Codes: J/7, post-Endgame
Disclaimer: You know the drill – they belong to Paramount, this features two women together, yadda yadda yadda. P.s. it’s quite sad, so if you’re easily upset you might not want to read on.
Thanks: To MercyCroft for her excellent beta-reading as usual!
Admiral Kathryn Janeway hastily descended the stairs of her San Francisco home, the heels of her uniform boots rasping noisily on the wooden steps as she did. As she skidded onto the stripped pine floor at the foot of them a quick check of the chronometer told her she just about had time for one more coffee. She’d already had two, but in her opinion you could never have enough, especially not first thing in the morning. The black liquid had barely had time to pass her lips when the doorbell chimed.
Janeway smiled to herself. Bang on time. She made her way over to the door, pulling it open and allowing in the bright light of the Californian morning. Standing on her doorstep was another woman in a Starfleet uniform similar to her own, the only difference being the three pips shining brightly at the other woman’s collar where Janeway had her Admiral’s insignia. However, the polished pips seemed dull in comparison to the golden colour of the woman’s hair in the sunlight, and positively gloomy next to the bright blue eyes that now fixed intently on Janeway.
“Good morning, Commander Hansen,” greeted Janeway cheerily.
“Good morning Admiral,” replied the other woman evenly.
Without fail Commander Hansen would arrive at the Admiral’s door at 0900 hours on the dot every morning - never a minute early, never a minute late. Janeway was sure that if she checked the timing of the chime it probably wouldn’t deviate by more than a second either.
“My car awaits I presume?” Janeway asked with a nod of her head to the street.
The Commander raised the metallic implant above her left eye in a quizzical look. “Admiral?”
Janeway made a small laugh and shook her head. “Never mind, it’s a reference to an old means of transport.”
Janeway smiled again at the brevity of the answers, the Commander was always the same. Janeway was determined that one day she would get a rise out of her, for the challenge if nothing else. “Lead on, then,” she said gesturing down the path.
And that was it, every day the same. Commander Hansen would collect her and take her to the day’s appointments with never more than the odd ‘Yes, Admiral’ or ‘No, Admiral’ in between. She would wait patiently during each of those and then she would escort the Admiral home, the day ending with a final ‘Good evening, Admiral’ or, for a bit of variation if it was extremely late, ‘Goodnight, Admiral’.
Janeway thought it must be a highly tedious posting for someone still as relatively young as the Commander, though when you were pushing seventy everyone seemed relatively young. Yet the other woman gave no indication that she found it dull or boring. The Admiral had to concede she didn’t really give an indication of much at all. Her expression always remained the same - implacable, unreadable.
Yet somehow Janeway felt oddly reassured by her constant silent companion.
“Good morning, Commander Hansen.”
“Good morning, Admiral”
One day, one day she would elicit a different response. Janeway vowed this to herself as she followed the Commander to the waiting shuttle. Once aboard the Commander took up her customary seat at the controls, Admiral Janeway sitting in the vacant seat next to her. It was a short journey across the bay to Starfleet Headquarters, and Commander Hansen guided the small craft expertly past the Golden Gate Bridge and over the rooftops. Janeway was reminded of a day some twenty years previously when it had been Voyager dipping below that bridge, the fireworks over the city heralding their safe return after seven years in the Delta Quadrant.
Subconsciously her eyes drifted over the other occupant of the shuttle as it started its descent, Janeway wondering what Commander Hansen had been doing that day. Would she even have been in Starfleet at that point? Janeway’s brow creased slightly as the thoughts passed through her mind, puzzled that she didn’t know the answers. It wasn’t like her not to check up on the background of all her staff. She must remember to find out when she got the chance.
“Good morning, Commander Hansen.”
“Good morning, Admiral.”
Janeway wondered if perhaps one day she should hide in the bushes that lined the path to her door and leap out in an attempt to surprise the Commander before she even got to the chime. It wouldn’t be very dignified for a Starfleet Admiral to be seen doing such things, but she was wickedly tempted.
The journey to Starfleet Headquarters was quiet as usual, Janeway spending the morning talking with Admiral Jenson about the latest starship designs once she got there. However, the day took an unexpected turn when Janeway came out of the Admiral’s office to an empty corridor. For once there was no Commander Hansen standing waiting. She was never sitting, but always standing like a sentry standing guard. Only today she wasn’t. Janeway felt oddly disconcerted, pinching the bridge of her nose as a slight stabbing began at her temple. It was quickly gone again by the time she had reached the computer console built into the nearby wall.
