearance in the glass of the large framed print of Voyager that hangs on the wall. My hair sticks out over the deflector dish and I quickly smooth the bob back into shape. Sometimes I wonder why I ever got it cut, it was much easier when I could tie it back and be done with it. Yet again I know the answer, but don’t want to think about it, don’t want to think about her.
Pushing such thoughts to the deep recesses of my mind to fester, I yank open the door, ready to let my caller know exactly what I think of being disturbed so early. The sunlight streams in and it takes a moment for my eyes to adjust. When they do I recognise the familiar figure of my former chief engineer.
“B’Elanna?” My angry thoughts are quickly gone to be replaced with ones of dread. There can only be one thing she’s here to discuss.
“Good morning, Admiral, how are you?”
“I haven’t had any coffee,” I answer grouchily as if that’s answer enough. Obviously it is from the look on B’Elanna’s face. I can see she appreciates the seriousness of the situation. I sigh, realising I’m being hideously rude. It’s not B’Elanna I’m angry with after all; it’s myself. “Come in,” I gesture inside, “It’s good to see you.”
B’Elanna follows me back to the kitchen, having the sense to keep quiet while I prepare the coffee. This must be no small effort for her, but she knows not to stand between a captain…an admiral and her coffee. While she waits, she starts to wander round the open plan living area, absently studying my furniture and ornaments. Thankfully the cleaner was round yesterday. She stops when she reaches the fireplace, looking at something on the mantelpiece. Too late I realise what I’ve left on display there. I knew I should have just thrown it in the fire.
B’Elanna picks the single piece of card off the mantel and turns to me with it in her hand. “You’re going then?”
“Is there any reason I shouldn’t be?” I try to sound nonchalant, though I can feel my pulse quickening already.
“You tell me.”
I could tell her…if I knew myself. However, the truth is I still haven’t decided. I carry the drinks over and exchange one for the card. I look down to read the embossed writing on it for maybe the thousandth time but it still doesn’t seem real.
You are cordially invited to the wedding of Chakotay and Annika Hansen ( Seven of Nine) on 14th April 2378 at 35 East Upper Street, San Francisco
When it first arrived on my doorstep I thought it was some sort of sick joke. Unfortunately it is only too painfully true. Chakotay and Seven are getting married. That son of a bitch is marrying my Seven.
Yet I have only myself to blame; I waited too long and now it’s too late. It’s too late for anything but recriminations and regrets. I try and console myself with the thought that I was doing the right thing. I was waiting until we got home, until I was no longer her captain. Little did I know that someone else would swoop in before me; someone with less scruples; someone willing to take advantage of a situation. A right bastard is an appropriate term I think. I realise my fingers are reflexively tightening on the mug in my right hand, perhaps imagining it’s his neck they’re wrapped around. I have to force myself to relax them. It’s slightly worrying how often I find myself descending into these venomous thoughts about my ex-first officer.
I haven’t seen either of them since the invite arrived, I wasn’t sure I could trust myself in their presence. I still see her in my mind though…constantly. She’s never far away from my thoughts even now, when I would rather think about anything else. I find myself thinking about what she might be doing. Is she excited about the upcoming wedding? Is she picking out dresses and flowers and music? Is she planning her wedding night, her honeymoon? Those last thoughts are always the worst.
She must be busy, because she hasn’t contacted me either. Obviously she’s not bothered whether I come to the wedding or not, or maybe she’s just assuming I will. It would be the appropriate thing to do after all, the former captain overseeing the marriage of two of her crew. Yet I don’t really feel like being appropriate. For once I want to cast off all the baggage of command and responsibility and be human. I want to show my feelings, my pain. I’ve considered all sorts of scenarios.
One very appealing one, in my fantasies at least, is where I turn up at the moment the priest is asking for any objections. I dramatically throw open the doors to the church I shout that yes, I have an objection - I’m in love with the bride! Everyone is utterly dumbstruck for a moment. Then Seven is running towards me and we dash from the church together, hand in hand.
I did say it was a total fantasy.
