Silently one by one,
in the infinite meadows of heaven,
Blossomed the lovely stars,
the forget-me-knots of the angels
Seven’s second returning to Earth was almost surreal.
It was as if everyone back on the small, attractive blue-green planet had been waiting for the ex drone, eager to make her assimilation back into humanity easier this second time around.
Not that there still weren’t difficulties, for there were, but somehow this second endeavour presented Seven with a changed scenario and by its nature, was both familiar and not so apparently alien to her. Correspondingly, others did not view her with such astonishment and during the time she’d been gone from Earth, something had settled within them, become more seated, a level of acceptance had developed so that they too seemed more able to give and bend where the strange woman was concerned. Time had indeed allowed all players to appreciate the others difficulties and viewpoints, recognising the complex and problematic issues each would have had on first encounters.
Thus, Seven was more willing to be patient, and more strident to make others lack of ease easier, which in turn led to other’s putting more effort into scaling the barriers which they initially had considered too high. A little effort and a lot of patience went a long way towards bridging gaps and making things seem considerably more understandable, attainable, and achievable for all.
Starfleet positively bent over backwards this time round, and whilst one could be cynical and say it was for their own benefits, many key personalities stepped forward and genuinely wanted and did help the ex drone to settle in better this time. Lessons had been learned on both sides and each was willing to try once more. Indeed, this time, Seven’s incredible intellectual abilities were fully recognised and she again, found herself in the Science division of Starfleet where she, with Janeway’s guidance, accepted a civilian defence contract with the organisation, one that brought her many benefits but did not curtail her freedom of speech with insignificant, unimportant issues like rank structures and regulations! Her astounding theoretical concepts within the split fields of advanced subspace geometry, exo-genetics and fractal calculus were very quickly rewriting some of Starfleet’s once golden theoretical models and challenging notable scientists throughout the quadrant.
Throughout all of this, Admiral Janeway stealthily clung like a limpet to everything that concerned or affected Seven. Whether the younger woman knew it or not, not a step taken within the hallowed corridors of Starfleet happened without Janeway’s knowledge, and whilst the latter kept herself quietly in the shadows, things concerning Seven were manipulated and orchestrated entirely to Janeway’s satisfaction. She would brook no errors or heavy hand this time where Seven was concerned.
The only areas Janeway couldn’t influence were the family threads which remained entirely ice-laden. Within months of their return to Earth, Seven’s Aunt had died of simple old age. She’d gone to bed one night and never woken up again. But the Aunt had clearly loved Seven and had continued to grow close to the young woman in the brief time since, and had left everything she owned to her. The will had stated that everything was left with love and was to be used to give her niece a decent start in life. A decent start! The Aunt had been a woman of some wealth and had amassed a fair fortune. Regrettably, the rest of the family, still unable to accept Seven, had been peeved that they had not been part of the old lady’s substantial inheritance. This emotional and unpleasant barrier with her family had upset Seven, even though she never spoke of it.
And throughout all of this, Seven gratefully leaned more on Janeway and sought the willing woman out on matters she still could not comprehend. If ever their friendship had been truly barren, now it flourished abundantly and each passing day it grew naturally stronger and stronger, something both took nourishment in. They would meet regularly, often daily if their work schedules allowed, and though Seven now temporarily lodged with B’Elanna and Tom, whilst she was having a property built, it was not unusual to see Seven dining or spending a weekend with Kathryn Janeway at her apartment in downtown San Francisco.
The two women sat now at a sidewalk café in the old harbour district of the city, where they were basking quietly in the early evening sun as the one sipped water and the other drank a coveted cup of freshly ground coffee. Janeway took a long look at her friend who now favoured comfortable slacks and warm jumpers as the autumn air raced towards the end of the season to greet winter. Her honey-blonde hair blowing gently in the breeze, Janeway smiled, she’d never seen Seven look so relaxed and so completely at ease in all the time she’d known her.
“So, this place of yours, built yet, Seven?” Seven was being deliberately furtive about her new home. All Janeway knew was that it was close to San Francisco and had the ability to actually excite the younger woman – bit of a rarity.
“No.” Seven looked at Janeway with a tantalisingly smug look.
“No, as in nowhere near ready or no, as in you plan to move in tomorrow?”
“It’s no good, Kathryn, I will show you it when it is ready and not before. I have told you this already so your questions are wasted.”
Seven’s positively enjoying this! “I could always follow you!” Janeway said.
“You could try,” Seven parried.
Leaning on the café table, Kathryn Janeway supported her head with a hand and accepted, not for the first time, defeat. “You can’t blame me for being a little curious. I just want to know where you’re spending all that credit you amounted on Erebus Minor.”
Both returned to consuming their drinks, aware that no more information was going to be forthcoming about Seven’s building project.
“You seem happy,” Seven stated, breaking the companionable silence.
She reads me like a book. Janeway contemplated the question, “I guess I am,” she said slowly, almost as if in surprise at her own answer. “Starfleet is considering sending a ship back into the Delta Quadrant, to those boundaries closest to us that we never travelled, and carry out further exploration with a remit to start opening up potential diplomatic channels. They’ve asked me if I’m interested.”
Though unseen by the other, something indefinable and heavy plunged to the bottom of Seven’s stomach, filling her with apprehension and not just a little trepidation.
“And are you?” the tall woman probed.
The auburn-haired woman nodded, “Yes, .. I am .. yes,” she replied honestly. The offer had only been put to her that afternoon and though she knew she really wanted the posting, she had reservations regarding how this might affect her and Seven .. because it would, but in what capacity she didn’t know. She also knew that she couldn’t leave Seven, not unless something miraculous took place, like the woman finding a special partner or something, and though there were certainly plenty of suitors, Seven didn’t seem interested in any of them.
Another problem for Kathryn Janeway was that she wasn’t sure she could cope without Seven, and just as her mind started to take her down that route, she caused to look at the woman sat opposite her and saw quite plainly that whatever uncertainties she had, they were being mirrored in Seven’s features. A slight frown had appeared and for an instant there was a brief look of infinite sadness on the pale features.
Seven was worried! In a puerile way, it warmed Janeway to know that Seven felt strongly enough about her to fear her possible loss.
Continuing, “I suppose Starfleet are beginning to twig that I’m actually going stir crazy behind that desk they’ve given me and that maybe my experiences and talents are best served elsewhere.”
“They would give you a command again?”
Janeway nodded, “Yes. Starfleet no longer has enough command officers to go round. So despite my flag rank, looks like I get to fly again .. maybe.” Indirectly, she was referring to the war that the Voyager crew had missed. The Federation might have won but the price all had paid for peace had been extremely high. “And besides, I’ve been pestering them mercilessly to give me something more meaningful to do.” She smiled, “I guess this is their way of shutting me up!”
“Not for at least 12 months, Seven ..”
“But you will not decline the offer?”
“I need to give it some thought but .. no, .. if it comes off .. no, I don’t think I will.” Janeway had finished with her coffee and now locked eyes with Seven, sensing the disquiet her confession had brought. Perhaps she should change the subject? Janeway asked Seven what she was doing for Christmas.
“I am undecided. Since the death of my aunt, there is little reason for me to spend it in the company of my biological family.”
Biological family. Janeway thought how the attractive woman could still come out with wording so clinical. Regardless, and despite the immense progress of Seven’s re-assimilation back into her Earth life since returning with Janeway from Erebus Minor, the re-connection with her blood family had been far from successful. Poor Seven.
“What are your plans, Kathryn?”
Running a hand through her auburn hair, “I’ll spend it with my family ..”
“In Bloomington, Indiana,” Seven stated.
“Yes, with my mother, sister and her husband. Just a few days.” Janeway had been working towards the opportunity to invite Seven to join them and, leaning forward, was just about to ask, when the blonde woman interrupted.
“I would like to join you.”
Janeway started to chuckle softly, only Seven could be that bold and unassuming.
“You promised once, on Voyager, that you would show me where you grew up.” Suddenly hesitant, “Is it a problem?”
Janeway’s eyes softened and registered their deepest blue, as her voice dropped to a huskier tone, “Yes.” Then seeing a creeping element of alarm cross the ex drone’s face, Janeway instantly realised that she’d lost the thread of Seven’s questioning and rapidly corrected her error, “I mean yes, I did promise to show you home and no, it isn’t a problem.”
The apprehension gave way to a shy but beautiful smile that seemed to enhance the vulnerability that was always Seven. Janeway couldn’t stop the characteristic lop sided grin from breaking across her features. Okay, maybe she’d never win Seven’s heart, but the ex drone sure had hers!
“If you’d like to, Seven, I’d love for you to spend Christmas with us.” The invitation.
“I would.” The acceptance .. with not a breath of hesitation.
Nodding, “Okay then, consider yourself invited!”
An amiable silence fell between the two of them until Janeway eventually broke it, staring off into the distance, a reflective look on her face.
“I’d always wanted to show you Bloomington in the spring. The weather’s so much warmer then and it seems like the blue skies go on forever. It’s so beautiful with all the little spring flowers breaking out in their vibrant colours, and then there’re the colours of the crops in the fields.” Her voice had turned wistful. “I guess it’s the way the light falls that time of year, plus the smell of the land .. everything is just coming to life.”
“That will not be a problem. You may invite me again in the spring,” Seven said dogmatically.
Janeway immediately turned to face her, her face rapidly moving from a pensive, thoughtful pose to one of someone who could barely contain her laughter, “Silly me! Why didn’t I think of that?”