“Computer, locate Commander Hansen.”
Commander Hansen is in Captain Kim’s office, floor twenty, room five.
Harry Kim. Janeway wondered what business Commander Hansen had with him. It was certainly a small world. Deciding not to disturb the Commander from her meeting Janeway made her way to the nearest transporter pad. She was keying in the coordinates for home when she heard the sound of running footsteps coming her way.
“Admiral, what are you doing?”
Janeway turned to Commander Hansen, who didn’t appear to be even remotely out of breath from her run, though there had been the barest hint of concern in her question. “Transporting home,” replied Janeway as if that much were obvious.
“There is no need, I can take you.”
Janeway shook her head. “What a waste of your time - the transporter’s right here,” she pointed out.
“It is malfunctioning,” said the Commander quickly.
Janeway tapped a few controls experimentally. “Seems fine to me.”
“The malfunction is in the low-level pattern buffers.”
It all sounded plausible, but the Admiral got the distinct impression she was being lied to. She narrowed her eyes slightly to indicate her doubt as she conceded. “Fine, the shuttle it is then.”
If Janeway didn’t know better she would have thought the Commander had heaved a sigh of relief, but that would have been far too demonstrative for the reserved woman.
“Good evening, Admiral.”
“Good evening, Commander.”
Janeway shut the door after Commander Hansen who had just dropped her off for the day. As soon as the latch clicked she felt the emptiness and quiet pressing in on her, a small shiver running up her spine. Someone must be walking over her grave she considered as she tried to shake off the unease. As if to make matters worse the stirrings of a headache were starting and she decided it was best to go and take something and head straight to bed. By the time she reached the top of the staircase the faint throbbing had turned into a relentless pounding and Janeway had to stop and rest against the banisters for a second. Continuing on she scrunched her eyes shut at the ongoing pain, finally finding herself with her hand on the door to her bedroom.
Only it wouldn’t open. Janeway tried again. It was definitely locked.
She looked in consternation at the door and then she suddenly realised it wasn’t her bedroom at all; it was one of the spare rooms. Janeway’s frown deepened - why had she thought it was and why was the room locked? She didn’t remember locking it.
As she thought about it she had a hard time recalling exactly what it was she kept inside in fact. All the thinking was making her head hurt even more and, resolving that it was a mystery for another time, she turned for her real bedroom.
“Good evening, Admiral.”
The Commander paused on the threshold to Admiral Janeway’s home, looking faintly surprised that the older woman had chosen to break the daily routine. The customary response was for Janeway to bid her goodnight and disappear inside, but Janeway didn’t feel like going in alone that evening. She’d had a troubling headache all day that nothing seemed to be able to shake off, and she knew that sleep would not be coming any time soon. For once she had the desire for some company.
“I was wondering - would you like to come in for a drink?”
The Commander paused briefly as if trying to formulate a diplomatic answer. “I…”
“…do not require liquid refreshment at this time,” Janeway found herself saying.
Commander Hansen looked bemused at the Admiral’s sudden outburst. The Admiral was reasonably confused herself. “I’m sorry,” said Janeway, rubbing at her temple, “I don’t know where that came from. Must be this headache, I’m not thinking straight.”
“You have a headache?”
Suddenly Commander Hansen seemed much more interested. Whereas before it looked like she had been seeking the quickest way to escape, now she was fully facing the Admiral, eyes boring into her demanding an answer.
“Yes,” answered Janeway, “But it’s nothing,” she added with a dismissive wave of the hand.
“I accept your offer,” stated Commander Hansen suddenly, “Of a drink,” she added when she saw Janeway looking momentarily puzzled.
“Come in then,” said Janeway, pushing open the door and gesturing the other officer inside.
The Commander strode inside and for a moment Janeway was reminded of her own younger self, exuding a quiet self-confidence wherever she went. Janeway was halfway to the kitchen when Commander Hansen called her back. “Would you like me to make them?” she offered, “Since you have a headache.”
Janeway dipped her head. “Thank you, coffee…”
“…black,” finished the Commander, “I know.”
Janeway watched her disappearing into the kitchen – did everyone at Starfleet know? She supposed it was reasonably common knowledge that the famous, or infamous depending on your take on things, former Captain of Voyager liked her coffee.
It wasn’t long before the Commander was joining her on the sofa by the unlit fire, placing two mugs down on the coffee table. As the Commander carefully lowered herself onto the cushions, Janeway was assailed by a nebulous image from a time in the distant past of someone doing something very similar. Only then the fire had been lit, she recalled, and she had been sitting on the low wall that ran in front of it. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t quite get a fix on the memory, it slipping further from her grasp the more she concentrated on it. In the end she gave up, turning to her companion instead.