Alternatively I’ve contemplated going and getting totally and utterly drunk to blot it all out. Or maybe I could arrive with a truly gorgeous guest of my own and make Seven as jealous as I am. That one’s complete wishful thinking too. Finally there’s the option of just not turning up.
Of course I know deep down that I will do none of these. I will go and I will smile and nod and shake hands and inside I will be dying every second. I feel the pain starting at just the thought of it, a horrible gnawing somewhere deep inside. Eventually B’Elanna speaks up again, having left me to my dark thoughts long enough.
“Anyway, I’m not here to talk about that, at least not directly.”
I feel a slight edge of relief. “What was it you wanted then?”
“How do you feel about hen nights?”
I choke on my coffee for a second. “This is the twenty-fourth century B’Elanna, not the twenty-first,” I tell her, “Plus this is Seven we’re talking about. Do you really think she’d want a hen night?”
And do you really think I’d want to go? I feel like adding.
“Ah, she doesn’t know what’s good for her.” B’Elanna waves a dismissive hand. “And who knows, six months back on earth might have turned her into a party animal.”
Six months? Is that all it is. It seems like a lifetime. I favour B’Elanna with a doubtful look.
“Ok,” she concedes, “Unlikely I know, but still, we ought to give her some sort of send off, don’t you think?”
A send off to her life of boredom with Chakotay? I still find it hard to understand what she sees in him. I suppose he’s nice and kind, but so…dull. “I’m not sure, B’Elanna. It’s a bit last minute isn’t it?” I add, trying to inject some reason into my argument.
“It doesn’t have to be a big thing,” offers B’Elanna, “You, me, whoever else is around San Francisco.”
It seems B’Elanna isn’t to be dissuaded. Maybe it would be good to see Seven for just one more time before she gets married to him. I get the familiar fluttering in my stomach at the thought of seeing her. “All right, but nothing outrageous, just a few drinks.”
B’Elanna grins. “Trust me.”
All the way to the bar I keep asking myself why I agreed to this. Was I experiencing a moment of temporary insanity? It’s too late to turn back now, though, I’m with B’Elanna and I know she’s going to make sure I get to that bar one way or another. It’s almost as if she too knows about my fears and doubts. She was lucky to get me out of my house at all; I spent so long deciding what to wear. In the end I settled on a simple white trouser suit – I wouldn’t want to be upstaging the bride-to-be after all. I resolve that I will go to the bar, stay for a couple, and then go home and drink or cry myself to sleep. All this angst and we haven’t even got to the main torture of tomorrow yet.
By the time we reach the bar on the far side of the bridge, the butterflies in my stomach have turned to a raging swarm. As B’Elanna pushes open the door in front of me I fear that I’m going to pass out. Holding my breath doesn’t help.
The bar is reasonably crowded and it takes me a moment to spot her. Then the people part as if instructed and she is standing before me as gorgeous as ever; more gorgeous than ever. Her hair is down out of the permanent twist it stayed in on Voyager, long golden strands falling over slender shoulders. On seeing her, my fears of any sort of upstaging by me are shown to be utterly ridiculous. There’s no way I could have surpassed the stunning dark-blue dress she’s wearing. It clings in all the right places, but gives off an air of class and sophistication at the same time.
She hasn’t seen me yet, talking to Samantha Wildman as they stand by the bar. I consider that the evening might go more smoothly if I can just stay away from Seven as much as possible and socialise with the others. Yet as usual my subconscious has other ideas, I find myself naturally gravitating towards her, wanting to be in her presence.
She senses my approach before I arrive, turning to fix her startling blue eyes on me.
“Admiral, it is good to see you.”
I am frozen in a quandary of desire and manners. What should I do – shake hands; embrace her; kiss her on one or both cheeks? Relieving me of the need to commit myself, Seven leans in and gives me a brief kiss on the cheek. I thank the stars that it’s dark in the club, else the blush creeping up my face would be on display for all.
“It’s good to see you too, Seven,” I reply politely, “How have you been?”
“I am well, Admiral.”
I almost laugh at the formal answer even though it would be entirely inappropriate. I think it’s the nerves. I really need that drink.
“And Chakotay?” I force myself to say through gritted teeth.
