Disclaimer: Paramount owns all things Star Trek. No copyright infringement is intended. I make no profit from this.
Summary: J/7 Returning to Earth, Janeway finds the cost of friendship too much and by her actions, a friend becomes her enemy.
Other Notes: Written by Beacham. Published July 2004. Third story by the author. Author genuinely wants to hear from readers, on firstname.lastname@example.org
Seven moved with increasing difficulty towards the docked freighter that would eventually take her, and the almost unconscious woman she supported, back to Earth and the Alpha Quadrant.
Feeling the older, smaller woman slipping from her grip and increasingly dragging her feet, Seven stopped and unceremoniously heaved her load higher and closer into her, tightening her grip on the arm that was lodged around her shoulders. Though shorter in height and of an inconsequential weight, the trim and compact body she held was becoming increasingly deadweight and beginning to sap the younger woman’s strength.
Grimacing as she pushed forward again, she forced her feet to move the short distance remaining towards the freighter on which she had purchased two tickets of passage. As she approached the boarding area, a crewman – species 4672, an Episcillian, known for their large build, strength and volatile nature – stepped forward to block her way.
“Tickets,” he demanded, his mouth an array of uneven, sharp razor-like teeth.
Holding the other woman closely around the waist, Seven precariously balanced her live cargo against her and released her hold on the slim arm around her shoulders, reaching into a breast pocket of her tattered, heavy and dirty overalls, thrusting the requested items forward.
“Here,” she said coldly, not wanting to encourage any further conversation than necessary, desiring only to get onboard and put the woman down. The crewman studied the tickets and then turned an appreciative eye on the tall, physically well endowed blonde, a lecherous smile cracking his ugly, hardened face as he glanced down her body from head to foot with more than a measure of lust in his eyes. Seven disdainfully ignored it. It was just another of those looks that so many men gave her and one she was far too familiar with.
His none too subtle proposition rejected, the man now looked at the limp and unresponsive female.
“We don’t take sick passengers,” he grunted.
“She’s not sick, she’s drunk.” Condescension oozing from every word, Seven looked down at the top of the auburn haired head with contempt, barely able to contain her indignation and distain. Abruptly, the man reached out and unsympathetically, brutally, grabbed the short lack-lustre hair of the unconscious woman, pulling it back so as to lift her face and gain a better look. Seven did not stop him.
“She looks sick to me.” His words heavy and ill pronounced as if they struggled for clarity against an impediment of too many teeth, he could see only a deathly pallor and a fine sheen of perspiration on the lifeless features.
“Then I suggest you stop looking and try smelling her,” and without warning, Seven callously thrust the small body away from her and into the arms of the large man, who only just caught her. Entirely surprised at the attractive woman’s actions, he continued to hold onto the woman as he sniffed and then grimaced, “Yach, she stinks!” At that precise moment, the body in his arms moved, retched and threw up, the projectile of bile only just missing his body.
“Aahh.” Disgusted, he threw her to the ground roughly, stepping back from her. “Another human who cannot hold their drink.”
With a voice full of revulsion, Seven looked down at the woman now entirely horizontal and unmoving on the ground, “Oh, she can hold it .. or at least she could. She drinks too much and now the drink is master of her, controlling and turning her into a mindless idiot.”
The crewman studied the still form on the ground and nodded. He had seen it all on this freighter, those life forms seeking cheap, nameless passage that were running or hiding - the drunks, the drug addicts. Nothing surprised him anymore but as long as they paid the cost of the ticket, his captain didn’t care who boarded. Just so long as they weren’t sick.
“Take her and sit over there with the others.” He pointed to inside the freighter and a double row of paltry seating, already fully occupied with other apparent lowlife, who also looked in equally bad form as the woman still on the ground eating dust. Not exactly good travel companions.
Seven shook her head. “No. I paid extra for a private room and ..”
“There are no private rooms. This is a cargo vessel, not a hotel,” he spat impatiently, his voice angry and loaded with contempt but Seven just stepped forward and leaned provocatively close to him, her breath upon his. “You are responsible for the behaviour of the passengers?” He nodded. “Then know this, that when she wakes, she will demand more drink to fuel an addict’s hunger, and when she doesn’t get it, she becomes abusive, violent and is difficult to restrain.” She allowed the words to register with the man. “She is offensive and foul .. and she vomits a lot. But you will already have noticed that.” More conspiratorially, “Find me some small space away from the others,” her eyes taking in the other passengers, “where I can control her, and I will make it worth your while in credit.” She intimately tapped her breast pocket. The man’s hungry eyes rested there for too long. Seven wondered if he was thinking of credits or something else.
Possibly both, but the man wisely chose to focus on what was available – credit! Such a golden word. He liked the sound of that word, credit, and it would go directly into his pocket, not the captain’s.
Suddenly more agreeable, “There’s a small storage bunker on the lower level which isn’t being used on this trip. It’s colder down there but it’s private. I can give you that plus a few blankets .. for good credit.” He glanced down at the prostrate woman at Seven’s feet. “You can be alone with your friend,” he snarled derisively.
“She is not my friend!” Seven almost shouted at him. Then more softly, suddenly lost in memories, “She was once, but not any more.” She bent down and grabbed the almost comatose woman, picking her up again to assume the same position they had had before. The air around the three of them instantly became intoxicated with the smell of stale alcohol and fresh vomit.
Almost with compassion, the man looked at Seven, his voice uncharacteristically softening, “Why don’t you leave her here? She’s past caring, why should you?”
Seven stood still for a moment as if considering his proposal but then answered.
“Because she saved my life many years ago and I now return the debt. I will return her to her family where she will undoubtedly continue to drink herself into an early grave.” Seven sighed, “But that will be her problem and no longer mine. I will know no peace until this debt is repaid. Now is that opportunity and I can finally be rid of her.”
“As you wish.”
The crewman stood aside and allowed them to pass and board the freighter.
Twenty Months Earlier
The solitary woman walked as though she had a destination in mind.
She did not.
Not a particularly tall woman, nor one of any exacting build if indeed you could make anything out from what lay beneath the plain black mackintosh she wore but which lay unbuttoned on the chilly, damp and unpleasant early morning, where the first vestiges of day light were just beginning to break.
