Written: Jan-April 2008
Codes: J/7 (Alternative Universe)
Thanks: To MercyCroft and jeny_nour for beta reading
Disclaimer: The characters belong to
Warnings: No characters were harmed during the making of this fic, though a few were roughed up around the edges. This AU is generally a bit more gritty, seedy and nasty than the rose-tinted Starfleet original. This story features all female action, so look away now if that’s not your thing (though I know you’ll be peeking really). Also there’s some rather ropey techno-babble included, you’ll have to forgive me (as we all did TPTB in the first place).
Timeline: This story starts at a time equivalent to two months before the episode Endgame at the end of Season Seven in the canon universe. Note this is a sequel to “Symmetry”, so it’s advisable to have read that first (but not completely necessary).
“I’m Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Starship Paladin…”
“I know who you are, and I know your reputation. So let’s just cut to the chase shall we, before you manage to fleece me out of something?”
Janeway crossed her arms and stared at the alien who had interrupted her. She held the gaze for a good few seconds to let him know that she didn’t appreciate being so summarily cut short in her introduction. However, she couldn’t dispute his assessment of her. It was quite a compliment given that it came from a Ferengi. A hot wind whipped some dust up from the barren landscape into her eyes and she had to take a moment to pick it out. She supposed she should have brought some sunglasses, but she liked to be able to look her opponent in the eye, knowing just what she could accomplish with the right stare. Why the Ferengi had chosen the remote, windswept hillside for their meeting she didn’t know. Perhaps he was wary of an ambush. She knew she had quite the ruthless reputation garnered during the first few months after she’d escaped from Earth. Most likely the Ferengi hadn’t heard of her more recent humanitarian dealings, though that suited her in this instance.
Though Krell himself was a couple of inches shorter than Janeway, he was accompanied by two other aliens that more than made up for his lack of stature. They were of a species Janeway didn’t recognise, but what she couldn’t fail to notice were how tall and broad they were, positively dwarfing their employer. Not that she was particularly bothered by their imposing nature; she had backup of her own after all. She made an instinctive glance back over her shoulder. A pair of blue eyes met hers briefly, offering up silent support before they focussed back on the two bodyguards with a steely stare. With her own renewed determination she turned back to the Ferengi.
“Fine, we’ll get down to business. Have you got the power convertor?”
“Have you got the money?”
Janeway couldn’t help the wry smile that crossed her lips; Ferengi only ever had one thing on their mind. “I’d like to see the merchandise first,” she insisted.
There was a brief silence as they both held eye contact. Eventually Krell looked away and Janeway congratulated herself on the victory in the small battle of wills. The Ferengi went over to some crates behind him, leaving Janeway looking up at the two neanderthal-like aliens. She attempted a smile but received back blank stares. Giving up on using any form of charm on them she surveyed her surroundings instead, just in case things took an unexpected turn. They had made extensive scans already from the ship, but first hand study never hurt. If the worst came to the worst Harry should have a transporter lock ready to whisk them to safety. The sound of metal being shifted around drifted to Janeway on the breeze before Krell came back over.
“Here it is.”
The Ferengi held up a cylindrical metal object. It looked superficially like the convertor they required, but Janeway knew better than to trust a Ferengi. “If I may?” she asked, extending a hand for it.
Reluctantly he passed it to her. Janeway noticed the other two aliens stiffening in readiness should she try something. She pulled a tricorder from her inner jacket pocket and verified the functionality of the device. Starfleet technology still had its uses, even when it was ‘borrowed’.
“It all seems in working order,” she confirmed.
“So the money?”
Janeway saw him practically licking his lips in anticipation. She unhooked the bag from her shoulder and dumped it on the ground at his feet. “100 credits as agreed.”
He snatched it up in a flash, thumbing through the contents of the bag. “Actually there’s been a change of plan. It was a lot harder to get hold of than I thought. I’m going to have to ask for 200 credits, overheads and everything.”
Janeway sighed internally but kept her face impassive. “We had an agreement.” She could afford the extra charge, but it was the principle of the thing.
The Ferengi gave a shrug. “If you don’t want it, that’s fine.”
He made to take the convertor back from her, his stubby fingers closing over her own hand. Janeway resolutely held on.
“I’m a reasonable woman, but my associate here will be most displeased if you don’t uphold our bargain.”
Janeway accompanied her words with a slight nod of her head in Seven’s direction. Without needing to look she knew the young woman would be standing there, ramrod straight with her hands clasped firmly behind her back. The Ferengi followed her gaze, looking doubtfully at the woman hovering just behind Janeway.
“Is that meant to scare me?” he asked, half-laughing. “There’s nothing of her! My son’s pet tida-mouse is scarier than that Yakka-Tor. Now I will have my…”
He didn’t get to finish. There was a blur of movement past Janeway as Seven grabbed the alien’s wrist and flipped him over onto his back in the dirt in one swift movement. Janeway gave the bodyguards their due, they tried to react. They just didn’t realise what they were up against. Before the first one could even get his weapon level Seven was on him. Janeway heard the crunch of bone as Seven disarmed him before following it up with a punch to the face. The huge alien was lifted right up off his feet before crashing down on the ground. Supposing she shouldn’t let Seven have all the fun, Janeway pulled her phaser pistol from its holster and spun to drive the metal butt into the final alien’s throat as he charged past her. As he gagged and doubled over, she cracked it on the back of his skull.
With the guards subdued, Janeway moved over to the Ferengi who was still lying on the ground, trying to catch his breath. Seven also came closer and Janeway saw Krell visibly flinch away.
“See, now you got her mad,” said Janeway as Seven loomed over him, “you should probably take it back.”
His eyes darted frantically between the two women. “What? Take what back?” he asked desperately.
“Yakka-Tor,” repeated Janeway, “whatever that means.” Obviously the universal translator didn’t know the word, Janeway guessing it wasn’t very polite. “I probably should have told you that Seven also knows over a thousand different languages.”
Seven made a small threatening movement as if she was going to grab the Ferengi again.
“All right, all right!” he said putting up a stalling hand and trying to shuffle away across the ground. “I’m sorry! You’re not a Yakka-Tor.” He looked back at Janeway. “And you can have your convertor, for the 100 credits.”
Janeway smiled and offered the Ferengi a hand. “Now that wasn’t so difficult was it?”
The Ferengi didn’t reply, instead grumbling to himself all the time as he gathered his things together including his battered bodyguards.
“Nice doing business with you,” offered Janeway as he traipsed off down the hill, dragging his beleaguered party with him.
She waited until he was out of sight before she turned to Seven who was watching her with a faintly disapproving look on her face. At least Janeway thought that was what the young woman was going for. The intended reproach lost a good deal of its effect when Janeway got distracted by the way the sunlight played off Seven’s cheekbones or how the faint breeze picked at the young woman’s blond hair. She allowed herself to stare for a moment, silently giving thanks for the chance meeting that had brought them together.
She almost hadn’t gone to the bar that night, but something had drawn her there rather than drowning her sorrows in the confines of her quarters as had happened most other nights. If she hadn’t met Seven back then she could quite possibly have been doing that right now. As it was the young woman had saved her in more ways than she could possibly imagine.
“I think I should do the negotiating next time,” said Seven, breaking Janeway from her thoughts.
Janeway gave a grin. “But you do the strong and silent type so well.”
“And you do the full of bullshit type so well!”
Janeway’s brow creased. “Bullshit? Has Harry been teaching you new words again? I shall have to have my own words with that young man.”
“I believe I actually heard you use it on our last stop at Hazanzi,” Seven informed her.
“Ah, well, then a fine word it is too, very…evocative.”
Janeway laughed at the deadpan remark. “Indeed. Anyway, we should be delivering our cargo.” She held up the convertor. “Janeway to the Paladin, two to beam to the Britani village.”
The familiar sensation of the transporter beam engulfed Janeway, before depositing her in an entirely new location on the planet. Gone were the dry, dusty hills. Instead they were by the sea, the sound of gentle waves lapping at the shore the first thing she noticed as they materialised, shortly followed by the distinctive salty tang in the air. Their final destination was set back just from the water, a small village consisting of single storey white brick buildings. As they made their way the short distance along the sandy shore Seven spoke up.
“Why do you never just fire your phaser when we get into these fights?” she wondered, “you may as well not bother bringing it.”
“I think I told you the answer to that once,” Janeway replied as they walked, “I’m sure you can recall it with that wonderful memory of yours.”
Janeway glanced across to see Seven quickly sifting through those memories. Her brow always creased slightly when she did. “‘Where would be the fun in that?’” she quoted from their first encounter.
Janeway smiled, recalling it fondly herself. “Exactly.” She had made the remark shortly after instigating a full-on barroom brawl for no other reason than she could.
Seven shook her head. “I still do not think I understand your definition of fun.”
Janeway couldn’t resist the opening. “Then I suppose I shall have to show you later.” The accompanying seductive smirk was enough to let Seven know she was no longer referring to fights with aliens. She thought she detected a faint gulp from Seven before someone disturbed their brief intimate moment.
“You got it!”
Janeway saw the Doctor hurrying towards them, having to do a double-take at his outfit. She supposed he had just looked up ‘beachwear’ in the database and programmed the results into his mobile emitter. That could be the only excuse for the hideously bright shirt and shorts combination he wore. Not that any of them had to wear a uniform these days, but there was always dignity to think of. Her only concession to the warm climate had been to forego her normal black trousers for a pair of white linen ones. Seven on the other hand still had on her usual combination of sturdy combat-trousers and tight grey t-shirt. Janeway was convinced she insisted on wearing the latter due to the disturbing effect it had on Janeway’s eyeline, which had trouble shifting much above chest level in her presence.
The doctor seemed oblivious to Janeway’s open mouthed perusal of his attire, too caught up in taking the convertor. “Now we can fix the power supply at the hospital and finally do something about this virus that’s affecting the village. Seven, could I borrow you for a moment?”
Seven looked questioningly at Janeway, who always found it slightly odd how they still all deferred to her for orders and decisions, despite her holding no more official rank than they did anymore. It was especially true in Seven’s case, since she had never been part of the crew on Voyager.
“Go right ahead,” said Janeway, “we want to get it fixed as quickly as possible.”
As the Doctor and Seven moved up the main street to a nearby building, Janeway found a seat at one of the outdoor cafes, ordering a local drink by the name of Cahati when the attentive waiter came over. It tasted like a cross between coffee and chocolate and Janeway hadn’t quite decided if that was a good thing. She leant back in her chair, just letting the sun warm her face. She didn’t get many chances to simply relax. It was a nice change being on a hospitable planet rather than being chased by other pirates or having to fight off unwelcoming species upset about them invading their space. Unfortunately that was the life she led these days, having to live off quick wits and an even faster gun. Sometimes it made being stranded in the Delta Quadrant seem like a walk in the park.
Her drink nearly finished, Janeway spotted B’Elanna wending her way through the Britani who were going about their every day business. They didn’t give the half-Klingon a second glance, used to seeing the Paladin crew amongst them after the past few days. The younger woman plonked herself down opposite the captain.
“How much longer are we going to be staying here?” she asked impatiently.
“It’s nice to see you too, B’Elanna.”
B’Elanna gave a vaguely apologetic shrug. “Sorry, Captain, it’s just…”
Janeway sensed what was behind B’Elanna’s anxiety. “Don’t worry; we’ll make some profit on the next trip.”
“We better, else the Paladin will be gliding through space on fumes,” stated B’Elanna. “We’re going to need even more power if I ever get that cloaking device up and running.”
“How is that coming?” asked Janeway. The technology they had ‘procured’ from some shifty Romulans a few months back still sat disused in the cargo bay, but was B’Elanna’s latest pet project.
“Slowly,” muttered B’Elanna.
“You could enlist Seven’s help.”
“I could,” was all B’Elanna said in response, the curtness demonstrating what she thought of the idea. “You know I think I liked it better when we were full on pirates rather than doing these good deeds for nothing,” she added, “when you were more…”
Janeway lifted her eyebrows, waiting for B’Elanna to elaborate, but the Klingon thought better of it. Janeway filled in the gaps for her. “Ruthless? Reckless? Heartless?”
Given the suggestions, B’Elanna had the good grace to look abashed. They both knew the terms were a reasonably accurate description for how Janeway had been after leaving Earth. Fortunately someone had saved her from that lonely pit of self-hating despair.
“I haven’t gone completely soft,” Janeway reassured B’Elanna, “I can’t afford to, not out here alone.”
“You were never alone,” pointed out B’Elanna. Her attention was caught by something behind Janeway. “And certainly not now,” she added.
Janeway looked over her shoulder to see what the distraction was. Seven had quickly concluded her dealings with the Doctor and was heading back towards them, her blond head clearly visible among the mainly dark ones of the Britani. She was like a statuesque goddess amongst them, at least in Janeway’s opinion.
“I’ll leave you to it,” came B’Elanna’s voice.
The edge to her tone was plain to hear, but before Janeway could stop her the engineer had risen and gone. Janeway watched her go wondering when she might finally accept Seven. There had been friction between the two almost from the instant Janeway had enlisted Seven into the crew. Janeway supposed she should just be grateful the two of them didn’t come to physical blows anymore as had been the case a few times when Seven had first come onboard. She didn’t think B’Elanna liked the idea of Seven encroaching on her engineering territory, or the fact that she wasn’t part of the original Voyager ‘family’. Matters hadn’t been helped when they discovered Seven had been hiding her Borg origins from them.
Seven glanced after the departing Klingon as she reached Janeway. “Did I miss something?”
“No, nothing,” said Janeway, “B’Elanna’s just a little worried about our good deeds going unpaid.”
“A wise person once told me how random acts of compassion yield other forms of payment,” said Seven thoughtfully.
“That must have been a very wise person indeed.” They shared a knowing smile and Janeway had the sudden urge to be alone with Seven. “Join me for a walk?” she suggested.
“A walk? Where are we going?”
“Nowhere, it’s just for fun.”
Seven hesitated for a moment. “This will not be the type of fun involving fighting random aliens hand-to-hand will it?”
Janeway laughed. “I hope not!”
“In that case I will join you.”
Janeway guided them through the village and turned down to the beach, Seven walking by her side along the sand. They were the only people down there since it was the middle of the afternoon and most of the natives were busy working. The sun felt hotter by the sea and Janeway peeled off her jacket and slung it over her shoulder. The warm rays tickled at the fine hairs on her bare forearms. Janeway felt the brush of fingers against her own. Seven was holding her hand. Janeway glanced at the young woman who didn’t seem to realise she had entwined their fingers. Sensing the study her eyes shifted to Janeway.
Janeway smiled. “Nothing, just thinking what a beautiful day it is.” She stared out over the blue water. “You know it reminds me a bit of Earth.”
Janeway’s head swung back to the young woman, unsure she had
heard correctly. “
Seven merely raised the implant above her left eye knowingly.
“Ah yes,” said Janeway in realisation, “I forgot…the eidetic memory. Read it somewhere did you?”
“In your Starfleet personnel file.”
“Isn’t that meant to be locked?”
Seven just raised her eyebrow again.
“Another silly question,” noted Janeway. “We may need to repeat that chat about privacy some time,” she added though her tone indicated she was more amused than anything by Seven’s actions.
“I read it when I first came on board the Paladin,” Seven said, feeling the need to explain, “when I wanted to know more about the crew.”
“So you studied Harry and B’Elanna’s old files too did you?”
Janeway held her gaze, the young woman shifting slightly under it in a tell-tale sign that she had been caught out.
“I thought not,” concluded Janeway. She felt the warm glow that always infused
her when presented with a sign of Seven’s interest in her. “Anyway, it’s not really like
Janeway made a rueful laugh to hide the pain behind her words. It still rankled that the organisation she had devoted her life to had seen fit to discard her, aided by a traitor from her own crew.
“I would like that,” agreed Seven, “I have never been to Earth.”
Janeway had already known as much. The Borg didn’t make many house calls to the home of the Federation, unless you included those involving time travel. Janeway quickly pushed those thoughts aside – she really didn’t want a headache on such a gorgeous day.
“In the mean time,” she said, coming to a halt on a part of the beach out of sight of the village, “this will have to serve as our substitute.”
She fished the tricorder out of her pocket and keyed in some pre-programmed commands. The faint hum of a transporter beam followed, depositing a single container before them on the sand.
Seven looked at her quizzically. “You planned this.”
Janeway threw her jacket onto the sand and knelt down to pop open the crate. “It was too good an opportunity to miss for a picnic.”
Janeway had already pulled out a rug and a couple of food containers when she realised Seven was still standing. The captain looked up, having to shield her eyes against the sun. “Don’t tell me you’ve never had a picnic?”
Seven thought on it. “I believe I may have done, when I was a child, before…”
Not for the first time Janeway found herself internally cursing the Borg; they had stolen so much from Seven. She supposed she would just have to make up for all those missed chances.
“It’s customary to sit on the rug.” She indicated the plaid material.
She had to stifle a laugh at the tentative way Seven lowered herself onto it, as if it was going to swallow her up. Pulling another tub from the container she passed it to Seven. “I kept the foods reasonably plain, I know you’re still not keen on strong flavours.”
She produced some plates, followed by a bottle of red liquid. As she uncorked the bottle with a resounding pop, Janeway immediately saw the reproving look she was receiving. “Don’t worry, it’s non-alcoholic!” Pouring the liquid into two glasses a small nagging pricked at the back of her mind. “Though a nice glass of red wouldn’t go amiss on a beautiful day like today…”
Seven didn’t need to say anything. The stern look was evidence enough of her feelings on the subject.
“All right, all right!” said Janeway, handing one of the glasses over. “It was just a stray thought. I know I have to stay completely off the stuff.”
Seven sipped her drink. “Good.”
Janeway rolled her eyes.
“You’re worse than my mother sometimes.”
She took a sip of her own before placing the glass down. “But you’ll be able to meet her too if we
ever make it to
A faint stirring of nostalgia hit Janeway as she wondered when she might actually see her mother again. That would be never if Starfleet had anything to do with it. As if it hadn’t been bad enough being stranded in the Delta Quadrant for six years, now she was a lot closer, but still out of reach of her friends and family. Most of the time she could pretend it didn’t matter, but the hurt was always there waiting to ambush her.
“Talking of going places,” continued Janeway not wanting to dwell on it, “I wanted to talk to you about our next destination.”
Janeway supposed she shouldn’t be surprised by the way Seven seemed to know everything before she even mentioned it.
“Yes, it’s the best place to pick up a warp coil and we desperately need a spare one after that incident in the nebula on the way here.”
“I agree. I know someone who should be able to help us.”
Janeway nodded as she bit into a strawberry. The possibility of procuring a warp coil wasn’t really what she was interested in. “And how do you feel about going back there?”
“How do I feel?” repeated Seven as if the question were unexpected. Her head tilted slightly to the side as she considered it. “I do not believe I feel anything in particular at the prospect.”
“No trepidation? Anxiety?” pressed Janeway. “You didn’t exactly have a fun few months there by all accounts.”
“On the contrary,” said Seven, “going by your definition, I had plenty of ‘fun’.”
Janeway laughed, heartened to see the smile Seven gave in response. “But seriously you don’t mind?”
“Of course not,” said Seven, “We need to go there.”
Janeway supposed she would have to take the matter as closed for now. Getting Seven to open up at all was still difficult on occasion. Janeway picked up her drink again and took a swig. She resisted the urge to grimace. No matter how good an imitation it was, there was just something artificial about Synthehol. She supposed the name gave away as much. Not that she would have been able to tell the difference so easily back in the old days, but now she had extensive experience of the taste of real alcohol it was obvious. It had only been on her return to the Alpha Quadrant that she’d had the desire and opportunity to consume the real thing. She’d not had much access to real alcohol while out in the Delta Quadrant, apart from the odd stash of cider that Chakotay had collected. Looking back at that time, it was hard to recall how they’d once been friends. She couldn’t imagine sharing a drink with him ever again. Perhaps pouring one over his head…
Janeway started. “What?”
Seven offered up a small plastic container. “Dough balls, would you like one?”
Janeway couldn’t help sniggering, her mirth breaking out onto a full on laugh. Seven just looked bemused.
“Sorry,” said Janeway, trying to get herself under some semblance of control, “I was just thinking about an old…friend…and then you…,” she shook her head, “it just seemed an apt word to describe him.”
Janeway gave a rueful laugh this time. “I see you think so too, and you’ve never even met him!”
“And have no desire to, unless I have a phaser in my hand.”
Janeway sighed. “Believe me I’ve thought about it too, but then there’s no point dwelling on the past or sullying a beautiful day with talk of that…” A few options flitted through her mind to complete the sentence. Ungrateful bastard? Back-stabbing arsehole? She settled on something inoffensive. “…man.” The options had reminded her of something else. “By the way, what is a Yakka-Tor?”
Seven paused mid bite, swallowing before she continued. “It is a colloquial reference to a woman that sells sexual favours for money.”
“Ah,” Janeway was having trouble coming up with anything better to say. Her mind had gone off on a tangent as soon as Seven had uttered the word ‘sexual’. That tangent involved thoughts of what sort of favours she might be able to procure from Seven, though not necessarily with money.
“Are you all right, Kathryn?”
A shiver slipped down Janeway’s spine at the sound of her name coming from Seven’s lips. It always had that effect on her. It was a good job Seven used it sparingly, referring to her as ‘Captain’ most of the time in front of the others, else she thought she might have been in a permanent state of arousal.
Janeway cleared her throat which was suddenly dry. “Yes, I’m fine.”
Seven wasn’t leaving it at that, though. She was slipped closer on the rug. “Only you seemed somewhat distracted, that distraction occurring about the time I mentioned…” she paused to emphasise the words “…sexual favours.”
Seven was staring at her watching for the tiniest reaction. God damn that woman and her senses! Janeway knew Seven could detect things way beyond the visible and that she was probably like an open book to the young woman right about now. Supposing there was little point even trying to hide it and having no real inclination to either, she simply surrendered to her feelings.
“You distract me,” said Janeway, reaching up a hand to caress Seven’s cheek, “each and every day.”
She closed the remaining distance and pressed her lips to Seven’s. The young woman responded immediately, her hands slipping round Janeway’s waist to pull her closer. Janeway moaned as her lips parted, wanting more. The heat was surging through her, pounding in her head as she found herself falling backwards. She was dimly aware of landing on something soft and squishy, her elbows haphazardly knocking over some containers.
Seven pulled back in horror. “Your picnic!”
“Sod the picnic!” Janeway grabbed the cloth of Seven’s shirt and yanked her back down. Hungry lips melded together as Seven’s body pressed eagerly down upon her.
“Someone might see us,” Seven managed in between frantic kisses.
“Let them,” said Janeway dismissively. She didn’t care about that, all she could think about was the raging fire burning inside her, an unstoppable need to have this woman. She’d never thought it possible she could feel such naked desire until she’d met Seven.
Janeway rolled them over, taking up a dominant position so she could ease Seven’s shirt up over her head. Flinging it away into the sand she surveyed the pale skin revealed to her with a desire that was building fast. Janeway also noticed the food scattered across the rug, something catching her eye. “Maybe some of this could come in handy…”
She reached over to grab a strawberry from the upturned container and proceeded to squash it over Seven’s skin tantalisingly close to her still constrained cleavage. The soft fruit yielded easily under her fingertips. She hoped the flesh below it would too. Having finished, she offered a feral grin.
“We wouldn’t want it all to go to waste now would we?”
Seven looked from Janeway to the red juice dripping slowly down between her breasts and back again. “Indeed, that would be a most inefficient use of the ship’s resources.”
“And I can’t sanction that as captain,” Janeway purred seductively, “I had better make sure all those resources are fully utilized.”
Not waiting for further invite she lowered her head, teasing at the liquid where it lay on Seven’s pale skin with her tongue. She followed the line downwards, having to fight hard to keep her movements slow and controlled in the face of a growing appetite that was nothing to do with food. Reaching a material barrier, she slipped a hand round under Seven’s back and undid the clasp there. Seven groaned, a faint tremble detectable to Janeway’s fingers. She thrust the bra up out the way and immediately devoured the strawberry and nipple all in one.
The sound of Seven’s accompanying moan enflamed her lust further. Continuing to torment the young woman with her tongue, Janeway tracked her hand down over a taught abdomen, feeling Seven shudder under her touch. Heat radiated against her hand as her fingers found the edge of the other woman’s trousers, deftly undoing the thick belt that encircled her waist and popping open the top fastening. Another needy groan hit her ears and stoked her fervour. Seven urgently ground her hips upwards and Janeway slipped her hand down below the waistline. Her fingers found the hem of Seven’s underwear, playing along the material but not descending further.
Hearing the fervent plea in Seven’s voice sent another rush of blood to Janeway’s head and a corresponding surge of moisture flooding against her own trousers. She couldn’t hold back. Thrusting her hand under the thin material and in between Seven’s legs, she slid two fingers inside the younger woman. There was a gasp, her own she realised. Then she wasn’t aware of much at all save the pulsating warmth encompassing her fingers.