The snow fell heavy that year in Bloomington, Indiana but despite the chaos the weather brought, the sky gave forth some of its bluest days and produced one of the most picturesque Christmas’s the county had seen for a long time, as the snow lay crisp and white across the fertile, flat land.
In the cosy, warm home that belonged to the Janeway family, far enough away from civilisation and tucked out in isolated farming country just enough to be considered a retreat, the breakfast dishes had already been cleared on a sunny crisp Christmas Eve morning, as Gretchen Janeway now stood at the kitchen door and surveyed her small but happy little family. Not a particularly tall woman and still with a good figure despite her advancing years and grey head of hair, she counted her blessings, for not a day went by where she didn’t thank God for a healthy family and returning all her children to the fold.
She smiled now at the amiable banter that ricocheted throughout the lounge where a heavily pregnant Phoebe sat, having to cope with those final uncomfortable weeks of the pregnancy term, stroking the back of her husband, David, who was leaning down and undoing the straps on her shoes that had suddenly become too tight.
Sat opposite them was her other daughter, a very relaxed Kathryn who was slouched on the couch, her legs stretched out in front of her, blue jeans riding up her shins, bellyaching that she’d eaten too much and wasn’t sure she’d ever move again. Beside her sat her friend, Seven of Nine. Friend? Hmm, that was something Gretchen had to give further thought to but she was certain that the term friend was an inadequate description for the deep waters that lay between these two.
She had welcomed Kathryn’s news that she was bringing the woman home for Christmas, wanting to see for herself the person who had almost driven her daughter crazy, and who Kathryn had eventually moved heaven and earth, crossing half the cosmos to bring her home. She knew her daughter had lost her heart to this woman and apparently, the love was not returned, but watching Seven since she’d been here, Janeway Senior wasn’t so sure about the woman’s feelings towards her daughter. Gretchen watched and what she saw, she found all very interesting.
Meanwhile, she smiled at the young lady sat primly, yet relaxed in her slacks and long sleeved cotton blouse, on the couch next to Kathryn, knees and ankles together, with a very satisfied and smug Homer, the green eyed, semi-long haired black cat lodged firmly on her lap. Homer was supposed to have been the farm cat, acquired to live outside in the out houses, killing mice and other unwanted vermin. The only trouble was, no one had told Homer that, and he had clearly had other ideas, announcing to the family in no uncertain terms, that he didn’t do mice, didn’t care that the Janeways’ apparently preferred dogs, and was altering the parameters of the contract and was moving in. So three years down the line, she had Homer, a house full of cat fur and a shed full of mice!
“Fine,” Gretchen suddenly announced, “I can see I’m going to get precious little help from you all in the kitchen, so this is the deal.” Everyone looked up. Having their full attention. “I don’t care which one of you does it, but that fire’s going to need more logs bringing in. I promised Heggie I’d let her have some eggs this morning so someone needs to do that. Katie, you’ve been moaning about eating too much so I suggest you work some of that fat off and go say ‘Hi’ to Heggie.” Heggie was well into her eighties, widowed and lived on the farm next door, about a mile and a half away.
“Hey!” Kathryn knew she was being teased but felt the need to chip in anyway. She was trimmer now than she’d been before she’d joined Star Fleet. Fat?
“Phoebe … you’re staying there and looking after Homer.” The cat stirred on Seven’s lap, prised a lazy eye open, recognising his name. Was it food time already? He wasn’t sure he could eat anymore yet .. but he’d try if he had to.
“Seven, you’re with me. I need someone sensible in the kitchen! Anyone any problems with their tasks? No? Good!” She’d left no time between her questions for any chit-chat, and no one was going to question her orders! Sorted.
David stood first, instantly assuming a hunched theatrical pose like some maniac out of an old budget horror movie, and with the matching voice, both deep and sinister in content, “Aha! At last, the opportunity arises for me to use the axe.” He rubbed his hands together for effect, “It has been too long .. the last time I did this, three families disappeared from Iowa and were never seen again!” He laughed manically.
Phoebe scoffed, “Just bring the wood in, David! You wouldn’t know what to do with an axe if it fell on you. The only thing you can wield is a paint brush!” Both artists, Phoebe had met David four years ago and they’d instantly fallen in love and quickly married. Regrettably, though pregnant twice before, she’d never been able to carry either pregnancy full term. This pregnancy however, was going well and all indicated a strong child just itching to get out! It was going to be a boy she was sure – it had to be, the way he kicked her at night.
“Hah, you think you know me but .. you’ll see!” David continued his mad axe murderer pose.
“I married an idiot!”
Breaking his show business role, “Yeah, but I paint great pictures!” He smiled at Phoebe lovingly and bent down to tap her bulging stomach affectionately. “Look after your mother, Junior.”
The older sister laughed and moved to get a coat and scarf whilst David, who was the mad axe murderer again, theatrically dragged a leg towards the door, grabbing his coat on the way out. Kathryn stood looking down at her sister, comfortably reclined on the settee, “You know you’re spoilt, don’t you?” she said mockingly.
“I’m pregnant,” Phoebe said indignantly, “I need to be cosseted!” It was good to see that the two sisters were back on speaking terms again. When Kathryn had left to find Seven, the siblings’ relationship had been strained and tense.
Seven’s move to the kitchen had forced poor Homer to reluctantly get up and cross the carpet towards junior Janeway. Midway, he stopped and considered just settling on the rug in front of the burning fire but on consideration, it was too hot there and the fire would occasionally ‘spit’, which played havoc with his nerves. Phoebe would just have to do. She tapped her lap, welcoming the cat, “No claws, Homer!”
Whilst Homer had been faced with such momentous decisions, Seven stood with Gretchen in the large traditional, country styled kitchen, being given instructions how to prepare vegetables, and then being handed several cutting and scrapping utensils and told ‘to get on with it then’.
Seven did not complain, took her orders well and got on with the work at hand, making light of it. Janeway Senior marvelled at the deft efficiency of the woman. If only her daughters had been as domestically blessed.
“Hmm. You’ve done this before,” she stated calmly without affectation.
“No. You merely gave me a good demonstration which I was able to emulate.”
“Good answer!” The older woman glanced sideways at Seven, giving her a quick, sly smile, and something about it reminded Seven of Kathryn.
They worked on, side by side, Gretchen occasionally stopping Seven and showing her how to handle some of the utensils or a technique learned over the years that made scrapping, cutting or peeling easier.
Eventually Seven, who had been quiet, composed and focused, stated, “You are a very good cook.”
“Thank you, and you are a very quick learner!”
After a while, Gretchen started chatting, “You know Seven, I haven’t always been a house wife. Before I ended up marrying Edward, the girls’ father, I fancied myself as a bit of an amateur mathematician.”
Seven stopped cutting and looked at her sceptically, “You did considerable research in the field of random matrix approaches in number theory and still present work occasionally for the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences. Hardly someone who is a bit of an amateur mathematician.”
Gretchen raised an eyebrow in surprise. “I see someone has done their research!” Anticipating the intellect that her daughter had spoken of so often, she decided to go for gold. “I studied the conjectured connections between the zeros of the Riemann zeta function and eigenvalues of random matrices. It’s still one of the most famous unsolved problems in mathematics .. the Reimann hypothesis, which states …”
“That all the non-trivial zeros of the zeta function lie on a vertical line in the complex plane, called ..” Seven interjected.
“The critical line!” Gretchen was beaming wildly. “You’re the first guest in this house who has ever had a clue about what I was talking about.”
“The hypothesis is of interest to me, too. You are no amateur.” Seven paused before continuing, “You initially studied at Harvard University and then went on to do applied mathematics and theoretical physics at the University of Cambridge in England, where you won the Trisac Lewder Award for Mathematical Sciences. Impressive.”
Janeway Senior studied Seven. “I wonder who’s more impressed with the other? I’m somewhat impressed with you. Not only the background research you’ve done on me but your own obvious mathematical ability. Kathryn’s told me of some of the ground breaking research you’ve done whilst on Voyager, and with Starfleet since you’ve returned.”
An unexpected brief but noticeable shadow passed over Seven’s face, one that was not missed by the eagle eye of the older Janeway.
“My abilities cannot be disputed and though perhaps they have a root inheritance from my parents who were both scientists, my knowledge and skills are the product of my assimilation into the Borg collective .. perhaps not so impressive on consideration.”
Gretchen Janeway put the pan down she’d been holding and leaned on a kitchen surface with both hands. “Intellect is intellect, regardless of where it comes from. It all depends how you chose to use it and I’m aware that you’re not one to hold back on sharing your extensive knowledge with others.”
Seven tilted her head in acknowledgement, “Thank you. Not every one views it as you do.” Gretchen knew of what had befallen Seven since Voyager had returned to Earth.
“Then they’re fools.” Gretchen said plainly but making sure that Seven caught the full intensity of her gaze. As she moved to pick the pan up again and cross towards the sink to fill it with water, Seven spoke again.
“I wish to thank you for allowing me to be here for Christmas.” With noticeable embarrassment, “I .. am enjoying spending it with all of you. The concept of family is still sufficiently new to me.” There were tones of sorrow, embarrassment, vulnerability all rolled into one, lodged in Seven’s voice, and which being a mother, Gretchen had no difficulty interpreting.