Her determined gait took her along the historic streets of old San Francisco, fast up the concrete sidewalks towards the Pacific Heights area. But she didn’t know that was where she was heading, nor did she care. The woman just wanted to walk, to not think anymore but to just keep moving, because you knew you were alive if you were moving, didn’t you? Your life had some meaning then, didn’t it?
Quite why she didn’t know but when she came to the junction of Sutter and Octavia Streets, she turned north and followed Octavia up the sharp ascent of the hill that stretched out before her but being fit, the quiet demand on her body didn’t seem to show. Why did she turn here? Perhaps it was the beauty of an old 19th century hotel, with its attractive fascia, that somehow bestowed a sense of peace and tranquillity upon her troubled mind. Some buildings did that, they etched their personality on you, brought a sense of calm into a mind full of turmoil.
Maybe. Maybe not.
Regardless, it was almost as if her body was being guided by some external force of which she had no awareness or control over.
Part way up the hill, the woman suddenly stopped and gazed up into the rapidly lightening sky that was daybreak. Old fashioned but still functional streetlights that had not yet been extinguished, cast an eerie light on features that were pale and ashen, illuminating a face so devoid of any emotional context that you might have thought you were looking at an early synthetic and artificial life form.
That the woman was suffering was not questionable, such was the depth of loss in the lifeless and tired eyes, and though she had been walking with purpose, there was a strange lethargy to her body that didn’t correspond with her movement.
You felt drawn to question who she was and why she was there, stood in the beginning onslaughts of a rainstorm, with no apparent reason. What had befallen her, and why was she alone? You only knew that there was a quiet sense of tragedy, some sad event surrounding her and that this was not the usual San Francisco tourist starting their daily adventures early or a local corporate business person returning home after an extended night in the office working on a project with a tight deadline.
The stranger, this woman, felt the soft rain begin to fall on her face, and compelled by some quiet, innate instinct, she closed her eyes and allowed tepid raindrops to touch her eyelids, the sensation creating a sense of salve to her condition. Alerted by a noise overhead, she opened her eyes and witnessed two small birds cutting across the sky, first out of their nests, eager to be ‘the early birds to catch the worm’.
A youngish, well dressed man dashed across the road, anticipating the oncoming of a heavy rain pour but as he crossed in front of the woman, something made him stop and turn his attention to the immobile figure. An intuitive concern drew him to her and he questioned if she was alright. Slowly, too slowly, her attention moved from the heavens to rest her empty eyes on him, and not replying, she merely nodded.
He frowned slightly, took a step closer and then caught the heavy smell of alcohol on her which instantly seemed to address his concerns. He nodded back at her, smiled a little and then finished his journey, running and disappearing into an entrance a few metres away.
The woman allowed herself a cheerless, empty smile, knowing that he had smelt the alcohol on her and had assumed, wrongly, that she had perhaps consumed just one too many the night before and that explained her walking the streets at this early hour. She had not had the energy, or desire, to tell him that the intoxicating liquid had been thrown at her in anger earlier the previous evening, and that she was actually stone cold sober and had been walking the streets most of the night. But what wouldn’t she give now for a drink!
Mildly aware that the autumnal days were surrendering to winter and that a cold, damp wind was now picking up as the mist rolled in from the Bay, she continued her ascent, her focus on the sidewalk before her, and the remainder of the fallen, now wet leaves that the wind had yet been unable to prise from the slabs.
A few blocks later, she arrived at Lafayette Park, a small patch of green park on the top of a hill that overlooked the Bay. Not that the view was clear, the infamous San Francisco fog was rolling in rapidly like waves on the sand but the woman could make out the view as city lights, still on, turned even the temporary grey vista into something pretty.
But the view did nothing to lift the sad woman’s spirits, and served only to make it worse. How had she come to this? What wrong turn had she made in her life since her return to Earth that now drove her to such despair, and complete and utter loneliness?
Newly promoted Rear Admiral Kathryn Janeway finally sank down onto the wet, wooden bench behind her, the rain beginning to fall harder but she wasn’t bothered by it. In fact, it was questionable that she even noticed it.
Thin, elegant fingers on both hands reached out on either side of her and grasped the front edges of the seat, her head bowed slightly, as though in worship, but the thoughts that ran rampant through the woman’s mind bore no resemblance to the calming influence or solace that most sought, and often received, in prayer.
She breathed heavily as though hanging onto the last vestiges of sanity and reflected back on all the thoughts and feelings she’d been analysing throughout the night and early dawn.
Well, she had made her decision and things would be very different now!
Her relationship with Seven of Nine, that close friendship the two of them had forged over the last tumultuous five years, was over.
It had to be. She couldn’t stand to be around the woman any longer.
Knowing that this decision would at least move her forward, help her progress towards some healing process, maybe healing some of those wounds she carried so deep inside her, Admiral Janeway wondered why she didn’t feel any better?
Sat there alone, in the rain, she finally broke down and cried. And as she cried, she thought back to last night and the final straw that had pushed her to this awful decision ….
Nine hours earlier, the night before …
STARFLEET HQ – ONE YEAR AFTER VOYAGER’S RETURN TO THE ALPHA QUADRANT
It was a large, spacious and impressive room within Starfleet Headquarters that was hosting the first reunion and celebration of Voyager’s return to the Alpha Quadrant, and as one would have expected, the social occasion proved a popular place to be.
This was the culmination of a week’s frenzied activity marking the special occasion and all was surrounded by hyper media and press coverage. Voyager’s ex crew had been interviewed ‘to death’ by those who wanted to get ‘the real angle’ and the truth about how things had ‘really been’ out there in the Delta Quadrant.
It was impossible to find any paper, magazine, journal, electronic media link that was not covering ‘the human angle’ that most of Earth’s occupants were currently obsessed with. If it wasn’t a fashion article about how the crew had coped without natural fibres, then it was some academic institution analysing the human condition under stress, isolation, battle, fear, zenophobism, anxiety, deprivation, poor nutrition, et al. The list of questions seemed endless, and in truth, there wasn’t one member of Voyager’s crew who hadn’t already thought of ‘borrowing’ the ship and returning to the Delta Quadrant, just to get away from it all!