“Thank you…” Janeway paused, something suddenly striking her. “You know I’ve just realised I don’t even know your first name. How many months have you been my aide now?”
Janeway shook her head at the oddity of the lapse; normally she was renowned for her people skills. “So?”
“My real first name is Annika,” replied the Commander, “But my friends call me Seven.”
“A strange nickname,” noted Janeway, “Is it related to your time as Borg?”
The Commander stiffened. The movement was barely perceptible, but it was there. “You…know of that?”
“No,” confessed Janeway, “I just deduced that you had once been in the Collective from the remaining implants on your hands and face.”
“Ah,” commented the other woman, looking faintly disappointed, “Yes, Seven was part of my Borg name, but I prefer to use it still.”
“So what may I call you?” pressed Janeway.
“You said that Annika was your name, but your friends called you Seven.”
The Commander smiled. “You may call me Seven.”
Janeway had to pause for a moment, too stunned at seeing the smile on the lips of the otherwise inscrutable Commander. She didn’t know why the Commander didn’t smile more often - it looked good on her. Even odder was why she herself was noticing such things.
“Seven it is then,” Janeway finally managed to say before the pause got too obviously long. “Come to think of it,” she continued, “I don’t really know much about you at all. How long have you been in Starfleet?”
“This is my twentieth year,” replied Seven.
“Quite the hardened campaigner then,” remarked Janeway, “And what about outside Starfleet, do you have a family, are you married?”
Janeway thought her questions were rather forthright but it was too late to take them back now. Fortunately people tended to humour you a bit more once your hair went grey.
“I do not have any children,” answered Seven candidly, “But I am married.”
For some inexplicable reason an image of Chakotay flashed into Janeway’s mind at that point. Why she should be thinking of her former first officer at such a time was beyond her. She hadn’t spoken to him in six or seven months, not since he had taken the posting to Betazed.
Shaking the image away, she tried to think of something else. “I was engaged a couple of times myself, before Voyager,” she remarked, looking down to the ring that was still on her finger. She wondered what Mark was doing these days, if he was even still alive.
“And after Voyager?” queried Seven, “You did not find anyone after that?”
Janeway was still pondering her answer when something else occurred to her. The question was the first time Seven had asked anything personal of her…ever. Janeway looked curiously at the other woman, seeing that she appeared inordinately interested in the answer, like she was waiting with baited breath.
“No, I don’t think so.” Janeway was disturbed by the lack of conviction in her own answer, rubbing roughly at her head as a few spots started to dance before her eyes.
“Are you all right?” The concern in Seven’s voice was palpable, and Janeway actually felt the briefest of touches on her arm as the other woman reached out to her before quickly retracting her hand.
“Yes, I’m fine,” replied Janeway, blinking a few times to focus properly. “It’s late though, and I think I should be going to bed,” she added getting to her feet, verifying that she could stand before she attempted to walk, “If you’ll excuse me?”
“Of course,” said Seven, hastily getting up from the sofa with the Admiral.
Janeway got the strong impression that Seven was going to take her arm and help her up the stairs, but the younger woman held back, remaining where she was as Janeway headed for the steps.
Janeway was almost at the top as she turned to look back at Seven, standing at the foot of the stairs blue eyes bright in the dim light. Again there was the strangest sense of déjà vu about the situation. Only in the hazy memory that floated through Janeway’s mind she was the one at the foot of the stairs looking up at…at…no, it was gone again.
Whatever it was about the brief recollection, for a moment Janeway felt compelled to ask Seven to stay. Why she didn’t know, only knowing that it felt somehow…appropriate. Only of course, it wasn’t.
Instead she kept to the stated routine. “Goodnight…” she paused, supposing she could relax it slightly, “…Seven.”
The Admiral opened her eyes. Something told her immediately that today there would be no 0900 hours chime at the door from Commander Hansen. For one the blonde haired woman was already in the room where the Admiral lay, standing talking to someone by the door, and for another the room they were in was most definitely not in the Admiral’s house. Janeway thought for a moment, but couldn’t come up for a reasonable explanation of how she came to be waking up in her present location.
From a swift scan of the room, she quickly deduced that it was a medical facility of some kind and that the person Seven was talking to was a doctor. Their tones were hushed and she couldn’t make out the words, only able to deduce that the Commander appeared agitated by whatever news the doctor had for her. Janeway had to assume they were talking about her since she was the one lying in the hospital bed. She made a small cough to signal her state of wakefulness.