The emotion behind the voice, forced Gretchen Janeway to dump the pan again, turn and move closer to Seven, placing a hand on the woman’s arm. “You, my dear, are welcome in this house anytime .. anytime .. with or without my daughter.” She tugged at the young woman’s arm a little, swaying it from side to side with affection, “I have no doubt that without your presence on Voyager, it would still be out there .. or worse, blasted into atoms.” The last few words were full of the once anticipated fear she’d had to live with for so many years, that she would never see her daughter again. “I will always be grateful for your part in bringing my daughter home to me, and until I draw my last breath, you will always be welcome in this home!”
Seven looked to the floor, feeling emotionally inept and awkward, not used to having such things said to her, and so genuinely, but Gretchen raised her hand and lifted the woman’s face so they could see each other’s eyes.
“Do you understand? You will always be welcome in this home. I consider you family.”
“Thank you.” Such a quiet voice and Gretchen saw the woman’s eyes slightly moisten, not enough for tears but enough for the wise old woman to realise that Seven wasn’t used to being thanked on this level. It was as if she had a heart full of empty pages which had yet to be written on. Maybe someone would write on them soon? She knew her own daughter desperately longed to be the one to do that.
“No … thank you,” the older woman said, quickly wiping a hand across her own eyes and then deflecting things, returning to her pan. “However, there is one little thing we’re going to have to change, my dear.”
“There is?” Seven wondered if she had done something wrong?
“Yes, but first tell me, what’s your given name?”
“My given name?” Seven frowned in confusion.
“Your birth name.”
Seven understood. “My parents named me Annika … Annika Hansen. But I don’t remember being called it and prefer to be known as Seven.” She hesitated, then, “I am familiar with that name .. comfortable.”
“Is that right?” Gretchen moved the pan onto a heat pad. “Annika, eh? Scandinavian unless I’m mistaken … means unconquerable, full of grace .. gracious.”
Seven didn’t comment, choosing only to listen.
“You know, I‘ve had three passions in my life; the love for my husband, the love for my children and my love for mathematics. The latter has been such an inspiration in my life, you might call it a love affair with numbers. I adore their objectivity, their clarity and symmetry .. all such good friends to me. But despite this, there’s one thing I can’t quite handle.”
Gretchen placed a hand on a hip and looked at Seven, who again saw the similarity to the younger Janeway who’d once captained Voyager. “Despite my obsession for numbers, you are not a number to me.” She was positively scrutinising the young ex drone now. “You are a beautiful woman who deserves a beautiful name .. not a number. If you and I are going to become good friends, who’re going to spend a lot of time together talking mathematical formulae when you come and stay … well, I can’t call you Seven .. I just can’t do it.”
Seven merely tilted her head to the side.
“Would you mind if an old woman called you Annika?”
Seven stared at her. This woman was calling her family, and was inviting her to come back .. with or without her daughter .. to spend time with her, just the two of them, to talk of things they were both very interested in. As the sincerity of the open hand of friendship aimed solely at her sank in, she felt her heart heave somewhere inside of her and then slowly, a shy and very gentle smile cut across her face, “I think I would like that very much.”
“Good. That’s settled then.” The old woman nodded, smiled and then said, “Now quit dithering, Annika and peel the spuds.”
For Seven, the rest of the day had continued to be as warmly unpredictable, unexpected and .. unanticipated .. as the morning had been with Gretchen Janeway. For the first time in her life, she felt entirely cocooned by sincerity, kindness and tenderness. It left her feeling completely protected .. something she had never felt before .. and connected.
It wasn’t as if she was becoming a member of the Janeway family .. it was as if she’d always been so, and no one seemed to be having to work at it. She would occasionally glance at the people in the room who were sat on the floor, around the fire, talking, laughing, joking, but never once did she see the subtle glance or surreptiously furtive study of the Borg attachments on her body, nor receive a stinging comment. Everyone seemed entirely comfortable with her presence, especially Homer! Every time she sat down, within seconds, the lithe little body of purring fur pounced onto her lap and settled there. Seven realised she was happy and for once, began to relax and to join in with the conversation with spontaneous inputs.
Occasionally she caught Kathryn looking at her, and when their eyes met, her ex Captain would just smile but say nothing. As the day progressed, Seven had discovered what a naturally tactile family the Janeways’ were but strangely, the opportunity for Kathryn to touch Seven never occurred. Not once did the diminutive woman warmly reach out and make physical contact with her as she had done so many times on Voyager, and Seven found herself missing that connection - she wanted to feel the other woman’s touch.
It wasn’t until late into the evening when, traditionally, the family shared their Christmas gifts with one another, that Kathryn Janeway presented Seven with a fine, delicate gold bracelet.
Seven, who had been sat crossed legged in slacks on the floor next to Kathryn, had been surprised when the other woman had tried to pass the little package to Seven surprisingly shyly whilst the others’ attention was on Phoebe, who was struggling to open a too-well wrapped present from David. Unfortunately for Kathryn, the ploy hadn’t worked, for suddenly all eyes were on Seven as she tore the wrapping off the little box and studied the item.
Seven looked down at the fragile, elegant gift in her hands, unaware that the entire room had gone quiet enough to hear a cat hair drop. “It is ..” she struggled for the words.
“Inefficient and unproductive!” Kathryn laughed, scratching the back of her neck, and trying to devalue the sentiment of the gift.
“ .. beautiful!” Seven’s voice had lifted in tone and held an unquantifiable lilt of pleasure, and to all, she seemed overwhelmed by the gift. “No one has ever given me jewellery before. Not even Chakotay.” Her face lifted as her eyes sought out Kathryn’s, cornflower blue orbs locking onto gentle, compassionate deep blue ones, “I will treasure this always.”
I bet she will! Gretchen thought. She was building up one hell of a hypothesis with regard to her daughter and Annika, something that had nothing to do with number theory!
For a while the two ex crew of Voyager said nothing, just looking at each other until David, feeling that something had to give before the room imploded, moved over to Seven, “Here, let me put it on for you.”
The spell suddenly broken, Seven spoke, “I have something for you too, Kathryn.” Waiting until David had finished closing the clasp on the bracelet, Seven pulled a small package from her side and apprehensively, almost timidly, handed it to the woman.
“Seven, you didn’t have to ..”
“I wanted to. After all, it is customary.” That didn’t sound right. “I meant..”
“I know what you meant, Seven,” Janeway said warmly, soaking in the presence of the beautiful woman at her side, suddenly entirely intoxicated by her. How could Seven be even more beautiful? But she was, with her hair down, sat relaxed and tranquil in front of the wood burning fire.
Dangerous thoughts raced through the Starfleet officer’s mind. Don’t go there. She consciously averted her attention to the opening of the gift which, as the wrapping fell away, she found herself holding a leather bound book with lightly faded guilt lettering on the spine and her nose assaulted by the wonderful smell of old leather. Turning it in her hand, she saw it was a book called ‘Last Poems’ by Elizabeth Barratt Browning, one of her favourite poets, but it shocked her even more when she studied the first few pages.
“1862 Chapman and Hall, London,” she read out. “Seven, this is a first edition!”
“I thought you would like it.”
“Like it? It’s incredible, I don’t know what to say … thank you. This is a wonderful gift.” Running her hands over the feel of the book, the texture of the leather, “Thank you, Seven.” Entirely overcome, not just by the age of the book and the relatively important value of it, it was the subject matter that hit home with Kathryn, for inside this sacred tome were some of the finest love sonnets of the Victorian poet. Seven had given her a book of love poems!
For a moment Kathryn seemed to be going to say something but then thought better of it. How like Seven, to see only the face value of the gift and not the meaning behind it. In seeking a gift for Kathryn, Seven would recognise her enjoyment of reading, her fondness of poetry, and would recall that Kathryn had once mentioned Barratt Browning as one of her favourites, locking onto those details for future reference. Of course, what Seven probably hadn’t appreciated was the hidden implication in giving someone love poetry, often an intimate gift between two lovers. The irony of the situation should have upset Kathryn but instead, it just made her smile. It was such an honest mistake on Seven’s part, you couldn’t let it devalue the preciousness of the gift itself.
But despite Kathryn’s wholesome behaviour towards receipt of the book, Seven sensed something not quite right and when she was sure the rest of the family were engaged in other activities and their attentions diverted elsewhere, she tapped Kathryn on the shoulder and leaning in, “You do like the gift?”
Kathryn, who was sat only inches away from Seven, with her back against the same couch, turned to find herself almost nose to nose with the woman and had to draw back a little for fear of being just too close for her own comfort. All she could focus on were the younger woman’s lips. All I have to do is lean forward and … make a complete fool of myself. Kathryn chose instead to key in on Seven’s tone which held an edge of what? Nervousness? Disappointment? Janeway couldn’t have that! This Christmas had to be special for Seven.
Genuinely, “It’s something I will treasure, Seven .. it’s a generous and thoughtful gift. It really is.” She reached out and touched Seven’s hand that was resting on the floor between them, and was surprised to see Seven .. what? Blush? Seven never blushed … did she?
Whatever happened next, the eldest daughter of Edward and Gretchen Janeway found very difficult to put into words but seeing Seven blush seemed to have a corresponding physiological effect on Kathryn. Her own bodily functions went AWOL as her heart rate speeded up, she could no longer get enough air into her lungs and the amount of heat her body suddenly gave off was comparable to a warp core overload. But for the fact that David, entirely unaware of what was going on between Seven and his wife’s sister, stood up without warning, which woke Homer up with a jolt, causing him to dig his claws into Seven’s legs, causing her to grimace and thus diverting the two women’s attention, what might have happened?
Now David was moving, “Hey, anyone mind if I just open a window to get some air in here, it’s gone damn hot, I can hardly breathe!”