The room was throbbing with activity and packed to full capacity with members of Voyager’s last crew. Mixed in amongst them where a melange of the crew’s friends and families, and the families of those crew members who hadn’t been so lucky in making it back. The cream of Starfleet, the ‘top brass’ were also present, intermingling with everyone and proud to be part of this celebration.
Everywhere you turned, there were people talking, laughing, crying, slapping each other on their backs, whilst in some quieter corners, there were those who were sharing memories of specific incidents, of times now past. Others were content to update their old friends and colleagues of what they’d been doing since their return.
And over all of this cacophony of noise and the disharmony of raised happy voices, there were the usual accompanying sounds and activities of clinking champagne glasses, occasional impromptu speeches, the random emotional outburst of someone reduced to tears, people dropping and breaking glasses, and people reaching for the ‘small eats’ being offered. It was like watching swarms of locust having descended on fertile vegetation, now busily engaged in their business of ‘social’ consumption.
Suddenly someone shouted above the noise and everyone moved, as if part of some complicated synchronised dance sequence, beyond a large ceiling-to-floor glass door that led out onto a sizeable and generous terrace. And there, above the San Francisco skyline, set against the beauty of the Bay and the illuminated Golden Gate Bridge, began an eruption and explosion of fireworks which robbed the sky of its darkness and mesmerised the happily, mildly inebriated spectators.
All except one.
One solitary, isolated figure chose not to move forward with the crowd and hung back in the now empty room where the lights had been conveniently lowered to facilitate the full enjoyment of the pyrotechnics. The withdrawn and detached human being clung to the shadows of the room as if seeking their protection, content to not be seen or be dragged unwillingly onto the terrace.
Tonight, the very worst fears had been confirmed for the subdued, concealed woman. For the first time that evening, Admiral Kathryn Janeway allowed herself to drop the forged and phoney social pretence of enjoyment, and she did not venture outside for she had no heart for the spectacular visage.
Instead, she silently watched two of Voyager’s ex bridge officers, who stood side by side, the one with his strong arm around the shoulders of the tall, ethereal, blonde haired woman. She watched them guiltily, like an uninvited observer or stalker, as the woman turned into the handsome, dark haired man, at first to hug him and then kiss him with fervent passion, the lingering kiss being returned with equal ardent and zealous response.
The Admiral could not deny that they made an attractive couple; the strong, sturdy man with his dark, smouldering good looks and deep brown eyes, contrasting with the slim and elegant, blonde haired and electric blue-eyed woman. There was also no doubt that they were very much in love with each other.
It was a sight that robbed the Admiral of the air she breathed and manifested within her an ache and tenderness, like an old injury and soreness that simply would not go away. The unpleasant feelings became even more exaggerated when she witnessed the man slide a hand down the slim woman’s back and then gently press the female physically closer to him. At this point, Janeway had to look away, her eyes beginning to smart and fill with unwanted tears, her suddenly shaking hands turning to blocks of ice.
Up until this moment, she had prayed that she had been wrong, that the romantic union between Voyager’s Second in Command and its Astrometrics Officer would flounder and fall by the wayside. But now she realised, as the blood proverbially drained from her body, the truth that Seven of Nine and Chakotay were really in love and that nothing was going to come between them or stand in their way.
In that cruel, defining moment of realisation, all Admiral Janeway wanted to do was turn and walk away, and leave the suddenly heinously painful celebration of Voyager’s return to Earth. But, yet again, she was trapped by duty and responsibility.
Duty and responsibility!
She inwardly cursed as those words reverberated around her head. It was because of her wretched duty and responsibilities that she’d never been able to tell Seven of Nine that she loved her too, and that she also wanted to compete against Chakotay in the hope of winning the young woman’s heart.
Of course, she was now destined to remain unaware of whether or not she would ever have been successful in that romantic mission. But fate had not even given her the chance. Now she would never know if the one she had fallen so desperately in love with so many years ago might have learnt to reciprocate? Reflecting back painfully, there had been times when she had felt that the closeness she and Seven had shared, had suggested the possibility of something more.
But that was all history now. She had left it too late.
Responsibility, protocol, non-fraternization policies had all made her impotent, powerless to proceed with her heart’s desire until she had returned the crew safely home and Starfleet had rescinded her primary command duties, the captaincy of Voyager. Because of those duties, she knew she had lost the one she loved, and worse, had lost her to the one person she had learned to call her friend.
Looking back at the couple who were leaning into each other, watching the beauty of the display, Janeway felt the inconsolable and destructive pathway of hopelessness seize her heart. Was this really her, the woman who had entered past romances with an almost cavalier approach? To finally meet that someone and to realise that this is the one that your heart has patiently waited for, and to then find that you’ve lost them and the proverbial ‘show is over’, even before it started?
She instinctively knew that not only had she lost Seven but she had lost Chakotay too. For there was no way she would ever be able to tolerate his company now, knowing that he possessed something she treasured so much. The thought of having to fake a friendship that would undoubtedly require her to spend time with them both, to sit at a dinner table and watch them making intimate and cosy chat, seeing the lover’s glances pass between them and knowing later, he would sleep and make love to Seven – the thought was intolerable!
Her only viable course of action was now to slowly distance herself from them both. It would be a painful process and one that would probably hurt Seven most of all, because the bond of friendship between them was unquestionably strong and powerful.
What a mess!
Struggling to keep her wandering emotions in check, she steadied herself and thought back. The words of the future Admiral Janeway, just a year ago on Voyager, were still so clear in her head and she recalled being told the devastating news that Seven of Nine was going to die if the younger Janeway didn’t get the ship home at that time. That news, plus the fact that the future Seven was destined to fall in love and marry Chakotay, had been the impetus which had moved Captain Janeway into implementing her future self’s plan to get them home.
What had the future Janeway said to her? She would never be the same after Seven’s death? Well, Seven had lived, had still fallen in love with Chakotay .. and Janeway, in spite of everything, would never be the same! Nothing had essentially changed for her, she was still destined to live with heart-break and the loss of Seven. Different circumstances but same outcome.