“He is well too.”
“Great, I’m glad to hear it. No last minute nerves about tomorrow then?”
Why did I ask that? I sound desperate! Where’s that blasted barman?
Seven looks slightly surprised by the question. “No.”
“Ah good, I’m sure it will be a lovely day.” Could I sound any more inane if I tried?
“You are coming then?”
“Yes of course I’m coming.” Fabulous, now there’s no backing out. I suppose there’s always that fallback option of ‘urgent Starfleet business’.
“Only we did not receive your reply to our invite.”
“Sorry, I forgot with work and everything,” I answer vaguely. “There’s still room for me is there?” Say no, please say no.
“Yes, there is room,” she replies evenly.
Damn. At least the barman has finally arrived to save me. “Can I get you a drink?” I ask Seven.
“A water would be fine, thank you.”
Suddenly there is someone else at my shoulder. “A water?” exclaims B’Elanna, “A water? For Kahless sake you can’t have water on your hen night.” B’Elanna turns to the barman. “Risan Sunbursts all round!”
Seven looks worried. “B’Elanna, my capacity for alcohol is still somewhat limited,” she tries to reason with the belligerent Klingon.
B’Elanna makes a dismissive tutting noise. “If you can’t get drunk tonight when can you? And you can’t let your guests drink on their own.” B’Elanna thrusts a multi-coloured drink with a fizzing sparkler sticking from it into my hand. “See, even the Admiral’s having one.”
I don’t actually remember agreeing to the dubious looking drink, but B’Elanna is like a force of nature when she’s in this mood. I’m starting to get a terrible feeling about this evening. Seeing that I have one of the elaborate cocktails, Seven reluctantly accepts one from B’Elanna and takes a sip. The face she pulls shows exactly what she thinks of it.
I decide to intervene on her behalf. “B’Elanna, if Seven wants a water I think we should let her, we don’t want the bride to be too drunk to walk up the aisle do we?”
Before B’Elanna can agree or disagree, Seven has taken one look at me and proceeded to down the rest of the drink in one gulp.
“I will have another.”
My eyes widen. “Seven, are you sure that’s a good idea?”
“I do not believe you are my captain any more. I do not take orders from you.”
I’m stunned into silence. Where the hell did that come from? One minute it’s all forced politeness and then suddenly the cutting remark. Before I can answer she has taken her drink and moved off to mingle with the other guests.
B’Elanna sidles up to me. “Someone’s pissed at you.”
It seems so, though why is another matter. I spend the next while pondering that as I watch the partygoers from my position perched on a stool at the bar. There are a good few of my old crew here, plus a few others I don’t recognise. I suppose they’re new friends or colleagues of Seven’s. There’s a sense of sadness in my heart that she is off making them without me, that she has another life now that I know nothing about. I could do something about that, I could go and talk to her, but I don’t think I want to hear the details of that life, one that I’m not part of.
So instead I stay sitting morosely on my seat with just my drink for company. Occasionally an old Voyager crewmember comes over for a chat, and I force myself to be upbeat and interested in what they have to say. Meanwhile Seven keeps her distance. I suppose I should be thankful, but I’m not, I’m disappointed. What did I expect though? Did I think she’d be so pleased to see me that we spent the whole night reminiscing? In my dreams maybe. This is more like a nightmare.
The door is looking more and more tempting. My eyes are on it when I see a shifty looking man entering the bar. He’s wearing a long coat and a hat turned down over his eyes. My wariness increases as I see him approach B’Elanna and watch the two of them engaged in hushed conversation. I get a horrible sinking feeling in my stomach. She wouldn’t, would she?
On cue Seven is brought over to the pair of them. I see that her previously immaculate outfit has now been added to, by B’Elanna no doubt. Seven’s sporting a veil adorned with tinsel and a large plaque with a big red ‘L’ on it is attached to her back. God knows what it signifies. I think B’Elanna’s been spending too much time sifting through her husband’s collection of twentieth century memorabilia. The gathering crowd blocks my view and I slip off my stool and work my way through them to the front. Seven is sitting on a chair in the centre of the throng, but rather than looking perturbed like I thought she might, she’s actually grinning and laughing along with the crowd. The drink that she swiftly finishes might explain her overly relaxed mood. I know this isn’t the real Seven, and part of me wants to leap into the centre of the ring and rescue her from what I know is about to happen.
