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Altering Reality

By Scar

 (A Post Endgame story)

 

Disclaimer:  Paramount owns the rights to all the Voyager characters etc presented in this narrative.  I’m only borrowing them for creative purposes and for the enjoyment of Star Trek fan fiction fans and readers everywhere. No funds were made or exchanged in any way, so there is no reason to sue.

Code: J/7

Rating: NC-17, This story contains graphic and explicit sex between two adult females. There are some references made to C/7 intimacy scenes in here. They were necessary to tell the story post endgame.

Spoiler Alert!!  Contains some detailed scenes from 'Endgame', Voyager's series finale. If you haven't seen it you might not want to read this.  Includes a few scene duplications.

Summary: One of the many alternate possibilities for Janeway's reasoning to fix time. Will Janeway and Seven realize their love in time?

 

 

Seven of Nine, the tertiary adjunct of Unimatrix Zero, stood before her Captain rigidly, because she was nervous. She had been serving on the USS Voyager for almost seven years as a part of the vessel's journey to the Alpha Quadrant. An ongoing journey that started ten years ago when a being called the Caretaker whisked the Intrepid class vessel and the Maquis ship it was chasing, away from the Badlands and into the dangerous Delta Quadrant.

The USS Voyager and its crew have been journeying home ever since that initial incident. Their greatest chance to get to Earth earlier than the estimated 70 years, came three years before when they came across a Borg transwarp hub. Unfortunately, they couldn't utilize it because there had been over 47 Borg signatures inside the nebula, which disguised the fact that the huge conduit led to different areas of the galaxy including the Alpha Quadrant and Earth.

Despite, Ensign Harry Kim's enthusiasm, they simply could not come up with a plan to get the ship through without being destroyed and the one option that Janeway had considered and would have implemented had they all agreed upon, was quickly rebuked by her senior staff with Seven of Nine being the strongest proponent against the Captain's suicidal suggestion. 

Seven could not and would not let her Captain sacrifice her life to get them home even if it would greatly devastate the Borg collective in this sector of space. Seven had come to care for her too much. She could not lose her best friend and Captain. The concept of that loss was shockingly overwhelming to the young woman. Although she was dating Commander Chakotay at that time in her life, she felt an inexplicable emptiness with regards to her relationship with the Captain as they spent less and less time together, but she couldn't pinpoint the exact reasons why.

The first four years she spent on Voyager were a difficult transition for her. She made small steps forward and large steps backwards before her hard efforts to regain her humanity finally paid off, supposedly by engaging in a romantic relationship with Voyager's first officer. She had courted Commander Chakotay for six months and although she did not know if she was 'in love' with him, as the humans called it, he had asked her to marry him. In her dating infancy, she did not consider any other possible mates on Voyager and not wanting to admit to failure or disappoint her Captain in her goal to become more human, she complied, not truly knowing what else to do.

As of today, Seven had been married to Chakotay for two years, eleven months, 27 days, 21 hours and 33 minutes. This partnership was supposed to make her more human. The act of intimacy, of giving and receiving love both emotionally and physically was the final lesson. However, Seven did not exactly feel that she had learned that lesson properly. She still did not feel completely human or whole and she was at a loss to explain why she had failed.

From the beginning of their marriage after Seven realized that she was not achieving the level of satisfaction that research indicated she should from copulation, she had brought it up in a discussion that became heated. Chakotay seemed wounded and had taken exception to it, so from then on she kept quiet about the subject.

After that lack of understanding, the sex between them on her part, was merely a formality to the marriage that Seven felt obligated to give into despite her emotional despondency to it. The mechanics of the act was always the same if not particularly loving. The climax he brought her to was not the all-encompassing extravaganza that humans had led it to be.  Not for her. Not until Seven started fantasizing about another.

It started as a harmless dream that turned erotic over the course of a month before the visions invaded her personal time with her husband. In a careless moment, she had let her thoughts drift during sex. She oddly thought of being intimate with another and when the moment of release came, she cried out at the unexpected intensity of it. Her body had responded animatedly to the mere thought of being intimate with a person other than her husband and it both excited and frightened her.

Was something wrong with her? Was she being unfaithful?

It was a strange development for her and difficult for her analytical mind to comprehend why such a thing would occur in the first place. After contemplating it for many more months as it continued to occur, both in her dreams and during intimacy, it was obvious that she had strong hidden feelings for her dream lover. Realizing that she should have pursued that individual all those years ago only made Seven feel utter regret and anger at her ignorance and failure to do so.  Now it was too late.  The individual was simply unavailable, mentioning it to Seven often, clearly forbidding that aspect of life for duty alone.

Seven did not dwell on it any further and simply accepted the pleasure she received from the mental visions of the person she believed she loved because it was the only satisfaction she got from the sexual interaction with her husband. 

It had been an amiable relationship if not passionate until she found out one year ago by the Doctor that she could not have children due to her time as a Borg. She did not have the proper reproductive organs to allow it, due to her assimilation as a child.

Chakotay had talked animatedly about having children only a few months after they had gotten married, but they agreed to wait to allow Seven the time to adjust to being married.  When Seven finally gave in to the pressure years later, she scheduled a checkup with the Doctor to make sure everything was ok biologically, but it wasn't.

Her husband was more than disappointed when she broke the news to him.  She even remembered the way he had looked at her after she explained why. As if being an ex-Borg who couldn't conceive for him was all her fault in his eyes and his marriage to her had been a wasted effort. After all the time they had been together, even if they weren't in love, how could he be so judgmental and selfish?  It had hurt Seven, but it did not devastate her.  She did not love him enough for that.

He failed to notice her disappointment for not being able to have children for him or perhaps it didn't matter. Truthfully, Seven did not want to have children with him, but she would have complied with the vows that she took during their marriage ceremony. Regardless of her loyalty and compliance, things were never the same after that and although he tried to continue on from there, he could not go back to the way things were.

The sex stopped immediately, but Seven did not miss it. Intimacy had never been what she expected it to be and she still had her dream lover, which nothing could take away from her except death itself.

So without love and understanding, their marriage was doomed and after almost another year of misery Chakotay finally asked for a divorce.  She would not have asked for one, despite their emotional and physical separation.

She was loyal to her word and would have given him anything he required, even distance. Seven had wondered if he married her just so he could have strong sons and daughters.  In order to carry on his name, his genetics. Perhaps, he wasn't in love with her either, but Seven understood that.  She cared for him deeply, but never 'fell in love' with him either. 

He never verbally clarified exactly why he wanted a divorce, but then again he didn't have to. He wanted children she couldn't give him and he didn't love her enough to overcome that defect.

Unfortunately, Seven had to break that news to her Captain, who would be, no doubt, greatly disappointed in the blonde.