What had been the impetus of the future Janeway breaking every Starfleet rule and regulation to breach time? To get the crew home and without further loss of life? A good professional answer and worthy of a professional officer. Or was it entirely more personal? To save Seven and to save Seven from Chakotay and give her younger self a chance?
If that had been the plan then it was already too late. Seven was already hopelessly in love with Chakotay and had been for some time. So Kathryn had had to stand by in the last year and watch the two lovers grow closer and closer, falling more and more deeply in love, and this evening, she had surreptitiously watched them and seen the adoring looks that passed between them.
The lovers had spent the entire evening desperately trying to not touch each other, hating to be apart and watching the other when they were separated and drawn away to another part of the room. There was intensity between the pair and one could sense their need to be close to the other, you could sense their mutual desire and lust.
Kathryn Janeway just hung her head and sighed, the feelings of loss threatening to overwhelm her. She felt broken in all the bad places you can’t afford to be broken in. In those places, you heal slowly .. if you’re lucky. And if you aren’t? Then you are destined to go on hurting for the rest of your life. Was it then predetermined that she become her future self, that broken shell of a woman haunted with what might have been, but never was?
The newly promoted Admiral made a pact with herself that evening. She was not going to let herself become the empty, lost soul her future self had mutated into.
The small, highly decorated woman in the smart new uniform straightened in resolve. She would not allow this travesty of ill-timed fate decide and destroy her life. She was going to survive this. Somehow. She was the legendary Captain Kathryn Janeway who had overcome the bleakest odds of seven years in the Delta Quadrant. If she could survive that, she was damn well going to make it through this!
But the price of her survival would be high.
She knew that she had to walk away from Seven, and she already knew that Chakotay had plans to return to his people, to help rebuild their home and that he was taking Seven with him.
This all worked in Janeway’s favour. Chakotay’s home world was in a remote area of space, not easily accessed, which was what his people wanted, given their distrust of all things technical and their desire to return to the land. All she had to do was avoid any contact on the peripheries. Both Seven and Chakotay considered her career minded and work focused, so all she had to do was fit the mould! If you were simply too busy, you wouldn’t be able to fit in the social niceties.
She hated knowing that this would hurt Seven but there was no option. Kathryn Janeway had to walk away from them both, regardless of the pain, before she fell any deeper. The deeper she fell in love, the more the emotional pain and self destruction for her. It had to stop, and now. Spirits, forgive her for what she was about to do.
And Starfleet would damn well help her! They wanted dedicated officers, especially since the war. She had always been dedicated but now she would simply push it up a notch, to the point of obsession. She could do that. She would become one of those officers that people whispered about, ‘Got no life, lives for the job.’ Who knows, maybe in future years, someone else might come into her life and give it meaning?
Accepting this new objective, she experienced a fleeting pain as she realised how her future self must have suffered. Only now did the younger Janeway fully understand the pain and misery her older self must have gone through. How cruel life could be.
Seeing her line of escape didn’t make Kathryn feel any better and she found herself wiping one single errant tear from her face.
“Are you alright, Admiral?”
Admiral Janeway turned in surprise to see the concerned features of Voyager’s EMH.
“You’re not out there enjoying the fireworks,” he spoke warmly, placing a hand on her arm. His sometimes turbulent development into a sentient being had seen him become a deeply compassionate and caring person. She was very proud of him.
“I’m fine, Doctor.” Feeling a need to elaborate, “Still getting used to being home, I guess.” She smiled at him, the type of smile that makes others think everything is okay. But she wasn’t okay and she wasn’t fine. She had just steeled her heart towards the one person she loved more than anyone else in life.
“Of course, Admiral. I understand.”
But he didn’t. No one did.
Shortly afterwards, Chakotay and Seven left the party prematurely, the passionate look in their eyes a give away for the reason for their early exit. Later that month, they left Earth for Chakotay’s home world.
Seven of Nine stood resolutely, her glacier-blue sharp eyes quickly scanning the milling crowds outside of the departure lounge of the spaceport terminal where she and Chakotay were waiting to board the shuttle that would take them to his home world, her new home.
She was looking for one particular person who despite having tried extensively to contact them via electronic media and their office, she had been unsuccessful and had not heard from that person. Now with only a few precious minutes left before she was to depart Earth for what could be a very long time, she was getting more and more agitated.
It seemed incongruent to her that the former Captain Janeway, her most valued friend, who had always been at her side supporting and encouraging her when she most needed it, would not be here to wish her farewell on this important journey. The lack of the woman’s presence filled Seven with apprehension and disquiet.
She will not let me down.
It wasn’t as if Seven didn’t understand. Chakotay had explained to her how busy the Admiral now was, faced with the new demands incumbent with her new rank, plus the gargantuan position that Starfleet had appointed her to. The ex drone knew that Janeway took her work very seriously and would be keen to show Starfleet that she was still capable of functioning within the constraints of Starfleet Command. Some had wondered if Janeway had become too used to her autonomous position on Voyager. Janeway and Seven, shortly after their return to Earth, had spoken about some of the concerns voiced by Starfleet, that perhaps Janeway might not be able to readjust to being answerable to a chain of command again, having had too much freedom, for too long. A genuinely difficult problem to overcome.
Regardless, recognising that her friend was now exceptionally busy did not remove the empty sensation that Seven felt whenever she thought of Janeway. She missed the former Captain’s constant closeness, as in the days on Voyager, and wanted to have her reassuring presence back in her life but it seemed that their future pathways were heading in two completely different directions.
But she will come, she is my friend. I know she will come!
Knowing this made Seven feel nervous and uneasy. Indeed, it had actually reduced her to tears one evening, something which had shocked her as she was not familiar with this level of emotion. But Chakotay had explained that her ‘over sensitivity’ was due to her cortical node changes, where the EMH had reconfigured the micro circuitry and removed the fail-safe device, allowing her to experience the full range of emotions.
Chakotay had explained that she was merely getting use to these new feelings and to try and ignore them. He was probably right but she did sometimes wonder if he found it annoying that she spoke of Janeway so much? There had been times when he seemed almost jealous of the relationship she had with the Admiral. But of course, this was in itself a manifestation of her over-emotional state. Chakotay loved her, and she him, he would never begrudge her any feelings she had for Janeway.