Kathryn looked away and gave a slight cough to release the tension and dryness she felt in her throat. That was it surely! Seven hadn’t blushed at all, she was just damn hot in this room where the fire was roaring away and giving off overly abundant heat. She felt a bit of a fool having misread things so badly. Sometimes you just see what you want to see. Casually attempting to divert things, and calm her beating heart, she stammered, “..er .. walking.”
“Pardon?” Seven arched an eye at Kathryn.
I’m a grown woman, not an adolescent teenager. “Do you .. like ..walking .. Seven.” Calm down for heaven’s sake!
Seven frowned, “I have never considered it. It has always been the optimal, natural way to move.” Seven’s frown started to metamorphosize into something else. Was that amusement in those eyes?
Embarrassed and indignant, “No, I meant ..”
“I know what you meant, Kathryn and yes, I enjoy walking for pleasure.” Seven’s eyes never left Janeway’s, and was she imagining it or was Seven leaning into her?
“Good, I mean .. next time you come and stay .. the spring .. we’ll go .. I want you to see .. we’ll go together .. and look around.” Oh God. Janeway couldn’t string two words together. Adolescence had never been this awful.
“I look forward to it.” Still the intensely scrutinising stare focused on Kathryn and, was that a coquettish smile on the blonde’s face? “You love .. the land?” Seven whispered, hesitating over the words.
Slow down, Kathryn. Think. Breathe. Don’t embarrass yourself. “I guess so.”
“You never wanted to be a farmer? Grow crops?”
“Hell, No!” Janeway blurted out passionately. At last, a question that gave her some control back. “During the agricultural classes at school, I only had to look at wheat seed to kill it!” Looking a little more relaxed, “My mind was always out there,” and she pointed upward, her mind back in space. Wistfully, “I always knew that’s where I’d end up.”
“I’m glad you did,” Seven spoke softly, so closely to Janeway’s ear, she could feel the young woman’s breath on her hair.
Am I missing something here?
Janeway found herself again torn between looking into the woman’s mesmerising eyes, and the almost succulence of those abundant, beautifully formed lips, so inviting, so enticing. Feeling drawn like a moth to a flame, and yet held in restraint by propriety, Janeway couldn’t stop herself from wondering what it would be like to kiss those lips, to lose oneself in the passion that could be hers and Seven’s. Loving Seven was so difficult, she was going to have to learn some techniques to protect herself. Maybe she should contact her old friend, Tuvok, for some tips!
Then, in front of them, there was an unexpected rustle of activity as Phoebe tried to rise gracefully from the floor in an effort to retire to bed. David was pandering to her every need and Gretchen was slowly rising too, struggling with tired bones that demanded just a little more warning before they could kick into action and obey commands.
“Well, Christmas Day tomorrow and I’ll need an early start in the kitchen, so bed for me.” Gretchen stood and let the kinks drop out of her body, “It’s been a lovely day, hasn’t it.” Not a question, just a statement of contentment.
Seven chose to rise also. “I shall retire too.” She took time to thank every one individually for a wonderful day and Kathryn Janeway again witnessed the change in her since her rescue from the Collective. Somewhere along the way, with the help of the crew of Voyager, the enthusiasm of its inimitable, unique doctor, and whatever life had thrown at her since, Seven had masterfully grasped social etiquette and developed a very distinctive, charming style. Janeway could only acknowledge how very proud she felt of Seven. Amongst other things.
As Seven moved around the furniture to proceed to the stairway, she seemed to take the path of most resistance, having to unnecessarily brush past Janeway en route. The svelte slender and graceful form that was Seven of Nine, eased herself against the smaller woman, her body going breast to breast as she pushed past the Admiral. Janeway could do nothing but assume an air of resignation. She had no idea what was going on, if indeed anything really was, other than in her own head and wishful thinking. Far too much had been happening tonight which she didn’t understand and which had placed her in a box marked ‘confusion’. For one who normally understood people and had always seemed to possess that inner ability to comprehend what made them tick, tonight she felt hopelessly inadequate. Maybe it was just that she’d never seen Seven so relaxed .. and so appealingly sensuous!
“Goodnight, Kathryn. Sweet dreams.”
Is it me? Had Janeway imagined it or was Seven smiling provocatively at her when she said that? If she hadn’t known better, she’d have thought Seven had just flirted with her.
The return home to San Francisco and duty came too quickly for all at the family home of the Janeway’s.
Two days later, Katherine Janeway found herself outside Tom and B’Elanna’s home, dropping Seven off there before she made her final journey back to her own quarters near Presidio. Seven was still temporarily lodging with the Paris’s, and would do so until her new home was build on the outskirts of the City.
Stepping outside the transport with Seven to say goodbye, the casually attired, tall blonde took a deep breath, “It’s warmer here than in Indiana.”
“Yes it is,” Kathryn replied with a forced nonchalance, acutely uncomfortable at having to say goodbye to Seven, or knowing how to say goodbye. Just say goodbye? Hug her? Shake her hand? Peck on the cheek? Grab her, push her back into the transport and ravage her there and then? Civilised decorum won out,
“San Francisco weather seldom changes much, just a few temperature gains and losses over the year but nothing too radical. Back home you get all four seasons. I think I prefer that .. I like the changes.”
When she’d finished talking, there was a slight pause in conversation and for a while, Janeway wasn’t quite sure how to fill it. The moment had become awkward. That is, until Seven moved around the transport and placing her small overnight bag down on the ground, came to a halt before the other, invading personal space.
With quiet words, “I will cherish this Christmas, Kathryn. Thank you.” Seven then surprised Kathryn, as she unexpectedly wrapped her arms around her and pulling her in close, gave Janeway a lingering kiss on the cheek before eventually whispering in her ear, “Thank you for everything. This is the best Christmas I’ve ever had.”
Before the Admiral could respond, the blonde pulled away from her, turned, reached for her bag and walked quickly up the short pathway to the door of the house, entered and was gone. Seven never looked back once.
All Janeway could do was finger the spot where Seven had just kissed her, hearing the sad, poignant words echoing round her head, ‘This is the best Christmas I’ve ever had’. Hell! It was the only real Christmas the woman had had on Earth, since becoming human again.
Admiral Jasper O’Donnelly played with the collar of his stiff dress uniform shirt whilst he tried to listen to Owen Paris over the sound of the band that was playing robustly in the background, welcoming the arriving guests to the annual Starfleet HQ New Year’s Ball. The music was supposed to put everyone into the party mood – all it was doing was giving him a headache!
“Well, I think the concept’s flawed,” Owen was saying. “How can you merge two large organisations like that together when their business objectives are complete polls apart? You can’t expect officers to handle the dual nature and scope of those objectives, they just don’t gel. And to say it’s all founded on the precept of budgetary savings? If the Government’s looking for financial cutbacks, it could start with the DSI. I’ve never seen such a disorganised, bureaucratic organisation, and they dare to tell us how to run our business? What do they think we’ve been doing for the last few years? Playing pat-a-cake? Damn them! DSI .. Department of Stupid Ideas!”
Captain Osi Nasamu laughed, “Don’t hold back, say what you really mean!” He hated the Department of Strategic Integration almost as much as Admiral Paris did.
O’Donnelly shrugged as he reached for a glass of champagne from a passing steward’s tray, “All these cutbacks .. I guess we have to expect them now the war’s over but we’re already restrained by lack of manpower and key personnel. Things are going to take a long time to put right again. I only hope we don’t have to fight another war too soon. Do you know, I can’t fill the crew complement for the ..” he stopped in mid sentence before his rich Irish accent delivered, “Great Mothers of Ireland!”
The other two officers immediately turned to look at what had drawn Jasper’s attention and found themselves looking at an elegantly poised, tall, sophisticated woman serenely flow down the richly carpeted, ornately decorated staircase into the banquet hall, accompanied by Owen Paris’s son, Tom and his wife, B’Elanna.
Osi Nasamu whistled quietly through his teeth as he focused on the stunning blonde. Who was she? She reminded him instantly of the attractive, beautiful women so often found in his homeland of Africa, for she held the same graceful appearance and possessed that natural model’s catwalk poise that implied aloofness, pride and haughtiness. This untouchable was magnificently, stylishly dressed in a classic plain-cut long skirt made of raw silk, in the darkest shade of blue and that just touched the tops of her feet. It was wonderfully complimented by an almost silvery pale blue silk blouse which was designed to criss-cross the chest, showing off the woman’s long waist and ample breasts, encapsulating the essence of the feminine form. All was stunningly topped by the blonde hair swept up in a tight, formal French twist. Ice Warrior, Osi thought to himself.
“Someone tell me who that is.” Nasamu said aloud. O’Donnelly put a hand on Osi’s shoulder, “That my friend, is Seven of Nine.”
“The female Borg off the Voyager?” Nasamu questioned, looking taken aback. “She’s …” lost for words, O’Donnelly finished off, “One of life’s stunners!”
“Tell me we plan to free more Borg from the Collective! If I wasn’t a happily married man …”
“You’d get nowhere,” Jasper’s warm Irish tone lilted as he smiled, still looking at the striking young woman. “She’s not an easy catch, and I know, because I tried and there’re not many women who can resist the Irish charm.”
“Gentlemen, please!” Owen Paris gently admonished them both. “You leave the lady alone. I can safely say she’s out of both of your league.”