As the other two turned, for the barest instant Janeway caught sight of something she had seen rarely before on the face of the Commander - emotion. And then the mask was in place once more – stoic and unflappable. Seven whispered something to the doctor who nodded and left the room.
“It’s not good news I assume,” Janeway posited as Seven approached.
“It is not.”
Janeway merely nodded, turning her eyes to the large window that lay along the side of the private room. It was a glorious summer’s day outside. Somewhere far away in the wilds of Indiana the wind would be rustling gently over the fields, the birds twittering happily in the trees. If she closed her eyes she imagined she could almost hear them.
Bringing herself back to the present, she attempted to sit up in bed, the simple action scarily difficult and tiring. “So what’s wrong with me?” she asked, cutting to the chase.
Seven’s lips pursed ever so slightly but remained shut.
“Please, just tell me,” insisted Janeway.
The barest sigh echoed round the room from Seven. “You have a degenerative brain condition,” she stated with little inflection, “It was discovered six months ago and is inoperable and incurable.”
Janeway listened to the stark words, nodding her head thoughtfully. Seven hadn’t really intimated much, but Janeway was good at reading between the lines. “I don’t have long do I?” she asked boldly, always ready to ask the difficult questions.
Seven held her gaze for a moment and Janeway wondered if she was considering lying. Then slowly she shook her head, reluctantly confirming Janeway’s grim assumption.
Janeway nodded again, feeling oddly detached from her fate. Somehow she had pictured it differently to this. Dying in her command chair on a starship perhaps, or at home surrounded by her friends and family. Though of course she didn’t have a family - Starfleet had been her life and now Starfleet was all she had by her deathbed. She supposed that it could have been worse - at least the organisation was represented by an attractive face. More than an attractive face, allowed Janeway, looking at Seven standing stiffly to attention by her bedside. She might hardly know her, but Janeway sensed that Seven would have been someone she would have been proud to have called a friend. Unfortunately there was no time for that now.
“Don’t you have somewhere better to be?” suggested Janeway, trying to offer the younger woman a way out in case she felt duty bound to stay, “That husband of yours must wonder where you are for a start.”
“I do not have a husband.”
“But I thought you said…”
“I have a wife.”
“Ah, yes, of course, silly of me to assume really,” said Janeway, internally castigating herself, “Your wife then, she must wonder where you are. Surely she must have something to say about you spending all your time at the bedside of a crusty old Admiral?”
“I do not think she would mind.”
Janeway thought that unlikely but didn’t say so. Meanwhile, Seven’s brilliant blue eyes were still fixed unwaveringly on the Admiral whose breathing came in shallow bursts now. The laboured inhalations were the only sound in the silent room apart from the faint bleep of the monitor at her bedside. Janeway supposed she should feel unnerved or uncomfortable under the intense scrutiny from Seven yet she didn’t. In an odd way it felt faintly comforting. Finally Seven broke the quiet.
“Do you mind?”
Janeway’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Sorry? I thought we were talking about your wife.”
Janeway’s brow creased even further before the implication hit her, hit her like a force ten ion storm. She gasped out loud, too stunned to say anything. Her eyes shot down to the ring on her finger, the confused Admiral sliding it off into her palm so she could study it in more detail. Surely it couldn’t be true. How could they be married? She didn’t even know Seven.
While her eyes were still cast downwards she found something else being slipped into her palm next to the ring. It sat next to the golden band, glinting in the rays of sunlight from the window. It was an identical ring, save for the small chain on which it was strung.
Janeway’s eyes shot up, searching Seven’s face, trying desperately to understand.
“How long have we…?”
“Eighteen years, two months, six days, seven hours and twenty-six minutes.
Despite everything Janeway couldn’t help but smile at the overly precise answer. “No seconds?”
“Eleven,” answered Seven instantaneously, “If you count from the last vowel of your ‘I do’.”
Janeway shook her head as she tried to take it all in. “My illness, it has affected my memory,” she eventually surmised.
“Yes, it has,” confirmed Seven. Janeway watched her as she spoke, paying attention to every minute detail about the younger woman now, looking for something that would spark her memory into life, but there was nothing. How could that be? How could she forget if she was married to someone like Seven?
“Memory loss is the primary side-effect of your condition,” explained the other woman as if sensing the unasked questions, “Though it also restricts you in other ways, such as not being able to use the transporter due to the risk of it causing a massive embolism.”