Again, Seven anxiously scanned the terminal concourse, hoping she would see the familiar auburn haired woman with the familiar busy gait, but despite her attentions, she saw no friend.
Why don’t you come?
Seconds later, an announcement echoed through the departure lounge telling the passengers to proceed to Gateway 10 for boarding.
Seven couldn’t keep the look of bitter disappointment off her face as she turned towards Chakotay, who understanding her feelings, placed a reassuring arm around her.
“I’m sure she would have been here if she could,” he said.
Seven could only nod, and allowed Chakotay to gently nudge her towards the relevant gate, but it didn’t stop her thinking about why her friend had not turned up at the spaceport, or at least left a message. A disturbing thought flashed across her mind that Janeway had been reticent and uncommunicative of late, almost as if Seven had personally done something to upset the woman, but Seven quickly ignored this point. It was a senseless and futile consideration because Janeway, her friend, had never let anything come between them and never would. She inwardly cursed her cortical node for making her so paranoid!
But it didn’t stop her thinking.
Why didn’t you come?
At precisely the same minute as Seven and Chakotay moved forward towards the departure gate, an auburn haired, high ranking military woman stood up from behind her office desk, turned and walked towards the large glass window that overlooked the San Francisco Bay.
Alone in the office, the woman allowed her professional mask to slip as she gazed out over the panoramic view and considered that it was about now that a certain space flight would be departing Earth for the Vicenda Sector, and the home planet of Chakotay’s people.
The blue eyes that focused on the equally blue sky only registered unhappiness as she pondered on what she had just done.
Should she have gone and said goodbye to Seven at the spaceport? Yes. Could she have gone and said goodbye to Seven at the spaceport? No. Janeway knew that she would have been unable to face the young woman and say goodbye without breaking down in front of her .. and that would never have done. All that would have achieved would have been to confuse and worry Seven, emotional baggage the young woman did not need just as she was about to embark on the happiest journey of her life, with the man she loved.
Maybe, Janeway thought, she could send Seven a message later giving some paltry excuse about having been delayed at work due to some rescheduled and urgent meeting .. or something. Seven would understand. She probably hadn’t even noticed her absence!
The woman turned away from the window, returned to her desk, and with a heavy heart, picked up yet another large file requiring her immediate attention.
TEN MONTHS LATER
It had taken B’Elanna Torres some considerable effort to organise the christening of their second child. It wasn’t so much the organising of the actual christening but more the planning of the gathering together of as many former members of Voyager’s crew as she could get. And this included her husband who had been gallivanting around the cosmos on some Starfleet mission for the last few months, which was why this ceremony was two months late!
Still, the wonderful thing was she had managed to track down quite a few of the crew, who even though they were now fully re-embedded in their new lives in the Alpha Quadrant and on Earth, they still all regarded each other as family, and would move heaven and earth for an excuse to get together.
B’Elanna smiled and leaned in to kiss Tom, who was holding their son, as he walked through the front door of their home in Little Mill, not too far from San Francisco and Starfleet Headquarters.
“It’s a warm day,” he said looking directly into her deep brown eyes and realising that he loved her more than the day he’d married her. How good a deal could that be? He knew he was one lucky guy, and two beautiful, healthy kids too.
B’Elanna moved back into the lounge, “Yeah, but at least the church was cool and Miral behaved herself.”
“With honour!” Tom quipped, euphemising the words with Klingon emphasis.
Torres knew immediately where he was coming from and thought back to when their daughter had been ceremonially ‘blessed’ and welcomed into the Klingon Empire. That service had been all gongs, shouting and chanting, and Miral had proved herself a chip off the old Klingon block that day, bellowing her little lungs out. The Klingons had been impressed, B’Elanna had got a headache and Tom had started questioning his desire to sire any more children.
“So, hey, who’s missing? We got all the guests?” Tom looked around at the people returning from the church and who were already beginning to mingle and congregate around the buffet and drink tables.
Chell bumped into him as he moved into the room, “Beautiful service, B’Elanna, Tom.”
Tom looked at the Bolian and scrutinised him carefully, “Is it me Chell, or are you getting .. bluer?”
The good natured Bolian grinned back, “As we mature, we turn a more vibrant shade of blue.”
“Yeah, well, you’re maturing very nicely!” Torres barked at him, her eyes twinkling with humour. Chell just laughed and moved on to talk to Lt Harry Kim and some others.
Torres looked around, “Chell, Martinez, Harry, your parents, Sanchez, seven, eight, …ten,” she was head counting, “fourteen .. and ..”
“Fifteen!” A familiar voice bellowed out behind them.
Both Tom and B’Elanna turned towards the voice and saw Kathryn Janeway stood behind them, slightly out of breath. A wide, warm smile lit up her entire face.
“Said I’d make it to the reception but I thought the Secretary General would never finish the meeting. That man could talk for the galaxy!” she said.
“Bit of a windbag, eh?” Throwing some of Janeway’s own words back at her from a time long ago, Torres moved to give the woman a welcoming hug. “Long time, no see, Kathryn, but we’re glad you could make it.”
The heartfelt statement was very genuine. In the 20 months since their return to Earth, Kathryn Janeway had continued to become a very close friend to Tom and B’Elanna, and was godparent to Miral, something the ex Captain took great joy in and made every effort to visit them when she could.
But the visits weren’t as often as any of them would like. The Admiral worked hard, too hard and, with the exception of the time she spent with them or occasionally with her own family in Indiana, she seldom seemed to spend any other time away from her duties at Starfleet. She was now working within Operational Command’s Intelligence Division. Rumour had it that although she’d only been a Rear Admiral for a Dog Watch, she would be an early candidate for promotion to Vice Admiral.
Looking at her now though, casually attired in black slacks, a cotton blouse and a cream jacket, immensely smart but relaxed, you couldn’t compare her with the sometimes austere, excessively military orientated and driven officer she’d become since their return.
B’Elanna stood and watched the Admiral turn and acknowledge Tom. Though the woman was relaxed and looked the epitome of health and vitality, Torres had recently begun to feel that there was something missing in Janeway, something she found difficult to define but she knew enough to trust her instincts. It was as if she was always talking or dealing with the ‘command mask’ and that the real Janeway wasn’t quite present anymore.