Hungry lips moved higher once more, seeking out Seven’s own in a frenzied kiss. Seven arched against her, pushing hard against her fingers, indicating her own desire. She moaned into Janeway’s mouth as the captain withdrew her fingers before slipping back through the wetness, pushing deeper. The trousers restricted her movement, yet the constriction was strangely erotic. Keeping her fingers plunged inside Seven she simply flexed them against the sensitive flesh. Seven shuddered again, her lips breaking contact as her head fell back against the rug. Janeway could feel how close she was, feel the pressure building against her hand. She lowered her head so she could whisper in Seven’s ear.
“Come for me.”
Seven made a noise, somewhere between a cry and a gasp, and then Janeway felt it, the exquisite moment of tightness before her fingers were drenched in Seven’s climax. Seven’s hands clung onto Janeway, grabbing for support as the orgasm ripped through her. Eventually she sagged back onto the rug, looking up at the still fully-clothed captain with an expression that tore away those garments with its obvious desire.
Janeway couldn’t help giving a small gulp. “Maybe we should beam back to the ship,” she suggested hoarsely, suddenly mindful of their exposed position when her clothes were the ones in danger of disappearing onto the sand.
Seven shook her head. “Now where would be the ‘fun’ in that?”
Janeway closed her eyes as she gave a small chuckle. Seven seized her opportunity, pushing up so she could manoeuvre Janeway over onto her back. Having no real desire to resist, Janeway let herself surrender to the moment.
Seven tapped her foot on the metal floor of the storage chamber. Why could people never be on time? It was so...inefficient. She had arrived in plenty of time for the exchange, but it seemed her contact had much more important things to attend to. Most likely those involved drinking copious amounts of alcohol or watching the dancing girls in the bar since those were the main attractions of Outpost 47.
It was a few months since Seven had last been to the space station but it had changed little. The room she waited in was particularly dingy, even for the station. Most of the lights flickered between life and death, casting a stuttering orange glow over only parts of the room. Darkness shrouded the rest. What little she could see was caked in a layer of grime, a cascade of dust evident as her boot scuffed absently across the floor, the dirt an affront to her orderly sensibilities. At least she knew they wouldn’t be disturbed, it didn’t look as if anyone had been in there for months, least of all the repair crews.
It was hard to imagine she’d once called the space station home. Not that it had been a home in the true sense of the word. It was just somewhere she’d found herself. No one chose to live on Outpost 47; it was where you ended up when you had no where else to go. Fortunately for her she did now have somewhere else to go. Kathryn had given that to her.
Seven could barely have dreamed what that chance meeting in a bar would lead to. The frosty reception she’d received at the time for daring to disturb the captain hadn’t even remotely hinted at the possibility of friendship, let alone love. Seven hadn’t even known she was capable of such feelings until she had fallen head over heels for the strong-willed woman. Suddenly Seven had the urge to conclude her business as quickly as possible so she could get back to the Paladin. Kathryn had mentioned something about having a surprise for her and the mischievous glint in her eye as she had said it made Seven even more desperate to discover what it was.
“Seven!” came a call from the door, disturbing her daydream before it got off the ground, “Sorry I’m late.”
Seven gave the approaching alien a stern look, not about to forgive him for his tardiness. “Do you have the warp coil?” she asked, getting straight to the point.
Fazan fumbled in his bag. He seemed agitated and to be having trouble finding it. Seven knew the alien enough to recognise that his behaviour was out of character.
“Is there something wrong?”
He continued to grope in his bag. “No, no, not at all.”
“Only you are sweating and your heart rate has increased by fifteen beats per second,” Seven informed him.
A noise behind them relieved the nervous alien from having to answer. Seven swung round. They were not alone. She counted five of them – one species 2461, Brunali, one species 6961, Ktarian, one species 3148, Klingon, and two species 5618, human. The last two were unusual for the outpost on the edge of the Alpha Quadrant. She had spent a couple of months there before without seeing a single human until Kathryn had come into her life. The group were all armed, but Seven still thought she was up to taking them. She surreptitiously moved her hand behind her back, her fingers closing over the grip of her own phaser pistol stuffed down the back of her heavy-duty trousers. Fazan had mysteriously disappeared. Obviously he didn’t want to stick around and see the result of his betrayal.
“Is there something I can help you with?” she asked. It was a tactic to stall for time as she got into a better position rather than an expectation of negotiation
“Yes,” said the human male, “you can come with us.”
“I do not think I can do that.”
The first blast from her phaser pistol took out the man before he could even move. Knowing where her main threat lay, Seven’s second shot also hit its target right in the chest, knocking the Klingon off his feet. Then she dodged as the group finally reacted to her surprise attack. Phaser fire fizzed over her head. She vaulted forwards, rolled once and came up by the third assailant. A quick uppercut laid the Ktarian out cold. The Brunali managed to nick her with a blast before Seven got to him. Seven ignored the stinging pain in her right arm, knowing her nanoprobes would get to work on it shortly. The Brunali looked surprised that his hit hadn’t slowed Seven in the slightest before she hefted him up off the ground with her Borg empowered left arm and slammed his head into the wall. He cried out as blue blood spurted over the dirt-encrusted metal before collapsing in a heap on the ground. Having seen the fate of her comrades, the final human female could barely aim straight and Seven was able to dodge her wild shots easily. Reaching the woman, Seven kicked the gun from her hand and grabbed a fistful of jacket so she could pick the human up off the ground.
“Please, please,” the woman begged as her feet dangled helplessly, “don’t hurt me!”
“A shame you did not have the same planned for me,” Seven remarked coolly. “Who are you?”
Seven heard a faint click; a trigger being depressed behind her. A normal human wouldn’t have had a chance, but her enhanced hearing gave her that split second to react. She ducked out of the way and shoved the woman she was holding against the wall hard enough to knock her out. Seven spun round, narrowly avoiding another phaser blast. Whoever was firing was off in the shadows, behind some crates. He hadn’t wanted to face her outright like the others, preferring the option of trying to shoot her in the back. Seven sprinted across the room, leapt onto the crates and pounced down on the cowardly assassin. She grabbed his arm and whacked it into the wall, trying to dislodge the phaser. He gave a small grunt but held on. They fought over the weapon, shuffling sideways into the light cast by one of the working wall lamps. The yellowy glow fell over the man’s face. Seven gasped and froze in mid-struggle. She knew him. She had seen his face staring back at her from an old image Kathryn kept in her desk.
The man gave her a slightly bemused look, the tattoo above his left eye wrinkling as he did. “You have me at a disadvantage,” he remarked, “though not for long.”
Seven didn’t see the second phaser until he had levelled it at her and fired.
Janeway rubbed at her head where she had just thumped it on the underside of the replicator console. “Useless blasted thing!” she cursed, jabbing at the workings of the unit which were spilling out in disarray. A chime at her door saved the replicator from further punishment for its crimes and Janeway unfolded herself from her position on the floor and stood up.
B’Elanna strolled into the ready room, spying the mass of wires and components.
“Is there something wrong with your replicator, Captain?”
Janeway wiped most of the grease off her hands by rubbing them on her black trousers. “Yes, there’s something bloody wrong with it, it refuses to make me a decent cup of coffee.”
“So you thought you’d destroy it?”
Janeway gave her a reproving look. “I was trying to fix it.”
B’Elanna held back a sigh. “Maybe you should leave the repairs to the engineers?”
“Engineers?” queried Janeway. “Don’t you mean engineer?”
“Either way, maybe you should let me know next time it malfunctions, or do I need to remind you of the debacle with the messhall larder.”
Janeway held up her hands. “Fine, you fix it.” She threw the screwdriver to B’Elanna and flopped down in the chair behind her desk. “So did you have something to report?”
“I’ve finished up on repairs to the warp drive, so we’ll be able to leave whenever you want.”
“Good.” Janeway gave a nod of pleasure, glad to hear the repairs had progressed quicker than she might have hoped. When they’d been damaged in a nasty disagreement with the Kantati on the way to the station she had feared it may take weeks to fix, especially since B’Elanna had only Harry, Seven and herself to offer help. The doctor was also willing but hardly as adept with engineering instruments as he was with medical ones. The five of them were the sum total of the crew of the stolen ship. For the most part Janeway liked it that way, but sometimes she hankered for the old days on Voyager when she possessed a whole department of engineers ready to do her bidding.
She pushed thoughts of the past to the back of her mind. For a long time they’d languished there poisoning her mind while the alcohol poisoned her insides but then had come Seven. Just when her life had seemed empty, the other woman gave her a reason to live for something other than the bottom of an empty whiskey glass. Janeway hadn’t had a drop to drink for two months now. Before she thought too much about that, she pushed herself back up out of her chair. The nagging temptation was always there so she found it best not to linger on it. She grabbed her battered jacket off the back of her chair and headed for the door to the bridge. “I guess there’s no time like the present to leave then.”
The compact bridge was empty, but then that wasn’t unusual on the Paladin with its skeleton crew. B’Elanna followed the captain out into the bridge. “We’re still waiting for Seven to return from obtaining that spare warp coil,” she remarked.
Janeway stopped in her tracks, a sudden pang of fear jabbing at her heart. She turned to face B’Elanna. “But she should have been back ages ago.”
“I guess so,” admitted B’Elanna, “I just thought she might be catching up with some old friends since she used to live here.”
Janeway glared at her. “Seven? Catching up with friends?”
B’Elanna looked uncomfortable under Janeway’s stare. Janeway knew it wasn’t B’Elanna’s fault, she was hardly Seven’s keeper, but then she was there and convenient to direct her anger at. The captain continued to hold her gaze to show her displeasure as she tapped her comm badge. “Janeway to Seven.” An answer to her hail wasn’t forthcoming. The fear built, clutching at her insides. “Seven, please respond.”
“There are communication dead spots on the station,” offered B’Elanna helpfully.
Janeway didn’t reply, intent on reaching the console at the back of the bridge. “Computer, locate Seven of Nine on the space station or any of the ships docked at it.” She could see the workings of the scan on the screen before the feminine voice gave the response. “Seven of Nine is not on the space station or any of the ships docked at it.” Janeway felt her chest tighten, the pain real now.
She whirled round, seeing B’Elanna’s shocked look. “But where…?” said the confused young woman.
“She must have left on a ship,” snapped Janeway. She caught herself before she said anything further. She had to keep a hold on her fears; they wouldn’t help her find Seven. She needed a calm head, clear thoughts. The sentiment was a good one, but a lot harder to adhere to when she could barely breathe from anxiety. Where was Seven? Had she left voluntarily or had someone forced her, hurt her? Anger flared inside her. They would pay if they had.
Meanwhile B’Elanna was at the other console, also sensing the need for urgent action. “Three ships have left since Seven went onto the station,” she said, reading from the screen. “…wait…this is odd.”
Janeway looked over her shoulder. “What is it?”
“There was a fourth ship docked at mooring eight, but there doesn’t seem to be any record of what it was.”
“Can you track its engine signature?” asked Janeway, already sensing the mysterious ship was the culprit in Seven’s disappearance. “It might tell us who they are.”
B’Elanna nodded and tapped a few more controls. As the distinct signature was displayed, Janeway felt like she had been hit in the gut. It was all she could do to keep standing. She didn’t need any further analysis to recognise the signature. It was Starfleet.
Seven sat on the hard bench in the brig watching the guard on the other side of the force field. Every now and then the man would look up, see her still staring and suddenly find something really interesting to be getting on with at his console. The man wore a Starfleet uniform, the two pips on his yellow undershirt marking him as a lieutenant. Seven still had no idea what Starfleet wanted with her since no one had spoken to her since she’d woken in the brig. She had a suspicion it was not her they were interested in at all, especially considering the identity of the man who had captured her.
As if someone had been reading her thoughts, the doors to the outer room opened and Chakotay stepped into the brig. He was in a uniform too now, his undershirt a scarlet red. The lieutenant gave him a quick acknowledging nod.
Seven could have laughed out loud. Captain? Starfleet had obviously lowered their standards.
She had never met the man before, but as he moved to watch her from the safety of the other side of the force field; she found a powerful loathing building within her. Kathryn had trusted this man, looked to him for support as her first officer and he had betrayed her, sold her out to save his own skin. He dared to offer Seven a smile. She found it irritatingly smug.
“I suppose I don’t need to make introductions, since you already seem to know who I am.”
Seven didn’t reply. If he thought she was going to be co-operative he could think again.
“Janeway told you all about me no doubt.”
Seven kept her face impassive despite the small flutter in her heart at the mention of Kathryn’s name. It wouldn’t do to show any sign of weakness.
“Though I can imagine any such words weren’t particularly complimentary.”
Still Seven refused to say anything. She simply held his gaze from her position sitting on the bench.
“I’m not that bad, you know.”
Seven couldn’t help letting out a derisive snort.
Chakotay’s brow furrowed in annoyance, the tattoo above his left eye creasing. “Fine, have it your way. Kathryn always did seem to manage to engender a bizarre loyalty in people.”
Seven baulked at the use of Kathryn’s first name by the man, as if he was some sort of friend of hers.
“Though I have to admit I’m surprised she would stoop so low as to have someone like you on her crew - a Borg no less. She must have been desperate I guess.”
Seven supposed it wasn’t that unexpected that he knew. No doubt they would have scanned her before bringing her aboard.
“Not feeling talkative?” he prompted. “Still hopefully this will only be a short trip, providing Kathryn is her usual predictable self. What were those three rules of hers? Shirt tucked in…blah blah blah…”
Seven remained silent despite his feeble attempts to goad her into a reaction. The continued look of annoyance on his face made it doubly worthwhile.
He made a dismissive wave of the hand as he continued. “Down with the ship…yadda, yadda, yadda…” His face became serious again, his dark eyes fixing on her. “And never ever abandon a member of your crew.”
Seven realised she had been right, they didn’t want her. They just needed her to get to Kathryn.
“Though will she bother for you?” wondered Chakotay. “I mean you’re only Borg after all, even if you are masquerading as human.”
Seven clenched her jaw to contain her anger. Chakotay knows nothing, she had to remind herself. Kathryn would come for her, though part of her wished that wasn’t the case since it was obviously some sort of trap.
“Are you even listening to me?”
Seven realised she had let her attention waver. It wasn’t hard to do when faced with Chakotay and his monotonous tone. He glanced over his shoulder at the lieutenant. “Lower the force field.”
“Captain, I don’t think…”
“I didn’t ask you to think,” snapped Chakotay, “I asked you to lower the force field.”
Seven couldn’t believe the man’s foolishness, though the guard wasn’t so cavalier. He remained outside as Chakotay stepped over the threshold, phaser trained on Seven. For now she kept her position on the bench as Chakotay edged closer.
“So you think Kathryn will come then?”
Seven didn’t look up at him, keeping her eyes fixed on a point on the wall instead. It was marginally more interesting.
“I hope she does for more than one reason,” added Chakotay cryptically. “Did she ever tell you we had a sort of thing back on Voyager?”
Seven thought she might throw up at the mere thought of it. Obviously it was a fabrication of Chakotay’s delusional mind.
“It was only the whole ‘no fraternisation with crew’ thing that held us back,” he continued. “There was one time when we had to live on a planet together, when we thought the ship wasn’t coming back…well…you can imagine what happens when you’re the only man and woman on a planet.”
Now he mentioned it, Seven did recall such an incident from her review of Voyager’s old logs. The official reports hadn’t mentioned anything the like of which Chakotay was suggesting, but then she supposed it wouldn’t. Surely Kathryn would never have…but then things had been different…maybe…
Chakotay continued in his obnoxious tone as she pondered. “Or maybe you don’t know what happens,” he mused, “I don’t suppose the Borg have much call for sex?”
Seven balled her fists. The disgusting leer on his face as he said the word made her want to punch his nose right in so it impacted his brain, what little there was of that.
“Of course Kathryn’s not in Starfleet any more…” Chakotay leant down, resting a hand on the bench next to her so he could whisper his next comment. “In which case I’m sure she’ll be gagging for a taste of my angry warrior now.” He made a suggestive grab at his crotch.
Seven flew at him, landing a solid punch on his flabby jaw. He wailed in pain and tumbled backwards, Seven following on to land on top of him. She raised her fist again. “Touch her and I will kill you!”
Suddenly stinging pain shot through her whole body. Her limbs were unable to hold her up and she fell. As her head whacked into the metal floor she saw the lieutenant still had his weapon raised. The blast hadn’t been enough to send her into unconsciousness though, merely incapacitate her. As Chakotay drew back his foot and kicked her in the stomach she grimly supposed that was the point.
“Borg freak! How dare you touch me!”
Seven winced as a second blow cracked into her ribs, but refused to cry out.
“Not got anything to say now?”
Seven wasn’t sure she could move her jaw even if she did. That became even less likely as Chakotay’s boot connected with it and sent stars flashing before her eyes.
Janeway paced across the bridge, reached the wall, turned and re-traced her steps, cursing the lack of room on the small ship the whole way. Back on Voyager she could work out her frustrations in circuit of the bridge. On the Paladin everything was designed to be in reaching distance of everything else. It was efficient but not particularly conducive to anxious pacing. It certainly hadn’t helped undo the painful knot in the pit of her stomach.
Each time she’d lost crewmembers before had felt awful – that overriding sense of responsibility, guilt and failure. Yet none of those feelings came close to the gut-wrenching fear she was experiencing now. Why did I let Seven go alone? Why did we go to Outpost 47? The questions kept coming, attempting to drive her mad as they spun round her head.
“Any sign of the ship yet?”
B’Elanna glanced back. “No,” she answered answer, followed by something muttered, but still audible to the captain. “Just as there’s been no sign the other hundred times you’ve asked.”
Leaping down to the helm station and throttling B’Elanna was appealing at that moment, but Janeway restrained herself since she knew it wasn’t the engineer she was angry with; she was angry with whoever had taken Seven.
She had never despised the word more. What do Starfleet want with Seven? Do they even want Seven? She had to consider that it was a trap to capture her and her crew since they were wanted renegades.
“Captain!” Harry’s shout focussed her attention. “I’m picking up something.”
“What is it Mr Kim?”
“It’s the ship we’ve been following, it’s dropped out of warp 3.2 light years ahead.”
Immediately Janeway’s suspicions were raised. The other ship must have detected the pursuit, so why let the Paladin catch up? She forced herself to sit in the command chair, leaning back into its familiar curves and clutching her hands tightly in her lap.
“Bring us out of warp at their location,” she instructed B’Elanna, “raise shields, arm photon torpedoes.” She wasn’t going to leave them in any doubt that she meant business.
It only took a few seconds for the Paladin to reach the desired point. As they dropped out of warp Janeway could see the other ship was just floating there, motionless in space. It made no move towards them. What the hell are they doing?
“They’ve got their shields up, but no weapons armed,” Harry called out.
“Scan the ship, Mr Kim, check for any Borg life signs.”
Even without the scan somehow she knew Seven was on board. When Harry’s words did come it was just a confirmation. “One Borg life sign,” he stated. “Captain, we’re being hailed,” he quickly added.
So they do want to talk. Janeway steeled herself for her first encounter with Starfleet in nearly a year. She took a deep breath and schooled her face into an impassive mask. “On screen.”
The screen flickered into life and a face appeared upon it. Janeway’s stomach plunged. She was glad she was sitting down.
“Hello, Captain,” he replied a slight smile edging his lips, “or should that be just plain Kathryn these days.”
Janeway ground her teeth together. Smug bastard. She noticed he now bore four pips on his red collar. He always had been after her job, it had only taken the small matter of betrayal to get it.
“I’m still captain of this ship,” she informed him.
“One you stole from Starfleet.”
Janeway wasn’t about to get into a debate on the point when there were more important things to be talking about. Besides she thought he was deliberately trying to goad her and wasn’t about to give him a satisfying reaction.
“Why have you kidnapped a member of my crew?”
“Why don’t you come over here and we’ll discuss it?”
Janeway caught the concerned look Harry shot her as Chakotay’s offer hung in the air. She gave him a quick reassuring nod. Obviously there was more going on than a simple case of Starfleet wanting to apprehend them. Chakotay had let them find him; he wanted something. If finding out what that was by talking to him brought her time or opportunity to rescue Seven then she was willing to play along.
She fixed her eyes on the screen where Chakotay’s face still loomed large. “All right.”
He smiled. “Good. If you lower your shields we’ll beam you across.”
“Captain!” B’Elanna’s objection was instantaneous, “they could blow us to Stovokor!”
A small tut came from up on the screen. “As if I would do that to my old friends.”
B’Elanna offered up a sneering look. “You are not my friend, not any more.”
Chakotay feigned injury in his tone. “After all we went through with the Maquis...”
“That was when you had honour!” B’Elanna shot back. “What happened to you Chakotay? What happened to that noble resistance fighter?”
His face hardened. “Prepare for transport,” he stated, closing off the former conversation.
Janeway herself had also often wondered what had turned Chakotay from a dependable, decent first officer into someone willing to sell her out to save his own skin without any seeming remorse. Dismissing it for the time being she glanced at B’Elanna. “Lower the shields.”
“Captain, we can’t trust him.”
“I know, B’Elanna, but lower the shields.”
B’Elanna gave a begrudging nod and Janeway felt the transporter beam wrapping round her. She materialised in the transporter room of Chakotay’s ship to be greeted by an ensign with a phaser. She looked like she was barely out of the academy, greener than Harry had been on his first day on Voyager. Janeway could see where her hand was trembling slightly on the hilt of her gun and wondered if her own piratical reputation had preceded her. Or maybe they told tales at the academy of the disgraced captain as a warning of what could happen when you disobeyed the rules.
“I’ll take your weapon,” the young woman said in an attempt at bravado.
Janeway took pity on the ensign and pulled the gun from the holster under her jacket without argument. “I wasn’t going to use it,” she said innocently as she handed it over.
The ensign gave her a doubtful look and gestured to the door. “The captain’s waiting for you in the conference room.”
They passed a few crew members on the way and Janeway found it rather unnerving to be surrounded by so many Starfleet personnel once more but not be part of them. The Starfleet vessel was like a dozen others that Janeway had been on, all tidy grey corridors and polished screens. It made the careworn Paladin seem rather shabby in comparison. She couldn’t fail to notice how some of the crew stopped to stare, whispering words to one another behind her back once she had passed. The content was inaudible, beyond hearing her name a couple of times. Obviously they knew of her by reputation. What that reputation was she dreaded to think.
Eventually a turbolift led them directly into the conference room. Chakotay was standing at the far end, looking out at the stars. The past year had not been kind to him. His hair was going grey at the temples, his uniform tight across the growing paunch of his stomach. On hearing their entry he swung round.
“Thank you, Ensign Jarrow. You can leave us alone now.”
The woman departed silently leaving the two of them separated by the long table. Janeway thought it a fitting metaphor for the emotional distance between them. It was odd to think how they had once been so close. Staring at the man opposite her now was like staring at a stranger.
“Won’t you take a seat?” Chakotay offered as he lowered himself into the one at the head of the table, the place that had always been hers back on Voyager.
Janeway sat along the side. She would have picked the furthest seat, but she didn’t really fancy shouting just to prove a point.
“Where’s my crew member?” she asked before he could utter another word.
Chakotay leant back in his chair. “The brig.”
Janeway had an almost irresistible urge to reach forward and bang his head against the table until he handed over Seven. She took a deep breath forcing her emotions down.
“I want to see her,” stated Janeway.
Chakotay considered for a moment before answering. “We have things to discuss.”
“Once I’ve verified she’s fine, we can talk,” insisted Janeway.
Chakotay held her gaze for a full five seconds before glancing away. Janeway was impressed he’d held on so long. As first officer he’d never been able to, despite challenging her numerous times. In the end he always backed down.
“All right,” he said, “let’s go to the brig.”
He gestured to the turbolift and Janeway realised the fatal flaw of her plan; she would have to share the enclosed space with him. After they’d entered she kept her eyes fixed on the flashing orange lights that signalled the lift’s movement rather than have to look at him. Unfortunately Chakotay didn’t take the hint and attempted some small talk.
“How have you been?”
Janeway tried hard not to laugh. “Don’t pretend you care.”
“I do care about you, Kathryn.”
Janeway winced at the use of her first name. When they’d fallen out near the end on Voyager he’d seemed to use it more and more. His intention had probably been to try and remind her of their former closeness, but all it succeeded in doing was to annoy her further.
“Cared enough to deliver me up on a plate to Starfleet?”
The turbolift doors swung open and she strode out into the corridor, even though she didn’t actually know where she was going. Chakotay broke into a run to catch up.
“I had no choice,” he said. “You violated a whole host of regulations, directives and protocols.”
“Because you were always such a stickler for those, with the Maquis and everything,” she reminded him. “As my first officer you should have been backing me up, not going behind my back.”
“I wouldn’t have had to if you had listened to me while we were out in the Delta Quadrant.”
Janeway kept quiet. She knew she had basically ignored his counsel for the last year or so on Voyager and quite often before that too, but was hardly about to admit as much. Anyway, she felt justified ignoring bad advice.
Chakotay continued as they made their way along the corridor. “The longer we were in the Delta Quadrant the more isolated you seemed to become. You started to pull away, stopped listening to people.”