“Hence the being ferried around everywhere,” deduced Janeway. “But I remember things from the past eighteen years,” she pointed out, still trying to comprehend being married to the woman before her.
“The memory loss is selective and indiscriminate,” said Seven, her tone still surprisingly calm and even. Janeway had to hand it to her – if they were indeed married then Seven seemed to be handling it fantastically well. Then Janeway’s mind slipped back to the brief flash of emotion she had seen earlier and she knew instantly that the aloof detachment was all an act. She wasn’t sure which of them it was designed to protect.
“You remember much of your life,” continued Seven, “But unfortunately you do not remember any of our relationship. You do not remember that you rescued me from the Borg Collective over twenty-four years ago, or that I served as your Astrometrics officer on Voyager until we got back to Earth. You have forgotten that once here you tried to pretend that you were happy for Chakotay and me to get married. You do not recall that, luckily for us both, I was not so stubborn and tracked you down to a small café in Buenos Aires to inform you that I had left him because I loved you; or that shortly after that you proposed and I accepted. You do not remember that we were married in the fields of Indiana on a bright summers day not unlike today with your mother crying like a baby onto your sister’s shoulder. The following eighteen exciting, eventful, wonderful years of our lives are lost to you; you do not remember any of it.”
All Janeway could do was continue to shake her head in disbelief. Her head hurt even more now at the weight of the information, and she had to lean back against her pillow for a moment to catch her breath.
After a few deep intakes of air she opened her eyes again. Seven was still waiting patiently, as she had done every day for the last six months. “Why didn’t you say anything before?”
“I did,” replied Seven, “A few times, but you got…” she paused as if not wanting to recall it, “…upset; angry that you could not remember.”
Janeway could just picture it now - her belligerently trying to deny there was anything wrong, trying to resist that which could not be resisted. She had never been good at accepting defeat. It was only now that the end was co close that she could sense it was time to let go.
“And afterwards it did not take long for you to forget again,” added Seven. “In the end I deduced it was easier not to say anything, it only caused you needless pain.”
“And what of you?”
“Did it not cause you pain to keep silent?”
Seven turned away, eyes on a faraway point out the window. Janeway could see her shoulders rising and falling as she took each shuddering breath.
Seven remained where she was, the silence of the room oppressive now, the beep of the monitor a countdown in Janeway’s mind. Eventually Seven came back over, sitting on the edge of the bed. When her face rose to meet Janeway’s inquisitive look, the Admiral could immediately see the complete shift in her expression. The mask had gone, that unflappable, emotionless exterior. Suddenly everything was laid bare on Seven’s face, the unspoken grief at the inevitable.
“Did it cause me pain to see you slipping away from me?” she wondered out loud, voice low and almost unrecognisable from the one Janeway had heard for the last six months. Gone was the pretence of control and in its place was the real woman. “Each day less and less recollection until you no longer even knew who I was? Did it break my heart when the love you once so openly showed to me was gone, when the light you held for me in your eyes had died?”
Janeway wished she could offer some consolation to the other woman who was a stranger to her.
“Yes, it hurt,” continued Seven, “More than anything I have ever known.”
Janeway felt the lump in her throat pressing hard against her already restricted airway. She might not know Seven, but she knew suffering when she saw it.
“But none of my pain mattered,” added Seven with more forced resolve, “All that mattered was being there for you, in whatever way I could. There is no place I would rather be than by your side whether you remember who I am or not.”
Janeway reached up to stroke her fingers over the soft cheek that was so close now. It seemed like the right thing to do. A single tear slipped from Seven’s right eye, tracking slowly across the perfect skin.
Janeway brushed it away with her thumb. “I dearly wish I could remember everything at this point, everything about us,” she said softly, “Something tells me they would be memories worth having.”
“I will remember for both of us,” stated Seven with absolute conviction.
Janeway’s lips twitched into a smile. “I have no doubt you will.”
Janeway did not flinch when Seven eased closer on the bed, or when she slipped her arms around the Admiral’s smaller body. Janeway gladly allowed herself to be guided into the hug. There was a faint recollection, somewhere far off in the dim recesses of her mind, a familiarity to the touch. She had done this before, many times. The embrace was warm, welcoming, safe.
“I love you, Kathryn.”
Those simple words told Janeway all she needed to know, all she needed to understand. Seven loved her. Everything would be all right.
She gently rested her head on Seven’s chest, the other woman’s heartbeat strong as the Admiral’s own one began to fade. Janeway let the rhythm soothe her, a constant beat guiding her home. Finally she closed her eyes for the last time.