“Well, she’s got to be in someone’s! You can’t have a beauty like that roaming around unattached, there won’t be a happy marriage in Starfleet!” Jasper couldn’t take his eyes off her. “Surely to God, someone’s her match .. what a waste.”
Paris scoffed, “I didn’t say she was unattached, I just said you two had no chance.”
“Ah! So who’s the lucky person, Owen?” Jasper looked intrigued.
Owen sipped at his champagne, “Oh, it’s not for me to say, but rumour has it her heart’s taken, and if that’s true, I daresay we’ll all find out fairly soon. Information like that travels faster than Sesilank flu.”
Jasper grabbed a passing bottle of champagne, “Now come on Owen, have a few more of these and let me loosen your tongue a wee bit. You can’t be keeping that sort of information all to yourself, it’s unhealthy!”
At that moment, Admiral Kathryn Janeway pounced up to the group, “Gentlemen, good evening!” she said chirpily.
Owen smiled warmly, “Ah, Kathryn, we were just talking about you.”
We were? Jasper thought. Oh? Oh! Janeway and Seven?
“Something nice, I hope?” Janeway was blissfully unaware of the double entendre taking place and Owen was not going to embarrass her. Besides, if what his son had told him, neither Seven or Kathryn actually seemed to have ‘got it together’ yet. But Tom was already taking bets! “We were just saying that we thought the DSI had really overstepped the mark this time and that you’d probably share our viewpoint ..”
“That they should all be taken out and shot!” Janeway sarcastically chipped in, interrupting Owen, and playing with the collar of her uniform shirt.
“Gentlemen, told you she was with us!” Owen bantered.
“So now, how’d you like the new dress uniform, Kathryn?” Jasper’s eyes twinkled.
“Torture! Who designed this outfit .. the Cardassians?”
“This is one of the few times I’m glad to be just a simple, good ol’ Captain.” Osi Nasamu was positively purring as he flaunted his Captain’s dress uniform which was far less flamboyant and a damn sight more comfortable.
After she’d acknowledged the other two officers, Janeway warmly welcomed Osi Nasamu back to Earth after a deep space mission of two years. “Still settling in?” she enquired.
“Oh, not really. It’s strange but I never seem to have trouble coming home, it’s always getting use to being out there that I have difficulty with.” Janeway grinned, “Try seven years .. I was going space crazy!” They all laughed as Jasper refilled Owen’s and Janeway’s glasses of champagne.
After a few more minutes of light, jovial banter, Janeway dared to ask. “Excuse me for being rude, gentlemen, but have any of you seen Seven?”
O’Donnelly glanced conspiratorially at Owen Paris and then innocently raised his eyebrows, then made a point of studiously looking around, “I can’t say I’ve spotted her yet ..” he lied, “but .. ah! She’s over there with the group by the French windows.”
Admiral Janeway caught sight of the one she sought and nodded, then spent the next few minutes making more pleasant conversation about mundane trivia and the latest DSI operational changes, whilst tactfully trying to excuse herself from the group and make her way over to Seven. Without trying to draw attention, Janeway furtively glanced over at Seven and could just make out that the woman was standing with a small select little group of ex Voyager crew. She hadn’t had the opportunity to see Seven since they’d both returned from Indiana, and had hoped to get a quick ‘hello’ in pre dinner but then the gong ceremoniously went, inviting them all to be seated.
‘Damn’, Janeway thought. So much for speaking to Seven and making sure she was okay, but the seating plan had her placed on the top table with the guests of honour, and the top brass of Starfleet and their partners. There had been no way she could avoid this evening, and she was likely to be stuck now with making more pleasant conversation for the next couple of hours. She looked over towards Seven again and was reassured to see the woman was seated with Voyager’s doctor and some unknown blonde, Tom and B’Elanna, a female Lt Cdr and an extremely handsome man, neither of which she recognised. Dr Val Giodarmi, a defence systems analyst who was currently employed by the Federation to work on projected energy barrier shield capability and modulated frequencies, was also sat at the table. Well, that’ll give Seven something to talk about over the meal!
From then on, Janeway had no time to think of anything else other than the guests to the left and right of her with whom, as the perfect host, she spent the entire dinner ensuring they were entertained with plentiful conversation.
The evening passed and eventually, Admiral of the Fleet, D’Abo Rhaki rose from the top table, and guided his wife onto the dance floor. This was the sign everyone else had waited for. Now the evening could really start and they could start hitting the dance floor, or participating of the other forms of entertainment laid on for the evening.
An impatient Admiral Janeway stepped down from the table and moved quickly over to a slightly quieter, more secluded little area tucked behind an enormous Butor plant with its enormous, luscious green leaves, where she proceeded to tug irritably at the collar of her dress jacket. It had been chafing her all night and she could feel the skin beneath beginning to get sore. If she could just hold out for another few hours!
Almost lost in the ecstasy of pulling the cloth from her neck, she heard an unexpected rustle of leaves.
“You look extremely smart tonight, Kathryn.” The surprised senior officer immediately stopped fiddling and found herself facing Seven of Nine. “Seven,” she said grinning before it took her just another 3 nanoseconds to register what the blonde woman was wearing. Earlier, from a distance, she knew that Seven had looked extremely stylish but now, up close, she was simply stunning. “Seven,” she was unable to hide her admiration and awe, “You look beautiful! Absolutely .. gorgeous.” She smiled warmly at Seven as she took a step back to look Seven up and down, taking in the picture of sophistication and chic before her. It didn’t pass her attention that Seven wore the bracelet she’d given her just a week ago, and that made Kathryn feel very touched, and proud.
“You look beautiful, too,” the ex drone said cordially.
Kathryn started to laugh gently, “Thank you, Seven, but I’m not sure I’m having the same effect on the majority of the guests here. I should think several people will be having trouble with their blood pressure this evening.” Including me.
“And yours, Kathryn?” Seven smiled sensuously.
“Ah,” Janeway narrowed her eyes at the suggestive remark, then smiled her characteristic half smile. “Bubbling,” she said quietly, her eyes exuding humour.
“You are having trouble with your collar?” Almost as she spoke the words, Seven moved forward and placed her fingers on the troubled area, pulling the military cloth away from the side of Janeway’s neck.
“Er .. Seven ..” Feeling slightly vulnerable and aware that others might see them together and get the wrong idea. Wrong idea? “Seven, I’m not sure ..”
“Stop talking. Here ..” Seven produced a tissue from her blouse sleeve and rolling it up length ways, depositing it under the Admiral’s collar so it sat between the material and the skin, and yet could barely be seen. “If you don’t move your neck too much, no one will see the tissue, and the damage to your skin will be reduced.”
“The fact I’ll be moving like Quasi Modo for the rest of the evening ..”
“Who?” Bright blue eyes twinkled down on her.
Oh, forget it. “Thank you, Seven,” Janeway said gratefully, hoping her face wasn’t as flushed as she thought it might be. She must know the effect she has on me.
Unexpectedly, a very handsome Cdr approached the two of them and, briefly acknowledging Admiral Janeway, turned to Seven, “Ah, Seven. I’ve been looking for you all over the place, and here you are .. in the leaves.” He laughed a little. Janeway backed off to give them space.
Seven didn’t return his good humour and merely stared at him indulgently. “Then you have found me .. in the leaves. How may I assist you?”
“I wondered if the most attractive woman here tonight would like to dance?”
Unable to avoid hearing what was said, and actually being just a little nosey, Janeway nearly balked! Where did these men get their chat up lines? Couldn’t he have come up with something just a little more original?
Seven eyed him with indifference, “I don’t know. Why don’t you ask her.”
Maybe it was the copious amounts of champagne she’d drunk but it was all Janeway could do not to laugh out loud at Seven’s response who clearly wasn’t impressed with the good looking Don Juan’s turn of phrase either.
The potential suitor laughed with casual indifference, ignoring her dry wit, “You’re the belle of the ball, Seven. You shouldn’t be stood to the side here, you should be out there dancing, enjoying yourself, where everyone can see you”.
“Because you’re beautiful!”
Yuk. Janeway had to admit he really was a handsome man but his approach to women needed work.
“Would you care to dance with me?” He held his hand out to her but she didn’t take it.
“No. But I thank you for the offer,” Seven replied curtly.
The blunt refusal took the wind out of the man’s sails, who didn’t look the type who was often turned down and it was amazing how quickly his self confidence evaporated. Realising he was going to get nowhere fast with this woman, and that his ego had been dented in front of a witness, the Cdr politely bowed his head in a farewell gesture and moved off.
Janeway moved back up to Seven, “Bit cruel Seven, I think your style of response could still do with a little tweaking.”
“I was not rude. He asked, I replied.”
“We can talk about this later.”
“I look forward to it.”
Okay, now what? “So, Seven .. what do you think of my tree?” Janeway humorously referred to the large Butor plant they stood under.
“Big leaves,” Seven stated matter-of-factly, which drew a large grin from the Admiral. Then, “Would you like to dance with me, Kathryn?” The Admiral’s grin faded.
Janeway sucked in a deep breath and frowned, giving the request serious thought before replying. “Would I like to dance with you, Seven? Yes, I would. Will I dance with you? No, I don’t believe I will.”
The question ‘why’ was lodged in Seven’s eyes, “State your reasons.”
Yes. State your reasons, Kathryn!
Janeway started to fiddle again with her collar, but Seven swiped her hand away, “Don’t mess with it. You’ll make it worse.”