Stopped listening to you, you mean, thought Janeway but didn’t interrupt to say as much.
“What happened to Tom and Tuvok was regrettable, but you let it affect your judgement too much. You took some crazy risks, against my advice I might add.”
“It got us home didn’t it?” Janeway snapped, not liking his use of Tom and Tuvok to make his point.
“You made some bad decisions, Kathryn.”
Again with the name. “Bad decisions?” She glanced up at him for the first time on their walk. “Like spurning your advances?”
Chakotay paused perceptibly before answering. “I don’t know what you mean.” The words suggested ignorance, but the small twitch at the corner of his eye gave him away.
Janeway shook her head in disbelief. “That’s what it was all about wasn’t it? It wasn’t about my command decisions, or me not listening to your advice. It was about the fact that you never got over me turning you down. I thought we’d sorted all that out after I got the letter from Mark? I told you then that we could never be a couple. My first duty and responsibility was to the ship. But you couldn’t take no for an answer could you? Your bruised male ego couldn’t handle it and each subsequent knock back fuelled your festering resentment until it had the chance to take action in that court.”
“You broke the law, Kathryn,” insisted Chakotay, ignoring her alternative assessment, “by giving evidence against you, I did my duty as a Starfleet officer.”
The words stung like he had physically slapped her. Yet something about them didn’t ring true.
“You can dress it up any way you like, but the truth is you wanted to do it,” Janeway said, “I think you know as much, but are too ashamed to admit it to yourself. Instead you have to hide behind this pretence of it being somehow honourable and noble for you to stand up and stab me in the back.”
“I was the only one willing to stand up for the truth!” insisted Chakotay. “The rest of them were too blinded by devotion to you!”
“And I bet that hurt too didn’t it? That they would side with me, even all your old Maquis comrades?”
There was no answer from Chakotay. She’d hit a sore point.
“You wanted to get up in that witness box,” Janeway re-iterated, “not for Starfleet. Not for justice. For you. It was your way of paying me back for all the perceived wrongs I had done you. Did it give you a thrill, seeing me squirm like that?”
Still there was no response. She took that as answer enough.
“We can spend all day reminiscing about the ‘good’ old days,” she continued, “or you can cut the crap and tell me what it is you want and why you’ve kidnapped my crew member to get it.”
Chakotay pulled up outside a door. “I thought you wanted to see her first?” he said testily, attempting to regain some sort of control.
He tapped a code into the control panel and the thick doors to the brig slid open. Janeway calmly stepped inside though part of her wanted to dash in as quickly as possible. The first thing she saw was the lieutenant on guard, but as she moved further into the room the furthest cell became visible. Seven was sitting on the single bench that occupied the far wall. Her eyes locked onto Janeway’s immediately.
“Seven.” The name was all Janeway could manage. If she said anything else at that moment she feared the emotion in her voice would betray her to Chakotay. She fought to keep her expression impassive though inside her heart was beating wildly.
“Captain.” Seven’s response was similarly placid and short. To anyone else it may have seemed downright cool, but Janeway could detect the truth behind the ice blue eyes. That truth was a passion that burned bright in those depths.
Chakotay interrupted the moment. “See, she’s fine. I don’t know what you thought we might have done to her. We are Starfleet after all.”
Janeway gave him a sideways glance. “That’s what I was afraid of.” Without waiting for an answer she looked back to Seven. “Is this true, have they been treating you adequately?”
Seven rose from the bench, coming to stand as close to the forcefield as possible without touching it. “My treatment has been…acceptable.”
The pause was enough for Janeway to deduce it had been far from so. Seven was close enough now for Janeway to be able to see a faint piece of scarring on the young woman’s temple that hadn’t been there before. Seven’s nanoprobes had repaired most of whatever damage there had been, but there was no doubt there had been damage. Janeway felt her insides tighten. As if she didn’t have enough reason to despise Chakotay already.
“Now, onto business,” he piped up.
Janeway was tempted to wrestle the guard to the floor, grab his weapon and tell Chakotay exactly what he could do with his business just before she phasered the tattoo from his face. It was only the fact that the guard was out of reach on the other side of the room that prevented her.
“What do you want?” she asked coolly.
“I need you to run a little errand for me, pick up something and bring it back to me. That’s what you do isn’t it, ferry cargo about?”
She wondered if he could have been more condescending if he tried. “And why can’t you go and get this item yourself?”
“I sold it to them in the first place.”
Janeway was staring to get the idea. “You want me to go and steal it back for you?”
Chakotay shrugged. “You are a pirate are you not?”
Janeway ignored the snide comment. “Why do you need it back?” she wondered aloud, watching his face for clues. “Was it something you shouldn’t have sold? Some Starfleet technology perhaps?”
He flinched. He always had been easy to read.
“Why did you sell it to them in the first place?” she asked. “What did you need money for?”
“I think you seem to be under some sort of misconception as to who’s in charge here,” Chakotay shot back, having had enough of her questions. “It doesn’t matter why I sold it or why I can’t go and get it back myself.” He drew his phaser. “What matters is that if you don’t go and get it back for me, I’ll kill your crewperson.”
He levelled the phaser in Seven’s direction. Fear clutched Janeway’s stomach into a tight knot as Chakotay nodded to his lieutenant. “Lower the force field.”
Seven made to move but Chakotay quickly targeted her, keeping her far away from him.
“So what’s it to be?” asked Chakotay. “Will you get the item for me, or do I have to kill her?”
Janeway tried to focus her thoughts, but it was hard with her pulsating heart pumping blood fast to her brain. Forcing down the rush of anxiety, she glanced from Chakotay to Seven and back again. For once his face was unreadable. Would he really do it? Her first thought was that he was too much of a coward and yet he was desperate else why would he have involved her at all? The nervous sweat prickled down her spine as the moment stretched on without any movement or speech.
“I’m waiting,” prompted Chakotay, his finger flexing on the trigger.
“Don’t listen to him Kathryn!” called Seven.
Chakotay’s hand lowered slightly, a bemused expression on his face. “Kathryn?” he queried, looking at Janeway. “Relaxed in your non-Starfleet days have you? You only used to let me use your first name. It was reserved just for us in our intimate moments.”
Janeway cringed at the suggestive emphasis. Her eyes naturally drifted to Seven who was shooting daggers at Chakotay. He was blithely ignoring her though, focussed on Janeway instead.
“I’m surprised you let just anyone use it now. You are still the captain as you said.”
Janeway forced herself to keep staring at him rather than glancing at Seven, hoping he was too stupid to follow his line of reasoning on to its natural conclusion. Unfortunately it appeared as if the wheels of realisation were slowly in motion in his brain.
“Unless…” he pondered out loud. His eyes narrowed and then shifted to Seven, staring at her for a good few seconds as if examining her in a whole new light. His gaze shifted back to Janeway who tried to keep her expression even despite her racing heart.
“Surely not,” said Chakotay uncertainly, “not…you and the Borg?”
Janeway didn’t answer though she feared it was too late anyway; love was a difficult thing to hide. Chakotay shook his head in disbelief. “Is this what you’ve been reduced to? You and that…that…” he gestured at Seven with the hand that held the phaser still, “…thing?”
“She is not a thing,” stated Janeway, finding her voice, “she’s more of a human being than you’ll ever be.”
An angry look flashed across his face and he jabbed the phaser towards Seven again. “I ought to kill her right now!”
Janeway felt another cold stab of fear. “I’ll do it!”
Chakotay’s brow furrowed at her sudden outburst. “What?”
“This object you want me to steal for you,” said Janeway, “I’ll get it.”
Chakotay visibly relaxed, his arm lowering slightly. “I’m glad we could come to an agreement.”
Janeway would rather have come to an accord with the devil, but she had little choice. “We’ve only got an agreement if you let her go now.”
He shook his head. “I don’t think so. She’s my guarantee. Get me the object, then you can have your pet Borg back.”
“How do I know you won’t just kill her even if I do this for you?”
Chakotay shrugged. “You’ll have to take my word for it.”
Janeway let out a scoffing noise. “No offence but that’s worth about as much as a chocolate coffee pot. Actually that’s not quite true,” she corrected herself, “I do mean offence.” She fixed him with a stare containing more conviction than she actually felt. “Either Seven comes with me now or there’s no deal.”
Chakotay laughed. “I hardly think you’re in a strong bargaining position.”
She wasn’t, but she could tell Chakotay was hooked on the idea of her retrieving his item. It wouldn’t take much to reel him in. “If you let Seven come with me now you have my word that I’ll bring you the object. Mine still counts for something.”
She feared she might have overdone it with the disparaging assessment of his honesty as he deliberated. Janeway held his gaze, imparting that there was no compromising on the point. Chakotay knew the look all too well.
“Fine,” he eventually agreed, “you can take her now.”
Janeway held in her sigh of relief as Seven stepped out of the brig to stand at her side. Fearing for what was left of her composure, Janeway didn’t look. Just the sense of having Seven there was reassuring enough. Now she had secured Seven’s safety all Janeway could think about was getting off the ship as quickly as possible. Chakotay tried to prolong things by droning on about the details of her ‘mission’ and contacting him when it was complete but she barely listened. Eventually he had them escorted back to the transporter room, having handed her a padd with the full instructions.
As soon as they beamed back, Janeway was off and moving. She brushed past an inquisitive Harry without saying a word, wanting to get back to her quarters. She heard the footsteps following behind her. Seven eventually caught up but didn’t question Janeway’s continued silence or odd behaviour. Entering her quarters, Janeway waited for the telltale sound of the doors sliding shut before she turned round. She took one step, wrapped her arms around Seven and pulled her into a fierce kiss.
Janeway felt her anxiety drain away, finally able to relax now they were alone. She let all her pent up emotions become focussed in that one searing kiss. Her tongue parted warm lips, the urge to consume Seven overpowering. Before her naked desire swamped her completely she managed to pull back, taking a few deep breaths.
Seven quirked an eyebrow in her usual inquisitive way. “What was that for?” she asked. “Not that I am complaining.”
“Don’t ever bloody do that to me again!”
Seven continued to look confused. “What?”
“Getting yourself kidnapped!”
Seven nodded. “I shall make a mental note. Just in case I was thinking it might be a good idea in the future.”
Janeway sighed and headed for the replicator, discarding her jacket and Chakotay’s padd on the way. She almost ordered a whiskey out of habit. It had always been her favourite in those dark days. She managed to catch herself in time to modify the order to a black coffee. She sipped it, trying to bring her careening emotions back under some form of control.
She felt a touch on her arm. “It is all right, Kathryn, I was scared too.”
Janeway looked up into the sincere blue eyes. “You were?”
“Yes, of course. I was scared I might never see you again.”
Janeway felt her heart melt at the sentiment. “Oh Seven, you should know that I would always come for you,” she insisted, “as long as there was breath left in my body. I’d take on the whole of Starfleet itself if it tried to stand between us.”
“Chakotay suggested that you might not,” said Seven with a touch of sadness, “that I was not worth saving being a Borg.”
“He was wrong.”
“He also said some other things…”
Janeway could just imagine, but let curiosity get the better of her. “Such as?”
“Did you and Chakotay ever engage in a relationship?”
Janeway almost dropped her coffee at the stark question. “What?” Whatever she had been expecting, that wasn’t it.
“Did you ever copulate?” persisted Seven bluntly.
“What did he say?”
“You do not deny it?”
Janeway bit off an angry retort, but her words carried a warning. “I don’t quite see why I should have to explain my actions before we met…”
“You did copulate with him!” cried Seven not waiting for her to finish.
“Will you stop calling it that!” shouted back Janeway before modulating the level of her voice. “And no I did not do that with him, or anything else for that matter.”
“But he said…”
“And you believe Chakotay do you?”
“No…I…” Suddenly Seven had lost all her righteous conviction.
“Just as Starfleet Command believed him.”
It was a low blow. Janeway could see as much in the pained expression on Seven’s face. Janeway relented, unable to stand seeing such a look and knowing she could do something to assuage it. She decided to try and explain things from the start.
“I admit that there was a time during the first couple of years we were stranded in the Delta Quadrant that I did consider...” She saw Seven’s lip curling up in disgust. “He was different then, believe me,” she said to try and justify it, “but that’s beside the point. It never got beyond a bit of harmless flirting. For one I was technically still engaged to Mark and for another I was the captain. My first duty was to the crew and getting them home. We never kissed and we most certainly never had sex, thankfully. What did he actually say?”
“He mentioned the time when you were both stranded on a planet due to having contracted a seemingly incurable virus. It was stardate 49690.1.”
Janeway didn’t recall the date, not having Seven’s eidetic memory, but the situation was familiar. “Ah, yes, I remember. Thank goodness I had that friendly little monkey to distract me from Chakotay and his angry warrior stories.”
“So you were never involved with anyone the whole time you were in the Delta Quadrant?”
“Not anyone real…” Janeway saw the confused look she was getting and decided it was best not to elaborate. “Don’t ask! Let’s just say everyone’s allowed a lapse in judgement after five years of enforced celibacy.”
“Though you have not been celibate since?”
Trust Seven to ask the difficult question. “What do you want me to say?” countered Janeway, “you already know about Martan, and yes, there were others too, but none of those…associations meant anything. They were just a way to try and feel something, anything in those lonely, depressing months.”
“But you did not feel anything?”
“No,” agreed Janeway, “not until you.”
The light in Seven’s eyes at her words reached right into Janeway’s heart and held it enthralled. It was absolutely true. Until Seven, Janeway had doubted that she would ever feel anything again. Yet Seven had reawakened emotions she’d thought dead and stirred others she’d never felt before. She didn’t move as Seven edged closer. She was still frozen to the spot as the fingers started to stroke down her cheek.
“I did not truly feel anything until I met you either,” whispered Seven.
Janeway wanted to sink into the touch and lose herself, but something held her back, a nagging fear that picked at the back of her mind. “Though I was the first human being you met, who knows, maybe if you met some more…”
Seven cut her off with a finger on the lips. “I could meet a million different humans, but I already know there is only one I want to spend my life with. There is only one I love.”
Before Janeway could question it, Seven’s lips met hers and caused an explosion of arousal through her whole body. Suddenly any doubts were gone. They stumbled backwards towards the couch. As they fell onto it Seven let out a yelp that didn’t sound like one of pleasure. Janeway pulled back to see Seven removing something from under her bottom. She held up a cylindrical container.
“This is yours I believe.”
“Actually it’s yours,” corrected Janeway. She took the tube from Seven and removed the top. “I was going to give it to you later. It’s that surprise I mentioned.”
Seven eagerly took the offered container and pulled out the contents. She studied the thin metallic object for a few seconds. “What is it?”
Janeway laughed at the cute look of consternation. Taking it from Seven, she put her lips over one of the holes and positioned her fingers over some of the others. She blew, eliciting a high pitched whine from the instrument. Wincing she lowered it from her mouth. “I never was very musical,” she said apologetically, “but I remembered you saying it was one of your interests, only you didn’t have an instrument.” She offered it to Seven again. “Well, now you do. It’s an Agalean Flute, I’ve downloaded extensive instructions on how to play to the database too.”
Seven reverentially took it back and copied how Janeway had positioned her mouth and fingers. When she blew a single clear note resounded round the room.
Janeway gave an affronted pout. “Show off!”
Seven smiled and Janeway knew the instrument had been worth the hefty price. She would gladly have paid ten times as much to see such a smile.
“Thank you,” said Seven.
And a hundred times as much to get such a thank you.
Seven carefully slid it back into its container. “I shall start learning tomorrow, but I believe tonight I wish to occupy my mouth in other ways.”
Seven wasn’t sure her legs were going to hold her up as she rose. Her mind was already fast-forwarding to thoughts of what exactly she could be doing with her tongue and it was doing funny things to her motor control. She barely managed to extend her hand without it shaking.
“Come to bed.”
Kathryn took her fingers, Seven feeling the warmth spread up her arm from the contact. She led the captain through to the sleeping area, taking a few deep calming breaths. She wanted to take it slow, savour the moment, despite her body straining to be released to devour Kathryn on the spot. Her willpower was further tested as she turned to face the other woman. The low light in the room caught the blue in Kathryn’s eyes, focussed on her with such a look of desire that Seven couldn’t hold back. Kathryn’s head naturally tilted up to meet the impending kiss.
When it came the amazing sensations flooded Seven, as they always did. She found it hard to think, to control her actions. So she didn’t try, she let her emotions control her. She pressed forwards, melding her body to Kathryn’s as they pushed up against the wall. Her hands ached to touch skin and she sought out the front of Kathryn’s shirt, deftly unbuttoning it. As her hands glided over smooth flesh Kathryn gasped into her mouth. That turned into a guttural moan as Seven fingers found soft breasts and taut nipples.
Kathryn’s head jerked back as Seven teased them. “Oh…God…”
Seven always found it funny that Kathryn used the name of a deity she had no belief in at such moments. Taking the newly exposed neck as an invite she bent to kiss along Kathryn’s jawline, finally pushing the red shirt off over the other woman’s shoulders at the same time. Seven’s lips trailed down onto Kathryn’s collarbone, gently sucking and nipping at the flesh as she went. The heat rising fast in her now, her hand moved lower down between them, worming its way between Kathryn’s legs. She rubbed the palm over the material of the trousers, feeling the warmth through it.
Suddenly Kathryn caught her hand. “I…I need to lie down.” Seven could hear the uncharacteristic hint of desperation in Kathryn’s voice and knew she must be close. Seven withdrew her hand and instead guided Kathryn round so her back was to the bed.
“Then you also need fewer clothes,” noted Seven.
Kathryn practically jumped out of them before Seven could get anywhere near her and Seven bit back a smile. “That was certainly…efficient,” she managed, trying not to let the sight of Kathryn standing naked before her scramble her brains completely.
“Just shut up and get over here.”
Seven didn’t need the order, she was more than happy to comply. However, rather than give in to her raging desire, she slowly and reverentially guided Kathryn down onto the covers before pausing for a moment to drink in the beauty before her.
When she had left the Collective she could never have imagined a time when one single individual would mean so much to her. Individuals seemed so small, so insignificant after the power of the Collective. Then had come Kathryn and she had realised there were different types of power. The connection they shared filled Seven with a different kind of strength, a new certainty of who she was and where she was meant to be.
At that moment she knew precisely where that was, and it wasn’t standing gawping. She swiftly removed her own clothes, discarding them on the floor before she lowered herself onto the bed. Kathryn’s hair was splayed out over the pale sheets and Seven ran her fingers through it as she drew her into a lingering kiss, their bodies pressing hotly against one another. Seven was careful exactly where she pressed up against the smaller frame, mindful of the implants the dotted her own body. Kathryn had reassured her time and again that she couldn’t care less, that they were as much a part of Seven as anything else, but Seven still didn’t think it could be particularly comfortable to be poked in a delicate place by angular metal.
“I wish you wouldn’t do that.”
Seven started, surprised by the sudden comment. “What?”
“Be careful where you touch me.”
Seven met the other woman’s gaze, wondering when Kathryn had developed telepathic powers.
“I want you,” Janeway continued, sending a fresh shiver of anticipation through Seven, “all of you.”
To demonstrate her point she pulled Seven to her, entwining her legs with Seven’s so that they were melded together. Seven felt hard nipples pressing against her chest and the heat of Kathryn’s sex sliding over her thigh. A pair of blue-grey eyes were mere inches from her own. “I love you,” said Kathryn simply.
Casting her fears and inhibitions aside, Seven crushed her lips to Kathryn’s, deepening the kiss immediately as she sought to consume her. Eventually Seven drew away to slip further down the bed, her tongue trailing a languid pattern across skin that was now beaded with sweat. She licked at it, relishing the slightly salty taste. Further down still it was her sense of smell enveloped by the obvious signs of arousal. It infused her with an overwhelming desire to drown herself in its source, to taste it as well.
Seven grazed her fingers over the inside of Kathryn’s thighs, gently pushing them apart. Then she was down between them, teasing her tongue over the hard knot below the thatch of curls. Kathryn bucked as she flicked it for the first time, Seven reaching up to place a stilling, possessive hand over her abdomen. She could feel the tightness of the muscles there. Delving further through the wetness she pushed her tongue up inside Kathryn, burying her face between her legs. She felt the sheets being dragged from under her as Kathryn gripped them tight, bunching them in her fists. The moans drifted to Seven’s ears, fuelling her own passion further.
She withdrew for the barest of moments, her hot breaths the only thing left caressing Kathryn. Each one drew a fresh shudder. Seven glanced up over the curls, the tight stomach and the erect nipples to the face beyond. She waited until Kathryn opened her eyes her met her gaze. The need within them shot right through her, piercing her heart before flooding out between her own legs. Seven needed Kathryn too, needed her right now. She ducked back down, her tongue finding the sensitive spot again and starting to taunt it in slow swirls. At the same time she pushed first one and then two fingers inside Kathryn. She let out her own gasp as she felt how wet the other woman was, knowing it was because of her. Her tongue movements became more fevered, urgent, flicking back and forth mercilessly as Kathryn’s cries and pants resounded out round the room. Kathryn’s hips started to rise up off the bed, Seven having to squirm up to follow them, not wanting to lose contact.
“Oh God! Oh God!”
The deity was back again. Seven knew she was on the verge. She twisted her fingers to graze the spot that would drive Kathryn over the edge. The call was replaced with an incoherent cry as the body underneath Seven tensed for that one perfect moment before her release came. Seven’s right hand was soaked in it as Kathryn flopped back down. The other woman lay panting on the bed as Seven rose up, licking the product of their love-making from her lips.
Janeway rested back on her pillow and wondered what she had done to deserve this. Then again she supposed it was about time something went right after the misfortune of the past year or so. She only hoped nothing was lurking to disrupt her new found happiness. Considering that she realised she should make every moment count. She pulled herself up, propping her head on her palm as she turned to Seven who had settled down next to her.
“You know what,” she said, “you should just move in here with me.”
Seven didn’t turn her head, still gazing up at the ceiling. “Are we short on space on board?”
Seven’s eyes turned to her, a loose bit of blond hair falling across her cheek. “Do we need the space from my quarters for another purpose?”
“What? No!” Janeway shook her head. “It’s just something people do.”
Seven sat up, pulling some of the bedclothes with her to cover the lower half of her torso. “What people?”
“People who are in a relationship.”
“They surrender their quarters for no purpose?”
“No!” Janeway could feel her head starting to hurt. She sat up too, mirroring Seven’s position with the sheets to cover her modesty though why she was bothering when the young woman had just seen her completely naked she didn’t know. “They move in together,” she tried to explain, “so they can spend more time together.”
“But I spend all my spare time here anyway.”
Janeway buried her head in her hands for a moment. She took a few deep breaths before she raised it again. “It’s a way of showing your commitment in a relationship.”
Janeway choked, her voice coming out as a squeak. “Not quite.”
“You do not wish to get married?”
“Let’s just take things one step at a time shall we?”
“You do not love me enough to get married?”
“No…yes…I…” How did we get on to this? I swear she does it on purpose. Regain control. “Do you want to move in or not?”
Seven deliberated for all of half a second. “Yes.”
Janeway let out a long sigh. She hoped it wouldn’t be so hard if she ever did propose, finding that thought strangely appealing now she had more than a second to think about it.
“So what does this mean?”
“Huh?” Janeway had gotten distracted with visions of Seven in a white dress.
“Moving in together,” Seven reminded her, “what should I do?”
“It’s customary for you to move your belongings into my quarters,” Janeway explained.
“I do not have any belongings.”
Janeway slapped her forehead in exasperation. “You have clothes.”
“Only the ones I was wearing and they are already here.” Seven cast her eyes around the floor, “somewhere.”
“Your regeneration unit then?” suggested Janeway.
“All right, I shall store my regeneration unit here as a sign that I have ‘moved in’.”
“Fantastic!” cried Janeway a little too enthusiastically, just glad to have reached the conclusion of the subject.
“I can not imagine you as a Starfleet Captain.”
Janeway was still recovering from the previous conversation and wasn’t quite sure she had heard right. “Sorry?”
Seven shifted so she was directly facing Janeway, legs crossed under the sheets. “Having met Chakotay and seen Starfleet at work I cannot imagine you as a Starfleet Captain,” she re-iterated.
Janeway gave a small derisive snort. “Chakotay is not exactly a shining example. It’s not normal for Starfleet Captains to go around selling bits of Starfleet technology for their own ends or then getting someone else to steal it back. The Federation is meant to be about furthering scientific exploration along with peace and co-operation between cultures, not milking them for what it can get.”
“Is that why we have been visiting worlds like the Britani’s more and more, places where people need help?”
Janeway raised a questioning eyebrow.
“So we can further those Starfleet ideals,” clarified Seven.
Janeway gave a shrug. “I guess it is my attempt to make amends, after discarding my principles so badly in the Delta Quadrant. That’s why I’m going to honour my word to Chakotay. I guess deep down I’ll always be a Starfleet Captain, even if I no longer wear the uniform.”
“Now that is something I would like to see,” mused Seven.
“Sorry?” Janeway was having trouble keeping up. She supposed it was something to do with the mind-blowing sex they’d just had.