"Seven," the Captain's voice broke the young woman's history lesson to herself and her mind came back to the present. "What can I do for you?" Janeway asked easily sitting back in the sofa seat of her Ready Room on the upper level. She was relaxed, Seven noted.  The Captain had one arm stretched out along the top of the sofa with her legs crossed and her other hand clutching a PADD while it rested on her lap.

"Am I interrupting you, Captain?"

"This?" She glanced the PADD in her hand. "Oh, no. Between you and me, I loathe efficiency reports." She set it down on the glass table in front of the couch.

Seven assessed the Captain's mood. An important aspect to consider before she spoke.  The auburn haired woman seemed calm and relaxed. Her face light and easy, with a slight smile adorning her classical features. Her eyes were more blue than grey, always a good sign.  Seven had notated on more than one occasion that the Captain's eyes turned grey when she was visibly upset or angered. Seven didn't want her angry now. It was bad enough the Captain would probably be immensely disappointed in her.

Over the years, Seven had become more docile in her opposition with the Captain during disagreements. Risking disappointment bothered Seven more and more, so she rarely argued heatedly with Janeway anymore. The young woman was initially perplexed at the hidden power that Janeway had developed over her but as time went along Seven eventually understood why.

I have changed, Seven thought. My perception of her and my feelings have grown and intensified. She speculated mildly but none of it mattered except rank and duty. It was pointless to hope for something that could not happen, so Seven decided to get to the purpose of her visit.

"Chakotay has asked me for a divorce." She blurted out.

The words hung in the air. 

Instantly, Janeway's smile disappeared. "I'm so sorry Seven." Sadness etched its mark on her face. "I didn't realize there were any problems in your marriage." She added sympathetically. Janeway wasn't being entirely truthful and it wasn't her business to say anything, but she had noticed a growing distance between them for some time.

"I understand that no marriage is perfect, Captain, but Chakotay has not been happy for the past year. I think he finally realized that I would not have asked him for a divorce despite his increasing efforts to ignore me."

Janeway frowned at that. "Are you telling me you've been unhappy being with him for over a year, yet you stayed married to him?"

"Yes," Seven didn't elaborate that she had never been what she would define as 'happy' for the entire time she had been married, but there was no reason to tell that to her Captain and friend and add to her failure.

"Has he been treating you all right?" Janeway asked cautiously.

"He has been… fair."

"Do you want me to talk to him?"

"For what purpose, Captain? He is not in love with me and I cannot give him the offspring he requires."

Janeway looked aghast. "Certainly that can't be true!  You've been married for almost three years! I refuse to believe he would marry you just so he could have children!"

"It is true, Kathryn." Seven assured gently. "You are my friend, I would not lie to you about this. It is how I feel."

"Do you love him, Seven?"

"No, I am not in love with him and I have never enjoyed intimacy with him either." She admitted to her Captain and promptly lowered her head in shame. "I am sorry Kathryn. I have failed you."

"What are you talking about?!" The Captain was staggered by Seven's declaration of failure.  She hasn't failed me! Why would she think that?! Kathryn thought her mouth agape.

"You wanted for me to become fully human. Understanding love is the greatest way to accomplish that.  I do not comprehend this and I have failed at my marriage to your best friend."

"You haven't failed at anything!" Janeway derided her for thinking such a thing. "If anything it's Chakotay's fault. If he can't see that what he has… that what he's had for these last few years is precious, then he is truly blind and undeserving of you! You have done nothing wrong. Your not being able to have children should not even factor into the breakup of your marriage." Fuming, she vented her ire because of Chakotay's role in this. How could he treat Seven like this? How could he treat MY girl like this?!

"That is very kind of you to say." Seven remarked, quietly pleased.

"It's the truth, Seven. You deserve better than that.  I will admit though, I don't understand why you married him, if you weren't in love with him. Why did you accept it Seven?" Janeway was more than just curious, her heart was asking as well.

"I was… lonely.  I… I had no other prospects. I did not know what else to do? I do care for him, just not like…" Seven froze not finishing the sentence, realizing what she had almost said.

Not like I care for you…

The blonde ached for another and had for so many years but those feelings were not reciprocated and she also thought it was inappropriate to have such emotions, so she buried them deep within.

"Seven?" Janeway noticed the reticence.

"Captain, do you still love me?" She asked skeptical. "Despite my failure."

Janeway's heart lurched in her chest before she stood and took Seven's hand in her own. "Of course, you know we're friends." She agreed affably. "Always."

Seven smiled. "I do not wish to insult you, Kathryn, but… if you were male, I would have wanted to marry you." Seven squeezed the Captain's hand to acknowledge the bond they had between them.

"That's a sweet thing to say Seven and I'm not insulted, not in the slightest." Janeway felt touched and uncomfortable at the same time over the profound affirmation of love. She hadn't expected it and swallowed her long hidden emotion down hard.  If Seven meant what she said, it was a good thing the blonde didn't realize that they could've been an item despite their gender, if not for her rank. It was the 24th century and those biases were long gone.

Their eyes met, looking deep.  Something unspoken passed between them. Seven eventually grew unsettled with the scrutiny and the silence.

"Thank you, for your time, Captain." Seven removed her hand and exited the Ready room. 

The lingering gaze of the Captain's held such regret.

 


 

The next day, Janeway decided to have a little discussion with her first officer in the Ready Room, regarding his personal affairs.

"I can't Kathryn!" Chakotay pleaded his face pained at his inability to sustain his marriage. He wasn't able to give Seven what she needed and that was that. "I'm sorry."

"You're sorry!? What about her!? Have you strung her along all this time hoping you'd get some children out of the deal!"  Janeway leaned over her Ready room desk glaring at her first officer and long time friend as he sat guiltily in the chair.

"Of course not!" he defended. "I care for her. I do... its just that… " He looked at his hands. "When I look at her now… all I see is Borg and what they've done to her… to us!  I can't see the woman anymore."

He really was sorry, Kathryn could see that, but she couldn't feel sorry for him and his short-sighted selfishness. What about how Seven felt? What about the price she paid having been Borg for over 18 years of her life?

"The Borg have done nothing to you! Seven is the one who has suffered for so many years and this is how you repay her loyalty, her dedication to you! This is about acceptance, understanding and love, not her being Borg and certainly not her inability to have children."

Janeway could forgive him for what she herself had been put through, but her heart would not forgive him for what he put Seven through.

Janeway glared at him. "You're obviously not in love with her! Why the hell did you marry her in the first place?!"

"Excuse me?!" The tattooed first officer exclaimed.

"You heard me. Why?!"

"I don't know… " Chakotay answered in shock over her disproportionate animosity. "It seemed like the right thing to do. I didn't want to remain alone for the rest of the journey to the Alpha Quadrant. I figured love would come in time."

"You dated her for six months. I think if you were going to fall in love with her, it might've come in that time!"