Okay. You promised to be honest. “First, I think you have admirers out there who are dying to dance with you and who might just want to slit my throat if I keep you to myself.” Truth now. “Secondly, .. dancing with you Seven .. for me .. isn’t an easy thing.” She paused. “You know how I feel about you. I think dancing with you would .. well, it would be uncomfortable for me.” Janeway wanted to say more but couldn’t. She looked into Seven’s face, praying the woman would understand, and was met with a tender, compassionate look.
Lowering her voice, Seven answered, “Your first point is irrelevant since I am not interested in dancing with any admirers. I wish to dance with you.” Then affectionately, “Your second point .. I did not consider your point of view, and I understand. It was not my intention to make you uncomfortable.”
Before Kathryn Janeway could respond, Seven changed the subject. “Are you enjoying this evening, Kathryn?”
“Why do I feel that’s a loaded question?”
Seven merely arched a characteristic eyebrow. “You’re being evasive.”
Janeway grinned, “The trouble with Starfleet functions, though always well intentioned, they can be a bit stuffy. You always seem to land up with someone who wants to talk shop, and there’re too many of the younger officers in the ‘hero-worship’ box who want me to pass the hours talking of Voyager’s exploits and adventures in the Delta Quadrant! Sometimes these evenings feel too much like hard work and duty to me.”
The ex drone silently watched her before seductively leaning in to Kathryn, “Then you aren’t really enjoying yourself?”
“Not until now .. under these leaves,” she laughed a little, “No.”
“Then we should leave. I wish to show you my home.”
Kathryn Janeway flicked a large leaf that had somehow worked its way onto her face. Disbelievingly, “You want to show me your new place, now? Seven, it’s New Year’s Eve!”
“Custom dictates you’re unable to view it on this day?”
“No, not exactly .. but we’re at a party,” Janeway retorted.
“Which you have just said you are not enjoying.”
“I know but ..”
Seven watched her in amusement.
Janeway placed her hands on her hips, “It’s dark.” There. That’ll kill the idea.
“There’s a full moon.”
There’s a full moon! “But Seven, it’s a dance and you look so beautiful ..” God, now I sound like ‘Cdr Smooth’!
“The one I want to dance with is unable to comply, and I wish to dance with no one else. If you come with me to the house, I will still look beautiful to you.”
If she’s like this with me, who she isn’t in love with, what must she be like with someone she is?
“I am awaiting your answer, Kathryn.”
Pressure, pressure, pressure. “Why do I ever bother to argue with you?”
“I don’t know. You always lose.” Seven smiled gently.
Janeway threw up her hands in a gesture of resignation. I hope you know what you’re doing, Katie!
“Follow me, Kathryn, we’re about to slip out the back unobtrusively!”
Janeway felt like a ten year old again, playing hooky. And she was positively enjoying herself!
Though dark now, the rise of the full moon allowed Janeway to see that the newly built house stood on a patch of land no larger than an acre and a half but it edged onto its own piece of coastline and she realised that if one wanted, you could one day harbour a little boat here. At first thoughts, the ex Captain of Voyager considered that the little home was too far removed from people, isolated, and wondered if Seven had chosen this hermit-like domicile to cocoon herself from possible, unfavourable interaction with others. There were still those who saw only the Borg in the woman.
However, the minute Kathryn walked into the house and into the large, spacious lounge with the one entire wall of glass that, in turn, lead out onto an expanse of wooden decking, she realised how entirely wrong she was. Seven didn’t put any lights on which allowed Janeway an unfettered view which looked out over a bay. Across on the other side of that bay, it was busily populated by hundreds of little sailing and fishing boats, and other larger sailing craft, all now twinkling with lights. Slightly to the left of the harbour was the small inlet town of Bantry.
The spectacular view took Janeway’s breath away, “I never realised this was here, it’s a magnificent view!” Moonlight streaked across the becalmed sea, presenting a picture that so many artists had tried to capture on canvass. The only thing missing from this quintessential picture was the 17th century brigantine or schooner.
Seven’s silk outfit rustled as she moved forward and slid open the glass door, inviting her guest onto the decking outside. The two women moved silently to an ornate wooden handrail and gazed out over the view.
“Listen,” Seven said as she leaned on the rail, looking out over the bay.
Janeway closed her eyes, taking in the smell of the salt air and, there in the distance, heard the distinctive metal rattling of the rigging on the boats masts swaying to the tidal movement. Above that, she could hear the gentle ebb and flow of the sea current as it ran up the shoreline below them, ‘bubbling’ as it ran back across the pebbles.
Talking almost as if Kathryn weren’t there, “The air is full of noise and sound. It’s what drew me to this place.”
The Starship Captain looked at Seven, who was still gazing out over the water, her hair gently moving to the hand of the whispering breeze around them, and suddenly she understood.
“You miss the voices, don’t you.” It wasn’t a question and Seven didn’t treat it as one.
“I miss the comfort of the noise in my head. But here … I sense it again.” She paused, “And the sounds are there in the daytime too, different but still .. perfect. However, it’s at night, when the noise changes to this. This is what I desire of this place. I never feel alone here.”
Seven shivered a little and Kathryn realised that, although the weather was warmer than usual for the New Year, it was chilly. “Do you want to go back in?”
“No, I’d like to stay here for a little while longer .. if you don’t mind?”
“I don’t.” Kathryn smiled at the elegant woman at her side, “But I insist you take this.” She took her uniform jacket off and wrapped it around the other woman’s shoulders, who didn’t object.
“I heard that they are re-commissioning Voyager.” Seven pulled the jacket around her. “Admiral Fletcher told me this evening. She also said they were offering you her command again.” The infinitesimal sound of fear etched the words.
Janeway pursed her lips, nodding and then looking down at the deck. “Yes. Voyager’s still a young ship with a lot of life left in her and, though she’s been put through the paces, she’s still as space worthy as the day they built her. Now they’ve completed the restorative refit, they’ll put her through a BOST workup and if she passes, she’ll be ready for operational duty again.” Seven noticed how Janeway always spoke about Voyager as if it was a living entity.
“Basic operational space trials. Make sure all the bits work!”
Seven’s real question hadn’t really been answered, she wanted to know what Janeway was going to do about being offered the Command. She was just thinking how to repeat the enquiry, but the other woman was ahead of her.
“You know, if I go back to the Delta Quadrant, I’ll need a good Astro officer.” The voice had dropped to its huskier levels.
“You would consider me?”
Though trying not to let it show, disappointment flooded Seven’s face but Janeway continued. “I would insist.” Janeway reached out and ran her hand along Seven’s arm. “The job will always be yours .. if you want it.”
Seven relaxed and smiled, and was about to say something when a cacophony of banging sounds went off in the distance and the sky lit up with fireworks. It was midnight!
They stood there in the dark now, each significantly aware of the other’s presence.
As the new property owner watched the multi coloured pyrotechnics spiralling up into the night sky, “I do not entirely understand the significance of this ceremony.”
“Not really much to explain, Seven. It’s more an opportunity for people to party and let off some fancy fireworks. It’s an ancient, annual celebration that’s gone on for centuries across much of Earth and is traditionally the blessing of a new year, its anticipation of better things to come. A lot of people take this time to make new year resolutions, to promise to do something different, something important in the coming year .. usually to do with making their lives better. The dawn of a new year always seems like a good place to begin new plans.”
Seven watched the Admiral who was staring out thoughtfully across the bay and watching the fireworks breaking in the air, cascading over the little town in front of them. Not for the first time that evening, she cast her mind back to a previous display of fireworks, when she had been with Chakotay. A small chill ran down her spine at the unbidden memories and she wondered what Kathryn was thinking, and if that was why she now seemed suddenly lower in spirit. Though her words had been light, Seven sensed a heavy heart.
Janeway was continuing to talk about New Year traditions, and although Seven heard the other woman’s voice, her attention drifted. She considered the strangeness of human communication. You could be talking to someone, saying or listening to one thing and yet your mind could be having an entirely different internal conversation. And more fascinatingly, the other person, if close, would pick up on it. Not so dissimilar to the collective mind of the Borg, except this was so much more personal .. intimate.
Janeway gazed at Seven. “You’re not listening to me, are you?”
“I heard you, Kathryn,” she lied. “What then, are your new year resolutions?”
For a moment, the connecting gaze that Janeway gave Seven made the heart of the young Borg freeze, such was its mysterious intensity. Mysterious, because Seven couldn’t read Kathryn at that moment, and usually, especially lately, she felt she could.
The voice sounded distant, “Oh, I don’t know, Seven .. I haven’t really thought about any.” Janeway seemed to be looking right through Seven. Disconcerting! However, after a short breathing space, Janeway continued, “What about you? Any thoughts?” The timbre of the voice dropped an octave, turning decidedly huskier and to that level of resonance that Seven always found so luring, so attractive. She wondered if the officer knew she did it and what it did to people … people like her.
“Yes,” she stated. “I have two resolutions.”
“Oh?” That was quick! For someone who had little understanding of the New Year traditions, Seven had cottoned on pretty damn fast.
Seven stepped towards Janeway who immediately took a half step back.
You still protect yourself from me, almost fearful of my physical contact. Despite our openness of the feelings shared between us, you continue to hold back that little piece of you, afraid that giving yourself to me will destroy you. Brave enough now to be present but with restrictions, limitations.
Seven took a half step back, not wanting to hurt this woman. Things would change but all in good time .. and she was a patient individual.
“I will make peace with Chakotay.”
Janeway’s face dropped, trying to hide the shock but failing miserably. Was Seven contemplating another shot at a relationship with Chakotay? ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’ and all that crap? Janeway wasn’t sure she could handle that.