The music starts up before I can move. Then comes the shifty-looking man. He sways over to Seven, gyrating his hips in time to the beat. His coat is quickly dispatched to show a Starfleet uniform underneath. I bristle at the sacrilege as he starts to provocatively peel off the tunic. To make matters worse he’s wearing one of the old style ones, like we had on Voyager, with a red band across the top no less. He leans down over Seven and whisks the makeshift veil off. She looks blearily up at him, her eyes having trouble focussing.
“Take my pips off for me?” he asks suggestively.
Seven snorts a laugh, but tries to oblige, fumbling at his collar. I’m painfully reminded of a time three years previously when it was my pips in Seven’s hand. If only I’d said something then. I did make a stupid suggestive comment about trying romance, but either it went right over Seven’s head or she chose to ignore the implied offer. I notice with some satisfaction that she seems unable to unfasten the stripper’s ones, and in the end he discards them along with his top. I don’t think I can watch anymore as he produces some oil for Seven to rub into his now bare chest. I don’t remember ever being such a killjoy, but this is just grotesque.
I slip back through the crowd to the bar, able to hear the whoops as more items of clothing are discarded. Eventually the music stops. I don’t bother to look around until I feel a hand on my shoulder.
“Come on, Admiral, how about a dance?” It’s B’Elanna. Was I really expecting anyone else?
“I don’t think so,” I reply.
She leans in to whisper to me. “Kathryn, just get your ass off that stool for one minute and try to at least look like you’re having fun.”
I’m shocked. I don’t think I’ve ever heard B’Elanna use my first name. Not to mention the fact that she’s noticed my mood. To fend her off I find myself agreeing, and we work our way onto the crowded dance floor. We’ve only been dancing at a discrete distance from one another for about a minute, when she guides us towards another couple. It’s Seven dancing with a man I don’t recognise. Before I realise what’s happening, B’Elanna has asked to cut in and whisked the man off, leaving Seven and me alone. Unless we want it to look totally awkward, there’s no option but for the two of us to dance together. As if on cue the music slows. I could gleefully kill B’Elanna right about now. Again it is Seven who is proactive, taking my hand in one of hers and placing her other arm around my back. She doesn’t speak or make eye contact. I naturally slip my arm around her neck and we are off.
As we move around the floor I’m unable to speak either, too consumed by the raging fire within me. I can feel Seven’s body pressing against mine, feel the heat of her through the thin material of her dress. A couple of time she stumbles or steps on my feet, but I don’t care. I know Seven is drunk and yet when she looks at me she seems suddenly lucid.
“Why did you come here tonight, Admiral?”
I’ve been asking myself the same thing over and over. “Because it’s your hen night, Seven,” I say out loud, “I wanted to show my support.”
“Like you have shown it the last six months?”
Ouch! The truth really does hurt. Especially when she speaks it. “I’m sorry if I’ve not been able to see you much since we got back to Earth, I’ve been…”
“Busy,” she finishes for me, “Yes, of course you would be.” She doesn’t sound like she believes it, though. “It does not matter, I have had Chakotay to support me.”
I wince internally. How much more pain does she want to inflict on me? I would almost think she was doing it deliberately, but what would be the point? She’s the one that got what she wanted, I’m the one that should be bitter and twisted and miserable. And I am.
We finish the rest of the dance in silence. As soon as it’s over I go back to the bar and order a double whiskey.
I’m sure I resolved that I was going to politely excuse myself after a few drinks, and yet I find myself still there at the last throes of the party. I should be well and truly drunk by now, given the amount of alcohol I’ve consumed, but for some reason I’m not. I suppose the occasion is too sombre from my point of view for my brain to completely let go. I wish it would, because I’m not sure how much more of this I can take. Maybe I just like torturing myself? I deserve it after all for being such a coward. Or maybe I just want to savour these last few moments with Seven, even if she is as drunk as a skunk and has been ignoring me most of the night. I realise that she could be stuck with her head down the toilet, throwing back up all those Risan Sunbursts and I would still want to be there, holding her hair back for her and whispering soothing words.