"Maybe it's simple for you to deny yourself companionship for the next twenty years or so Kathryn, but I have needs…" He stood up, his face stern. "I won't apologize for that!"

"You married her so you could sleep with her!? Just for sex!!?" This information was almost too much for Janeway to bear. She was very protective of Seven to a fault and being in love with the blonde made her very biased as well.

"I'm not that cold, Kathryn.  I do have feelings for her."

"What kind of feelings would that be exactly?" Janeway crossed her arms furious.

"I don't have to justify my personal choices to you!"  He spat out. "Frankly Captain, I don't know how you do it being alone all the time and I don't care. You want to deprive yourself of a basic human need because you're afraid of breaking a suggested Starfleet rule you go ahead, I won't."

"You don't have to justify anything to me, but using Seven to fulfill your needs if you weren't in love with her was wrong!"

"At least I tried to love her!" He finished saying and stormed out.

Janeway winced. The words cut deep. She flopped back down in her chair rubbing her face with her hands in somber contemplation.

He didn't understand anything.  It had been so hard. He had no idea the sacrifices she had made because of her duty as Captain. Having to watch them court each other for so many months while she kept her distance, practically decimated her at first. Janeway kept telling herself that it was just a fling, a harmless infatuation that Seven would soon outgrow. Chakotay was never that warm to Seven, so she figured it couldn't last. Janeway couldn't have been more wrong and it took the Captain many months to recover somewhat emotionally so the loss only burned as a dull ache. Eventually, with Tuvok's guidance and meditation techniques, she was able to bury her emotions enough so she could function effectively as Captain.

Now, thanks to Chakotay's words, a flood of strong, repressed emotions came forward, out of hiding to temporarily overwhelm the auburn haired Captain. Trying to breath in and out to calm herself down, she continued to cover her face with her hands as she remembered how her feelings began and the subsequent suffering.

At first, she had dreams of kissing Seven but she acknowledged them as a happenstance, an aberration until she started dreaming of making love to Seven, but she refused to speculate why she had such dreams and visions.

When her first officer stepped in and took Seven as his mate, Janeway didn't handle it well and the emotions that she locked up and refused to acknowledge were now tormenting her.  How could she have been so blind?

After they were married, Seven moved into Chakotay's quarters which were right next door. Janeway could have sworn the walls were paper-thin. She had jealous nightmares over having to hear Chakotay's pleasure filled romps with his wife during the long quiet nights.  At first, she only heard him, but after a month or so, Seven's cries were heard and eventually became loud enough to disturb the Captain's fragile equilibrium.  Seven did not know of propriety and the vocalizations of her pleasure, although not loud, easily traveled through the walls and to her delicate ears. Janeway completely tuned out Chakotay's grunts.

He obviously doesn't deserve her. Janeway fumed in her jealousy.

It drove the Captain nuts to have to deal with their making love next door to her almost every night.  Chakotay her dear friend for so many years was making love to the woman the Captain loved more than anything, she realized. Loved enough to give her up to him because of her rank and responsibility to her ship, Starfleet and the Federation.

Looking back on those terrible years, was that price too high? It seemed so.

How she cursed that duty when Chakotay announced they were getting married. She was happy for Seven, if it was what the young woman wanted.  Janeway had thought at the time, that Chakotay was an honorable man and that he would do right by Seven despite the knife that was slowly being driven through her lonely aching heart by their joining.

Janeway was ashamed to admit it, but the only way for her to survive the nights would be to participate in her own way. She had to or the jealousy would have consumed her, despite the fact that it was her choice never to reveal her feelings to Seven.  Janeway had no way of knowing if Seven would have reciprocated three years ago, because she did not ask. She had an inkling that the young woman would have, but something prevented her from saying anything and she used her Captaincy as the main excuse.  She paid dearly for that mistake.

Having to hear their sexual activity, Janeway knew she could alleviate her sexual tension with a very simple and proven method.  All she had to do was wait for the beginning moans of Seven then fantasize that she was making love to the young woman and vice versa. Janeway would follow suit motioning inside herself until Seven came, the subdued cries of pleasure causing Janeway to explode out in her own orgasm, always in tune with Seven's climax. It was at that brief moment of release that she found some peace in her situation, until the waves ebbed down and she realized the cold harsh reality. Her beloved was in the arms of another.  She would whisper 'I love you,' into the silent lonely night and quiet tears would come to her weakened soul.

It got her through the difficult times of having to hear the sexuality between them for those first two years.  The act, seemed satisfying for them, based on the sounds they made, but never seemed over the top.  Then, about a year ago, she stopped hearing them. She almost missed not being able to hear Seven and wondered what had happened, but Kathryn never said anything regarding their personal problems or lack of intimacy unless Seven brought it up needing clarification in a late night conversation. She found out a lot more than she wanted to during those discussions. For the most part, Seven spoke to her Captain rarely regarding her marriage, but frequently she did broach the topic of intimacy.

It made Janeway curious and nervous to talk about that subject with the younger woman, but she hid her emotional distress. The Captain had to admit that she never bothered to administer sexually to herself before she started hearing Seven next door. She hadn't needed to back then, but just the sounds of Seven's ecstasy could make Janeway come more often than not without any assistance.

Despite her limited pleasure, Janeway wished she had had the courage to give the younger woman a reason not to marry Chakotay. Perhaps she would have been the lucky one with Seven in her bed if she had.

 


 

Seven chimed for admittance to the Captain's quarters. It had been three days since she had discussed her divorce with the Captain, but she was still unsettled.  She needed a philosophical discussion and Janeway was very agreeable to them.  Even with regards to questions or problems Seven had with intimacy, Janeway would give her advice.  Seven always wondered why Janeway's voice got huskier and her eyes became slightly glazed over when they talked about sex, but the blonde woman discarded it as a coincidence.

"I guess I will remain alone, for the rest of my days." Seven stated with forlornness as she stood in front of the Captain.

"You don't know that Seven." Janeway replied keeping her tone even.  She had been lounging in her chair reading Dante's Inferno when Seven came in, but Kathryn's concentration on her novel was difficult as her mind kept drifting to Seven and Chakotay.

"No, I will never understand what it is to be in love because I do not believe anyone will ever truly love me." Her voice sounded defeated and she turned her face away. "For who I am."

Stunned, her heart pounding loudly in her ears, Janeway gave Seven an odd look of complete consternation. "Why would you say that, Seven?!"

"It is unimportant." She stated quietly with regret at bothering Janeway with her insecurities. It would accomplish nothing.

"No," Janeway put her book down and went to Seven, taking her hand gently between both of her own. "It isn't.  Tell me… please."

Janeway normally wouldn't have asked, but two things were currently bothering her. She was still smoldering from what Chakotay had said. 'At least I tried to love her!' the words had haunted her for the past two days. Her first officer had no idea the hidden depth of emotional pain his words had brought out thus opening the buried passion in Janeway's heart and lowering her already precarious defenses.