Silly really because when she’d tried to explain this to Tom, he’d asked her to be more specific, wanting to know what the Admiral was doing differently. Frustratingly, Torres couldn’t elaborate on her feelings, but lack of evidence or not, it disturbed the half Klingon because Janeway had never been this intense except when right up against the most hostile and life threatening alien species, where she was fighting for the survival of her ship and crew.
Actually, if someone had suddenly told her that Admiral Janeway was an impostor and some alien force was using the woman’s body to infiltrate Starfleet, that would have made complete sense to Torres and addressed all her concerns, for this Janeway, in many ways, was as grey as her new Starfleet uniform.
B’Elanna reckoned that if any one needed to ‘get a life’, it was the Admiral but she seemed unable, or unwilling, to pursue more leisurely activities .. like a love life! Torres felt that it was an awful waste, given the natural warmth of the woman.
“So, you busy, Admiral?” Tom leaned in and gave Janeway a peck on the cheek. Admiral or not, she was ‘family’!
“Well, no more than usual but I have just sent Jean Luc on a little pre vacation diplomatic mission to Romulus,” she said with dry wit, the familiar half smile creeping across her face.
“The new praetor?” Tom’s father, Admiral Owen Paris, came up behind Kathryn and he placed a hand warmly on her shoulder. He’d known Kathryn since she was an officer cadet and had held her father, Admiral Edward Janeway in high esteem.
“Word sure gets around!” Janeway chimed amusingly.
“It’s the hot topic in the corridors. A Reman running Romulus … hey, we’ll have a Borg running Starfleet next.” Tom had meant it to be amusing but he caught the brief twinge of pain that cut across his old Captain’s face. The look was gone in an instant and replaced by a courteous but non committal laugh. Still, he wished he hadn’t said it and by the look cast at him by his wife, she wished he hadn’t either. It seemed that every time Seven’s name cropped up in a conversation, Janeway would almost detach herself from the discussion and though she now tried hard to blanket her strange reaction, Tom could see it was as if someone had chucked salt in a wound.
He had considered once, but his wife had put him right, that maybe the Captain had wanted to pursue a romantic attachment with Chakotay, only to find that Seven of Nine had beaten her to it. That might explain the distance he now felt existed between the two women. It was no secret on Voyager that Chakotay had tried to get something going with the Captain but his advances had been spurned and nothing came of it. Hey, a guy couldn’t hang around for ever! But maybe Janeway had wanted to get involved with the first officer but didn’t because she held true to Starfleet regulations and wouldn’t let herself get involved with anyone on the ship?
B’Elanna had never bought into his theory and was convinced that the amour had all been one sided and that Janeway just hadn’t been interested in Chakotay, other than to seek him out as a friend. But even that friendship now seemed faded at the edges, confined to the past.
Trying to deflect his inadvertent gaffe, Tom moved the conversation along, whilst taking Janeway’s elbow and steering her towards the refreshment table.
“Sounds as if you’ve been busy, Ma’am.”
“You know, Tom, you seem to have been a little busy yourself!” Janeway said light-heartedly, tilting her head and nodding towards the baby still held in the crook of his father’s one arm. “I gather this is Joseph Owen Paris.” She smiled and reached out to touch the little button nose of the infant who instantly reacted by chuckling back at her. “Got your blue eyes too, Tom!”
“Yeah, he has ..” Tom took on a wistful, mellow gaze, and his voice didn’t hide the pride he had for his young son, “but he’s got his mother’s beautiful smile.”
Kathryn Janeway looked back at him, her own pride showing through and she momentarily compared him now with how he had been when she’d first offered him a field commission on Voyager. He’d come a long way, and what a fine man he’d turned into.
“You happy, Tom?” she enquired.
“Couldn’t be happier, Ma’am. A wonderful wife, two beautiful children, an engineering job updating and redesigning the specs of the latest shuttle technology, plus I get to test fly anything new. Who wouldn’t be?” He passed the Admiral a glass and was about to reach for a wine bottle but Janeway took over.
“I’m glad. And everything okay with Owen?” She deliberately dropped her voice conspiratorially as she poured wine into her glass.
“Yeah, well now we’ve named our son after him, I’ve got him eating out of my hand!” Tom and Kathryn laughed.
Just as Janeway took her first sip of wine, Harry Kim and Chell bounced up to them and for the next twenty minutes or so, she found herself passing the time of day with them and catching up on what they were doing. This gave Tom the opportunity to go and lay ‘Joseph Owen’ down for an afternoon nap and do a quick round to make sure everybody had a drink and small eats.
When he eventually got back to Admiral Janeway, she was just about to home-in on some other guests she hadn’t seen for a while but seeing him, she reached out and tugged Tom’s arm playfully, whispering, “Hey, is it me or is Chell getting bluer?”
Tom just laughed.
The remainder of the afternoon went well at the Paris’s home, as the drinks flowed and old friends and family settled into small, little groups and chattered away. Some guests had left but most didn’t seem in any hurry to leave and that was the way B’Elanna and Tom liked it. They both took great comfort being surrounded by good solid friends who had stood by them, side by side, during some of the most daring and dangerous adventures in the Delta Quadrant.
Those few but cherished guests that remained behind were now in a very relaxed, comfortable mood, stretched out in chairs, on sofa’s or just sitting on the floor chatting away. B’Elanna had put Miral to bed a short while ago and was now free herself to relax and enjoy what was left of the day.
She had perched herself on the edge of a sofa, talking to Owen and Kathryn when a slightly unexpected and louder than usual discussion arose from the vicinity of Harry and Jamie Bellinger, a senior Engineering Lt Cdr who taught at the Academy.
“I can’t believe he’d let her do that and after all the fuss he made about wanting to get away and go back home. And then taking her with him, saying it was where she’d be better off!” Harry seemed incensed, his eyebrows furrowed in anger. “I knew it was the wrong thing to do, I tried to tell him but he wasn’t listening. It’s the back of nowhere! They loathe technology and positively shy away from diverse life forms. How could he have ever thought she’d fit in .. I can only imagine how she must have felt there.”