“You in a uniform,” explained Seven. “Do you still have one?”
“I don’t think so.” Janeway saw the desire behind Seven’s eyes, having to swallow hard before she continued. “I could replicate one…”
Seven thought about it before her hand started to snake across the top of the sheets towards Janeway. “Maybe another time.”
As the fingers started to peel away the sheet Janeway considered she could wait too.
Some time later Seven lay in the bed watching the sleeping form beside her. She thought she could get used to this ‘living together’, especially if it meant Kathryn made love to her in such an enthusiastic way. Seven had known of the concept when Kathryn brought it up, despite her feigned ignorance. It had just been too tempting to see how tangled Kathryn got as she tried to explain it. Usually the other woman realised a lot sooner that Seven was deliberately teasing her. Seven considered maybe her injection of ‘marriage’ into the conversation had thrown Kathryn this time. It had merely been another tactic in her game, yet now Seven found herself contemplating it. What would it be like being married? How would it be any different to now? She didn’t really see how it would be. She loved Kathryn and an official union wouldn’t change that.
She reached out to stroke her fingers over Kathryn’s shoulder, careful not to wake her. Seven herself didn’t really need to sleep. Occasionally she would anyway, just for the bliss of dozing off cuddled in Kathryn’s arms. Normally though she would have to regenerate instead. At least she could do that lying in the bed too, rather than having to stand in an alcove like a normal drone. However, it was hardly romantic having your partner plugged into the ship and recharging next to you like some appliance. One minute she would be awake and the next it was like a switch had been flicked and she had been turned off, her body stiff and rigid. Kathryn insisted that she preferred to have Seven there, even if she was unconscious to all intents and purposes. Seven suspected that Kathryn liked to watch her too if the number of times she had come out of regeneration to find the other woman staring at her was anything to go by.
Tonight she found sleep elusive. Unfortunately in order to reach the necessary level of tiredness to achieve natural sleep she needed to forego regeneration for at least 24 hours. Even then she struggled sometimes. In those cases she didn’t mind just lying there and watching Kathryn as she was doing now. She snuggled down under the covers, wrapping her arms protectively round the smaller body from behind. She could feel each of Kathryn’s breaths with the rise and fall of her chest. Seven continued to just hold her close long into the night.
The beam of Janeway’s light crept along the walls, but each newly revealed area showed her much the same as all those she’d passed before – nothing. After a couple if days journey they’d arrived at the space station Chakotay claimed housed the flux generator he’d sold only to find it deserted. On the way there, Janeway had deliberated over whether they should sneak in and steal the generator or whether it was worth trying a more diplomatic route. In the end she hadn’t been required to make the decision. However, now her initial concerns had been replaced with ones regarding what had happened to the personnel from the station. The station belonged to a species known as the Londorian, but none of them seemed to be present.
Their initial scans from the ship revealed few clues, though they had encountered some distortion which made it hard to get an accurate reading of certain areas. Gauging it was sufficiently safe though, she and Seven had beamed down to investigate and try and locate Chakotay’s technology.
They had found the space station running on emergency power only. The corridors were dark with no signs of life. Janeway was reminded of the time she had come back to Voyager from a diplomatic mission to the Tak-Tak world. Then it had been her and Neelix creeping round the ship wondering what had become of everyone. She only hoped she wasn’t about to stumble across any giant bugs this time. She didn’t have a knife with her for a start. She swung her light round the next corner and promptly let out a loud gasp as she saw a pale face staring back at her. The light reflected off metal over the left eye.
“Seven!” she exclaimed in a mixture of annoyance and relief. “What are you doing sneaking up on me like that?”
“My apologies, Captain, I have completed my circuit of this section.”
Janeway sighed. “Great, so that’s still a big fat nothing then. I wonder if this is Chakotay’s idea of a joke?”
“It is not particularly amusing,” remarked Seven.
“No, it isn’t,” agreed Janeway. “Still, there’s one more section in the centre of the station.”
When they reached that section they found the door mechanism was jammed. It took some brute force from Seven to prize the doors apart. As she did light flooded out into the corridor and Janeway blinked a few times to adjust to the sudden brightness. Switching off her own light she stepped into the large room at the centre of the space station. Her eyes were drawn to a reactor at the far end, emitting a pulsating orange glow. The whole room reverberated with the low thrum of energy at work. Janeway crossed to the nearest console of the many arrayed along the walls and started trying to interpret the readings aided by her tricorder. Seven did the same at one of the others.
“Can you find any trace of the flux generator?” she called over to Seven as her eyes scanned the alien readouts.
When there was no reply from the usually forthright woman, Janeway glanced up. Seven was just staring at her screen. Seeing the look of concern, a nervous shudder ran through Janeway. Nothing fazed Seven.
“What is it?”
“You should look.”
Janeway approached and Seven stood aside so she could study the information. It didn’t take her long to reach the same conclusion as Seven.
“They’ve been trying to create a weapon,” Janeway said with distaste. Had Chakotay known that was what they wanted the generator for?
“Yes, and that is not the least of it,” said Seven grimly.
Janeway continued to decipher the data, sucking in a breath as she reached the inevitable conclusion. “It’s become unstable. That’s why there’s no one here; they’ve abandoned the station.”
“Correct,” agreed Seven. “It appears the generator has overloaded the quantum reaction in the weapon’s core, starting an irreversible chain reaction.”
Janeway nodded her head. “Then there are only two possible outcomes,” she said, “either the chain reaction reaches critical and the station explodes taking out half the system,” she paused, the second option was no more palatable, “or someone modulates it to contain the explosion to just the station.”
“That person would have to be on the station until the last moment,” pointed out Seven.
“Worse,” corrected Janeway, “they would have to be on the station to the very end.”
Seven’s brow furrowed, Janeway surprised she knew something the young woman didn’t for once.
“A quantum reaction overload of this sort will emit ever growing quantities of thoron radiation,” explained the captain, “you’d never be able to get a transporter beam through it to get the person off once it had reached a certain critical level.”
“That person would be killed,” concluded Seven.
“Yes.” Janeway knew what needed to be done, though could only assume from Seven’s dispassionate statement that she hadn’t reached the same conclusion. In a way she was grateful, it gave them a few more moments of perceived normality. “Chakotay must have known what was happening here; that’s why he didn’t want to come and get it back.”
“But why send you?” asked Seven. “Could he not have just let the core reach its natural chain reaction even if that did mean widespread destruction?”
“I don’t think even Chakotay’s so heartless as to want to be responsible for genocide,” Janeway said. “Or maybe he was just worried Starfleet might trace it back to him. An explosion of that size would attract attention and questions. A single space station being destroyed, while regrettable, wouldn’t be the sort of thing Starfleet would probe. So instead he co-opted me into it. He knew I wouldn’t be able to stand by and let millions of people be killed. Plus I’m expendable; no one’s going to notice if I disappear, I’m already off the chart.”
As she finished Janeway saw the look of horror crossing Seven’s face. She’d finally reached the same conclusion as the captain. “You are not intending to stay and modulate the reaction?”
Janeway met her eye, finding a lump in her throat as she spoke. “How can I do anything else?”
“Someone else could do it,” suggested Seven with a hint of desperation, “one of the Londorian - it is their station!”
“Do you see any of them here?” Janeway gestured to the empty room. “By my calculation we only have a matter of minutes, certainly not enough time to track any of them down even if we were so inclined.”
Seven straightened up. “Then I will stay instead.”
“Not a chance!”
“I wish to stay if it means you live,” Seven repeated. Her hands were now clasped behind her back in a display of her determination.
“And there’s no way I’m agreeing to that!” Janeway thrust her hands onto her hips in an equally stubborn gesture.
“You have no choice,” said Seven, “I am not leaving.”
“And neither am I!”
The two of them stood facing one another, neither showing any indication of moving. It was Janeway who broke the staring battle.
“Seven, please be reasonable,” she attempted. “You’re young, you have your whole life ahead of you.”
“And what would be the point of that life without you?” countered Seven, “I had no life before you. I cannot imagine having one again should you not be in it.”
Janeway felt humbled, but there was no time for sentiment now. “It may not seem like it’s possible now, but with time…”
“I do not want time,” interrupted Seven, “not if it is without you. I would rather stay here and have whatever time is left. Even if that is only minutes, those few minutes would be more precious than a whole lifetime on my own.”
Tears brimmed in Janeway’s eyes. Why is life so cruel? Why did it give me this taste of love only to snatch it away?
“If this is the end then I wish to meet it here with you,” continued Seven, “I will not abandon you.”
Janeway sighed. She knew there was no dissuading Seven yet equally she couldn’t willingly let the young woman stay and meet her death. She would do anything to protect her.
“All right, we do this together.” She saw the look of satisfaction in Seven’s eyes and it pained her to know it was borne of deception. She had to clear her throat before she could speak again. “Now we need to get this reaction under some semblance of control.”
Contacting the ship, Janeway let them know what was happening. Harry tried to object just as Seven had done, but Janeway cut him off, not wanting to spend her last few moments arguing with him. He had the sense to understand as much. They didn’t even have the chance to say a proper goodbye.
Turning to the readouts on her screen she could see the escalating reaction. It was only their efforts stopping it from reaching critical. She glanced over at Seven who was focussed on her own task and oblivious to the perusal. Janeway thought it a fitting way to remember her, deep in concentration, studious and dedicated. Janeway studied the contours of her face, followed the lines of her jaw. The tidal wave of regret almost swamped her.
“Seven.” Her voice was hoarse and barely audible. She had to repeat the name before the young woman looked up. Janeway didn’t say anything else, simply stepping towards the other woman and wrapping her arms around her. She pulled Seven close and took a few deep breaths, committing the smell of the young woman to her memory for the last time. She had decided on her course of action. There was no alternative. Hopefully Seven would forgive her in time.
As Seven pulled back she could feel the warmth of Kathryn’s hand, still resting on her chest over her heart. Seven looked directly into the other woman’s eyes to find there was an aching sadness behind them, but there was something else too. It looked like apology.
Seven’s brow furrowed. Goodbye? Her eyes drifted down to see Kathryn’s hand slowly pulling back to reveal that a comm. badge was now attached to Seven’s vest. Seven’s eyes darted up, realisation dawning.
Her cry was too late. Already she felt the transporter beam enveloping her. The last thing she saw before she dematerialised was Kathryn mouthing the words ‘I love you’. Then she was back on the bridge of the Paladin, B’Elanna and Harry glancing round in surprise to see her standing there.
“Send me back! Now!” Seven’s frantic voice was verging on a scream.
Harry gave her an apologetic look. “I can’t, Seven.”
“Then I will do it!” She barged him out of the way of the console.
“No, I mean no one can transport back down, the reaction’s reached critical level.”
Kathryn must have known as much. Seven’s heart was beating wildly now, her anxiety threatening to shut down her cortical node with its intensity. “I have to get down there!”
B’Elanna’s voice cut in over Seven’s increasingly hysterical pleas. “The reaction’s reaching its peak, I’m backing us off.”
“No, we cannot leave!” Seven leapt the couple of stairs down to the lower level and pushed B’Elanna out of her seat at the helm. The half-Klingon gave an indignant grunt as she was deposited on the floor. Seven’s fingers flew over the controls, stopping the movement of the ship.
She felt Harry’s hands upon her, trying to pull her away. “Seven what are you doing? We have to get out of here!”
“We can’t leave Kathryn!” Seven knew it was irrational, they would all be blown to pieces, but she didn’t care. All she cared about was the primal urge to be with Kathryn, no matter what.
B’Elanna was back on her feet and joined in tugging at the determined Borg. “The captain would want us to save the ship, that’s exactly why she’s stayed down there, to give us time to get away.”
“No! We must stay!”
A sudden pain flared in Seven’s jaw and she staggered back a few steps, uncertain what had struck her. B’Elanna gave her a quick apologetic look as she rubbed her knuckles before taking her seat at the helm. Once more the station on the screen started to slip further away.
Harry jumped in to block Seven off from shoving B’Elanna from her seat again. Seven grabbed him, trying to wrestle him out of the way. They were still tussling when suddenly the viewscreen exploded in a blaze of orange and gold.
She stared numbly as the glow of the explosion dissipated until there was nothing left but the yawning expanse of space. It felt like someone had hollowed out her insides and left a great gaping void much darker and emptier than the one before her on the screen.
Harry was speaking to her, but his voice sounded far off, distorted. She tried to look at him, but the room seemed to be spinning. Disorientated, she reached out to brace herself on a console, but her hand missed it as dizziness washed over her. Harry made a futile grab for her, but it was too late to stop the fainting woman from crashing onto the deck.
Janeway’s head hurt. She risked opening her eyes, finding herself staring at a grey ceiling. By all accounts she should be dead, but here she was in one piece, lying on a floor. She had a brief thought that maybe she was in some sort of afterlife. However, unless heaven looked uncannily like the interior of a Starfleet ship she somehow doubted it. She could feel the thrum of the warp core reverberating up through the carpeted floor and wondered if somehow a ship had managed to beam her off at the last moment, just as the station exploded. It was highly unlikely given the interference from the weapon. And why would they leave me lying alone on the floor? Not that she had any better explanation for her current location.
She clambered to her feet, surveying those surroundings now. She was on the lower level of the room behind a bank of consoles, with a giant view screen dominating one wall up on the higher level. The screen was currently displaying the results of star system analysis and Janeway deduced she was in some sort of astrometrics lab. She’d not seen anything like it on a Starfleet ship before, but then again she supposed things could have moved on in the last year or so. Perhaps this was standard now.
She moved to the nearest console to see if she could pull up details of the ship. A few simple keystrokes told her what she wanted to know, that knowledge nearly flooring her again.
Voyager? How is that possible?
Last she had seen the ship it had been turned into a museum
on the banks of the
The sound of the doors opening behind her stalled the throbbing until she turned and saw who had entered. Janeway felt her mouth drop open at the sight. It was Seven, only she was wearing the most figure-hugging outfit Janeway had ever seen. It was what could only be described as a catsuit, all in one piece, clinging to the curves of her body. Her hair was also scraped back into a tight twist and she was perched up on towering heels. Not that Janeway was looking at those, having trouble drawing her eyes away from how the tight material stretched across Seven’s chest. Seven seemed equally taken aback at finding Janeway in the room, having stopped just inside the doorway only just far enough for the doors to close again.
“Captain?” If her implant quirked any higher in surprise it might have fallen off her face.
Janeway forced herself to meet the young woman’s gaze. “Seven?” Before Janeway could articulate anything more sensible the doors behind Seven slid open again and someone walked straight into the back of the Borg.
There was a muffled curse before a figure started to negotiate round the still unmoving woman. “Seven, what are you…”
The sentence died on the speaker’s lips as they saw what had caught Seven’s attention. Janeway found herself staring at…herself. The pounding in her head started again.
Back on the Paladin, Seven blinked several times as harsh white light hit her eyes. Disorientated she sat up, her head spinning for a second as she did. She brought her hand up to massage it, the recollection of what had happened hitting her like a physical blow. Nausea welled in her throat and she fought it back down.
The doctor, B’Elanna and Harry were all there in the sickbay and having seen she was sitting up hurried over.
“Where is Kathryn?” demanded Seven, unwilling to believe her own memories.
The doctor glanced uncertainly at the other two before answering. “Seven…don’t you remember…?”
There was an awkward silence that no one seemed willing to fill. Eventually the doctor felt the weight of the tension.
“The captain was killed…”
“No,” whispered Seven not wanting to hear the words.
“…on the station,” continued the doctor having not heard her. “It exploded. She’s dead.”
“No!” screamed Seven so loudly that the others flinched. “She can’t be!” She leapt off the biobed and stared at the three of them, challenging them to make a liar of her. “I don’t believe you! It’s some kind of trick!”
The doctor tried to take her arm. “It’s no trick Seven, I’m sorry…”
“Do not touch me!” She batted his hand away. “You are all lying! Where is she?”
She started to move round the small sickbay, eyes frantically scanning it.
“She’s not here, Seven,” Harry tried this time, “she’s gone.”
Seven whirled round to face him. “Stop saying that!” As long as she kept denying it she didn’t have to face the reality.
“Please, Seven, come sit back down.”
“What, so you can sedate me, try to infect me with more of your lies?” She knew her words were ridiculous, but better that than the truth.
Harry was by her side, B’Elanna on the other, the two of them trying to usher her back to the biobed. She rallied against them. “I told you not to touch me!”
Seven caught the doctor’s movement just a moment too late. The hypospray was on her neck before she could stop him. “I’m sorry, Seven,” he said as the faint hiss echoed round the room. His face was the last thing she saw as the room slid from focus and into blackness.
Janeway surveyed the eerily familiar sickbay, still having trouble comprehending what her eyes were telling her. There was no mistaking it though, this was Voyager. To prove as much the doctor was busy at a nearby console. Next to him stood a woman that Janeway supposed would reflect how she would look if she was still Captain of Voyager and wearing the four pips proudly on her collar. A pair of blue-grey eyes met her own, sizing her up. Was this how it felt to be the subject of one of her stares?
The doctor piped up, disturbing the pair of them before Janeway got completely lost in the paradox. “Well, despite the sartorial differences there’s no mistaking it, genetically you are both Kathryn Janeway.”
The captain next to the doctor rubbed at her head. “Please tell me this isn’t about time travel.”
“It gives you a headache too, eh?” said Janeway sympathetically. “But no, I don’t think we’re dealing with time travel. I don’t recognise this Voyager from my past and I’m pretty sure it’s not my future.” Not unless Seven has a major change in her taste of clothing sometime soon and I get re-instated by Starfleet. She wasn’t quite sure which was more unlikely, both having a probability somewhere less than zero. “I’d say we’re talking a parallel universe,” she concluded. What’s the stardate here?”
“54912.1,” replied the captain.
“That was the stardate for me too,” confirmed Janeway, “before I found myself here.”
“A parallel universe, fascinating!” exclaimed the doctor excitedly, “I’ve heard about this sort of thing before. You know that the USS Enterprise under the command of Captain James T Kirk first encountered a mirror universe on…” He trailed off when he realised both women were staring at him. “And that’s probably a fact for another time,” he hurriedly concluded feeling the immense pressure from a double Janeway glare, “I’ll leave you two to talk.”
The other captain waited until he was at a discrete distance before focussing on Janeway. “This is so bizarre, every time it happens.”
“Like looking in a mirror,” agreed Janeway, unable to tear her eyes away either. It really was quite disconcerting.
“I don’t know about you,” said the captain, “but the sooner we sort this out and get you back where you belong the happier I’ll be.”
“You’ll get no argument from me,” agreed Janeway. She wondered what was happening back on the Paladin. Would they know she was alive and be searching for her, trying to work out where she had gone? Or worse, would they think she had been killed in the explosion, if there had been one?
The other captain interrupted her thoughts. “Then I suggest we head back to where you first appeared and see if we can shed some light on how you ended up here.”
Once in the corridor the reminders of a previous life continued to assail Janeway. Crewmembers strolled by, acknowledging the other captain and giving her an uncertain look at the same time. Janeway recognised each and every one of them. It was extremely odd. Like she had been transplanted back into her old life only to find someone else had stolen it.
“I take it you’re not in Starfleet anymore,” said the other captain conversationally as they walked. Janeway saw her clothing being studied. It looked decidedly worn next to the freshly replicated Starfleet uniform.
“What makes you think I ever was?” she countered, “our timelines could be completely different.”
“You mentioned Voyager was in your past,” pointed out the captain, “and you seem to know your way around.”
I always was far too observant for my own good. “All right yes, I was in Starfleet and Captain of Voyager,” conceded Janeway.
“But you gave that up?”
And too nosy. “I’m not sure if we should be discussing this,” said Janeway, “there must be some Starfleet directive governing this sort of thing. I don’t want to affect your universe after all.” Nor discuss my sordid past with a version of me that obviously doesn’t have one. Janeway wondered if it was possible to be jealous of yourself.
“We should probably stick to what we need to know to get you back where you belong,” agreed the captain. “Talking of which, where were you before you appeared on Voyager?”
“I was on a space station, in the Poreeni system.”
The captain stopped mid-stride. “That’s in the Alpha Quadrant, isn’t it?”
“Yes it is,” confirmed Janeway, seeing no point denying it.
Having seen the star charts, Janeway knew this Voyager was still in the Delta Quadrant. She could see the look on the other captain’s face, like she desperately wanted to ask how Voyager had made it back but was forcing herself not to.
Even if I wanted to, how could I tell her I did get home and only had to sell my soul and principles in the process? What worried Janeway more was that the other captain wouldn’t hesitate to do the same if it meant returning to Earth. Janeway was saved from having to decide what to say by another crewmember’s approach. For a moment all Janeway registered was the yellow topped uniform. When she did realise who was wearing it she could only gape in shock.
“Tuvok.” The name came out in a reverential whisper.
The Vulcan simply gave a small nod in her direction, completely unfazed by there being two Captain Janeways before him and the fact that one of them was staring at him like a complete idiot. He turned to his captain. Janeway didn’t even hear a word he said. She couldn’t tear her eyes off him, watching him all the way up the corridor when he did finally depart.
“Are you all right?”
The other captain’s voice finally permeated the fog of her brain. The captain was looking curiously at her. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” she added.
“In a way I have,” mumbled Janeway.
The captain cast her eyes up the corridor too. “Tuvok? Did something happen to him in your timeline?”
Janeway supposed it couldn’t harm this timeline to mention it. It wasn’t like this captain would modulate her behaviour to avoid the situation since it was already in the past. “He was killed,” said Janeway softly, “nearly two years ago now, along with Tom Paris.” Something occurred to her. “Is he…?”
“He’s alive and well in this timeline.”
“I’m glad you haven’t had to go through that,” said Janeway sincerely, “and you have Seven on board too.” The latter comment had slipped out before she could stop herself.
The other captain picked up on it. “She was never on your Voyager?”
“No.” Janeway realised she had to be more careful with what she revealed. Telling this captain about things in her past that were never likely to come true in this timeline was one thing, but she had yet to discern what relationship, if any, this Janeway and Seven shared. She could have a profound influence on that if she wasn’t careful.
“But you recognised her,” pressed the other captain, “earlier in astrometrics.”
“Yes, I met Seven…after Voyager.”
“In the Alpha Quadrant?”
Thankfully the other captain seemed to realise the clipped responses meant she didn’t want to discuss it and they started walking for the astrometrics lab once more. It must have been playing on the other captain’s mind though as she brought it up again before they got there.
“It’s peculiar isn’t it,” she commented, “that despite our timelines being quite different we both still met the same person thousands of light years apart.”
Janeway gave a shrug. “Maybe it was fate.”
Seven stared out at the great expanse of space outside the window. It stretched on and on, a lifeless void, infinite emptiness. A similar emptiness filled her and she sat where she was, staring, trying not to think.
It had only been a week since they had visited the Londorian space station, but to Seven it seemed like a lifetime. Each day blurred into the next, a monotonous passage of one minute after the other. She couldn’t remember the last time she had regenerated properly and there was a bone weary feeling seeping through her whole body as she sat slumped in the seat behind the desk.
As always her efforts not to think, not to remember were useless. That was all she could do. For the first time since leaving the collective things had started to make sense. She’d felt like she’d finally had a place she belonged. Being with Kathryn had felt so natural, so right. It was hard to define why, she just knew it somehow. Now that had all been turned on its head. She’d lost her anchor and was floundering in a sea of emotions she could do little to control or understand, the tumult near driving her mad. Other times she felt so empty and numb she wondered if she was even still alive, and more to the point was there any reason for being so?
To begin with the others had tried to talk to her, but after repeatedly being told to leave her alone in ever increasing degrees of profanity they had given up. So now she was left to her own thoughts and feelings, neither of which she wanted. She hated emotions, she hated being human. It was all too confusing and painful.
Why would anyone want to bear this?
She had asked herself as much time and time again, never finding an answer. The one person who might have been able to help her and give her some was gone…forever. Seven clenched her jaw to hold back the tears she could feel threatening to spill from her right eye.
Another sign of human weakness!
Things had been so much easier when she had been Borg. Absently she moved over to the window, watching the stars streaking past. The ship was moving, heading off to some rendezvous or other. Seven had long since stopped caring.
What is the point of going on at all? What is there to live for?
“She did what?”
A few heads turned in the messhall on Voyager. Janeway saw the staring eyes, wondering if it was her amazed outburst or just her mere presence that drew them. She’d been on the ship one week, but was still an object of intense interest. Scanning the familiar faces was as disconcerting as ever and most of the crew averted their eyes as her gaze passed over them. Finally her sweep reached the corner where one set of piercing blue eyes didn’t look away. They locked onto hers, unflinching. Janeway’s heart lurched, her stomach flipping.
It’s not my Seven. She had to keep telling herself that. Forcing herself to look away she turned back to the man opposite her. Tom Paris gave her one of his cheeky grins and Janeway fought down the unease that gripped her whenever she looked at him. By all rights he should be dead.
“So your captain took on the Borg Queen herself?” Janeway asked, getting back to the topic of discussion.
“That’s right,” said the young man, the pride evident in his voice, “walked right into the Queen’s chamber in order to rescue Seven.”