She was deeply affected directly by Seven's current plea. How can I let Seven go on thinking she isn't loved!?

The blonde looked down as she studied their hands intertwined. "The only person I truly love is… incompatible, Kathryn." Seven warily brought her sad sparkling gaze up to Janeway's face hoping she did not give away the strength of her desire towards the older woman.

That way she just looked at me… Janeway glared dumbfounded at Seven. Could she be referring to me?! Suddenly, she remembered the words Seven had spoken just a few days ago.  'If you were male, I would have married you.'

 Losing her normally strong hold on propriety, Janeway's eyes met Seven's crystal blue eyes with a hunger Seven had never seen before.  It made the young woman flush hard, but she refused to look away, as a strong longing for Kathryn overcame her.

She IS referring to ME!!  She had meant it… literally!!

Janeway knew in that instant that Seven really had intense feelings for her.  She had suspected for some time, but did not want to believe in it due to her own stubbornness.

"That's not entirely true Seven. There are ways..." Janeway shook her head, noticing Seven's confusion as to what she was talking about, but her eyes did not deviate from Kathryn's.

"Kathryn?" Seven called out, questioning both Janeway's choice of words and why she was staring so intently at her.

Hearing her birth name brought Janeway back to the present, out of her libidinous trance and back into the live gaze of the one she truly loved. Incompatible!? Janeway recanted in her mind. Take a chance! Her mind screamed at her. Her hormones were dangerously close to warp.

"Incompatible you say. Oh, no. I don't think so. Male or female, we are… VERY compatible!" Her control vanished, her emotions came to the forefront engulfing her with a volcanic intensity that she could not deny.

Without permission, Janeway threw her arms around Seven and leaned up to kiss a wide-eyed Seven of Nine. Janeway pressed wantonly into the kiss, deepening the contact as their lips touched for the first time. Janeway's mouth fastened over the blonde's lips coaxing them open. When their wet tongues collided for the first time, fire engulfed their bodies, nerve endings simmered and hearts were overloaded with passion.

Seven whimpered into Kathryn's mouth as Janeway groaned in response, both women completely losing track of all conscious thought, time and location.

Somehow they ended up on the Captain's double bed lip locked and feeling each other's body generously regardless of their restrictive clothing, preparing to make passionate love.  Somehow their clothing came off between heavy kisses and groping hands to casually rest on the carpeted floor. Somehow their bodies ended up on top of one another with hands and mouths sliding luxuriously over heated skin, the two participants baking in the need to complete their coupling.

There were trails of kisses down bare chests and soft cries of pleasure.  There were moans as hot tongues seared wetly over hardened nipples to suckle on them avidly. Eventually, the soft, tender fleshy protrusions were completely covered with the warm haven of a moist mouth.

The bed moved to the motions of the occupants, creaking ever so lightly to their dance of love. Janeway caressed the young woman's tongue as they undulated with hips in rhythmus synch. 

Seven was basking in the beating of their hearts while she was moving inside her lover. Janeway was lost in the jagged breathing of her beloved as she filled the blonde's wet center. The sex was pure, fiery and passionate, but not rushed or frantic.

They were united as one. Melting hot kisses were exchanged during the entire process of their sexual union. Only parting for seconds because of the need for oxygen.  They were high on each other, connecting in body and spirit. A drug, called love, so intoxicating it brought them to incredible heights.

Mesmerized by the intensive joining of flesh and feelings, both women gasped inside each other's mouths when the sensations reached a fever pitch. Then it was upon them, their sexes' spasming and clenching, the force shaking their bodies and breaking their lips apart. The wave of pure pleasure built itself up, starting from their wet folds, rising up through their abdomens tensing the muscles there, moving down their legs, causing thighs to quiver in its wake, moving higher still, becoming fuller, moving up along their heaving chests, expanding, until the wave spread out to enclose their entire beings. Finally, it reached their brains and seared them in its intensity as valleys were flooded with juices and a crescendo of currents and rolling tides gushed over the two star-crossed lovers.

Seven roared out her pleasure louder than Janeway had ever heard her before and Kathryn was caught up in her own ecstasy wailing out her own vocalizations.

An euphoric eternity later, they laid together, completely drained of energy, resting in the afterglow of their physical and emotional union, each wondering what it meant for their future.

 


 

The next morning Janeway was livid with herself for taking advantage of Seven while in such a vulnerable state and subsequently sleeping with her. The divorce proceedings weren't going to take place for another two weeks. 

Good god! I had an affair with the young woman! Seven is still married! All my morals went out the airlock because of one night of uncontrollable lust and desire! How could I have done such a thing?! How could I be so careless?!

Janeway let her sin rule her heart instead of the joy and completeness she had felt after being joined physically with the love of her life after so long. 

Janeway held nothing back during their shared moment of passion, she couldn't help but show the younger woman how much she loved her and although Seven had more than adequately reciprocated, Janeway refused to speculate too much into how strongly Seven felt about her emotionally.

A peace overcame Janeway after their coupling like no other.  It was like coming home, but she would not let herself be happy.  She felt as if she were letting the crew down, which was completely absurd because the crew were pairing off finding acceptable mates themselves in light of the long journey ahead.

It was not wrong for the Captain to take a mate.  Many of the crew had verbalized their approval.  Seventy percent of the crew had found mates and there were half a dozen children onboard already.  They had expected her to eventually, but years later she still had not.  They contemplated why she would not take a mate. They would not have judged her, not after ten isolated years in the Delta Quadrant. 

After Voyager had been in the Delta Quadrant for over five years, unbeknownst to Janeway, the crew had been taking bets on whom she would most likely pair up with if she let herself do so.  The percentages were steadily growing and the crew chose Seven by 82% until Chakotay asked the blonde to marry him.  Many were surprised, even the cadets and crewmen on the lower decks.  Chakotay always seemed cold to her and indifferent for so many years. Why would he marry her?  Even after they had been dating for over five months, the pool was still at 75% in Janeway's favor. Most thought that somehow Janeway would still end up with the ex-Borg. 

The crew just figured it was a fling for the Commander. That he was just infatuated by her beauty and physical appeal, which almost everyone agreed upon was a strong allure.  It wasn't supposed to last though and everyone assumed that Seven would move on. It puzzled many as to why the Captain didn't make her feelings known earlier to the young woman.  It was so obvious what she felt for the ex-drone, to everyone except Seven, yet the redhead made no attempt.

Sometimes Janeway's strong will, which made her an excellent Captain, also made her an unreasonably stubborn person in her personal affairs.

So here she was stoically reminding herself of her duty when she called Seven to her quarters around mid-morning.

"Seven, I can't have a relationship with you." Janeway revealed painfully blunt, her back to Seven as the young woman systematically clutched her hands behind her tightly.

"What?" The former drone asked befuddled, not expecting this.