Jamie leaned forward in his chair, “They say she just got up and walked out but that was months ago and no one’s heard or seen her since. Rosa’s pretty cut up about it too, she was fond of her and thought she might come back here but she hasn’t.”
Rosa was Jamie’s wife of six months, and she’d been an Ensign on Voyager. They should both have been here today but at the last minute she’d been pulled away on a duty change but had insisted that Jamie attend.
“I’d like to give him a piece of my mind. What was he thinking? She should have stayed here with us.” Still furious, Harry stood up to stretch his legs and ease some of the tension he was feeling. “Someone ought to contact her family … see if she’s gone back there.”
“Rosa’s already done that. They had no idea.”
Owen Paris, who had been deep in conversation with B’Elanna and Kathryn, had stopped talking and his attention was now focused on the angry Lieutenant Kim, who was normally such a placid man.
“Something’s rocked his boat! What are you putting in the booze, B’Elanna?” he joked good naturedly.
But Torres wasn’t smiling and already knew what the subject topic was about. She and Tom had heard all about this, and more, and now her concern was how Kathryn would react, if she made any sense out of what was being said. But one look at the auburn haired woman and B’Elanna could see the mental cogs inside the head beginning to turn. Too late, she thought.
During the last year or so, whenever the crew had managed to get together, Janeway had always been hesitant to immediately accept any invitation, surreptitiously waiting until she was sure that neither Chakotay nor Seven were going to be present. If it was a surety that neither of them would be there, then the ex Captain unexpectedly seemed able to make it. To be honest, her trepidation of bumping into the pair had never been an issue, since from the day Chakotay had left Earth, neither he nor Seven had returned, always declining any reunions because of the genuine difficulty in getting back.
Torres had her own suspicions about Janeway’s strange behaviour but had never voiced them, not even to Tom but even he was switched on enough to be intrigued. But it was interesting that ever since Chakotay and Seven had left Earth for his native lands, Janeway actively avoided the slightest discussion that might hinge around the two of them. It was almost as if she had written them both out of her life.
Something wasn’t right and although B’Elanna hated secrets, she had the good sense and intuition to know that something about the two had caused, and still caused, Admiral Janeway the deepest pain. Tom thought it had to do with an old potential love link with Chakotay, but Torres was positive it wasn’t.
She had toyed for a long time with a theory that Kathryn Janeway might have harboured an unrequited romantic interest in Seven. Now that was interesting! Torres had noticed whilst still on Voyager how Janeway’s entire interpersonal interaction with Seven had altered, becoming more .. well, more intimate. What was that old saying?
‘Love is like a flame and when it burns, it is visible to all.’
Had Janeway fallen in love with Seven and then witnessed Seven fall for Chakotay? Maybe. And if so, what pain must that have put, and still put, the woman through? Whatever, Torres wasn’t going to see Janeway hurt anymore if she could help it, in fact she was positively maternal now when it came to protecting the woman where this subject was concerned. She was right, she knew she was!
Stepping into the discussion to block it, “Do you think you two guys could drop this subject and pick something a little more convivial to the occasion? I have two young children in the next room trying to sleep!”
Torres kept the rebuke light but her tone held an edge of granite that both men heard. The quiet but forceful reprimand had almost paid off until Harry ‘closed’ the particular conversation with a parting, “I’d still like to have a heart to heart with Chakotay over it.”
That did it! The incomplete jigsaw puzzle coming together in Janeway’s head had just acquired the missing piece and her face suddenly took on the predator’s gaze.
Damn! Torres thought.
Admiral Janeway was now fully aware that the broken conversation she had overheard concerned Seven of Nine and worse, indicated that the ex Borg had run into difficulties. The wellbeing of any of her previous crew she couldn’t ignore, regardless of any personal promises she had made herself.
“No, sorry B’Elanna,” she apologised, then turning to Harry, “but exactly what has happened between Chakotay and Seven?”
Damn! B’Elanna looked at Tom, who shook his head as if powerless and realised there was no point trying to hide anything now. Pain or no pain, Janeway was tuned in to this and, as past experience showed, when she was on a mission for information … well, you didn’t get in her way.
The room had gone quiet and Harry, still standing over by the mantelpiece and antique fireplace, gracefully nodded a quiet apology to Torres, realising too late just what he had done.
“I’m sorry, Admiral, but … apparently, Chakotay and Seven .. broke up.”
“Apparently?” Any expression of the relaxed Janeway had evaporated like water spilt on a hot stove, you could almost hear the sizzling.
Harry stumbled over his words, “Not kind of .. er .. actually.. yes. Yes, they broke up.
Harry looked like a fish out of water. Suddenly, even the simplest task of breathing seemed difficult.
“Harry.” His ex Captain spoke with gentle intonation but there was a familiar tone of ‘report’ captured in there somewhere. “A little more information would be good.”
“Yes, Ma’am. I heard that Chakotay and Seven had broken up about three or four months ago …”
Janeway’s eyes widened.
Bellinger now chipped in. “Actually, Admiral, I heard that she had walked out on him and just disappeared. My wife, Rosa .. Ensign Brookes, from the Voyager?” he said as if needing to clarify. “I know she’s tried to find Seven, to see if she’s returned to Earth but it doesn’t look like it.”
“So no one knows where she is?” Owen Paris had now joined in the conversation.
“No.” Bellinger and Kim replied at the same time, almost talking over Tom Paris who quietly threw in a different response.
“Tom?” His father wanted to hear what he had to say.
Tom sighed, and pushed his hands through the hair on his head, looking up at the ceiling. “Oh, this is not good!” he sighed again, this time more heavily.
“Tom?” Janeway quietly encouraged.
Now biting his top lip, Tom looked to his wife who quietly nodded unspoken support.
“I’m not sure how accurate this is,” he began, “but .. well, actually, I think it’s pretty accurate knowing who it came from .. but .. someone I know pretty well and whose word I trust ..and who knows Seven .. because I introduced him when we first got back ..”
“Get on with it, Tom.” Torres said.