Janeway wondered if the captain would have been doing the same for just any crew member. From what she had gleaned, the other captain and Seven didn’t share any kind of intimate relationship in this universe. Yet Tom’s tale and her own observations were enough to make her think that there was more to it than a simple captain and crewperson dynamic. Tom interrupted her deliberations.
“Maybe you can ask her about it yourself?”
Janeway followed his gaze over her shoulder, seeing that the other captain had just entered. As Janeway herself had done moments before the captain made a quick scan of those present for lunch. Then she was off and moving. Janeway hardly needed to follow the captain’s course to guess its destination. Sure enough she bypassed the other diners with a few quick nods and the odd greeting before arriving at the corner table.
The words exchanged were out of earshot to Janeway, but she couldn’t fail to notice the way Seven’s face seemed to brighten as she looked up at the woman standing by her table. There was the faint trace of a smile on her lips. For her part the captain seemed to be having trouble keeping her eyes at a respectable level. Janeway could sympathise with that particular problem. Eventually the captain sat, leaning forwards in a display of intimacy. Seven automatically mirrored the position.
Janeway smiled to herself. More to that dynamic for sure.
The Paladin dropped out of warp, breaking the monotony of the streaking stars with a view of a planet. Seven blinked, not knowing how long she had been standing there.
Minutes? Hours? Days?
Turning from the brown sphere they now orbited, her eyes were drawn down to the coffee table in the ready room. A small battered object sat on it. It was ironic it had survived, the only thing that had. Seven picked up the flux generator, turning it over in her hands as she replayed over and over again the stomach churning moment the station had exploded before her eyes. Suddenly she felt her stomach turn one too many times. Clutching her mouth she ran for the nearest receptacle, only just making it to a plant pot before the bile surged up her throat and splattered onto the earth. She had to stand there for several moments, braced against the wall before she had heaved up the last of it. Wiping her mouth, she beamed the whole thing out into space and staggered back to the desk, depositing herself in the chair once more.
This was where she used to sit.
Seven tried to banish the thought, but it was no good, everywhere she went on the ship there were reminders. At least she knew she was safe from the others in the ready room, they refused to go in there out of respect for the time being. Seven didn’t see the point of such ‘respect’. What good was it to Kathryn now?
She pulled open one of the drawers of the desk, not sure what she was looking for. There were some old padds, nothing interesting. The one below held more of the same and Seven was about to close it when she noticed something else. Underneath the padds the light glinted off something reflective. Pulling the items from the drawer she discovered the source was a small bottle which she also removed to study. Holding it up she read the label - whiskey.
So Kathryn still kept some.
There was little point being disappointed at the discovery now though. At least the bottle appeared to be full.
Maybe Kathryn kept it as a test of willpower?
Seven undid the lid and took a sniff, recoiling at the powerful alcoholic smell. She was going to put the lid back on when something stopped her. Just a sip.
She put the cool glass to her lips, closed her eyes and drank a tiny amount. Seven baulked, only just resisting the urge to cough. Disgusting!
She took another sip. Revolting!
She took a hearty swig this time, the drink burning as it slipped down. Repugnant!
Tipping the bottle up, she poured the whole lot down her throat. Kathryn had told her once that it helped her forget. Seven could only pray that was true. Having finished the bottle, she could still remember every agonising detail though. In fact she felt even more maudlin and depressed than she had before. She cursed her eidetic memory and its need to flash images and feelings before her.
Maybe I need more drink, maybe then it will go away.
She cast the bottle aside with more strength than she intended and it flew into the wall, smashing into tiny pieces. Her attention was back on the drawers though, roughly pulling each one open in search of more bottles. She became increasingly angry as the search yielded none.
Damn you, Kathryn, why haven’t you got any more!
The final draw was wrenched out, clattering onto the carpet. Sitting on top of it Seven saw a photograph that she had taken from the draw once before. That time Kathryn had been less than happy to find her studying it. This time there was no one to object as she bent down to retrieve it, putting it flat on the desk before her. It was of the former senior staff on Voyager. Seven’s eyes scanned the faces. She had to make a concerted effort to stop the nasty blurring effect swimming before her eyes and bring the smiling faces into focus. One in particular seemed to be mocking her.
Thumping her fist down on the image, the glass shattered under her blow. As she pulled her hand back she saw a large piece lodged in her skin. In macabre fascination she watched as blood oozed from the wound and slid across the glass before dripping down onto the desk. Seven simply held her hand there allowing the droplets to splatter over the broken picture frame, staining the faces of those in the image red. She moved her hand so the blood started to pool in one particular location. Chakotay was drowning in her blood.
Watching the obliteration of his face she realised she did have something to live for, a reason for going on. She would make Chakotay pay for what he had done. She would make the blood swamping him real, only this time it would be his.
Several weeks later on the holodeck of Voyager, another Seven focussed on her own task with equal determination.
“The reaction is at 75%.”
Janeway nodded her acknowledgement of the reading from the young woman. They were in a re-creation of the Londorian space station, trying to reproduce the circumstances that had brought her to Voyager. It was almost identical in every way to the scene back on the station, with one notable exception - Seven. The woman at the other console was not her Seven. As much was superficially obvious if Janeway just looked at her and the revealing outfit she wore. Janeway wondered how on Earth her counterpart ever got any work done.
“What is your reading?”
“Huh?” Janeway realised she had been lost in thought amongst other things. She glanced at the console. “80%. Let’s keep going.”
The room started to vibrate, the glow from the reactor intensify. “90%,” announced Seven, “beyond the critical threshold.”
Beyond the time I sent my Seven back to the Paladin, Janeway noted to herself. Such thoughts had rattled endlessly round her mind the past few weeks, replaying the events over and over in the hope they might yield some secret clue to getting home. Each time she recalled it she felt ashamed by her trick, but it had been necessary. She wondered where Seven was now, what she was doing.
The stray thought caused a fresh stab of regret, mingled with a painful longing that gnawed at her insides. It had been over a month since that fateful day and Janeway was missing Seven desperately. Seeing the young woman’s mirror image every day certainly didn’t help. It was like having the object of her desires right there in front of her but not being able to touch it, like the universe was taunting her. Janeway was torn between avoiding the young woman because the reminders were too painful and spending as much time as possible with her because of those very reminders.
“100%!” called Seven.
The light flared in the room and suddenly the re-creation was gone, the two of them left standing in an empty holodeck.
Janeway sighed. “Blown up for…what was that, the forty-third time?”
“I believe it was the forty-fourth.”
Janeway rubbed at her temple in frustration. Six weeks and still no closer to getting home. Despair wasn’t an option though, she had to believe they would find a way, the alternative didn’t bear thinking about. “We must be missing something. There’s got to be some connection between the space station and Voyager that opened up a trans-dimensional conduit and drew me here.”
“Or it could have just been a random celestial anomaly, a one in a billion chance amalgamation of events,” Seven stated.
“I’m not sure I like those odds,” said Janeway grimly.
“I am sure you will beat them, if you are anything like our Captain Janeway,” noted Seven, “she does seem to succeed more often than random chance would allow.”
Janeway glanced to her, intrigued. Was that pride in Seven’s tone? “Like taking on and beating the whole of the Borg collective to retrieve one crewmember,” suggested Janeway, recalling the conversation with Tom several weeks before.
Seven glanced away as if embarrassed which only made Janeway more curious. If this Seven was anything like her own then embarrassment was normally an alien concept to her. Janeway considered maybe there was more to the relationship between the two women than might have first been apparent. Janeway had spent most of the last few weeks locked away in her temporary quarters, deep in study and research, trying to find a way home. However, her occasional interaction with the crew in general and the other captain and Seven in particular had convinced her there was something there. Quite possibly neither of them was even aware of it, and Janeway knew it wasn’t her place to interfere. She forced herself to turn her attention back to the job in hand.
“Your astrometrics lab, do you have any schematics of it?”
“Of course.” Seven summoned up a holographic representation from the computer to display before them.
Janeway marvelled at the technology. They certainly could have used something like it back on her Voyager. “What’s this here?” she asked, pointing at one of the components.
“That is a flux generator, it helps power the screen.”
“A flux generator? That’s an unusual component for an astrometrics lab.”
“It is an unusual component in general. From my studies it seems it was an experimental Starfleet technology. As far as I know the only ship it was ever fitted to was Voyager and then only to the non-critical hydroponics bay. I suppose Starfleet never got the chance to find out how it performed and subsequently moved onto other technologies instead. We requisitioned it when building the lab.”
Janeway shook her head in disbelief. “Bloody hell, is that where he got it from? That cheeky bastard, ransacking Voyager for his own ends.”
“Who are you talking about?”
The raised implant was painfully reminiscent of her Seven and Janeway had to look away. “No one,” she said quickly, berating her careless words, “it’s not important. What is important is that I believe the flux generator on the Londorian space station was in fact the very same flux generator that had been on Voyager in my universe.”
“They provided the link,” deduced Seven, “only the one at the other end has now been destroyed,” she pointed out.
“There you go being defeatist again, where’s that beating overwhelming odds optimism?” asked Janeway. “At least we have something to go on. Let’s reset the holodeck and vary the parameters of the generator in conjunction with those on a simulation of your astrometrics lab.”
“I agree that is it a logical course of action,” said Seven, “though I am afraid I am going to have to leave you to run the analysis for the time being.”
Janeway frowned. “You have somewhere to go?”
“I have…a date.”
Janeway almost choked but managed to recover before it became obvious. “Anyone I know?” she asked nonchalantly, suspecting she knew the answer.
Was Seven blushing? Janeway smiled. “Yes, you go, have a good time.”
The late afternoon sun brushed over the rooftops of
“Where is he?”
Seven’s fist cracked into the alien’s head. Skin ruptured, sending a spurt of blue blood spraying over a nearby wall. The alien staggered backwards, shocked that she had hit him. He was just a trader, unused to such violence. Seven on the other hand didn’t care if she hurt him or not. She wanted information. It had taken nearly five weeks to track the merchant down and she wasn’t about to let him get away.
“I don’t know anything!” pleaded the alien, moving away as she came towards him again. When he had backed himself right up against the wall of the alley he held his hands up in front of his face.
Seven sized up the pathetic specimen before her. “You are lying.”
“No, no, I’m…”
His sentence was cut short by her fist. He howled in pain.
“Please, I don’t…”
Seven didn’t want to hear excuses. She thumped him again with such force that he was lifted off his feet and dumped on the ground. As he lay in the dirt groaning she loomed over him. Before she could deliver the kick she was intending she felt a hand on her arm. Her eyes darted to see Harry’s worried expression.
“Seven, don’t you think this is a bit much?” he attempted. “He’s only a merchant.”
Seven look impassively between Harry and the alien murmuring incoherently on the floor. She could detect the faint sound of crying.
Too much? Nothing was too much if it led her to Chakotay. What did she care about an alien merchant? If he had dealt with Chakotay then he deserved all he got. Seven shook off Harry’s hand.
“He knows something,” she stated before she reached down and hauled the alien to his feet. “And if you don’t tell me I may have to assimilate you to find out what it is.” To show her intent she let her tubules extend from the back of her hand, the probes snaking towards his neck, eager to pounce.
“Seven!” cried Harry, grabbing onto her arm.
She reacted automatically, swinging her other arm in the direction of the interference. Her fist was mere inches from Harry’s face when she caught it. She could feel his breaths over her knuckles as it hovered there.
Seven lowered her arm. “Fine, you talk to him, I am going back to the ship.”
Once there, Seven headed directly for her quarters, stomping in and going straight for the replicator. “Whiskey,” she demanded of the machine which duly obliged.
As she sipped it she noticed there was still blue blood on her knuckles. She attempted to wipe it off but the stain was stubborn, refusing to let her forget her actions that easily. A small part of her supposed she should feel remorse, but she didn’t. She didn’t feel much at all these days apart from the constant ache deep within her chest that refused to go away. Everything else she had shut down, pushed away somewhere far inside. She couldn’t cope. The emotions were too painful, too much for her to bear alone. If she let them, she knew they would drown her with despair and what use was that? That wouldn’t help her find Chakotay. She took another hearty swig of her drink, hoping maybe that would warm her. If not she knew that if she drunk enough it would obliterate everything.
She stared out the window at the planet below, wondering if Harry would get the information from the alien. If Harry was unsuccessful she supposed she could always extract it by whatever means necessary. Somehow she suspected that wouldn’t be required. The merchant had been frightened, he wouldn’t want to see her again. Seven could tell Harry had been scared too. He’d been right to be, she’d only just avoided punching him for his interference. Luckily the others seemed so keen to help her that they were willing to ignore her more extreme behaviour. That’s why they’d acceded to her request to track down Chakotay in the first place. She supposed they thought she wanted to bring him to justice. Seven wasn’t about to dissuade them of that notion. She wasn’t sure they’d be so willing to help if they knew she intended to kill him.
Seven found her drink was empty already. It seemed to disappear faster and faster as each day passed. She ordered another and sat down on the couch, staring at the quarters before her. The room was filled with Kathryn’s things - ornaments, plants, books. There were unwelcome reminders of their owner everywhere Seven looked. The notion of moving back to her own quarters had been tempting, but Seven couldn’t quite bring herself to. Kathryn’s invite to live there had been one of her last acts. It had also been one of the happiest days of Seven’s life. She caught the memory before it wormed its way further into her mind. Foolish sentiment! She drained the last of the whiskey.
Not foolish sentiment, her mind rallied, Love.
Her eyes fell on a frame on the coffee table. Kathryn smiled back at her from it. It was an old image, from her days as Captain of Voyager. Seven didn’t have any more recent ones so had been forced to retrieve the official picture from Kathryn’s Starfleet personnel file. She picked it up, tracing her thumb absently over the four pips on the grey collar. The blue-grey eyes seemed to be looking right at her and Seven found herself drawn in by them…falling…falling.
When the door chime sounded Seven jumped so much she nearly fell off the couch. She quickly placed the picture down, berating herself for letting the emotions in.
“Come,” she called out.
The door opened to reveal the doctor. The concern was evident on his face even before he spoke. Seven had gotten used to the look over the past few weeks.
“How did it go on the planet?” he asked.
“I did not kill anyone.”
The doctor gave a nervous laugh, unsure if she was joking or not. “And how are you today?”
So predictable. “I am fine,” she replied with disinterest.
“Really,” he said doubtfully. His eyes scanned the room, noticing what lay on the coffee table. He picked up the tumbler and sniffed it. Could holograms smell or was it just for show? Either way it seemed he was able to detect what the former contents had been. “And this is for medicinal purposes I suppose?”
“You are the doctor, you tell me.”
His perusal led to the next object on the table and he had picked it up before Seven could stop him. He studied the image of the captain sadly before Seven snatched it back off him, having the urge to cradle it to her bosom. She resisted in the doctor’s presence, placing it on a shelf out of his reach instead
The doctor looked sympathetically towards her. “Seven, please, you need to talk about this with someone.”
“I do not need to do anything apart from be left alone,” she stated, “and who would that someone be if I did want to talk? You?”
“I want to try and help you through this, yes. It’s not healthy to bottle up your grief like this.”
Seven gave an ironic laugh. “And you know all about death and grief, being a hologram?”
The doctor didn’t rise to the bait, keeping his tone calm. “I know more than you might imagine.”
“More than me, I suppose,” she suggested, “since I am only a Borg after all.”
“That’s the problem though isn’t it, you’re not Borg. You’re human, with human emotions and frailties.”
“Human weaknesses,” corrected Seven.
“No,” said the doctor, “there’s a difference between accepting we need help and being weak.”
Seven turned away from him, staring out to space. “Either way I do not need your help.”
The doctor sighed, sensing he wasn’t getting anywhere. “If you change your mind,” he said as he went out the door, “you know where I am.”
Part of her had the urge to call him back, but she stubbornly ignored it. She could feel Kathryn’s eyes boring into her from the frame on the shelf and she turned to glare back at it.
“What are you staring at?” she demanded of the image. “It is your fault that I have to deal with this alone! What gave you the right to choose for me?”
Seven grabbed the frame and flung it across the room. It thumped into the wall and disappeared down behind an ornamental urn containing a plant. What did the doctor know? What did anyone know? They were her feelings and if she wanted to block them out by getting thoroughly drunk then that was up to her. She resolved that was what she was going to do and proceeded towards the replicator.
Come evening on Voyager, Janeway found herself hovering by the replicator. No-one else was in the messhall; she was all alone with temptation.
It would be so easy.
She missed Seven more than she could have comprehended and the lure of something to dull the longing was powerful. She licked her lips.
Temptation will have to wait for another day.
Taking the mug produced, she crossed to the expansive windows that looked out onto the depths of space. She imagined that somewhere thousands of light years away in a whole other universe Seven might be doing the same. The thought was strangely comforting, picturing the young woman looking back at her across the insurmountable distance.
“I could make you a fresh cup of that.”
Janeway almost dropped the mug she was holding. Turning she saw Neelix peering at her from behind the galley counter. A quick flashing image of her Neelix assailed her, his body broken as he lay dying. She shook it away and offered this Neelix a faint smile.
“Not coffee substitute I hope?”
He grinned in return. “Only the real thing, I promise.”
She watched him busying himself in the kitchen. Why is everything here a constant reminder of what I’ve lost? She wondered if she’d offended someone to be given this penance.
“So how’s it going finding out how to get you back?” he asked conversationally as he brewed the coffee.
“We had a bit of a break through today actually, though there’s still a way to go to finding all the answers.”
He placed a new mug down on the counter before her. She had to concede that it did smell good. She was almost sorry to drink it, but not quite.
“I’m sure you’ll get there,” he said with complete confidence as she sipped it, “you have the best help after all. You can always rely on Seven to come up with a solution for even the most difficult problem.”
Janeway found it odd how this Neelix knew Seven. In her universe the two had never met. “Yes you can,” she agreed thoughtfully.
She took another sip of the coffee, closing her eyes to savour the taste for a moment. If she just let her mind drift she could pretend that she was having her first cup of the morning and that Seven was about to appear from the bedroom. The reality that met her opening eyes was a harsh disappointment.
“Are you all right?”
Obviously Neelix had noticed something in her expression. “I think I might go to bed,” she said suddenly, placing the coffee back down. “Thank you for the drink though.”
As she left the messhall she could only pray that sleep came quickly.
Seven wasn’t sure how much later it was when she stirred back into consciousness. It had taken 1.31 litres of whiskey to achieve that state in the first place. That was 0.23 litres more than the day before. Obviously she was developing some sort of immunity to the effects of alcohol.
As she sat up she determined that perhaps that wasn’t the case. Her head throbbed with a ferocity that took her breath away. The room appeared to be spinning disconcertingly too and she had to really concentrate to bring it into focus. That was when she realised she was not alone. There was a figure sitting in the chair at the end of the bed, their identity concealed by the shadows.
“Computer, lights,” instructed Seven.
The light revealed an achingly familiar form. Seven’s breath caught, her heart skipping a beat before careering off at breakneck speed.
She hardly dared say the name. Kathryn smiled back at her and Seven felt a rush of overwhelming joy and relief the like of which she had never known. She leapt off the bed, flinging herself into the other woman’s arms…and hit an empty chair. Confused she pulled back to verify what her arms had already discovered, there was no Kathryn, her drunken mind had imagined it.
“No!” The plunge from the zenith of ecstasy to the nadir of despair was a hard fall. Seven dropped to her knees on the carpeted floor unable to hold back the tears in the hope shattering moment. They cascaded down her face, creating dark blotches on the grey carpet where they fell. For once she just didn’t have the willpower to hold them back. She crawled out into the lounge area, desperate hands seeking out that which she had discarded so casually earlier. She found the picture jammed behind the urn, dusting a few bits of earth off it as she drew it out. One of her tears plopped onto Kathryn’s face.
“You said you would always come for me,” Seven beseeched the picture. “Where are you?”
There was no answer. There never would be.
“Where are you?” Her voice was an angry shout this time. Her fingers gripped the frame tightly. Her knuckles whitened, her mood swiftly changing into an uncontrollable rage borne of despair and frustration.
“Where…,” she stood up, “…are…,” she drew her arm back, “…you!”
She hurled the picture into the wall with such force that it made a dent in the bulkhead. The release felt good. Seven took up her mantra as she looked for something else to destroy.
“Where are you?”
The coffee table was unceremoniously upended, sending padds, mugs and the battered flux generator onto the floor.
“Where are you?”
The plant was kicked over, spraying earth all over the floor.
“Where are you?”
Books flew haphazardly in all directions, pages scattering in a shower of white.
“Where are you?”
Seven found her hands gripping a cylinder about to fling it against the wall too, though something held her back. She unscrewed the top and pulled out the Agalean Flute. She marvelled at the delicate metalwork. It was a beautiful instrument. Beauty is irrelevant. Seven’s left fist tightened round the shaft, crushing it with her borg power until it snapped. The two broken pieces tumbled to the floor. Seven stepped over them without a second glance as she headed for the replicator.
The next night Janeway sat alone in the messhall on Voyager, cradling her coffee in what was becoming a new evening ritual. She hoped Neelix might appear like the night before and offer her another of his brews. The sound of the doors opening suggested she might be granted her wish, but instead she spied the captain. The other woman immediately noticed Janeway and came to sit opposite her at the table.
“I have been having trouble,” admitted Janeway, “you?”
The captain sighed. “Too much going through my head, I thought a walk might help.”
Janeway nodded in understanding, though she doubted the source of this captain’s insomnia was the same. She found it incredibly hard to sleep without Seven next to her. It was crazy – she’d managed perfectly well for the forty-odd years of her life when she’d been alone. Yet now her body couldn’t cope with an empty place next to her. Looking into the other captain’s tired eyes, Janeway reconsidered; maybe the cause of the other woman’s sleeplessness was related.
“So how did the date go?” she asked, attempting to hold back a knowing smile.
The captain looked confused and Janeway felt her conviction slipping away. “Didn’t you have a date last night?”
“No,” answered the captain, “should I have done?”
“No, I must have gotten my wires crossed,” recovered Janeway as her mind raced. Who the hell was Seven’s date with? She’d just assumed it was the captain, given her own personal experience.
“You thought someone had a date with me?” asked the other woman. “you of all people should know how unlikely that would be!”
The bitterness in the captain’s tone was all too reminiscent of Janeway’s own time in the Delta Quadrant, when loneliness had been her only companion. The other captain broke those depressing thoughts.
“Did you ever get involved - as a Captain?”
“Not when I was Captain on Voyager, no,” answered Janeway warily.
The other captain wasn’t slow to pick up on the implication. “But since then?”
Janeway’s hands coiled tighter round her mug as she tried to keep her expression even. Despite her attempts to hide her emotions, something must have shown on her face.
“You have someone don’t you?” asked the other Captain with renewed interest. “You can’t fool me!”
Janeway briefly considered lying, but didn’t think she would get away with it. “Yes, I do,” she simply said.
“So, who is it?”
“I don’t think I should say.” Janeway contemplated the best way to extricate herself from the conversation. A red alert would have been handy.
The other captain certainly wasn’t going to let her off the hook. She leant forwards over the table, fixing Janeway with her the kind of look she herself might employ on a naughty Ensign. “It’s someone from the crew isn’t it?”
Janeway supposed the thought of her having some sort of relationship gave this captain hope that she might too some day. “I really think this information comes under the parallel prime directive,” Janeway attempted.
The captain frowned. “You just made that up.”
“Yes I did, but it’s still probably not a good idea that I tell you anything like that.” Especially not as Seven’s seeing someone else in this universe. Janeway had the strongest urge to find out exactly who that might be.
As Seven had suspected the trader from
Now they were on their way to Harta, a journey that would take at least another week. With nothing much else to do, Seven withdrew to her quarters, taking solace with her new friend the replicator. Seven thought she’d understood loneliness after being severed from the Collective, but nothing could have prepared her for what she felt now, like a tiny insignificant speck in a never-ending universe. She was already on her fifth whiskey when the door chime sounded. Not the blasted doctor again! Seven didn’t bother answering, hoping he would go away. The chime rang out once more.
“I know you’re in there, Seven,” came a call from the corridor.
B’Elanna. It made Seven wish it was the doctor. She put her tumbler down and stood up before granting admittance. B’Elanna stepped inside, halting as she took in the disarrayed surroundings.
“Been redecorating?” she queried sarcastically.
“Something like that,” she said dismissively. Seven hadn’t bothered cleaning up after her bout of rage a couple of nights previously. The quarters didn’t need to be tidy for anyone. “What was it you wanted?”
Her eyes scanned the room again, spying the glass behind Seven. “I was going to ask if you wanted to help me with this cloaking device,” said B’Elanna, “but I see it’s probably not a good time.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Well, I don’t think you’d be much use to me in your state.”
“What state is that?”
B’Elanna sighed as she stared at the obstinate Borg. “Do you need me to spell it out? You’re drunk, Seven.”
“I am not,” stated Seven though she knew it was plainly untrue. She simply relished the chance to be argumentative.
B’Elanna shook her head. “You need to pull it together, Seven. It’s been more than six weeks now and this self destructive behaviour isn’t helping anyone, least of all you.”