"I'm sorry, last night never should have happened.  I'm the Captain, you’re one of my crew, under my command and technically you're still married. It's wrong."

Seven's chest heaved in anger over Janeway's casual attitude towards what was the best evening of passion and love the ex-Borg ever had.

"Why did you initiate intimacy with me then!?" Seven asked heatedly, fearing the cold reality of loss overwhelm her for the first time.

"I… "Janeway was momentarily confounded, realizing that she had instigated the act. "You were a willing participant.  You've could've stopped me! Why didn't you stop me?" Janeway spat out blaming Seven because she did not want to declare her undying love for the young woman.  She would never be able to do this then, as it was already incredibly difficult to begin with.

"ME?!" Seven exclaimed breathily. "I couldn't. I wouldn't have… I am in love with you. I… believe I have been for awhile, but I did not truly comprehend the emotion until now… after being with you… " Seven stared at Janeway imploringly. "I deemed it inappropriate to feel that way towards you, especially since I was already married by the time I realized I had strong feelings for you not Chakotay. Time passed and we spent less of our personal time with each other… and you never said anything to me so I assumed you had no romantic feelings for me… "

Janeway refused to hear those words that curled around her heart making this so much harder. She turned to look at Seven, ashamed, but determined. "You're still married and I... I betrayed my best friend…"

"You have betrayed no one!" Seven expressed sharply. "Yes, I am still married and technically I was also unfaithful as I let you seduce me. However, I do not regret either. A legal document cannot be expected to dictate what is in my heart and it has been over for me and Chakotay for almost a year and in two weeks, I will be free of that restriction as well." She took in a shaky breath. "And… I wish to pursue a relationship with you."

Janeway cringed inside.  Oh, she was making this so difficult!  "This can't be Seven and you know it."

"Kathryn… " Seven tried, ignoring the finality in her Captain's tone. "Please… Will you reconsider after my divorce?" Seven offered calmly, still hoping.

"No… " Came the succinct but weak reply.

"Why!?" Seven shouted outraged by Janeway's behavior. "How could you tease me with something so perfect… only to take it away! I finally find out what true love can be, what true intimacy is between two people and you toss me away just like he is doing!"

Janeway expelled a tentative breath. "You know that's not true!" Janeway rebuked strongly despite it being somewhat truthful. She had slept with the blonde and was now leaving her high and dry.

"You are just using your rank as Captain as an excuse!"

"No I am not!"

"Then you are afraid to love me because I am Borg? Or perhaps because I cannot have children?!"

"No, that would NEVER be a problem for me, but it's NOT appropriate for me to fraternize with a member of my crew!" Janeway recanted the same lame excuse.

"Yes, I am aware of that non-existent Starfleet regulation." Seven mocked her in anger.

"Seven… " Janeway warned.

"It is your choice to make. You are in control here. You are always in control. I have no say in the matter, but you know how I feel and that will NEVER change. Certainly not now, because I am painfully aware that you have feelings for me. Deny them if you wish… if you must, but I felt them yesterday."

"Don’t do this… " Janeway beseeched her softly, her face contorted into a tortured look full of woe.

"I have handed you my heart Kathryn." Seven professed anguished as tears formed. "Now it is up to you to decide what to do with it!"

"Please stop… "  Kathryn begged, placing a shaky hand over her eyes. She could not look at Seven's tear filled face.

"If I have to wait until we set foot on your planet earth before you will consider us… or until you resign from Starfleet… then I WILL wait!" Seven meant her words, she would wait if necessary despite how emotionally painful it would be. She loved the auburn haired woman and her heart would not let her do anything else.

The blonde turned and stormed out of the Captain's quarters, with Janeway's chest aching and heaving in an anguish she had never felt before.

"No… "

The Captain sobbed in utter desolation for the first time in her life.

 


 

Tossing and turning in her bed, Janeway couldn't sleep and she had an awful night of pure restlessness.  All she could think about was Seven's biting words.  The young woman had no mercy with her choices of words in her tenacity to get Janeway to reconsider and she went in for the kill in the attempt. 

It worked. Janeway had cried that evening on and off throughout the night, but not over her own pain as much as over Seven's pain. It was Seven's refusal to back down and admit what must have been difficult for the normally cool and aloof woman. That unrelenting attitude pierced the Captain's heart in such a way that it couldn't refuse the love that was freely offered. Seven only wanted to be loved and to love in return.  She did not demand any other commitment, although Janeway knew she would marry her, eventually. After Chakotay's divorce died down a bit.

So Janeway finally allowed herself to make a real choice for companionship for the first time in ten years, since Voyager first got lost in the Delta Quadrant.

She chose Seven. An odd peace settled over her soul. She only hoped Seven would forgive her so readily.  She knew she had hurt the young woman deeply, but the Captain was prepared to do what was necessary to correct her oversight and give their love a chance. Even if it required some… groveling to atone.

There was a routine away mission scheduled for early that morning. Chakotay had informed her that morning that Seven had volunteered for the mission.  Janeway had no reason not to let her go and Seven probably volunteered because she tended to work harder the more emotionally upset she was. It was only a routine dilithium extraction on a nearby M-class planet, so Janeway would simply wait until afterwards to tell the young woman that she had a change of heart. That she had made a terrible mistake and was truthfully very much in love with the blonde.

The auburn haired woman mentally prepared herself how to phrase the apology as she prepared for duty. Finishing her ablutions, she got dressed and headed for the Bridge.

It was going to be a quiet routine day from her viewpoint. Voyager was already in orbit and the away team was ready to go.  Tuvok, Seven, Ensign Wildman and Ensign Jenkins beamed down to the planet. Everything was going as planned until the Bridge was hailed by Tuvok, his voice calmly urgent.

"We require an emergency beam out directly to sickbay. Seven has been severely injured."

Janeway swore her own heart had stopped beating in her chest. Chakotay's face went pale and he looked at the Captain. Was that concern in his eyes? Regret?

He flew towards the turbolift heading for sickbay, Janeway presumed.

"Understood Tuvok, Sickbay! Prepare for an incoming casualty." Janeway spat out heading to sickbay in a hurry. "You have the Bridge Mr. Kim!"

As she entered sickbay, she noticed blood everywhere.  On the floor, and on the surgical biobed where Seven resided. As Janeway moved closer, her heart leapt into her throat and she watched Chakotay hold Seven's charred and bleeding body.

The Doctor looked up at the Captain, his face grave.  He shook his head.  There was no mistaking what he meant.

"What about the nanoprobes?"

"I'm sorry… they've already shut down. There's just too much damage." He conveyed solemnly closing his medical tricorder.

"I refuse to accept that… "

"It's beyond my ability Captain," He asserted quietly meeting her grief filled gaze before heading for his office to give the two distraught officers some space.

"No… " She whispered to his retreating back.