The only other hanger-on is B’Elanna, who’s heading my way now, swaying slightly as she sashays across the dance floor. “Time for the final surprise,” she slurs when she reaches me. She has to brace herself on my table to stop from toppling over.
I dread to think what this latest stunt is, but ask anyway. When she answers I nearly splutter my drink all over the glass-topped table. “You have to be joking,” I comment.
She’s oblivious to my concerns though, her brain long-ago addled by drink. “It’s a tradition, where’s your party spirit?”
I wonder where B’Elanna’s will be in a minute when she tries her crackpot suggestion on Seven, and gets a borg fist in her face for her troubles. If B’Elanna wants to risk it though, then it’s her call, who am I to argue? If my mind were slightly clearer I might be opposing it more vehemently, but the drink is affecting me slightly more than I realised and I’m keen to see what happens either way. I nod my assent to B’Elanna and we seek out Seven who has finally given up battering her way randomly round the dance floor and is slumped on one of the bar stools. She doesn’t look her best and for a second I think about holding B’Elanna back, but the other woman has already collared her target.
I follow them on out the back entrance to the club. In her drunken stupor, Seven stumbles on the steps and I react without thinking, reaching out to catch her arm. She glances at me and for a second I see the old Seven, looking to me for help and guidance. Then the moment is gone. B’Elanna has taken hold of her other arm and is dragging her along, coming to a halt by a bank of iron railings that mark the edge of the cliff that looks out over the bay.
Seven is only dimly aware of her surroundings, swaying slightly as she peers at B’Elanna. “Is this where the wildfowl are?” she asks.
“Yes, you know, chickens,” clarifies Seven, “For the hen night.”
B’Elanna makes an effort to hide her laughter but it’s futile. Once she’s composed herself she takes Seven’s arm again. “Come on Seven, just sit here a moment,” she suggests.
Seven’s in no fit state to argue. She obediently plops her bottom down on the cold concrete in front of the fencing.
“Now just put one arm round here,” instructs B’Elanna, indicating one of the railings. Seven does mutely as instructed. Her head lolls onto the railing, resting against it.
I feel that since she can’t defend herself, it’s down to me. “Are you sure this is a good idea?” I ask B’Elanna, “Isn’t it a bit dangerous leaving her out here?”
“Don’t be stupid, we’re not going to leave completely.”
I’m not sure I like being called stupid by my former subordinate, but let it pass this time. The voice of reason in my head points out that it’s not that inaccurate a description given the circumstances. How old are you exactly? It asks me. Eighteen? I ignore it. “So I presume you came prepared?” I ask B’Elanna.
She produces a pair of sturdy looking handcuffs. For some reason I was expecting pink and fluffy, but I should have known better with a Klingon. I kneel down to help prop Seven up as B’Elanna attaches them. Suddenly I feel the cold snap of something around my own wrist and then B’Elanna is swiftly standing up with a wicked grin on her face. I try to follow suit, only to find that the cuff around my left wrist is attached to one around Seven’s right and we’re both secured to the railings.
B’Elanna starts to edge away and I put on my best command tones to halt her. “B’Elanna! You get back here now and undo these things!”
The imposing voice doesn’t seem to be working tonight though. B’Elanna’s still smiling. “Sorry, but as you said we can’t just leave her out here on her own.”
“Then you come back her and freeze your ass off – it was your blasted idea!”
B’Elanna continues to back away. “I thought you two might like to chat,” she remarks cryptically before turning on her heel and disappearing into the early morning gloom.
I stare incredulously after her. How could she do this? I don’t want to be here sitting on a hard and shockingly cold pavement; I want to be tucked up in bed, nursing my growing hangover with some strong coffee. There is a small moan from beside me and I reconsider my position. Maybe I do want to be here.
Seven is still slumped against the railings and for a moment I wonder if she’s actually asleep. Does she even sleep now?