“Is that an order?”
“No,” said B’Elanna, fighting to keep calm. Seven knew it would probably only take a few more well-placed comments to see the other woman’s temper explode. “I am the captain now, though,” added B’Elanna, “I could insist you see the doctor.”
“Captain?” scoffed Seven, “you are not my captain. You will never be my captain, you are not worthy.”
Seven knew her words were a heinous insult to a Klingon, but she didn’t care. B’Elanna’s face darkened, the other woman fast losing any patience she might hold.
“Don’t push me, Seven, there’s only so much I’m going to excuse because of what happened.”
“Then what?” challenged Seven, “are you going to throw me out of the airlock if I do not co-operate.”
“No, we just want to help you; it’s what Captain Janeway would have wanted.”
Seven felt the sting of the words. “Don’t pretend to know what she would have wanted!”
“It certainly wouldn’t be this! You getting sozzled every night and smashing up her quarters.”
Seven’s first punch caught B’Elanna completely off-guard. It cracked into her jaw. B’Elanna staggered back though it wasn’t forceful enough to down her. Seven tried to launch another one, swinging wildly. B’Elanna dodged to the side. Giving up on connecting that way, Seven launched herself bodily at the woman. Her drunken mind was intent on revenge. Whether it was revenge against B’Elanna or the universe in general didn’t really matter.
They clattered into the wall, spiralling along it as they grappled. Seven grabbed a fistful of B’Elanna’s top and slammed her down on the floor. Seven made to launch a kick, but the engineer darted out a leg. It crunched into Seven’s own. She swayed at the impact before her co-ordination deserted her. Landing in an ungainly heap on the carpet, she found it hard to rise again, the effects of the whiskey taking hold.
“Don’t bother getting up,” said B’Elanna with disdain as she clambered up, brushing herself down, “not until you’re sober.”
Leaving Seven sitting there she swept from the room.
A week had passed on Voyager before Janeway gave up trying to resist temptation; she had to know who Seven’s mysterious date had been with. The knowledge that Seven was seeing someone else made her feel faintly queasy. She knew it wasn’t like Seven was cheating on her, this wasn’t her Seven after all, and yet it felt that way. The jealous ache in her heart was real enough. In an odd way she also felt jealous on behalf of the other captain. Janeway had been convinced there was something more to her relationship with Seven, but perhaps she’d been mistaken. The only way to find out was to uncover the truth. It also gave her something to think about other than her own aching heart.
The easy thing would have been to ask Seven outright for the identity of her date, but Janeway couldn’t quite bring herself to. It would make it more of a reality to hear it from her lips. So instead she resolved to follow the other woman. Fortunately it only took a bit of gentle probing to uncover the time of Seven’s next date and Janeway was now shadowing Seven on her way to that very rendezvous. It felt rather sleazy to be creeping round the corridors after Seven, but reason had never been at the forefront of Janeway’s mind where Seven was concerned.
Caught up in her thoughts, Janeway almost didn’t realise that Seven had come to a halt up ahead. Just in time she ducked round a corner, before peeking out enough to see the door. As far as Janeway knew the quarters Seven stood in front of had been disused back on her Voyager. Did someone actually live there on this ship, or was it just a clandestine meeting place? The latter option filled her with more dread and uncertainty. She tried to shake off the feelings, again reminding herself that this wasn’t her Seven. She found herself having to do that more and more.
Up the corridor, the doors slid open and Janeway’s draw dropped so much she was surprised it didn’t whack into the carpet. There grinning in the doorway was Chakotay. He leant forwards and gave Seven a kiss on the cheek. Janeway wanted to scream out loud. It was like some sort of nightmare. Anyone but him!
His arm was around Seven, ushering her inside. As the doors slid shut again a wave of horror washed over Janeway almost knocking her off her feet. What would they be doing inside? Would Chakotay’s meaty hands be pawing at Seven? Before she knew what she was doing, Janeway sprinted up the corridor and rang the chime.
Chakotay answered, giving her a curious look. “Kathryn?”
Don’t call me that! Don’t ever call me that! “Hello, Chakotay,” she said, using all her willpower to speak evenly while trying to look past him. She could detect the faint smell of cooking. “Is Seven here?”
“Er…yes, she is.”
The couple of seconds it took the other woman to come to the door gave Janeway a chance to formulate a pretext for being there.
“Captain, what can I do for you?”
Seven looked as bemused as Chakotay had been, though not in the slightest bit guilty at being discovered. Janeway reminded herself that there was no reason for her to be guilty. Embarrassed by her shockingly bad taste in men, maybe, but not guilty.
“I wanted to run a fresh simulation in the Londorian program,” Janeway stated, trying not to notice Chakotay behind Seven. He placed a couple of candles on a table in a romantic gesture.
“Is it urgent?” queried Seven, “I have other plans.”
Janeway really did not want to imagine what those were. She decided on emotional blackmail. Anything was fair game if it meant getting Seven out of there. “I guess not, I suppose I can wait a bit longer to find a way home. It’s been nearly two months after all, what are a few more hours?” She was almost ashamed with the thick layer of sadness she’d spread all over her voice.
Seven glanced over her shoulder at Chakotay and then back to Janeway. “I suppose I could come and help you for a while.”
Janeway grinned. “Thank you, it means a lot to me.” That didn’t take much persuading, she noted with satisfaction.
Seven moved back over to Chakotay, Janeway unable to hear the hushed words exchanged, though she thought she detected a disapproving look directed her way from him. It gave her an odd pleasure to see it. What didn’t give her pleasure was what happened next. She was completely unprepared as Chakotay leant in and kissed Seven on the lips. Janeway tried to avert her eyes, but part of her couldn’t help watching in grim fascination. Pain flared in her chest, dark and tormenting. When they did draw away Janeway took a great gulp of air, realising she had been holding her breath the whole time.
Seven walked back over, gesturing out the door. “Shall we go to the holodeck?”
Janeway couldn’t look Seven in the eye and her answer came out hoarsely. “Yes, right, the holodeck.”
They walked most of the way in silence, Janeway still reeling from what she’d witnessed. Surely Seven couldn’t really feel anything for Chakotay? Yet she also knew this wasn’t her universe, maybe things were destined to be different here. Then again, nothing was pre-ordained.
“How long have you and Chakotay been seeing each other?” she asked, trying to keep her tone casual.
“Fifteen days,” replied Seven.
She didn’t offer anything further. Janeway wondered if Seven considered it private, or whether she didn’t really have much to say on the matter. Janeway preferred the second option.
“How did you start seeing him?”
“You seem very interested in this,” countered Seven defensively.
“Just curious,” said Janeway, “on my Voyager Chakotay was never involved with anyone.” She avoided mentioning Seven herself. Better the young woman think her interest was because of the Commander.
“He asked me on a date and I agreed,” Seven stated.
The way she described it sounded so clinical. Warmth was absent from her tone. It didn’t sound like love’s young dream to Janeway. “Is Chakotay the first person you’ve dated on Voyager?” Janeway wasn’t sure why she was doing this to herself, but she had to know.
“I had one other date on Stardate 52647 with Lieutenant Chapman after you…,” Seven caught herself to make the correction, “…after my captain suggested that I experiment with interpersonal relationships.”
Janeway almost choked. Her counterpart had suggested Seven try dating? She wondered why. Maybe the other captain had been hoping for a different outcome. “And how did that go?”
“Not well. I calculated that he was the most compatible crew member, but my calculations must have been misguided.”
“And is that how you decided that Chakotay would be someone worthwhile dating too, from a calculation of compatibility?”
“He has many admirable qualities,” said Seven, “he is a dedicated, loyal and honest individual.”
Janeway noted that Seven didn’t say anything about being attracted to him. “And how do you actually feel about him?”
There was no immediate answer.
She has to think about it?
Eventually Seven spoke up. “I…like him.”
Like, not love. Janeway could have whooped for joy. Though she realised she shouldn’t get too carried away; it could just be Seven’s trouble articulating her feelings, or not wanting to reveal the true extent of them to someone else.
Maybe when she was with Chakotay words of love poured forth.
Janeway couldn’t quite picture it though. As far as she could tell it seemed more like an experiment to Seven, something she thought she ought to try, especially as the other captain had suggested it. Something about Seven’s methodology occurred to her.
“When you were considering possible crew members to date, did you include everyone in your calculations?”
“All the male crew members, yes.”
“Just the male crew members?”
Seven looked perplexed. “That is correct.”
“You didn’t consider any of the female crew members?” Janeway couldn’t believe Seven was being quite so dense. She must have known about the potential for same sex pairings given her vast Borg-acquired knowledge. Or did the Borg remove such information as irrelevant?
“No, the doctor only presented me with the male crew members.”
The Doctor? What did he have to do with it? And what had he been thinking?
Seven caught Janeway’s look of confusion and questioned her own assumptions. “Is it not correct that procreation can only occur between people of the opposite sex?”
Trust the doctor to bring it down to biology. “Strictly speaking that’s true,” Janeway allowed, “though there are ways for two people of the same sex to have offspring if that’s what’s desired. But you’re missing the point - dating, relationships, love…they’re not all about procreation.”
Seven remained silent for a good few seconds. “My calculations were fundamentally flawed.”
“Your whole approach was flawed,” corrected Janeway though Seven didn’t look best pleased at that assessment. “Love isn’t something you can calculate, it’s about what you feel. You need to examine your feelings and ask yourself if where you are is where you want to be.”
Janeway didn’t go as far as to say that Seven dating Chakotay was a mistake. She only wanted to server the young woman some food for thought. Janeway hoped Seven would come to the right conclusion herself.
Two days later in the Paladin’s messhall Harry poked at the noodles on his plate, not really having much of an appetite. He sat alone, the rest of the crew otherwise engaged. Last he’d seen B’Elanna she was fiddling with her cloaking device. On entering engineering Harry had heard some Klingon curse words emitting from under a console, those being enough to make him think he shouldn’t trouble her by asking if she wanted lunch. The Doctor meanwhile had been running an experiment on some bacteria he’d picked up on their last stopover and as for Seven…Harry had no idea what she was doing. He didn’t dare ask.
Harry turned his attention to the doors, willing the one person he wanted to see more than anything else to walk through them. After a few minutes he gave up. The captain wasn’t coming. Even though it had been more than seven weeks, it didn’t seem real that she was gone. She’d survived the perils of the Delta Quadrant, a Starfleet court martial and penal colony and countless other dices with death. He’d always thought her indestructible.
Turning back to his food, he contemplated what they would do without the captain. For now they were following Seven’s suggestion to hunt down Chakotay. When she’d proposed the mission they’d readily agreed, considering that not only would it give something for the otherwise grief-stricken Seven to think about, but also that it would hopefully see Chakotay brought to justice.
To his surprise he heard the doors sliding open and his head shot up, hope springing. When he saw the doctor he internally berated himself – had he really expected it to be the captain? At least it was company. The Doctor sat down opposite him without ordering anything from the replicator; he hardly needed it.
“How are the noodles?”
“Like plastic,” said Harry honestly.
“Sounds delightful,” remarked the Doctor.
Harry glanced up at the hologram, who was being strangely quiet. Normally it was impossible to shut him up. Harry suspected the doctor had the same thing on his mind as Harry himself. They were all thinking about it. Harry put down his fork, supposing he may as well be the one to broach the subject.
“Do you think this is all a good idea,” he began, “tracking down Chakotay?”
“Do you want to be the one to tell Seven it isn’t?”
Harry remembered the alleyway back in
The Doctor shook his head. “No. I’m just hoping that with time it may become easier to approach her.”
“Or it might become harder,” reasoned Harry. “She’s unpredictable as it is. Without help she might lose it completely, if she hasn’t already.”
“True,” agreed the Doctor, “I just don’t think she knows how to handle all these emotions. Remember many of them will be new to her. Yet on the other hand we can’t force our help on her.”
The doors slid open again, but Harry modulated his expectations before he looked this time. B’Elanna entered, wiping some grease from her hands as she plonked herself down at their table.
“Hi,” greeted Harry, “we were just talking about Seven.”
“Reach any conclusions?” asked the half-Klingon, “other than that she’s barking mad?”
“B’Elanna!” cried Harry.
“What?” she said without apology, “I tried to hold a reasonable conversation with her a few days ago and she ended up attacking me!”
The Doctor gave her a doubtful look. “What did you say to her though?”
“Nothing!” B’Elanna insisted, “I was trying to help out. I offered to let her help with the cloaking device, give her something else to focus on other than moping round her quarters or leading us on this hunt for Chakotay.”
“About that,” said Harry, “do you think it’s a good idea?”
“I did,” she began, “that bastard deserves all he’s got coming, though I can only imagine what Seven intends to do if we find him.”
“What do you mean?” asked Harry.
B’Elanna leant back in her chair, rolling her eyes. “Oh come on, Harry, use your brain! You’ve already seen how she’s ripped into the people we’ve been questioning. What do you think she wants to do when we find the man himself? Have a quiet word with him?” She let Harry think about it for a moment before answering her own question. “She’s going to kill him.”
Harry’s hand stilled where it was pushing the fork round his plate. It hadn’t occurred to him that was going to be the outcome. Now B’Elanna suggested it he realised it was a distinct possibility He placed the fork down and met B’Elanna’s gaze. “We can’t let that happen,” he stated, “no matter what he might have done. We’re not murderers.”
“You might not be…” B’Elanna’s words hung in the air for a few seconds before she continued. “We could always cut her loose, let her go on this obsessive quest on her own.”
“I don’t think that’s what Captain Janeway would have wanted,” he said. Harry didn’t like the idea much more than letting Seven kill Chakotay. “She would have wanted us to look after Seven, especially as she’s hurting.”
B’Elanna made a small scoffing noise. Harry frowned. “You could be a little more understanding, B’Elanna, especially as you lost someone you loved too.” As soon as the words left his mouth, he could tell it had been the wrong thing to say. B’Elanna’s face darkened and she leant forwards across the table fixing him with an intense stare.
“You’re comparing how I felt for Tom with that borg P’tak’s feelings, if she even has any?”
“You know that’s not true, B’Elanna” said the Doctor, “you can see how distraught she is.”
B’Elanna wasn’t easily persuaded. “Maybe she read in a book somewhere that’s she’s meant to be distraught and this is her best approximation of it?”
“Now you’re just talking crap!”
B’Elanna actually looked shocked by Harry’s frank outburst. People weren’t used to him standing up to them.
“Seven’s feelings are very real,” he added, “she just normally does a better job of hiding them. The fact that she can’t at the moment is just another sign of how upset she is.”
The sound of the doors halted the conversation. Everyone swung to watch Seven approaching. Harry thought she looked terrible. There were dark rings under her eyes, her formerly lustrous hair lank and greasy and tied up in a ragged ponytail. If the young woman felt perturbed by the sudden silence that greeted her arrival she didn’t show it.
“Why are we only at warp six?” she demanded, not offering any greeting.
“We need to conserve dilithium,” B’Elanna answered, “unless you have a secret stash we can use?”
Seven looked down her nose as if it wasn’t even worth gracing B’Elanna with a response. Instead she addressed her next comment to Harry.
“Just let me know when we get there.”
“Why don’t you join us?” he tried as she made to go.
Just for a second he thought he saw her considering it before the icy, disinterested mask fell back in place. “Just let me know when we get there,” she repeated before she turned on her heel and left without another word.
B’Elanna shook her head. “How much longer are we meant to put up with this? Can’t you do something, Doc?”
“What do you suggest, sedating her?”
“Might be worth a go.” Harry stared at her and she gave a shrug. “All right, no sedating her for now. For the time being we’ll go along with this quest to find Chakotay, but I’m going to be keeping a close eye on her. I’m not letting her put this ship or us in danger.”
Janeway stirred from sleep. Someone gently shook her shoulder.
The voice sounded familiar, welcome.
“Seven.” The name fell from Janeway’s lips with a soft caress in the husky tone.
Janeway lazily pushed herself up, barely opening her sleepy eyes. She wrapped her arms around the body perched next to her on the bed, snuggling into an embrace, nuzzling at Seven’s neck. It felt so good, the warmth spreading through her as her senses were filled with Seven. The heat slowly settled lower down her body, the first stirrings of arousal evident. Janeway made to place a soft kiss on Seven’s collarbone only then realising that she was prevented from doing so by a purple biosuit.
Janeway froze, still wrapped around the other woman. Slowly she opened her eyes, staring at the wall.
This isn’t my Seven.
In horror she realised her senses had tricked her, reacting automatically to the presence of the familiar body. Janeway continued to stare at the bulkhead over Seven’s shoulder as her mind hurtled over possible ways to excuse the awkward moment. She was now acutely aware of the other woman’s breathing, her chest rising and falling against Janeway’s own. Yet Seven made no move to extricate herself. It was as if she didn’t know quite what to make of the unexpected show of affection.
Eventually Janeway peeled herself away.
“Sorry about that, you caught me unawares,” she said, trying to keep her voice as casual as possible, “I must have been in the middle of a dream.” Unusually nothing was forthcoming from Seven so Janeway pressed on. “You’re here for our early start of course,” she remembered, “if you’ll excuse me for a minute I’ll just get dressed.”
Without a word Seven rose off the bed and moved out into the lounge area. Janeway hurriedly pulled her clothes on, trying to banish the surge of arousal she’d felt holding the other Seven. Her mind knew it was wrong, but the longer she stayed in the other universe the more likely it became her body was going to betray her. Janeway wished she could see her Seven. Trying to focus her thoughts on what she needed to do in order to make that happen, she walked out into the lounge, requesting a cup of coffee from the replicator to try and banish her lingering tiredness.
Janeway had deliberately suggested the early start in her ongoing campaign to give Seven as little time as possible for meeting up with Chakotay. She’d hoped Seven might have given up the whole venture completely after their discussion, though there was no sign of that as yet. It had only been a few days though; still plenty of time. As she sipped at her steaming cup, it took a moment for Janeway to realise that Seven wasn’t waiting by the door but actually stood by the window, watching the stars with an odd wistful look on her face. Janeway had never seen this Seven look so contemplative.
“Are you all right?”
Seven jumped as Janeway put a hand on her shoulder. Her blue eyes shifted to Janeway, a searching, questioning look in them. There was something else too, a certain longing. It reminded Janeway acutely of her own Seven.
“What is it?” asked Janeway when Seven remained silent.
Finally the young woman gathered herself. “It is…nothing.”
Nothing my arse. Janeway could think of only one thing that could have led to this sudden shift in mood, the embrace they’d shared moments before. Janeway reconsidered her initial take on Seven’s reaction. Maybe the reason she hadn’t said anything or let go wasn’t due to awkwardness, but because she was enjoying it. Her mind extrapolated the natural conclusion. It wasn’t really me that she wanted to hug, it was her captain she was thinking of, just as I was thinking about my Seven. I was right all along!
The triumphant conclusion made her even more determined than ever to do something about the Chakotay situation; she just needed to work out what.
Mind-numbing days continued passing on the Paladin’s journey to Harta, with Seven spending most of them locked away in her quarters. She occupied her time dreaming up increasingly violent ways she would dispatch Chakotay when she finally located him. Sometimes her mind would drift unbidden to other thoughts, thoughts of the past. When that happened the replicator always stood close at hand. Occasionally, when she could be bothered, she would regenerate. On the sixth day of their passage one of those infrequent regenerations was disturbed.
Seven’s eyes flicked open, the portable regeneration unit immediately complaining with loud bleeping noises about the incomplete cycle. She turned off the warning sound, wondering what had awoken her in the first place. A noise from out in the lounge gave some evidence as to the cause.
“Hello? Is there someone in here?”
Seven swung her legs off the bed to investigate, thinking it likely either the Doctor or B’Elanna had seen fit to come and nose about her quarters. She knew Harry would never dare. Poking her head round the partition from the bedroom she couldn’t see anyone though. Frowning, she looked back over her shoulder into the bedroom just as another clonk echoed out. Her eyes darted back to the lounge.
“If one of you is playing some sort of pathetic game, you will be sorry,” she announced to the seemingly empty room.
As Seven moved into the dimly lit room she spotted the source of the noise. A steel coffee mug lay discarded on the carpet. Even with the general disarray Seven knew exactly where everything should be and the mug was out of position. It was the type of mug Kathryn had always been fond of. She reached down to pick it up, surprised to find it warm as if recently used.
“Who is in here?” she demanded.
Seven’s heart leapt into throat at the voice. She whirled round to see Kathryn standing there alive. Back from the dead? Hope swept through her before reality kicked in just as quickly.
“Is this some sort of trick again?” she asked, managing to hold herself back this time. When there was no reply she felt anxiety bubbling up inside. “Answer me!”
The only response was another dull thump from somewhere in the room. Seven couldn’t discern where from, but as she looked back to Kathryn she discovered an empty space. She swung round on the spot but already knew with a despairing certainty that she was alone. She always had been. She so desperately wanted it to be otherwise, her mind was playing tormenting tricks on her. The only way to stop it required several more whiskeys.
The next morning a commanding voice called out admittance to the Ready Room on Voyager.
Janeway still found it odd waiting to be granted permission to enter her own Ready Room. The disconcerting feeling was only enhanced as she entered to see the other captain sitting in her chair. The other woman was engrossed studying a number of padds laid before her. As Janeway approached the blue-grey eyes flicked up to meet hers.
“I see you’ve had some success replicating the trans-dimensional conduit.”
Janeway nodded. That was the good news. Through their work in the holodeck over the past few days she and Seven had been able to re-create the precise conditions that led to the opening of the rift. From the data they’d gathered they’d then attempted to re-open small conduits back to the other dimension. After a few failed attempts they’d managed to hold one open for all of 0.05 seconds. At least that had been long enough to determine where it led. Amazingly that had been directly to the Paladin. Janeway could hardly believe their luck. Only of course it wasn’t luck at all. As it turned out, the other flux generator was there. What they didn’t now was how. Had it survived the explosion? Had there not even been an explosion at all? Either way Janeway wasn’t about to complain.
The last time they’d even managed to open a small rift long enough to send an object through. Janeway hoped the mug had made the trip safely. Now they just needed to work out how to make the conduit big enough and stable enough for her to pass through without being ripped to pieces by the transdimensional stresses.
With the possibility that she might be able to go home soon growing, the thought of leaving the parallel universe in its current state filled her with a certain dread. Janeway realised she’d vowed not to interfere in its timeline, that it was wrong. However, she’d never been very good at sticking to the rules. She justified it to herself as not so much interfering as realigning the cosmic balance. Her heart was convinced by the rightness of the action and right now that was more important to her than any unwritten laws of the universe.
Janeway must have considered about a hundred and one good ways to broach the subject, but none of them would have the necessary shock value and she needed to get the captain’s attention. She wasn’t sure how much time she might have left to make a difference. She gambled.
“Did you know Seven is going out with Chakotay?”
The other captain spluttered on her coffee, only just succeeding in keeping it in her mouth. She swallowed hard. “What?”
Given the captain’s startled expression Janeway determined she’d succeeded in her aim.
“I’ll take that as a no.”
Janeway had to hand it to the other captain, she managed to recover quickly, pasting an inscrutable expression on her face. “It has come as bit of a surprise,” said the other captain stiffly, “but they are entitled to a private life. It’s not really any concern of mine.” To make her point she turned her attention back to her padds. Janeway watched her for a moment, wondering if she was actually reading any of the words.
“You’re really not bothered?”
“What are you insinuating?” There was an edge of annoyance in the captain’s tone this time.
“I think you’re forgetting who you’re talking to,” Janeway reminded her, “I know what you’re thinking.”
“Really?” The captain was out of her chair and coming round to the front of the desk to face her counterpart nose to nose. “We may be genetically the same and to some extent characteristically the same, but that does not mean you know all my thoughts.”
Janeway shrugged, un-phased by the show of defiance. She practiced it herself many a time. “All right, maybe I don’t know all your thoughts,” she allowed, “but I do in this case. Not that I’d have to be you to work it out, it’s written all over your face for any fool to see.”
The other captain stepped back a couple of paces. “I don’t know what you think you know, but I assure you you’re wrong.”
“I haven’t even told you what it is yet,” Janeway said, “how do you know I’m wrong unless you already suspect what I’m going to say? And if that’s the case, what led you to that conclusion?” Janeway was starting to confuse herself and decided to cut to the chase. “I can see you’re not going to admit it though, at least not without some prompting. I always was a stubborn fool.”
“I’m not sure…”
“Just shut up and listen.”
The captain looked shocked by the swift interruption. Janeway supposed not many people talked to her like that on Voyager, save perhaps Seven. Janeway continued on. “You remember I told you that I have someone back in the Alpha Quadrant.”
The captain remained quiet, just nodding.
“I have someone that I am very much in love with,” Janeway confessed, her voice softening to match her feelings as she spoke of it. “It was a love that caught me unawares, but when it did find me, that all encompassing love, surpassing anything I had ever known, it grew to a wonderful, beautiful feeling and something I cherish more than life itself.”
She noticed the other captain looking sceptical of the frank confession, and a little uncomfortable too.