She turned to watch Chakotay as he held the dying Seven in his arms. He wept as he pulled her closer, his head buried on her shoulder. Janeway silently regretted it not being her, but she hadn't earned that right.

On unsteady legs, Janeway came along side the biobed with tears of her own and managed to grasp Seven's human hand snugly in her own.  The young woman was struggling with each breath.  Janeway squeezed her hand and Seven's eyes met hers. Both knew time was ebbing away from them.

Because Chakotay was present, the Captain only mouthed the words. 'I love you.' And put her other hand on top of the one that was already possessing Seven's right hand snugly.

Janeway saw a tear escape from her beloved's eye and Seven weakly squeezed Kathryn's hand trying to convey how much she cared and loved the older woman as well.

Seven did not fear dying and surprisingly she felt little pain as she gazed at a grief stricken Janeway. Her only regret was the loss of not being able to love her Captain in the future. She knew in her heart with perseverance and time that someday she would have been given that honor. She did not believe that Kathryn, the woman underneath the rank, could truly ignore her own feelings for the entire journey to the Alpha Quadrant.

After Seven rushed out of the Captain's quarters the previous day, she was determined not to make it easy for the Captain to rebuke her. However, being hurt and angry, Seven decided she needed a distraction and asked to go on the routine away mission to give herself time to think. She wanted to clear her head so she could devise a strategy to wear down the strong willed overly stubborn Captain who refused to give into what she was clearly feeling. Love. Seven had felt it and currently mourned, not dying but the loss of sharing that intimacy and so much more.

Captain Kathryn Janeway, she was the one who had shown Seven the final lesson in humanity and because of it, Seven had understood the meaning of love and the true allure of physical intimacy. She felt at peace with her humanity for the first time in her life.

Seven could feel the darkness surround her vision as she stared at the one who had captured her heart.  She wanted to say so many things. She wanted to thank Janeway for everything, but mostly she wanted to say that she loved her and would always love her, but the words would not come and she could not keep her eyes open any longer. Finally the life left her body and she exhaled her last breath.

"No… " was all Janeway could manage feeling Seven's hand go limp in hers. Dear God no! She somehow put a hand on Chakotay's shoulder.  He may not have been in love with her, but his tears were genuine. He obviously cared for her. Either that or he felt guilty for stringing her along in a loveless marriage, but now it didn’t matter.

He still held Seven's lifeless body in his arms. Janeway looked on at them both completely numb.

Please, I'm so sorry! I've been such a fool. Don't leave me! Not now… I love you. I need you!.

Even as she pleaded in her mind, she knew it was over. Janeway clutched at her chest where her heart was shattering. Breathing became difficult in her turmoil.

No! I've lost everything… everything… and my heart hurts so much. Why does it hurt so much?! How will I recover from this?!

She shook her head back and forth absently in despondency.

I will never be the same… Never…

If only I could die with her… She thought as the tears came. Although, Janeway was physically healthy, her heart died an emotional death that day.

 


 

Thirty three years later:

Admiral Janeway stared out the window of her apartment in downtown San Francisco.  Her mind reflected on the most prideful and profound memories in her life. 

The time when she graduated from Starfleet academy to start a life in the sciences; when she was commissioned the USS Voyager, her first Captaincy; and her most cherished memory… the only time she had made love to a beautiful blonde woman named Annika Hansen.

It was the last memory that still caused a tear to occasionally fall from the strong willed Admiral. Her will had gotten her through the last 33 years and somehow through her personal grief, she managed to bring Voyager home.

There had been other casualties along the way, besides her cherished Seven. Tuvok had a degenerative neurological disease that worsened with time. She ended up losing 22 more crewmen before she finally managed to bring them home.  That was ten years ago, today.

Chakotay died during the final leg of the journey.  Voyager wasn't under attack.  He simply died in his quarters while asleep.  The Doctor couldn’t find anything wrong with him, but Janeway knew he died of guilt and regret, just like her heart had 23 years earlier with Seven.

As she gazed out at the San Francisco night, she allowed herself to remember the blonde woman, knowing it would bring back a cascade of long repressed emotions. She knew she should be able to just accept her feelings and move on after all this time, but she couldn't. 

She even ordered The Doctor to rig a cryogenic lifepod so they could carry Seven's precious body in stasis, until they reached home; earth. 

Janeway visited her grave whenever she felt she could bear it.  After all these years, how could it still be so difficult? Maybe because you loved her, you fool?

She was just a shell now and had been for so many years, but that would all change soon if everything went according to plan.

 


 

Once she had managed to steal the device from the back-stabbing Klingons and eluded their grasp with Captain's Kim's assistance on the Rhode Island, Admiral Janeway was on her way back through time.

As soon as she made it through the other side, she hailed Voyager and demanded her younger self to close the rift so the Klingons couldn't follow. After a little hemming and hawing, Captain Janeway complied and the Admiral came onboard the Intrepid class vessel.

After an elaborate conversation, Janeway was still unconvinced that this person was really an older version of herself so she had the Admiral checked out thoroughly in sickbay. Once that was settled, the Admiral was ready to get the adaptations started on Voyager, when the object of her dreams walked in elegantly carrying a PADD.

Her long lost lover of 33 years ago, younger here, barely thirty and in her prime, looking as beautiful as ever. She still wore the biosuit in this timeframe, the Admiral noted.

The older Janeway couldn't help herself, her gaze focused squarely on Seven.

"Hello Seven… " She breathed out emotionally, almost reaching out to the lovely blonde woman before pulling back.

Seven looked at her oddly, uncertain how she should act towards the older Janeway.  She had the appearance of the woman Seven cared for immensely yet she was so much older…

No, this Janeway is a stranger. I do not know her. 

This made the young blonde uncomfortable and not meaning to be rude, Seven barely acknowledged the Admiral with a nod before handing the PADD with her report to her Captain.

The Captain noticed the longing in the Admiral's gaze, but shrugged it off returning her attention to Seven's update.

"The technology of the Admiral's ship is impressive. Much of it appears to have been designed to defend against the Borg." Seven informed her.

"Could we install these systems on Voyager?" The Captain asked.

"The stealth technology is incompatible, but I believe we can adapt the armor and weapons." Seven explained.

She turned to Seven, "Do it."

The crew worked fast to install and update the weapons and armor with B'Elanna as supervisor despite the discomfort with her pregnancy, but with her overlooking the upgrades, they were ready in no time and venturing into the nebula for a chance to go home.

However, they ran into a slight glitch that the kind Admiral failed to mention.  A Borg transwarp hub consisting of 47 Borg vessels and dozens of apertures.

The Admiral tried to order Lt. Paris to proceed into the aperture, but they were loyal to their Captain and left the nebula on her orders.  Captain Janeway was livid with the Admiral for not telling her about the conduits and they had a steamed argument about it.