“It’s alright, Kathryn.” Be calm. “I do not love him but there are things left between us that I don’t like, and wish to resolve. The fault was not all his, he acted as he thought best, but he did not appreciate his own heart, nor his people’s reactions to me, and I did not react as one might expect. I was still learning, feeling my way around new emotions. But I realise now that I want us to remain friends.”
“I see.” Janeway’s face was deadpan.
Does she? I sense her fear. “Yes, it is never wise to leave things unspoken and unqualified between those important people in our lives.” Seven saw Janeway swallow.
Pursue the other resolution, I’m not enjoying this first one! “Your second?” Janeway probed.
Seven began to feel exhilarated in the anticipation of delivering her second resolution. She knew Janeway would not expect it and so favoured the other woman with a warm smile, one like the doctor had tutored her on .. about making people feel more comfortable in a potentially difficult or awkward situation. She was pleased to see her smile worked, watching the woman before her relax just a little. She must remember to thank the doctor for Lesson 28. “Let’s go inside. It’s warmer.”
Seven closed the door behind them, returning the uniform jacket to its rightful owner but not moving to put a light on, for the natural light from the moon seemed ample. She stood within a metre of the smartly uniformed woman.
“My second resolution is far more important and concerns you.” Even in the residue of golden light, Janeway felt drawn by the magnetic and electric blueness of Seven’s eyes.
“Me.” Janeway felt an icy chill traverse down her spine, her stomach tightening. Was she about to be told that Seven was now able to move on and didn’t need her anymore? That she needn’t worry about her if she wanted to take the new job? Had Janeway misread Seven’s earlier apprehension over that new posting and likely separation?
Seven scrutinised her friend carefully. “On Erebus Minor, when you told me that you loved me .. and I then searched for you .. and the days that followed .. I wanted to tell you something, something very important but that I knew you would not understand because the time wasn’t right.”
Not to do with my new posting then!
“Kathryn, I wanted to tell you then that, I too, had feelings for you that went beyond the boundaries of friendship. Feelings that started sometime on Voyager but which grew overtime and became .. then .. disconcerting. At the time, I was unsure of what I felt, given my accepted emotional immaturity and inability to comprehend, plus you did not seem to feel the same way, other than sincere friendship towards me. I took your lack of reciprocation as lack of interest, although,” she smiled at the other woman, “I now understand better.”
Admiral Janeway was stuck like chewing gum to a sidewalk, barely able to make sense of what she was hearing. At the back of her, thunderous fireworks continued to explode.
Seven continued, “For all of my anger at you when you failed to be there when I needed you most, as my friend .. you never once left my thoughts, which in turn made me angrier because I wanted to forget you.” She frowned as she thought back. “It was on Risa IV, I started to experience .. feelings .. which at the time, I also couldn’t make complete sense of .. or perhaps didn’t want to.”
“I’m sorry about what happened to you on Risa ..” Janeway began but Seven raised a hand to interrupt.
“No. Do not apologise for what you don’t understand.” Janeway felt like a child being disciplined! Seven lowered her hand, “Whilst on Risa, what happened to me, I allowed to happen. It was not against my will, and my experiences, in many ways, allowed me to mature. I found I wanted that physical contact . . it connected me to life, and I needed that, for I felt I had no place left in this world, no home, no one who favoured, loved or wanted me.”
Janeway bit her lip. Listening to what Seven had been through was hard.
With a notable lift to Seven’s voice, “I made an interesting discovery, Kathryn, that of all my customers, as I became more experienced, more relaxed, I learned that I preferred the females to males. And, as time progressed, as I copulated with these women, curiously I started to imagine that .. I was making love to you.” Her voice now barely a whisper, Seven stopped to see if the other woman would object to what she’d confessed. When it was apparent she wouldn’t, Seven went on.
“Perhaps it isn’t etiquette to tell you these things and you’ll now think badly of me, but it was your presence at those times, even though it was all in my mind, that made things .. better. And I missed you .. so much.” Barely contained emotion now cracked in Seven’s voice.
“I tried so hard to hate you on Erebus Minor, but I couldn’t. I thought you had rejected me, lost interest in me, that you no longer cared or wanted me. I questioned your presence there and looked for your true motives, but that night when you told me the truth about your feelings for me .. how you loved me .. all my hate fell away .. and I realised I was in love with you, too.”
Janeway didn’t move. It was as if she was unable to comprehend what she was hearing. In a minute, someone was going to tell her to wake up.
Sensing the other’s inability to decipher the words and meaning, Seven softly repeated, “I am in love with you, Kathryn.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?” A quick response, quiet but contained within that commanding voice the woman had, desperately attempting to maintain some control but clearly unbalanced by what she had just heard but still so afraid there might be a ‘but’ in there somewhere.
“You would not have believed me. You would have thought I said such things out of pity.”
Kathryn Janeway went to disagree but then realised that Seven was right. After everything the ex drone had thrown at her, all encased in such animosity and loathing, Janeway would have been incapable of believing such a schizophrenic alteration in Seven’s attitude right then. Am I now?
“Why are you telling me this now, Seven?”
“Because sufficient time has elapsed for you to see and accept the truth, to believe what I am telling you .. and because I ..”
“It is New Year and I want to start something new, something important to me.” Hesitantly, “I wish to alter the parameters of our relationship.”
Seven very slowly stepped closer to Janeway, approaching her like she might do a wounded and cornered animal that she was afraid might bolt and run. “I am in love you, Kathryn Janeway, and if you are still in love with me, I want us to ...” Seven wasn’t quite sure of the wording, “ I think the term is ‘move forward’?”
The recipient of this astonishing admission did not ‘move forward’ and could only stare at Seven.
“Seven .. I hear what you say .. and what you think but .. even though I want this to be true .. don’t you think you’re mistaking friendship for love . I mean .. it wasn’t love before .. then Chakotay ..”
The ex drone just stared sympathetically at the shorter woman, “Perhaps I can clarify this point.” In one fluid movement, she took Kathryn Janeway into her arms and kissed her, not a gentle kiss but one consumed with passion. It left both women gasping for air when they their lips separated.
“Does that feel like friendship, Kathryn?” Seven asked, her eyes dilated, her breath heavy.
Kathryn hands were still on Seven’s arms, more to hold her up than anything else. A firm, increasingly confident, if breathy response, “Hell, no!”
“Then .. you understand now?” Seven quietly stated.
As if the words had been a magic command, the shadowy uniformed figure of a Starfleet officer pulled Seven towards her, removing all distance between them and with resolve, placed a loving hand intimately on the side of Seven’s face, a thumb resting on the chin and lower lip. An uninhibited smile swept across the smaller woman’s face who now stood close enough to kiss and certainly close enough to feel the other’s breath on hers. Janeway tipped her head up towards the other woman, and smiled seductively, “You want to move forward?”
Noisy fireworks still crackled relentlessly in the background but neither woman seemed to notice as Janeway’s thumb very gently pulled the woman’s bottom lip down as she leaned forward and rested her own lips there and planted the most featherlike and briefest of kisses.
Seven leaned back slightly, intoxicated, and murmured, “Do you think it’s possible that we can …”
“Shut up and kiss me.”
This time, Janeway’s hand left Seven’s face and crept around the back of the blonde’s head, the smaller woman’s long fingers enmeshing with the silk hair, the sensation setting her on fire. As their lips met again, a confusion of arms and legs quickly, desirously wrapped around the other in a desperate attempt to pull each other closer to them. As the kisses became more passionate, more intense, breasts pressed together and pelvic areas pushed closer, it was as if they had been lovers for time immemorial. No words were spoken but for the occasional gasp or groan as lips touching lips moved from the gentle brushing to more demanding need, eventually parting and allowing the other unbidden access, as tongues danced. Hands and fingers caressed the other and toyed with the clothing that now become an encumbrance as the heat rose between them exponentially.
Seven suddenly felt Kathryn’s hands drop from mid back position, down to her waist as they urgently sought to pull the silk blouse she wore from out of her skirt, and then warm caressing hands making contact now with the nakedness of her body. Her skin alive with delicious and intense sensations, Seven gasped and had to break a kiss to come up for air. Both breathless, Janeway snaked her head around Seven’s neck, her lips planting small kisses on the young woman’s flesh as Seven threw her head back, pushing her body further into Kathryn’s.
Seven automatically, innately responded by slipping a leg in between Janeway’s, her thigh touching the juncture of Janeway’s sex.
“Oh damn.” Somewhere in the throes of their embracing, the passionate expletive from the normally in control Admiral Janeway, amused Seven and made her want to destroy the woman’s resilience even more.
But Janeway moved first, her hands searching again and slipping to cup the tall woman’s buttocks, pushing her closer. Now Seven gasped at the sensations and responded by pushing the dress uniform jacket up and off Janeway’s shoulders, allowing it to fall unceremoniously to the ground. With eyes closed, and passions wild, Seven tore at the new regulation crisp, white starched shirt beneath her palms desperate to touch the heat that lay beneath.
“What’s wrong?” Janeway gasped breathlessly, now obsessively kissing her way down the Borg’s chest towards her breasts but at the same time, feeling her own left arm being yanked away from Seven’s body as she tried to take the article of clothing off the senior officer.
“My bracelet is caught up in the attachments on your blouse.” Seven was now shaking the clothing vigorously in an attempt to disengage the two.