“Seven,” I try quietly, gently shaking her shoulder with my free hand, “Can you hear me?”
A pair of groggy blue eyes tries to focus on me. “Captain?”
It sounds good to be called that again and I don’t bother correcting her.
Seven’s eyes are now wandering around our location. “Where is B’Elanna?” she asks, “Why are we attached to this fence with restraints?”
“Don’t ask,” I reply, deciding it best to deflect from my involvement in the situation. “Do you think you can break the cuffs?”
Seven pulls ineffectually at the steel bindings with her borg hand for a couple of minutes before giving up. “My nanoprobes do not appear to be functioning correctly,” she comments in some confusion.
“I wonder why,” I mutter under my breath. “I guess we’ll just have to wait until someone comes past to get help.” I don’t like the thought of it, but know I don’t have much choice short of gnawing my own hand off. I’m not that desperate…yet.
Seven rests back against the railings again and I find myself studying her, not for the first time in my life. Even with her slumped drunkenly on the floor I can’t help the huge swell of love and tenderness in my heart. Why did I ever let her go? I laugh internally at the irony, because at the moment I couldn’t let her go even if I wanted to…which I don’t.
A cool breeze wafts up over the bay and through the railings. I shiver involuntarily. At least I had enough sense to grab my coat before we came outside. Seven on the other hand is still in just her dress. She must be cold. The urge to draw her close is strong and I’ve moved before I’ve even consciously thought about it. However, as I try to edge nearer, my left hand catches on the railings, the cuffs clattering noisily against the metal. Seven’s head jerks up.
“Do you like me, Captain?”
“What?” I ask stupidly, taken aback by both the question and the suddenness of it. I gather myself. “Of course I like you. We’re friends aren’t we?”
“Friends,” she repeats. She sounds vaguely disappointed.
There is silence again for a moment and I wonder what prompted the strange question. Why would Seven think I don’t like her? Especially when it couldn’t be further from the truth.
Seven is staring off through the railings, out into the fog. “I was waiting you know.”
Obviously I’ve had too much to drink, because my mind is having trouble understanding where this conversation is going or even what the topic is. At least Seven is talking to me, rather than biting my head off like before.
“Waiting? For what?”
Now I’m really confused. I knew those five whiskeys were a bad idea. “When?”
“Back on Voyager.” I realise Seven’s had a bit too much too, because she’s not making much sense. She’s also got that distant, distracted tone of a mournful drunk. “I was so convinced….” she trails off for a second before finishing abruptly, “…but I guess I was wrong.”
I’m lost in this conversation, all I can do is go with the flow and see if all becomes clear at some point. “Convinced about what?”
Seven laughs. Seven actually laughs. I didn’t even realise I had made a joke.
“Maybe it was mere wishful thinking on my part,” she continues with an edge of bitterness I’m not used to hearing in her voice, “To try and justify my own feelings. They were so overpowering that it seemed inconceivable that they would not be returned.”
Somewhere deep down my brain is telling me I know what she’s talking about, but I can’t quite get to the answers through the surface haze. “What feelings?” I ask to clarify things.
“You are really going to make me say it?” asks Seven. There is an odd, almost manic edge to her voice. She is still not looking at me, making a point of keeping her eyes fixed on a distant point in the misty bay. “Today of all days?” she continues, “Even when it is futile?”
“Seven, it’s late,” I sigh, rubbing at my temple with my free right hand, “Or should I say early, and my mind is a little foggy to tell you the truth. Can you please just tell me what the hell you’re talking about?”
Her face swings towards me so she’s staring right at me, blue eyes now piercing in their intensity. Any suggestion of drunkenness is gone. “I am talking about the fact that I was in love with you; that I still am in love with you.”
I think my mouth hangs open for a good minute before I finally manage to speak. “But…Chakotay…?” My mind has frozen and it’s the most articulate thing I can formulate. Even that comes out as a croaky whisper.
“What about Chakotay?”
“You’re marrying him!” I remind her emphatically. Given her statement of seconds before, something suddenly occurs to me. “Seven, do you actually love him?”
“Of course I do not love him.”