“You’re wondering what this has to do with you,” Janeway continued, “but if you just allowed yourself to acknowledge your feelings you could find a love like that too.”
Now the captain looked confused. Janeway put her out of her misery.
“The person I’m in love with, it’s Seven.”
She let the bombshell hang in the air for a moment. Janeway pressed on, noting the captain didn’t look that surprised. “And if I’m not mistaken you are in love with your Seven too.”
“I…but…” The captain tried to object. Janeway simply held her gaze, indicating how pointless that was. They both knew the truth. The other captain let out a long sigh instead. “This is like talking to my own conscience in human form!”
Janeway smiled. “How long have you known?”
“For definite?” asked the captain, getting a nod in answer. “About three years.”
“Three years?” cried Janeway. And I thought I was the queen of denial. “And you never said anything?”
The captain shook her head. “It wouldn’t be appropriate. I’m the captain, she’s my crewmember. My first duty is to the ship…”
Janeway cut her off before she could go any further down that well-rehearsed path of excuses. “Don’t give me that crap! You need to tell her, for your own sanity if nothing else.”
“Even if I was inclined to tell her, you just told me she’s going out with Chakotay. I can’t come between them, no matter how I feel.”
Janeway was getting exasperated by her counterpart’s intransigence. “But what if Seven’s only dating him because she thinks she can’t have you?”
“She told you that?” asked the captain doubtfully.
“Not in so many words.”
The captain shook her head and started to pace back round the desk to her chair. As she lowered herself into it Janeway could recognise the signs that she’d made her mind up and her heart sank.
“I can’t do it,” the captain said, “it’s not fair to either of them.”
This time Janeway got cut-off by a hand held up to stall her. “I’m happy for you, that you found love in your universe,” said the other captain, “but this is my life and I’d ask you to respect my right to live it as I see fit.”
“Even if you’re making the biggest mistake of it?”
The Paladin finally reached Harta after ten days. Seven wasn’t happy at the delay and wasted no time in beaming down to the planet as soon as they arrived. Shortly she found herself in a bar, watching the clientele from a seat in a corner booth. The early evening trade consisted of a heaving mass of locals and other traders like themselves. The only reason they’d managed to get a booth was because Seven had suggested to the previous occupants that it might be in the best interests of their health to vacate it. They hadn’t been convinced until she’d broken one of their noses. Harry had looked suitably shocked at her actions, though Seven thought he ought to have been used to them by now. Thankfully he’d gone off in search of their contact, rather than give her another of his moralistic lectures about that not being how they did things.
As her eyes surveyed the crowd, Seven recalled another bar and another time. Unfortunately there would be no mysterious redhead wending her way through the crowd to captivate Seven this time. She did however notice someone staring back at her. As soon as Seven’s eyes met the woman’s she gave a smile, seemingly unperturbed at getting caught out. Seven could only see her head through the throng, but the small ridges on either side of her brow just visible through long dark hair marked her out as a native Hartan.
The crowd shifted and Seven lost sight of her, just as Harry came back to the table. “I’ve found our contact,” he said, shuffling down onto the seat next to Seven, “she’s a woman of the night.”
“You mean she is a prostitute,” stated Seven, coolly sipping her drink.
Harry blushed. “If you want to call it that.”
“You have another term for someone who sells sex?”
Seven couldn’t believe Harry could still be quite so naive. She wondered why she had let him come. He’d tried his best to look the part and fit in, but he was just too clean cut. Seven on the other hand looked right at home sitting there in her battered trousers, dusty boots and worn vest while closely cradling a drink.
“Is she in here tonight?” asked Seven.
“Yeah,” said Harry, his eyes scanning the crowd, “there she is.”
Seven followed his finger, finding it led to the same woman who’d been smiling at her moments before. She stood turned to the side now, oblivious to their discussion of her.
“Do you want me to go and talk to her?” offered Harry.
“No, leave it to me,” replied Seven, already on her feet, “you can go back to the ship.”
Seven negotiated her way through the crowd to the bar, having to push aside more than one drunken Hartan. Getting closer Seven saw the back of the other woman…literally. The black dress she wore was hardly worth the name, open on the back and plunging so low that it revealed the top of some firm buttocks. Seven touched the woman’s shoulder to get her attention in the noisy room.
“You have some information for me?”
As the woman swivelled round on her stool Seven noticed that there wasn’t much more to her outfit on the front either. The alien woman gave a smile when she saw it was Seven who’d disturbed her. “There’ll be plenty of time for business later,” she said softly, “why don’t you relax, have a drink?”
Dragging the woman outside and beating the information out of her was Seven’s first consideration, but she smiled. “All right, I will have a drink.” The alternative might be mildly diverting.
The woman grinned again and ordered for them. A small glass containing a clear liquid arrived on the bar in front of Seven. A powerful alcoholic smell wafted up to her. She took it and downed it in one go, never taking her eyes off the other woman who raised an eyebrow.
“Impressive,” she noted, “another?”
Seven accepted the challenge, thinking to play along to see if the information she required was forthcoming. If not the other less polite option was still viable. However, as the minutes ticked on the chance to speak with someone other than the Paladin crew proved a refreshing change. The woman didn’t know her, didn’t know anything about her. There was no sense of being judged for her behaviour. Her progression to nicely drunk was only halted when she felt a tap on her shoulder. Seven was surprised to find it was Harry. Obviously he’d felt the need to stay and keep watch over her, despite her insistence otherwise.
“Seven, What are you doing?”
“Having a drink with my friend…” Seven trailed off realising she didn’t actually know the other woman’s name. She raised her eyebrows in the dark-haired woman’s direction and she duly filled in the blank.
“Taleena and I are having a drink,” Seven informed Harry.
“I think you’ve had quite enough…ow!”
Seven gripped Harry’s arm and squeezed hard. “Just leave me alone, Harry,” she hissed.
He managed to extricate his arm from her vice-like grip. “Fine, do what you want.”
Seven watched him go, a faint prickling of regret somewhere at the back of her mind. She washed it away with another quick swig from her glass.
“Boyfriend?” queried Taleena.
Seven laughed mirthlessly. “Hardly. So how about I buy you a drink and you tell me about Chakotay?”
Taleena reached over to touch her lightly on the arm. “How about we get out of here and find somewhere quieter,” she offered with a sly grin, “and then I might tell you about him.”
“And where do you suggest?” asked Seven, already suspecting the answer she would get.
“How about my place?”
Seven should say no. She knew what Taleena was after. Yet something about the offer was strangely appealing. The woman meant nothing to her - no ties, no emotional consequences.
“Lead the way.”
Meanwhile on Voyager, Janeway the speed of progress amazed Janeway. From their initial discovery they’d moved through tests with inanimate objects and were now ready for her to attempt the journey across the dimensional rift. Neither the other captain nor Seven had been best pleased with her gung-ho attitude, suggesting more tests first, but Janeway insisted it was the best test. She needed to get back, she needed to get home. Two months was more than enough to convince her she never wanted to be apart from Seven for that long again.
Despite the fact that it was early evening, she strode towards the holodeck at that moment, filled with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. If it went wrong she could be ripped into a million pieces by the cross-dimensional forces. Yet she knew the risk was worth it if it took her back to Seven. She felt a presence draw level as she walked, only needing a cursory glance to see the other captain next to her.
Janeway nodded and took a deep breath. It was now or never. “Have you spoken to Seven?”
“I’ve spoken to her many times,” said the captain, keeping her eyes trained forward as they walked.
“Don’t be facetious with me,” said Janeway, “have you told her you love her yet?”
The other captain suddenly stopped, grabbed hold of Janeway’s arm and hauled her into an empty room. Once the doors had shut she fixed Janeway with an angry stare. “I’d thank you not to blurt out such things where anyone could hear! I already told you, I’m not going to do that. I can’t.”
“You can!” insisted Janeway, “you just take her to one side and say…Seven, I love you.”
The captain threw her hands up in the air in exasperation. “I don’t understand why you’re so bothered about this. Is it really concern over my emotional well-being or is there something else you’re not telling me?”
Janeway hadn’t wanted to say anything else, she was contaminating this timeline enough as it was. Yet the other captain left her little choice.
“What is it?”
Her deliberations had not gone unnoticed.
“Yes, I want you to be happy,” Janeway began slowly, “and I also want Seven to be happy and she won’t be if you let her go off with that,” she couldn’t stop herself, “bastard!” she spat with a flourish at the end.
“Chakotay?” The captain couldn’t have looked much more incredulous. “He’s a decent guy, maybe a little dull, but nice enough. Seven could do a lot worse.”
Janeway laughed. The irony. She’d felt that way once too. “You want to know how decent he is? How nice he is?” she asked. “All right, I’ve done pussy-footing around the truth. If this is the only way I can make you put an end to it then here it is.” She took a deep breath. “I’m not in Starfleet anymore because when I finally got back to the Alpha Quadrant my trusty first officer betrayed me and gave evidence against me in a court martial. And if stabbing me in the back wasn’t bad enough, since then he’s kidnapped and threatened to kill Seven and nearly succeeded in killing me. It was Chakotay who sent me to that space station, knowing it was a suicide mission. He’s a nasty piece of work who finally showed his true colours and he’ll show them here sooner or later too. So if you won’t do this for yourself, then do it for Seven!”
The other captain’s face was ashen, jaw set rigid. Janeway wondered if she’d gone too far. The other captain needed to know the truth though. If that sort of behaviour lurked within Chakotay in her universe that it was only to be assumed he was capable of it here too.
“So will you speak to her?”
The other captain was at a loss for words, her face still set in a deathly pale mask.
“I’ll…I’ll think about it.” Before Janeway could object the other woman continued. “Now we need to get you to a holodeck, you have somewhere to be.”
Janeway could recognise a diversionary tactic when hit with one. Supposing she’d done just about all she could save posing as the captain and telling Seven herself, she moved for the door.
Once Seven walked through the doorway to the other woman’s abode, Taleena rounded on her, pushing her up against the wall as the door slammed shut. Hungry lips sought out Seven’s own. For the briefest of moments something held Seven back, then she eagerly kissed back, letting the heat of the moment rise up to consume her.
Taleena lips nibbled down her jawline, the other woman’s smaller frame grinding provocatively against her.
....succumb to the moment…
Warm hands wormed their way under her Seven’s shirt.
Hot fingers slid over her bare flesh, up to squeeze her breasts.
Taleena’s hands froze. “What did you say?”
Seven’s eyes flew open, staring at the woman before her. What am I doing?
Meanwhile Taleena shook her head dismissively. “Never mind.” She moved in to kiss Seven again.
Seven shoved the alien woman from her so violently that she was thrown across the room, tumbling over a bare table and landing in a heap on the floor. Seven looked down at her hands like they belonged to someone else. She felt much the same about the rest of her body. Who was this person picking up strangers in bars?
“I can not do this.”
“Who said you had a choice?”
Seven hadn’t expected Taleena to have recovered quite so quickly and she certainly hadn’t expected to see the other woman coming at her with something. Seven tried to dodge out the way but something grazed Seven’s bare forearm. She pulled her arm to her, seeing a thin line of blood on her skin.
The rest of Seven’s sentence disappeared in a mumbled slur. Suddenly her body felt heavy; she couldn’t resist the pull of gravity. She hit the wooden floor hard, landing awkwardly on her side. She tried to move but her limbs were unresponsive. Head spinning she realised the room was devoid of any personal items. It seemed unlikely this was where Taleena lived. More probably it was somewhere she brought people for another purpose.
“I would have preferred a willing partner,” came a voice from behind her, “but I’m not fussy.”
Seven felt Taleena’s hands on her, rolling her over onto her back on the floor. All she could do was stare up at the plain ceiling as the other woman lowered herself to the floor, pressing up against Seven in a predatory fashion. Taleena’s fingers started to creep down her torso and Seven would have shuddered if she was capable of moving.
I will not allow this!
Seven struggled to find some life in her body as Taleena started to undo the belt of her trousers.
I will not let someone else touch me!
The belt was undone and the buttons were going the same way.
Only one person is allowed to do that!
Seven’s left arm darted up, her fingers closing round Taleena’s throat. The woman’s eyes bulged. “How…?” she gasped as she fought for breath.
Seven forced herself up into a sitting position. “Never underestimate the Borg,” she said. Nor their nanoprobes. She knew they must have fought off the drug faster than Taleena had anticipated.
The other woman now looked terrified. “B-Borg? You don’t look Borg.”
Seven got to her feet, pulling Taleena with her and then closer so she could whisper with quiet menace. “Let me show you.”
Seven’s left fist cracked across Taleena’s face, the hard implant splitting flesh. Taleena sprawled on the floor, but Seven hauled the sobbing and bloodied woman to her feet.
“Now are you going to tell me about Chakotay, or are we going to have a real disagreement?”
In another universe, Janeway stood in the holodeck trying to contain her feelings of anticipation. Is this really it, am I really going home?
They had started the necessary reaction fifteen minutes previously. In another ten minutes it would reach the crucial point when the rift would open just long enough to step through onto what they all hoped was the Paladin. If not she probably wouldn’t have long to curse her luck before the void of space sucked the life from her.
While she waited she watched the other two occupants of the room. The other captain and Seven stood huddled over some consoles, monitoring the reaction. It pained Janeway to see them so close yet so far apart. Yet she’d done all she could and it wasn’t really her place to intervene further even if every fibre of her being screamed at her to.
Back on the Paladin, the Doctor waited as Seven beamed aboard. Like Harry in the bar, the look of concern on his face was evident. Most likely the other man had told him what had transpired down on the planet. Seven brushed straight past him as she stepped off the pad.
“Chakotay’s back on Earth,” she informed him, not looking back for a reaction as she went out the door.
Earth! Blasted Earth! She repeated to herself as she walked. Of all the places he could have gone it had to be the heavily fortified and protected home of the Federation. Seven didn’t stop until returned to her quarters, made it to the replicator and ordered a whiskey. B’Elanna had tried to remove the alcoholic drink patterns but Seven had restored them. The attempt was laughable really. No amount of clever deletion stopped a determined Borg.
Seven swiftly downed one after another as she tried to obliterate the events on the planet.
Why couldn’t I just go through with it in the first place? She chided herself, It was just sex. It meant nothing; a means to an end.
Yet despite her attempts at rationalisation she just couldn’t think of it like that. That wasn’t all it was. She’d only ever made love to one person and that had always meant something. She didn’t want anyone else. She wanted Kathryn.
The familiar ache rose up in her chest and she sought out the battered picture frame. It had been recovered once again and placed back on the shelf.
“But I cannot have you can I?”
The scene had been repeated many times the last couple of months, the outcome always the same. Kathryn never had any answers.
Seven’s pain twisted into anger. She dashed the picture from the shelf with a fist, shattering the frame. There was only one place to get answers these days and that sat humming quietly in the corner of the room.
“The rift is ready!” shouted Seven over the noise of the reaction.
Janeway hardly needed the verbal confirmation. The brilliant white glow enveloping the room evidence enough. She could sense the power emanating from the spatial rupture before her, feel it tugging at her clothes. Taking a deep breath she stepped towards it. On the threshold she paused for a moment, turning back to the watching women. The rift pulled mercilessly at her now and it was all she could do to stand there as her hair whipped about her face.
“Thank you!” she called back to them before fixing her eyes on her double. She must give it one last go. “Tell her!”
With that parting shot she stepped through and disappeared in the blinding glow. The reaction surged and died, the rift quickly collapsing in on itself to leave the holodeck quiet once more.
Seven turned to the captain, raising a single eyebrow. “Tell me what?”
Janeway tentatively opened one eye and peered down at her body, patting at it just to make sure. One piece! Amazing! She supposed she should never have doubted the other captain and Seven. Of course making the trip successfully wouldn’t matter if she’d ended up in the wrong place. Her gaze extended to take in her surroundings. Superficially it looked like her quarters on the Paladin, but it was in an absolute state. It looked like a horde of rampaging Klingons had been holding a party. Furniture was upended, ornaments smashed and even her favourite coffee cup lay on the floor sporting a nasty dent in its metal surface. On closer inspection the dents appeared to be finger shaped, like someone had attempted to crush it with their bare hands. Suddenly Janeway felt a rush of anxiety. In her urgency to get back, she’d never stopped to consider what might await her. Had the ship been attacked? Had something happened to the crew?
“Computer, locate Seven of Nine.”
“Seven of Nine is in her quarters.”
Janeway frowned. “Seven?” she called out.
No response came, and Janeway felt the rapidity of her nervous heartbeat as she dashed to the archway to the bedroom, tripping over discarded items as she went. A huge wave of relief enveloped her as she saw Seven lying on the bed fast asleep. Janeway actually had to steady herself against the doorway for a moment as the realisation hit her. Home, I made it home.
Savouring the sight before her, she thought her heart might just burst right out of her chest and leap the remaining few feet on its own. It might have only been two months, but it seemed a lifetime since she had last seen her Seven. The deep, gnawing ache she had felt in her soul all that time flared again and she moved closer, desperate to make it a memory.
As she neared and her eyes became accustomed to the dimness of the room, she realised Seven was still fully clothed and lying on top of the sheets. Janeway knelt down and caught an all too familiar smell of alcohol.
“Oh god, no…”
Her proximity revealed the empty bottle on the floor. It was one of her old favourites. Janeway felt sick. How could this have happened? Suddenly the reason for the state of the quarters became clear. She hardly dared wake the other woman, but she’d come too far, risked too much for this to stop her. She shook the young woman’s shoulder gently.
Seven felt the touch on her shoulder and bolted upright. She immediately wished she hadn’t as pain jabbed behind her eyes, the room spinning disconcertingly before her half-drunk eyes. Slowly a figure came into focus in the dim room.
She swung wildly at the spectre, not waiting for it to speak this time. The figure was catapulted across the room, smacking satisfyingly into the far wall. It collapsed onto the carpet, groaning in pain as Seven levered herself off the bed. She swayed on her feet trying to take her first step and had to pause and gather herself. It gave the ghost a chance to stagger to its feet too. For a moment Seven’s heart betrayed her with the urge to go to the other woman and help her. Seven had to remind herself that it might look like her beloved, but this was not Kathryn. It was a demon, sent to torment her. She continued forwards menacingly.
Seven ignored the pleas. She didn’t want to hear its fake words of love. She had allowed herself to hope too many times, each one a bitter disappointment.
Not this time!
Seven took a fistful of its shirt in her hand and flung the small body out of the bedroom, sending it smashing into the already disarrayed furniture in the lounge area. As Seven strode through the archway with renewed determination she saw it was trying to pick itself up from amongst the remains of the coffee table. Seven waded purposefully over the broken furniture and gave it a hand. She roughly tugged it to its feet and slammed it into the wall with her right hand. The left she brandished before its eyes like a weapon. Two narrow bands of metal extended from between her knuckles, itching to strike. There was a good approximation of fear in the eyes of the demon.
“Resistance is futile!”
Tubules punctured flesh. A scream pierced the air. The apparition’s face contorted as the nanoprobes coursed out through the sharp probes. Seven felt a grim satisfaction. Then she felt something else; she felt thoughts that weren’t her own. Confusion filled her; she shouldn’t be feeling such things, not from an imagining of her own mind. The thoughts buffeted her.
Stop! Make it stop!
She tried to pin down the alien memories and feelings, bring some semblance of meaning to the chaos. She’d forgotten how unpleasant it was sharing her mind. Finally she managed to cut through some of the haze. There were memories of a ship, lost in the Delta Quadrant, feelings of sadness and loss, a sense of joy at returning home, the bitter taste of betrayal and then, most vividly, feelings of love.
The love was for her.
Seven’s eyes widened in shock, focussing properly on the face before her for the first time. “Kathryn?”
The other woman struggled to move her lips to speak, but her teeth clenched in a grimace of pain. Suddenly an implant burst through her cheek. Seven felt the pain too. Realising her horrific mistake she retracted her tubules. Immediately Kathryn slumped to the floor, convulsing as the nanoprobes continued their assault on her body. Seven could only watch, too numb to move. This can’t be happening, Kathryn is alive and I tried to assimilate her!
“Seven…,” the voice was ragged, barely audible, “…please…”
Seven saw the pale blue eyes focussing on her, beseeching her for help. Kathryn’s skin turned a deathly grey, more implants erupting through her skin. Seven’s breath caught and for a moment she thought she was going to throw up. Somehow she managed to kick her addled brain into gear.
“Seven of Nine to the doctor, I have a medical emergency in my quarters.”
Seven studied the form on the biobed before her, not daring to get too close lest it suddenly disappeared.
It couldn’t be true, could it?
Yet she knew it was; she had seen Kathryn’s thoughts, felt her emotions, felt her pain. Seven baulked at the last thought.
Pain that I inflicted.
A huge lump of guilt sat heavily on her heart, burying the feelings of joy and relief that wanted to burst forth. Tentatively she reached out to touch Kathryn’s face, still scarred from where the doctor had removed the Borg implants.
Would it heal? Could the doctor repair the damage fully?
Seven didn’t think she could forgive herself if she’d sullied that beautiful face forever. As her fingers came into contact with the soft skin something akin to an electric charge shot up her arm. Kathryn was real. Seven’s fingers stroked tenderly down Kathryn’s cheek, brushing them on through her auburn hair where it lay spread against the whiteness of the pillow.
“Get away from her!”
Seven jumped, withdrawing her fingers and turning to the source of the voice. “B’Elanna, I…”
The engineer shoved Seven away from the biobed. “I said get away from her! Haven’t you done enough damage?”
Seven knew the words stung because they were true. “I did not intend…”
“To what?” interjected B’Elanna, not letting her finish, “assimilate the captain?” Her face contorted in an angry snarl. “You’re a liability Seven! Were you drunk again?”
Seven didn’t think she could have felt any more miserable than she did already, but B’Elanna’s words were succeeding in increasing her despair.
“I take that as a yes!” B’Elanna shook her head in disbelief. “Why don’t you do us all a favour and disappear?”
“But…Kathryn…” Seven’s eyes drifted longingly to the unconscious woman.
“You think she’ll forgive you for this?” B’Elanna’s voice was quieter now, but no less insidious. “You tried to assimilate her, Seven. You violated her mind and body.”
Seven clenched her jaw to stop the tears that were forming behind her human eye. She is right, unforgivable. Seven started to back away. I did this. Seven felt like a part of her own heart had been ripped out and left on the biobed as she moved away towards the door.
B’Elanna made no move to stop her. “Don’t bother coming back,” she muttered without looking.
Holding back a sob, Seven turned and ran from the room.
Janeway didn’t want to open her eyes. Her head throbbed enough without having to deal with light. Instead she tried to gather her thoughts before she risked it. Foremost of those was wondering why Seven had attacked her. None of Janeway’s wonderfully imagined scenarios of her return had involved assimilation.
She shuddered at the recollection. She’d never comprehended the excruciating pain of assimilation, a violent assault on both the mind and senses. She’d been unable to resist the inevitable, having no defence as she felt the nanoprobes pumping into her body and erupting out through her skin. Her heart ached for Seven, knowing how she’d been the victim of full assimilation at such a young age.
Janeway forced her eyes open, seeking out the young woman now. As she’d feared the light blazed harshly against her sore retinas and it took a few moments to register that she was alone in sickbay. She attempted to push herself upright, her bones and muscles protesting every inch of the way. When finally sitting, she took a moment to catch her breath.
“Captain!” came a concerned voice, “what are you doing?”
Janeway saw the doctor hurrying over to her. “Sitting up?” she replied sardonically.
He already had a tricorder out, scanning her. “You shouldn’t be sitting up in your condition,” he berated, “it’s not every day someone comes back from the dead and then gets assimilated.”
Back from the dead? They had assumed she was dead. And why wouldn’t they? As far as they knew she’d been on a space station when it exploded. Suddenly everything became a lot clearer. “Where is Seven?”
The doctor froze mid-scan and Janeway immediately knew something was wrong. “Where is she?” she asked again trying to keep the anxiety from her voice.
“She’s gone,” the answer came from the doorway where B’Elanna had just entered. Harry swiftly followed, rushing past the engineer, unable to stop himself giving the captain a hug where she sat. Janeway’s tender flesh recoiled from the contact, and sensing her discomfort he released her.
“Sorry, it’s just so good to see you, Captain,” he gabbled, a grin plastered across his face, “we thought you were dead, where have you been?”
Janeway ignored the questions, focussing on B’Elanna instead. “What do you mean gone? Where?”
B’Elanna gave a shrug. “I don’t know, she just left.”
B’Elanna looked guiltily down at the carpet. “What did you say to her?” demanded Janeway. The other woman continued her evasive look and Janeway’s tone rose to match her level of anxiety. “B’Elanna?”
“Nothing, just a few home truths about what her drinking had done.”
Janeway bit back her anger, not trusting herself to respond immediately. B’Elanna took that as an invite to say more.
The younger woman’s head snapped up. “She’s been like a lunatic these last couple of months and to top it all off she tried to assimilate you! Good riddance I say.”