Somewhere, Seven’s frustration drew Kathryn’s attention. “Huh?” She looked up to see Seven’s right hand swinging erratically and connected with the uniformed sleeve that was being pulled unsuccessfully off her own left arm. Equally frustrated, “Bad timing,” she muttered.
“Yes!” Seven said with exasperation.
Breathlessly, Janeway stuttered, “Safety chain on the bracelet .. caught on .. sleeve clasp.”
“Stupid inefficient uniform ..” Seven kept swinging the arm and sleeve.
“Break the clasp on the sleeve ..” Controlled guidance.
“It will ruin th ..”
“Break the clasp on the sleeve!” What control?
A sound of ripping cut through the silence, which brought both women to a complete halt.
“Your shirt is ruined,” Seven said dispassionately.
Janeway looked at her incredulously but with a spark of humour in the deep blue eyes. “Seven .. all that experience on Risa IV, didn’t your Borg enhanced efficiency teach you how to negotiate clasps on shirts?”
Janeway suddenly felt Seven’s hands slip up her sides as deft fingers started to massage her nipples. “My time was spent learning better skills.” Lost to the inevitable, Janeway muttered, “Point taken.”
“Seven,” she whispered intimately, her eyes now closed as she recognised the escalating need pulsating between her thighs, “does this beautiful home have a bedroom with a bed yet?”
“It does.” Seven’s lips searched for Janeway’s again and did not disconnect as she started to push the other woman backwards towards the hallway behind them.
It occurred to Janeway, as she lay in the arms of her sleeping lover, that loving Seven was different to how she’d ever loved before. Not in the physical act so much as the mental connection. She had never loved someone like she loved Seven, not even Justin Tighe. Always before, she had held on to her control, even in lovemaking. She didn’t want to do that now – she didn’t need to. Janeway was happy to give herself over to this woman, mind and body.
This was a first for her. Control in life, of her life, was .. had always been of paramount importance to her. And now, it simply wasn’t. Not with Seven, not anymore. And strangely enough, it made her feel as if she’d truly come home at last, found that inner peace she’d been subconsciously looking for all her adult life. How ironic, yet how wonderful, that she should find that serenity in one who had been so severed from her human inheritance, still so humanly dysfunctional in so many ways.
Dawn’s first shafts of light started to creep into the bedroom and it bore the promise of being a wonderfully glorious day. What a beautiful start to a new year.
Kathryn Janeway felt a movement and looked down at the still sleeping honey-blonde haired woman who lay across the top of her, her head on her chest, arms flung cavalierly either side of Janeway’s body, now beginning to stir as the last vestiges of sleep were expelled. Janeway thought of their tender love-making the night before.
She’d often day-dreamed about what the first kiss would be like, what making love to Seven might be like, and somehow, in those thoughts, she’d always visualised herself as the teacher, the one guiding the other woman through the love-making process.
So it came as some surprise to find Seven as the main initiator in bed, artfully skilled and adept in what she was doing. But then Janeway realised, candidly, that she’d never made love to a woman before and given Seven’s experiences on Risa IV, it was herself who was the novice!
She thought of their lovemaking and how, after they’d eventually exhausted their passions, the young woman had shocked Janeway by unexpectedly crying like a child and Janeway had found herself holding Seven tightly as her lover professed that she thought she would never know love like this. Eventually calming the other, she had equally been taken back when Seven had confessed that she had lied to Janeway when she had said she never dreamed. Apparently she did, often .. and her dreams were always of Janeway.
If Kathryn Janeway had thought her love of Seven measureless before that, she couldn’t begin to express what she felt for this woman now. All she knew was that she could never face life again without Seven at her side. Now they had made love, their future’s together were cemented and Janeway would let nothing .. nothing .. ever come between them again.
She again bent forward and kissed the golden hair and softly whispered, “Is yours, and yours, and yours.”
Seven stirred. “You’re still here,” a small, sleepy voice spoke from somewhere beneath the mass of wild hair. Janeway gave a deep throated laugh, “Yes, I’m still here, my love.” She wrapped her arms closer around the younger woman who raised her face to look at a bemused Kathryn.
“What did you say earlier, as I woke?”
“Nothing darling, just the lines of some poem.” Seven continued to watch her, apparently waiting. Eventually, Janeway succumbed and recited what she could remember of an old 20th century verse.
“The life that I have is all that I have
And all that I have is yours.
The love that I have of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours.
A sleep I shall have, a rest I shall have
Yet death will be put a pause.
For the peace of my years, in the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours.”1
Seven remained quiet for a long time afterwards.
“What are you thinking?” Kathryn probed lovingly.
Taking her time before answering, “That I am yours and your and yours. That I’ve never been so happy .. that I don’t want to be parted from you again.” A second later, “What are you thinking?”
Janeway took Seven’s face in both her hands and kissed the woman’s forehead. “That I’ve never been so happy and that I don’t ever want to be without you.” They were quiet words, not spoken with any emphasis but it was a transfusion of love that ran from heart to heart. Seven pushed herself up to lie at the side of Kathryn. “Mutual feelings then,” she replied simply.
“I’d say so.”
They both lay on their backs, not saying anything, entirely content in the other’s company until Janeway swiftly moved herself over Seven and supporting herself on her elbows, “I never realised it before, that all my life I’ve been like a single entity that moves along with others .. sometimes very closely .. but always alone. With you, I’m not alone any more. I don’t think I ever was, even on Erebus Minor when things were at their worst.” She kissed Seven’s lips lightly, and then dreamily, “You, my darling, make me feel wonderfully connected.”
Does Seven know how beautiful her eyes are?
“Assimilated?” There was playful humour in the voice.
Janeway smiled warmly. “Assimilated .. yes, I like that.”
Seven reached up and pulled the woman down to her, wrapping her arms around the small, trim body and breathed in her lover’s presence, her unique scent.
“Kathryn,” Seven whispered. “The answer is yes.”
Janeway moved to look at Seven, confusion on her face.
“If you are offered the command of Voyager, to go back into the Delta Quadrant and you seek an Astrometrics officer .. the answer is yes, I accept the post. Or any other post, as long as I can be with you.”
Janeway stretched her body up so that her face now lay next to Seven’s. “Good, because I wasn’t going anywhere without you.” She slipped back onto her side, lying tight up against Seven who was still on her back. Janeway wrapped an arm around the woman’s waist and casually threw a leg across Seven’s. She reached out to grab one of Seven’s hands which she now held tightly, snaking her own fingers through her lover’s.
“Do you know, all those years on Voyager, what I missed the most?” A strange turn of conversation which Seven considered interesting.
Kissing the fingers of Seven’s hand, “Sunlight. I missed the way sunlight creeps into a room and throws shafts of light that move across the ceilings, the walls, the carpet, the furniture. Look at it now, Seven.”
Seven looked where Janeway’s eyes fell and saw strong beams of light on the foot of the bed where they lay, saw how they stretched across to the other side of the bed and then continued across the carpet beyond, towards the door.
“It’s when the light eventually creeps onto you; its presence warms you both physically and spiritually.” Seven studied the slowly moving light and listened to Kathryn. “This is a beautiful room, Seven.”
Seven leaned into Kathryn, “Perhaps we should consider a more permanent arrangement, one that satisfies both of our desires to be in the close proximity of the other.”
Seductively, “What do you have in mind?” Both women had turned to face each other and their noses touched but neither drew back.
“You could always move in with me, here.” Suddenly feeling presumptuous, Seven added, “Or I with you .. or some other neutral place.”
“Interesting solutions.” The officer paused and thought. “Do you think you’d have room here? I should warn you, I’m very untidy and I’m not good in the kitchen.”
“I am aware of that.” Seven lightly kissed Janeway’s nose, “We could always get a maid.”
Janeway grinned, “Yes, we could.” She lightly kissed Seven’s nose back. “Are we planning a future?”
Well, no hesitation on Seven’s part! “I like that.”
“I like it, too.” Seven replied with uncharacteristic fervour, as her free hand rose to move the auburn hair that had fallen across Janeway’s face.
“Did you plan this?” Kathryn brought Seven’s hand to her lips and slowly kissed each finger.
“To seduce me.”
“A home just built, that you aren’t living in yet, that is, from the little I’ve seen of it so far, almost entirely deficient of furniture .. and yet, this bedroom is completely kitted out down to the detail of a perfectly made bed. Very convenient.”
Seven turned into Janeway and pushed herself into the woman seductively, “You have a suspicious nature, Kathryn.”
“Yes I do, don’t I?” Eyes narrowing.
Seven stopped the woman from probing further by leaning over Kathryn and kissing her again, at first a gentle ‘good morning’ kiss but then rapidly followed by more urgent and demanding kisses which the ‘pinned’ woman didn’t hesitate to respond to.
A considerable while later, after an impromptu early morning making-love session, “Kathryn, would it bother you if I had planned to seduce you?”
“Not in the slightest,” Kathryn responded. “A seductive, amorous Borg … an interesting concept.”
“There will be other .. concepts.”
Janeway, who was currently held down beneath the warm weight of the ex drone who was stretched out the entire length of her, managed to disentangle herself enough to push her hands up to Seven’s face and moving the honey locks to reveal the relaxed and loving features of the woman she loved beyond description.
“I think I’m going to enjoy this relationship,” Janeway smiled, her eyes fixed on the generous mouth of the other.
Seven pushed a leg between Janeway’s and gently rubbed it against her, acquiring the requisite response.
“I hope you do, Kathryn, because it’s going to last for a very long time!”
1. ‘The Life that I Have’ by Leo Marks.