Walking along the corridor, Janeway confronted the admiral. "I want to know why you didn't tell me about this!?" She fumed.

"Because I distinctly remember how stubborn and self-righteous I was." Admiral Janeway commented curtly. "And I figured you might try to do something stupid." She remarked casually.

The Captain bristled. "We have an opportunity to deal a crippling blow to the Borg. It could save billions of lives!"

"I didn't spend the last ten years looking for a way to get this crew home earlier just so you could throw it all away on some intergalactic goodwill mission."

Janeway stopped walking and faced her. "Maybe we should go back to sickbay," Janeway offered sardonically.

"Why? So you can have me sedated?"

"So I can have the Doctor re-confirm your identity. I refuse to believe I'll become as cynical as you." Captain Janeway spoke harshly.

The Admiral took the insult in stride. She knew what was at stake. "Am I the only one experiencing déjà vu here?"

"What are you talking about?"

"Seven years ago, you had a chance to use the Caretaker's Array to get Voyager home, but instead, you destroyed it."

Janeway was taken aback, because she had accepted the consequences of that decision and would've done the same thing again if she had to, despite the losses and hardships they had faced over the years. "I did what I knew was right."

"You chose to put the lives of strangers ahead of the lives of your crew," the Admiral clarified sarcastically. "You can't make the same mistake again."

What kind of an argument was this?  No ship existed just to protect the lives of its crew. What about the greater good of an entire quadrant?!

Her jaw hardened. "You got Voyager home." The Captain stated arrogantly. "That means I will too. If it takes a few more years, then that's--"

The Admiral had one card left to play. "Seven of Nine is going to die…" 

The words hung in the air, permeating the Captain's hardened attitude.  Her face lost its color and sadness overwhelmed her.

"What?!"

"Three years from now. She'll be injured on an away mission. She'll make it back to Voyager, and die in the arms of her husband."

"Husband?" Janeway asked pale faced and shocked.

"Chakotay."

"He'll never be the same after Seven's death and neither will YOU!"

Stunned, Janeway contemplated the information presented to her.  No one crewman should be allowed to influence her decision if it contradicts the greater good, but Seven and Chakotay… arguably her two favorite friends, colleagues and so much more.  It would hurt like hell to lose them... To lose her.  She didn't want to consider it.

"If I know what's going to happen," She justified dolefully in a quiet voice. "I can avoid it."

"Seven's not the only one," the Admiral informed her firmly. "Between this day and the day I got Voyager home, I lost twenty-two crew members. And then, of course, there's Tuvok."

"What about him?" Janeway became concerned.

"You're forgetting about the Temporal Prime Directive, Captain--."

"To hell with it!"

"Fine. Tuvok has a degenerative neurological condition that he hasn't told you about."

Janeway leaned against the wall, feeling like she had been sucker punched… twice.

"There's a cure in the Alpha Quadrant," the senior officer added. "Even if you alter Voyager's route, limit your contact with alien species, you're going to lose people. But I'm offering you a chance to get them all home safe and sound-- today! Are you really going to turn your back on that!?"

 


 

The Admiral had one other recourse to try to get Janeway to take Voyager into the conduit. She visited Cargo Bay Two to have a chat with Seven of Nine.

She also wanted to assess whether Seven had any feelings towards her counterpart at this point in the ex-Borg's life.

Either way, this was going to be hard.  To see her again, so young, healthy and... alive. She sighed at the discomfort, but she would not fail her again.  She would die before she would fail Seven a second time. I will simply tell her about what happened leaving our brief but memorable romance out of the picture.

"I appreciate your candor, Admiral, but Captain Janeway is my commanding officer. I won't disobey her."

"I not asking you to. I simply want you to tell her that in your opinion, destroying the hub is too risky, the cost too high--"

"I cannot do that."

"Even if it means avoiding the consequences I mentioned."

"Now that I know about those circumstances, they are no longer a certainty. But even if they were, my death would be a small price to pay for the destruction of the transwarp network."

"I've known you a long time Seven," the Admiral explained as she circled around Seven's computer terminal. "longer than you've known yourself. You're thinking that collapsing the network would be an opportunity to atone for the atrocities you participated in while you were a drone."

Seven's face tightened.  The Admiral had hit a nerve.

"It's time to let go of the past!" the Admiral pressured her. "And start thinking about your future!"

"My future," Seven assure thickly and forcefully. "…is insignificant compared to the lives of the people we'd be saving."

"You're being selfish!" the Admiral spat.

"Selfish, I'm talking about helping others--"

"Strangers.  In a hypothetical scenario.  I'm talking about real life! Your colleagues… your friends… the people who LOVE YOU!  Imagine the impact your death would have on them!" She finished saying with difficulty. The day of Seven's death still haunted the Admiral and she willfully choked down the sentiment that was rising in her gut.

Seven was feeling overwhelmed with emotions and did not feel comfortable with being put on the spot.  She had failed to obey her Captain in the past with severe consequences for both of them. She could not do that this time. Seven was feeling cornered and needed some space to breath. It was too much for her to contemplate at the moment.

"Excuse me," Seven offered the words bluntly, "I have work to do."

The Admiral noticed the red eyes, the hidden emotionally turmoil, the look of stubborn pride, of determination.  Seven would never edificate herself to the detriment of others. It was one of the many reasons the Admiral loved her.  She was proud of the young woman, the way the blonde turned out, despite their disagreements, confrontations and the fact that Admiral Janeway was in love with her.

The Admiral vowed she would not remain on Voyager if Janeway attempted to destroy the network and sacrifice the shortcut home.  The Admiral would not live through that loss again. It would hurt too much. She nodded and left Seven to her work.

 


 

Admiral Janeway was in Captain Janeway's Ready room having some coffee with her younger self.  It was the first time in a long while since she had touched the beverage. 

"I thought you gave it up."

"I've decided to revive a few of my old habits." The Admiral replied.

"Oh, what else besides the coffee?" Janeway asked leaning back in her seat.

"I used to be much more idealistic." She admitted. "I took a lot of risks… "

The Admiral took this time to apologize to the Captain about lying to her.  It was the younger Janeway's crew not the Admiral's. Being so determined to get her crew home, the senior Janeway forgot how loyal they were to her back then.

"You were only doing what you thought was right for all of us." Janeway concurred softly, realizing she would've done the same in similar circumstances even if it had been inappropriate. "But there has got to be a way to have our cake and eat it too." Janeway speculated.

"We can't destroy the hub and get Voyager home."  The Admiral recanted her earlier thoughts.

"Are you absolutely sure about that?" Janeway asked eyeing her intently.

The Admiral blinked, thinking of Seven. "There might be a way," she offered quietly. "I considered it once, but it seemed too risky." She didn't elaborate that her senior staff refused to let her go through with it.  Seven had been the most vocal opponent despite her aloofness towards the Admiral in this timeline.  The young woman cared deeply whether she was aware of what it meant on a deeper level or not.