Janeway took a deep breath before she answered, her knuckles bone white where she gripped the sheets – a poor replacement for B’Elanna’s throat. “I’ve spent the last two months working night and day to find a way back here, with my main motivation being that I would finally see Seven again. Only when I finally make it back, I find you’ve driven her away with some careless words? Did you ever stop to think how she might be feeling, why she might be drinking, or were you too busy being hard on her.”
“That’s not how it was,” B’Elanna attempted, “she was crazed, making us go on this wild goose chase for Chakotay…”
The name sent an icy chill through Janeway. “What?”
“She had this ridiculous idea that we should try and find him,” explained B’Elanna, “bring him to justice. We could see that it gave her something to focus on other than sitting in your quarters all day, so we went along with it. Only she became more and more unhinged as time went on. It was an obsession.”
A picture of what had been happening on board in her absence started to form in Janeway’s mind and it was not a happy one. Seven thought I was dead, what must she have felt? Janeway tried to imagine it and was suddenly hit by memories not her own. Feelings of despair and isolation engulfed her. They were so powerful that she let out a small gasp, having to brace herself on the edge of the biobed.
“Captain, are you all right?”
Harry touched her arm in concern and she tried to offer him a reassuring smile even though she didn’t know the answer herself. The overwhelming emotions had subsided, but they’d left their mark. The memories seemed so real, like they had happened to her, yet she knew otherwise. They were Seven’s memories.
Janeway realised she she must have gained access to some of Seven’s thoughts in return during their link, most likely those closest to the surface of the young woman’s mind.
“She’s gone after him,” she stated.
“What? Chakotay?” B’Elanna sought clarification. “Are you sure?”
Janeway’s eyes pierced into B’Elanna. “You’ve driven her away from here. The only other thing she’s got to cling onto is that.”
B’Elanna wisely kept quiet and Janeway turned to Harry instead.
“What was the last information you had on his whereabouts?”
Harry paused uncertainly before delivering his answer. “He’s on Earth”
Could this get any worse? “Then we’re going to Earth.”
“Are you mad?” cried B’Elanna, her guilty silence having not lasted long, “we can’t just turn up at Earth! We’re all wanted, lest you forget, thanks to breaking you out of prison.”
“And I am still indebted to you for that,” Janeway replied so coldly it was a wonder B’Elanna didn’t turn into an icicle on the spot, “so if you don’t want to come with me, I’ll understand.”
B’Elanna shifted uncomfortably under her gaze, leaving Harry to be the first to speak. “You’re the captain, of course we’ll come with you, won’t we?”
“Absolutely,” agreed the doctor without hesitation.
B’Elanna’s eyes shifted between the two men before settling on Janeway’s face. The captain saw the other woman’s reluctance written all across her features. “Fine, we go to Earth,” said B’Elanna eventually. She knew when she was in the minority. “I do have something that might help,” added the engineer. “You remember that cloaking device…”
Seven watched the small planet rotating ahead of her shuttle, the myriad colours of its surface and weather patterns shifting past. Of all the ways she might have imagined seeing Earth for the first time, while on a mission to kill a Starfleet Captain had not been near the top of her list.
She’d hoped to see it in happier times, her foremost
imagining being that one day Kathryn would take her there, her lover at her
side as they strode together through the fields of
Seven checked the readings from her sensors. It appeared she had not been detected as yet, thanks to Borg technology. How long it would mask her was another matter. She didn’t really mind, as long as it lasted sufficiently for her to get close enough.
When B’Elanna had mentioned the integration of the cloaking device might cause a rough ride she hadn’t been joking. Janeway gripped the arms of her command chair, fearful that any minute her teeth might be rattled straight out of her head to go dancing across the bridge of the Paladin. As she bounced about in her chair, Janeway was reminded of her first year back at the Academy when she’d taken a flight simulator for a ride through a collapsing gas giant. What was it the instructor had called the manoeuvre? Reckless endangerment to a frightening degree. It seemed time had done little to temper her propensity for risk taking. If she was her superior now she might be referring her for a psychiatric assessment, suspecting borderline insanity. She did have a madness of sorts – the madness of being in love. That sent her hurtling deep into Federation space with only a jury-rigged cloaking device standing between her and almost certain capture and incarceration by Starfleet. Given that it was Seven she was desperately chasing she would happily risk all that and more.
“We’re entering sector zero-one,” came Harry’s juddered tones from the helm in front of her.
“Keep us on course, Mr Kim,” she called out over the rattling of the ship.
Harry’s attempts to do so were hindered as a loud bang sounded somewhere in the ship. The deck lurched dramatically and both Janeway and Harry were catapulted from their seats. The captain, first to react, clambered back into her chair amid a shower of sparks and smoke.
When answer came to her request, Janeway didn’t hesitate, staggering across the still pitching deck to the helm.
“Get down to engineering,” she ordered Harry, “find out what’s going on, I’ll pilot the ship.”
Harry simply nodded and dashed for the turbolift. Janeway lowered herself into the seat at the helm and braced herself for a bumpy ride.
Captain Chakotay entered his office at Starfleet Headquarters, filled with a smug satisfaction that things had turned out so well. Janeway had stopped the catastrophic explosion as he’d known she would.
Too much of a bleeding heart for her own good.
The incident had barely registered back at Starfleet, his visit to headquarters ascertaining he was in the clear. A momentary pang of regret at Kathryn’s death hit him, but he quickly dismissed it with thoughts that he would rather it was her than him. At least it would have been quick, unlike what might have happened to him had the Londorian got that hands on him. He resolved to be more choosy who he dealt with next time.
“Computer lights,” he called to the empty office. There was no reaction, the room remaining shrouded in darkness, the only illumination coming from the moon outside. “Computer, lights!” he barked again.
Before he could call a third time he caught a flash in the gloom. Movement. Something slammed into his back. He staggered into his desk, whacking his gut hard on the unforgiving metal. A rough hand tugged him backwards before slamming him sideways into the wall. Pain flared as his head cracked into the concrete. Disorientated, he staggered backwards, feeling the trickle of something warm down his forehead. Then the hands were on him. The spun him round and forcing him backwards until he tumbled down into his chair. A pair of blue eyes peered down at him through the darkness.
He went to cry out but a hand clamped over his mouth. He felt a sharp poke in his side.
“No good calling for help. It is just you and me.” Seven held up a knife. “And this,” she added with a mirthless smile.
Chakotay swallowed hard, just about managing to control his bowels which were threatening to betray him in a most unseemly fashion. Seven trailed the knife menacingly down his cheek, still holding her left hand over his mouth. He realised nothing kept him in the chair apart from that. She was just a woman; he should be able to take her.
“…B’Elanna’s ok, just a bit groggy.”
Janeway was relieved to get the report from engineering from Harry. It was one thing to risk her own neck for Seven, quite another to drag everyone else along for the ride. Sense, logic and most Starfleet regulations would have dictated that she give up on Seven in the circumstances, but Janeway had never worked that way. Even if she hadn’t been in love with Seven, never leaving a crewmember behind constituted one of her golden rules of captaincy. Just because she wasn’t in Starfleet anymore certainly didn’t make it any less important.
Janeway wondered if the rule had motivated the other captain when she’d taken on the Borg in order to find Seven and bring her back to Voyager. Or had that been a convenient excuse to mask her real reason, a reason that reflected Janeway’s now? Realising it wasn’t really the time to be considering it, she shook herself back to the reality of her own universe.
“And the cloaking device?” she asked over the communication channel. Janeway assumed it was still working since no Starfleet ships had appeared to apprehend them.
“Still in one piece,” replied Harry, “though I’m not sure for how much longer!”
“We don’t need it to hold out long,” she said, “we’re only sixty seconds away from Earth. Stay down there and help B’Elanna, I’ll handle things up here.”
Avoid detection by a dozen Starfleet ships. Ge inside Starfleet Headquarters. Find Seven before she does something she might regret later to Chakotay. Easy.
Chakotay swung a fist up at Seven. She parried it and grinned. Putting up a fight. Good. It would prolong things.
When his next swing came, she even let him disarm her. The knife clattered off across the room as it spun from her grip. She didn’t need it. She wanted to use her hands.
Chakotay leapt up from his chair, his meaty fist flying at her head. She caught it in her Borg hand. Squeezing, she crushed his knuckles in her grip. The yelp of pain from him only encouraged her further. Without letting go she twisted his arm mercilessly so he was forced around. Cracking her foot into the back of his knee, she was satisfied to hear the snap of bone and his accompanying cry of pain.
Chakotay knelt on the floor whimpering to himself. Seven grabbed the collar of his uniform, yanking him roughly round so he faced her. Sweat trickled down his forehead, panic filled his eyes. Rage swelled in Seven, red hot behind her eyes. Giving a shove she pushed him up against his desk, her fingers closing round his throat.
“Please,” he begged as they started to tighten, “I’ll do anything, give you anything.”
“Can you give me Kathryn?”
Chakotay’s eyes bulged as the fingers pushed against his windpipe. Seven could feel the pulsating of his arteries under the skin. “No,” he rasped between gagging breaths.
“Then you have nothing I want.”
Chakotay’s face turned red, his breathing getting ever shallower and shorter. Seven just watched with detached indifference. She’d hoped to feel more satisfaction, but she felt nothing at all.
The commanding voice froze her to the spot. Her fingers did not slacken, her eyes still fixed on her prey.
“Don’t do it, Seven,” came the voice again, its husky undertones so familiar.
Just one more squeeze.
She never could resist that word, not when Kathryn said it in that quiet way.
Seven relaxed her fingers, letting Chakotay drop to the floor, a coughing, spluttering heap. Seven watched him, not daring nor wanting to turn round and face her shame. She felt a hand on her shoulder and flinched away.
“Don’t…,” said Seven, surprised when her voice broke, unable to manage anything further.
That word again. Seven felt her heart lurch at the sound of it, at the feel of Kathryn so close behind her. It took all her willpower not to look.
“Seven, please turn round.”
The hand touched her arm again, gently guiding her. Her resistance was fast crumbling, her barricade of fear threatening to be breached by the rush of other emotions surging up. Slowly she allowed herself to swing round. For the briefest of moments her eyes met Kathryn’s before they dropped to the floor, guilt burning in her cheeks and heart. She could still sense Kathryn’s eyes upon her.
“How can you even look at me after what I did to you?” Seven’s voice was barely audible.
“Because I love you.”
The words cut through her to the core, stripping away the last of her defences. Suddenly all those emotions that were bubbling up crashed through. Seven couldn’t hold them back allowing them to consume her, raw and unforgiving. The tears were already coming as she lifted her eyes to meet the other woman.
“I am sorry, Kathryn.” She could hardly get the words out through her constricted throat.
Kathryn didn’t say anything. She didn’t need to. She simply stepped forwards and enveloped Seven in an embrace. Seven felt the warm arms drawing her close, holding her safe and for the first time in weeks she relaxed. She buried her head on Kathryn’s shoulder, her tears spilling out over the material of the jacket, unable to stop the juddering sobs that wracked her.
Seven felt Kathryn’s fingers brushing up and down her back, comforting. “Shhh, it doesn’t matter now.”
Seven wasn’t sure how long she stood there. She didn’t want to let go, she never wanted to let go again. She may not have done if it hadn’t been from the shuffling sound that came from behind them. She’d completely forgotten they were not alone. Gathering herself, she peeled herself away from Kathryn, though she left one hand on the other woman’s back, not wanting to relinquish contact completely. Kathryn reached up to brush the last of her tears off her cheeks. Seven didn’t flinch from the touch this time. She wanted to sink into it and be lost forever.
Another sound interrupted them again, a cough this time. Seven cast her eyes downwards to where Chakotay had managed to haul himself into an upright position.
“This is all very touching,” he commented, “but you’ll never get out of here.” He looked to Janeway. “This time Starfleet will throw away the key this time.”
Seven’s anger flared again as he threatened her beloved but she felt a stilling hand on her arm. “Allow me,” said Kathryn.
Seven regarded her quizzically for a second, before the other woman took a couple of steps towards Chakotay and proceeded to knee him in the groin. He doubled over in pain and sank to the floor again before offering her up a baleful look.
“Gloat while you can, because you’ve got about five seconds before a security detachment comes in that door…2…1…”
The doors flew open. A group of Starfleet personnel charged in, phasers trained on the occupants of the room. Seven counted six of them. Could I take them? She might have attempted it if it had been just her, but there was the chance Kathryn could be injured in the process. That threat was more than enough to quell her natural instinct to retaliate.
Two more Starfleet personnel entered the room, their pips signifying that both were admirals. Top-ranking attention. One was short and stocky, his white hair indicating he was of mature years. The other stood tall and wiry, his dark eyes seeming to light up when he spied those before him.
“If it isn’t the elusive Captain Janeway,” he said with a smile that didn’t reach his eyes, “how kind of you to deliver yourself to us.”
“Admiral Mapely.” Seven heard the barely concealed contempt in Kathryn’s voice as she identified the man. Kathryn’s eyes flicked to the second man, her tone softening as she acknowledged him. “Admiral Paris.”
The older man gave a nod in Kathryn’s direction. “Captain. I wish we could have met again under better circumstances.”
“I don’t think that was ever likely to be the case, Owen,” said Janeway with regret, “though I appreciate your attempts to make it otherwise.”
The exchange exceeded Seven’s knowledge. From what she could garner from the brief conversation and looks she would have guessed that the older Admiral had been and possibly still was a friend of Kathryn’s. Unfortunately it did not appear the same could be said of the other admiral.
“You’ve got some nerve beaming in here and attacking a Starfleet officer,” said Admiral Mapely, “but then you never did show much respect for authority.”
“Save your sermon for someone who cares,” Kathryn retorted, “I take full responsibility for this attack and am willing to face whatever punishment is judged fitting as long as you let my crew person go.”
Seven felt the chill sweep through her. She couldn’t lose Kathryn again. “I was the one who attacked Captain Chakotay,” she announced, “It is I who should be held accountable.”
“And she’s a Borg,” added Chakotay who had managed to heft himself into a chair. “You should lock her up quick!”
Admiral Mapely’s eyes narrowed, sizing Seven up anew. She could almost see him licking his lips in glee. “Now that is interesting. Our very own Borg to experiment upon, the scientists in the research division will be thrilled.”
“You can’t do that!”
Kathryn made a dart for the Admiral. Two security guards grabbed her, hauling her back. Seven reflexively moved to help, but three phasers instantly targeted her halting her progress. Kathryn struggled against the restraining arms as she spoke. “She’s a human being, you can’t just take her away and experiment on her!”
Admiral Mapely’s eyebrow’s creased in confusion. “But she’s Borg,” he replied, judging that justification enough.
Seven had a sharp reminder of another ruthless regime halfway across the galaxy. As the unpleasant memories assailed her she subconsciously touched her left eye to check it was still there. She’d thought Starfleet were more enlightened but it seemed prejudice was a universal trait.
Kathryn stiffened. “No,” she stated, “she’s human.” She glanced down at her wrist, Seven noticing for the first time that she wore a device there. One of the small green lights blinked on it. “And we will now be leaving.”
Before Seven could question the brash statement she felt the tug of the transporter beam. The last thing she saw was the look of consternation on Admiral Mapely’s face as they disappeared from the room.
“Tell me again how you managed to get that cloaking device working?”
Janeway smiled at Seven’s question. “With a whole heap of luck!”
Janeway was still amazed they had managed to escape at all, but fortune had favoured them when Harry finally managed to get the transporter beam through at the crucial moment. There’d been a plan of sorts, but a seat-of-the-pants one, with Janeway more concerned with getting into headquarters in time to stop Seven rather than how they might get out. Not that she felt merciful towards Chakotay; it was Seven’s soul she was more interested in saving.
“It’s burnt out now,” she added in reference to the cloaking device, “goodness knows if we’ll ever be able to fix it again.”
They’d studiously avoided talking about anything else apart from their escape so far, but Janeway knew it was only a matter of time before they had to address everything else that had happened the past few weeks. Their quarters displayed stark evidence of that, though Janeway was less concerned with damaged ornaments and more so with the emotions that had nearly broken Seven.
The young woman sat on the sofa next to her and Janeway glanced across at her, just drinking in the welcome sight. As the blue eyes met hers and held her gaze the last couple of months seemed like a bad dream. Everything was back as it should be…nearly. As Janeway deliberated over the best way to start, Seven beat her to it.
“Where were you all that time?”
“I’m not sure you would believe me if I told you.”
Seven merely raised her eyebrows, waiting for more. Janeway couldn’t help smiling at the gesture, it was so Seven. How she’d missed the little things. Her hand crept across the sofa, fingers sliding up onto Seven’s thigh. The heat caressed her fingertips, tickling up through her skin, the urge to slide her hand higher powerful. Before the temptation consumed her, she reminded herself that Seven had asked a question. She couldn’t just pounce on Seven and devour her, no matter how much she might want to. Janeway went to draw her hand back, but Seven caught it, holding it in place with her own.
Janeway smiled, happy to leave it there. “I was in a parallel universe,” she answered, “on a Voyager that was still stranded in the Delta Quadrant.”
Seven took the information in her stride, a barely perceptible look of surprise crossing her face. “There was another Captain Janeway on this ship?” She sounded intrigued by the idea.
“Yes,” confirmed Janeway, “and another Seven.”
Janeway saw the questions forming as Seven processed the information and decided to forestall them.
“Voyager encountered the Borg in that universe and that Captain Janeway freed that Seven from the collective.” Janeway’s head started to hurt with the talk of other Janeways and Sevens.
“Interesting,” remarked Seven causing Janeway to laugh at the understatement.
“You could say that.”
“So in that universe, were we…they…?”
Janeway knew exactly what she was alluding to. “No,” she replied before amending her answer, “at least not exactly.” She realised she was only succeeding in confusing Seven. “Your counterpart was with someone else,” she explained, “but I…helped things along in another direction.”
“You interfered in another reality’s timeline?” A faint hint of reproach coloured Seven’s tone.
“You wouldn’t have been thinking about the Prime Directive either if you’d seen who it was you were with!” Janeway shuddered at the memory and determined they’d spent enough time speaking about other people when they should be talking about themselves. “Anyway, that’s a story for another time.” Janeway took a deep breath, her fingers gently stroking Seven’s thigh. “I’m more interested in what happened here.”
Seven’s eyes fell to her lap, studying where her hand lay over Janeway’s. “I…” Janeway felt Seven’s grip on her hand tighten as she struggled to force the rest of the sentence past her lips. Seven cleared her throat before carrying on. “I thought you were dead….” The anguish in her voice made Janeway want to cry herself. She used her free hand to swiftly brush a tear aside, knowing she needed to be strong for Seven who faltered on. “I…I was so…alone…”
Janeway cupped Seven’s trembling hands with both of hers, not wanting her to suffer the torture any longer. “It’s all right, I know, I saw your thoughts when…”
She trailed off. Janeway’s intention had been to show she understood, but all she’d succeeded in doing was remind Seven of something she wanted to forget.
The young woman’s eyes came up to meet her. “Our thoughts were one,” Seven stated for her.
The memories glimpsed during the attempted assimilation had faded now and try as she might, Janeway couldn’t recall them again. She was almost sorry for that, for losing that intimate glimpse into Seven’s thoughts. She could still feel the lingering sense of despair and isolation though. Enough to know she didn’t want Seven to ever feel that again.
Seven removed one of her hands from between Janeway’s and reached up to brush her fingers over the small scar on Janeway’s cheek. “I am so sorry,” she said, the sadness in her eyes near breaking Janeway’s heart.
Janeway caught Seven’s hand. “Don’t be,” she said, “there’s no permanent damage, I’ll be fine.”
“But I will always know what I did,” said Seven glumly.
“I forgive you, Seven,” Janeway said with utter sincerity, “please forgive yourself.” She knew Seven was still unsure and supposed it would just take some time and a lot of reassurance to make her understand. “It wasn’t as if you really knew what you were doing at the time,” Janeway added, “you didn’t realise it was me.”
“That is no excuse. I was…impaired, and I should not have been.”
“And whose fault was that?” said Janeway, her own voice laden with remorse.
Seven looked to her, not quite understanding.
Janeway sighed, anger and guilt driving her to her feet. She took a couple of stiff steps away before turning back. “Would you ever have even considered drinking if I hadn’t exposed you to it?” she asked, “If I hadn’t left a handy bottle for you to find in my desk?” She shook her head. “If anyone’s to blame for this, it’s me.”
Seven leapt to her feet too. “No, I will not let you do that as you did in Chakotay’s office,” she stated, “I take responsibility for my own actions.” She waited for Janeway to look at her. “As you yourself said I am human and no one forced me to turn to alcohol, I did it of my own volition, of my own free will. I thought I had lost everything. Nothing mattered anymore, least of all taking care of myself. Drinking helped me to forget, helped dull the pain. I know it was only a temporary respite, that in the end it would have destroyed me, but I did not care.”
Janeway’s chest tightened, a pain stabbing somewhere in the region of her heart. The words hauntingly echoed her own of months before. How she wished she could have spared Seven that hurt, but she hadn’t been there when the young woman needed her. “And now?”
Seven stepped forwards as Janeway stood rooted to the spot, mesmerised. Seven stopped mere inches from her, well within her personal space. Janeway’s eyes drifted up to meet the ice blue ones.
“Now I have you here, that is all I need.”
The simple words lifted the pressing pain in Janeway’s chest, filling the space instead with a spreading warmth. She reached up to cup Seven’s face with her hands like a precious jewel, one that she would never see harmed in this way again. “You’re all I need too,” she said, “but I need to know that if anything should ever happen to me…”
Seven’s eyes clouded. “Kathryn, please, do not speak of such things, I only just got you back.”
Janeway heard the pain in Seven’s voice, but she couldn’t let it go just yet. Guiding the young woman back down onto the sofa, she continued gently. “I need to know, that if anything should happen to me you could be strong, carry on. You have to promise me you will never let grief lead you to such a destructive path again.”
“Only if you promise not to get yourself killed again!”
“Seven, I’m serious.”
“So am I!”
Janeway sighed. “All right, I won’t go on about it,” she allowed, adding her next comment more flippantly to try and ease the tension that had crept into the conversation, “but no more drinking, I don’t think my quarters could take it!”
“Our quarters,” corrected Seven.
Janeway smiled. “That’s right, our quarters.”
She glanced to those quarters where broken objects and items were still scattered across the carpet. Janeway was strangely unbothered by the disarray. Seven followed her gaze.
“I really should tidy this up,” she said apologetically, rising to start picking up the remnants of the coffee table.
“But it is a mess…”
Janeway joined her kneeling on the carpet, catching Seven’s hands. Her voice descended to a lower, husky register. “I said leave it.”
Seven’s head turned, a querying look in her eyes. Janeway didn’t say anything else, no more words were needed for now. She simply leant closer and pressed her lips to Seven’s. The other woman’s mouth surrendered to her, drawing her in to a kiss that reaffirmed everything she had been missing. She wanted it to go on forever, she wanted to hold Seven and know that nothing would ever part them again. As the overwhelming desire rose up and consumed her she knew she really was home at last.
Admiral Owen Paris leant back in his chair and gazed out
It had certainly been a surprise to see her. He’d thought she would never set foot on Earth again, let alone manage to get away a second time. Then again he knew she’d always had balls. Real or not, he considered that they were certainly bigger than those of spineless idiots like Captain Chakotay.
Admiral Paris had never agreed with Janeway’s court martial, but then his was just one voice amongst many. He’d been planning an appeal when she’d escaped the first time. Unfortunately he knew this latest escapade was unlikely to make any pardon easier to obtain.
Not to mention the whole Borg thing.
He shook his head ruefully; only Janeway would dare to have a Borg as a crew member. He knew one thing for sure - things were never quiet when Kathryn Janeway was involved. Swinging back to his desk he noticed an icon flashing at him, indicating a new message.
He tapped the screen to find a series of files had been
downloaded. Skimming through them he
realised they detailed illegal dealings and activities all carried out by one
Captain Chakotay. The files contained no
indication of the source, but he could make a wild guess.
Epilogue Part Deux
Captain Kathryn Janeway had already walked past the door to the cargo bay three times before she finally came to a halt.
This is getting ridiculous!
Sooner or later she was going to either wear out the carpet or get found loitering in a highly undignified way by some random ensign. Steeling herself she moved close enough so that the doors slid open. As she had expected Seven stood in her alcove regenerating and Janeway took a moment just to watch her as she’d done countless times before. She knew without a doubt that the other captain had been right. She was in love with Seven.
She’d been avoiding it for years, hiding behind her command, never dealing with her feelings. Yet if she didn’t acknowledge them now and do something about it she could lose Seven forever, and that would be far, far worse than any potential embarrassment from admitting them. Stepping forward she executed the necessary sequence on the keypad. She knew it off by heart.
Regeneration cycle incomplete.
Seven’s eyes flicked open, quickly registering the other woman on the dais as she stepped out of the alcove.
“Captain?” she queried uncertainly. “It is nearly 0300 hours…do you wish to engage in a philosophical discussion?”
Janeway couldn’t help herself; she laughed. It helped ease the tension of the moment. Eventually she composed herself. “You could say that. I wanted to talk…,” she paused for the briefest of moments, “…about us.”
THE END (though maybe not in all universes!)