“Well, he was on a visit to Risa IV .. one of the pleasure planets in the Risa belt,” As if I need to tell any of them that! Tom thought uneasily, “and he swears he came across Seven in one of the .. er .” Tom nervously slapped his two hands together. “you know .. pleasure houses there, where she was .. employed doing .. things .. that pleasure houses are renowned for.”
Owen managed to find voice before Kathryn Janeway did, “Son, you mean working as a prostitute in a brothel?”
Tom could only nod, leaving Torres to cut in, “Hey, this may not be right. Some of Tom’s friends leave a lot to be desired!” Tom cut her a hurt and wounded look.
“But you think it is, don’t you, Tom?” There was a hard to define look set on Janeway’s face but it was like the look you got when you gave someone the worst news, like the sudden and unexpected death of a loved one or close friend, that total look of disbelief and an unwillingness to accept the news. Tom confirmed that he believed ‘his source’.
“I had no idea that things were going badly for the poor young woman.” Owen Paris sounded genuinely concerned, “I thought she and Chakotay were doing okay together and happy. Why didn’t any of us know about this until now? Didn’t either of them stay in touch with any of you? Kathryn?”
In a fleeting glance, Janeway caught Torres looking at her and she knew that B’Elanna would have expected that she, of all people, would have been the most likely to have had some idea that things were not going well, because of her past relationships with both Seven and Chakotay. Torres would naturally know this to be true .. unless something had gone wrong with those close relationships.
Something in the hybrid Klingon’s quizzical expression gave away a lot more, more than just knowing communication lines had gone flat. Too many times, Janeway had seen the confused look on B’Elanna’s face when she temporarily hung back from invitations, socials, fearing that a certain couple might attend .. and Kathryn sensed that Torres knew why!
For all her Klingon temperament and spirited attitude, the engineer had always had a knack for understanding what made people tick and sifting through all the emotional debris to get to the heart of the matter. Both intelligence and sensitivity co-existed in the fiery woman, though she’d never be one to admit it.
Suddenly racked with guilt, Janeway pondered on what Torres didn’t know, about all those unread, unanswered electronic messages she received from Seven in the last ten or more months. So many of them deleted straight away. She’d not read any of them, a ploy to protect herself from being hurt further. Had her strategy of self defence just backfired at the expense of Seven?
Answering Owen Paris’s question and the looks of everyone in the room now studiously focused on her and awaiting response, “I didn’t know about any of this.” The answer was true but it didn’t stop Janeway feeling any worse about the whole revelation.
Despite the current thread of conversation eventually giving way to discussions of other, lighter matters, the evening had essentially come to a grinding halt for Admiral Janeway who was unable to move her thoughts beyond the staggering news she’s just been privy to. She found herself unable to stop worrying about where Seven might be now – still on Risa IV? What would have possessed Seven to work in a place like that .. and why? What had gone wrong between Chakotay and Seven? Why would he have let Seven go like that and why hadn’t he contacted her? Or had he and it was another of those messages she’d wiped?
Feeling stunned and shocked, she forced herself to stay on at the Paris’s until the earliest opportunity arose that gave her reasonable and adequate justification to leave; a punishing schedule in the office next day, the need to go home and prepare for an early meeting. All true, but used as excuses.
Having bid her farewells to the others, she walked out into the still night air and prepared to make her way home, only to be stopped by B’Elanna Torres who had followed her out.
Janeway turned and looked into the concerned face of B’Elanna, who now walked down the little pathway to stand at her side, a penetrating gaze locking onto her. The younger woman unusually reached out and ran her hand up and down Janeway’s arm in a comforting gesture.
Kathryn Janeway was about to give her stock answer of ‘I’m fine’ but then considered it was pointless lying to the other, who instinctively seemed to know more than she should.
“I’m .. not sure,” she said honestly, dropping the mask of control she’d worn ever since the breaking news. She struggled to say something more but couldn’t. It was as if all that energy she’d needed to put up the wall of resistance, the barrier protecting herself against Seven and Chakotay, had just been blown away and was no longer there. She felt empty, stripped bare, unsure of her emotions.
B’Elanna seemed to sense that and hesitantly, “I am right, aren’t I?” Gently, “You .. you and Seven .. you’re in love with her, right?”
Unable to move, unable to answer, Admiral Kathryn Janeway felt as if the world had just stopped turning and all that was alive was just the two of them stood here, face to face, alone with the truth.
B’Elanna spoke again, kindly, softly. “I saw it in your eyes at the reunion.” She hesitated before continuing, “I wanted to come over to you .. I don’t know .. just be there and give you some support. I wish I had.” There was something beautiful in the tone of the last four words, something that made Kathryn suddenly feel she wasn’t alone with what she’d carried silently in her heart for such a long, long time.
The simple two-worded response validated B’Elanna’s intuition, she had been right about the Admiral, but knowing it gave her little sense of achievement. Even less when she saw Janeway give her the slightest of smiles, bravely trying to indicate she’d be okay – but B’Elanna knew she wasn’t.
Torres surprised Janeway as she stopped the once moving hand on the Admiral’s arm, to now grip her forearm with gentle force.
“I don’t want to interfere with your personal life, Kathryn ..”
The other woman suddenly looked at B’Elanna, her face alive with pain, “You must think very badly of me.” Her voice was raw, strangely distant.
B’Elanna just shook her head, “I don’t know what’s happened between the two of you but I think Seven needs you, and I think she needs you now, badly.” Torres paused and then in almost a whisper. “How could I ever think badly of you? After all we’ve been through. I do know that some times, we each do things which on reflection, we’d rather not have done but, at the time, they seemed right. I only think that now, someone needs to go find Seven .. and the only one who can do that is you.” B’Elanna hesitated momentarily. “Bring Seven home.”
And in the sweeping few seconds it took for those words to register, Janeway felt the dawning realisation of what it was she had to do, and in the instant recognition of that objective, she felt her heart lift and start to beat again. She wasn’t sure where her heart had been, but it had sat somewhere dark, untended and without nourishment .. it had been slowly dying. Now it had a chance to live again, and with it came her opportunity of atonement.
The resurfacing anticipation and hope must have registered in her eyes because she suddenly saw B’Elanna smile as she said again, “Bring her home.”
Janeway just nodded.