Her candour is shocking, considering she’s meant to be marrying the man in a few hours time. “Then why are you getting married?”
“Because I cannot have you.”
Again I am speechless. My mind is trying to tell me that here at last is my chance. Seven is telling me what I’ve only dreamed about hearing and yet no words are forthcoming from my own lips. It all seems so unreal. “But…earlier…?”
Well, this is progress, I’ve managed a whole different word after the stupefied “but”.
Seven is staring at her right hand, chained to mine through the railings. “I was trying to prove that I did not require your attention, that I did not need you. I wanted to show that I am happy without you.” She glances back at me momentarily. “I am not happy without you.”
The sadness in her voice is all the more remarkable given whom it is coming from. She continues in the face of my continued silence. “It was the same back on Voyager.” She looks away again as she recalls it. “I wanted so much to be with you, but you always remained just out of reach. There were suggestions of something more, enough to keep me hoping, but in the end I had to face the fact that it was pointless. Obviously you did not feel the same for me as I did for you. So when Chakotay suggested dating I determined that it might provide useful data on the subject of relationships. Possibly I was also hoping to provoke a reaction from you. Yet still you did nothing. You did not appear to be displeased in any way. So I continued dating him, and one thing led to another and here we are, getting married.”
Speak, damn you, speak! “Seven…I…”
“It is all right, Captain…Admiral.” She is aware enough to correct herself this time. “I realise you cannot return my feelings. I should not have unburdened myself to you. I give you permission to forget I ever said anything.”
Now it’s my turn to laugh. She looks perplexed by the outburst. “Forget? How could I forget anything you say?” Suddenly the dam has burst and I know there’s no holding back. “Oh, Seven, what the hell have we been doing all these years? It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so painful.”
“I do not believe I understand.”
I need to tell her now. This is the moment. My heart is thudding hard against my chest as I take her one free hand in mine. I swallow for a second and clear my throat to make sure the words come out crystal clear. “I’m in love with you too, Seven. I have been for years.”
Seeing the look of utter shock on her face I can see she had no inkling. How she was unaware I’ll never know. I thought I might as well have had it tattooed across my forehead all these years – “I love Seven” in blaring letters.
“Those suggestions you spoke of, you didn’t imagine them,” I tell her, “They were very real, evidence of my feelings that I couldn’t hide despite my best attempts. I was in love with you on Voyager, so much so that I knew I couldn’t admit to it while I was still required to be your Captain, be everyone’s captain.”
“And…you still love me?” She asks it slowly as if she’s afraid to get to the answer and hear a negative response.
“Then why did you let me engage in a relationship with Chakotay?” she asks in some consternation.
“I don’t control you, Seven,” I try to explain, “You can do what you want, and I thought you wanted to be with him. I had no right to object even if I desperately wanted to.”
“I wish you had.”
“So do I,” I agree ruefully.
“I cannot marry Chakotay,” she states suddenly, “I will cancel the wedding, tell him I no longer wish to be with him.”
A tiny part of me feels sorry for him, but only a tiny part. I’m certainly not going to try and dissuade her. “Try to be gentle,” I simply suggest.
A small smile curves at the corner of her lips. We both know of her propensity for plain-speaking. The silence descends again, but this time it is not dark and oppressive, this time it is rich with possibilities and potential. Finally the burden that I’ve been carrying with me for years is gone. It seems only right that I should shuffle closer along the pavement. Leaning in the final distance and pressing my lips to hers seems entirely natural too. I have absolutely no idea how long the kiss lasts. It seems like an eternity but at the same time not long enough. When I do finally pull back Seven is staring at me with such eager expectation that I feel my breath catch.
I clear my throat and whisper huskily. “You know if we weren’t chained to these railings I’d take you back to mine now and show you just how much I love you.” The suggestion is heavy in my voice and I know she realises what I’m talking about. I can see it in her eyes, she wants to just as much as I do.
Suddenly there is a wrenching noise and then my left wrist pops free of the railings. I rub my numb arm and look incredulously at her. “I thought you couldn’t break the cuffs?”
Seven merely looks back at me, quirking up a single eyebrow. “I lied.”