"That was before you decided to revive your old habits." The Captain smirked.

"I don't know why I ever gave this up." The Admiral smiled back.

 


 

The Admiral left Voyager in her small futuristic vessel and headed for the Borg transwarp hub network.  She would distract the Borg Queen while Voyager escaped into the conduit that led to Earth. They fired transphasic torpedoes behind them thus collapsing the conduit and causing a dangerous chain reaction all along the hub.

Meanwhile, the Admiral was also infecting the Borg with a pathological virus, thus sealing her own fate with them, as she destroyed them from within.

The Borg network had imploded.  They had done it. They delivered a severe blow to the Borg collective. Yet, they were still struggling to stay ahead of the destruction as the conduit collapsed all around them. It was a battle to stay inside it and after being fired upon from behind, they realized they were also being chased. A Borg scout ship was on their tail, but with ingenuity they had hid inside it and blasted the Borg monstrosity into oblivion with a transphasic torpedo as Voyager flew out of the wreckage and into the Alpha Quadrant.

Voyager had succeeded.  They had made it home.  Janeway responded to a hail and greeted Admiral Paris quickly telling him she would make a full report on what happened then only moments after the channel was closed, the EMH and the cry of a baby's voice could be heard through the Comm channel. 

"You better get down there Tom," Janeway smiled widely at him.

He smiled back, "Yes, ma'am." He breathed out dashing for the turbolift.

"Mr. Chakotay," she spoke lightly. "Take the helm."

"Aye Captain," Chakotay responded.

Janeway saw the glance Seven gave her first officer before he took the helm.  It was an emotionally charged look and it unsettled the Captain.

She sat in her command chair settling in and silently thanked the Admiral for her sacrifice wondering what was the catalyst that made the older woman sacrifice herself for all of them.  She wasn't sure she herself deserved it, but her crew did.

"Course Captain?"

"Set a course for home…."

 


 

Voyager remained in orbit as Janeway and her crew started the many preparations that needed to get done before disembarking to the surface.

She knew she would be having many future meetings with a variety of Admirals' in the following days and she wasn't really looking forward to that, but it was a small price to pay for being home.

She was about to lie down on the bed to rest for awhile and contemplate her good fortune when she saw a PADD lying on her nightstand that she didn’t remember putting there.

She picked it up. It was a memo to her. Who was it from?

Oh, my god! It was from Admiral Janeway. Should she read it? Wouldn't the information be against the temporal prime directive?  As if adding future armor and weapons wasn't!?

The Captain's curiosity always got the better of her.

Memo To Captain Janeway,

I had considered that you might not read this, but I hoped you would. I assume you're at the same stage I was at around Stardate 54973.4.  I have to consider that, because you're not as desperate as I was… not yet.

You might resent my telling you this, as your life is going to very different from mine.  I certainly hope it is more fulfilling.  The thought that one of us will have our dream come true, if you have the courage to realize what you want, is encouraging after the bare existence I led.

I know you're disappointed in who I became and frankly I'd agree you, if I was you, but I'm not. I'm me, and I lived through more battles than you and most notably more loss and pain. You didn't live the life I did after we passed the Borg hub.

I suggest you don't screw up your future by denying what you truly feel. Don't make the same mistake I did by waiting too long, by using your command as an excuse. Your feelings will grow and it will be difficult for you, no matter how many excuses you give yourself. You're no longer the Captain of Voyager so you're free to decide your future. You don't have the restrictions I had. Whether you take a another ship, a desk job or retire. You have the opportunity to take a mate. Maybe even marry the one you know you love.

Consider the possibilities.

On Stardate 57956.2, my heart died and I became an empty husk of a human, a soulless being, if you will, and I was never the same.

You saw what I became, cynical and arrogant. I'm not proud of everything I did. I broke numerous Starfleet regulations; including, but not exclusive to the Prime Directive and the Temporal Prime Directive. I also committed adultery after ten years of self-imposed isolation. The list goes on, but I believe I have made my point.

You probably think you don't have the ability to do what I did, but you'd be surprised what years of denial do to even a strong willed individual. Be careful of holding it in, I was intensely jealous and I coveted what another had for a long time. I know, I should feel guilty, but I don't. I cherished that night.  That memory kept me alive and relatively sane.

You're my redemption and if you don't take it, well at least I don't have to live with your decision. I gave you the chance, now it's up to you.

Remember what I said before, 'You'll never be the same.'

It's your choice. There are no right or wrong choices, only choices that have repercussions. Even if you choose not to interfere, at least she'll be alive in your time frame for many years to come.  That should give you some comfort in your lonesome misery. 

Just so you know, I changed time for her… because I was in love her. Completely.

Admiral Janeway

 


 

That explained the main reason for the Admiral's tenacity and sacrifice. She had been in love with Seven of Nine in her reality and lost her to Chakotay then ultimately to death.

For the past six months, Janeway had noticed a closer more intense feeling in regards to Seven than she cared to admit. She had squashed it down whenever it surfaced, but now with all that happened, she was forced to concede to a deeper attraction.

Janeway wasn't even sure how she truly felt about Seven and having the truth forced upon her by the Admiral didn't make it any easier.

Am I in love or is it just infatuation? She is rather beautiful and physically gorgeous compared to anyone else I can think of.

It was only mid-afternoon, but Janeway felt the need to see Seven as she left her quarters and headed for Cargo Bay Two.

She felt the need to talk with her, even though, she knew in her heart she would not say anything now because it wasn't right to blatantly interfere.  She had to be more subtle about it and let the young woman make up her own mind, even if she did lose her.

Janeway admitted to herself that she didn't truly appreciate the Admiral's pain and loss in that timeframe. She also knew she had to do it her way and not rush into anything. Otherwise, she could make things worse and ruin two friendships that were important to her.

Reaching her destination, the Captain entered the Cargo bay.

"Hello Seven," Janeway found her at the terminal as usual.

"Captain," Seven greeted.

"So what do think about all this?" Janeway leaned on the console Seven was working at. "About getting home."

"It is unsettling, yet I am happy for the crew."

"What are your plans?"

There was doubt in her crystal eyes as she spoke. "I have not made any yet."

"Oh, I guessed you would go live with your aunt… I'm sure she'd love to have you."

"Perhaps," Seven allowed, but she had yet to discuss her plans with Chakotay.  What would he want? Would we get a place together? Am I ready for that? What would the Captain think about our relationship? Would she approve? What would I do, if she did not?!

Her friendship with the redhead as well as what the Captain thought of her, was very important to the blonde. Emotionally, she was confused over her hesitation, but allowed herself a certain bit of confusion because she was so new to emotions period. Based on that, Seven wasn't ready to tell the Captain about her new relationship.

"Well, whatever you decide. My door is always open, if you need a temporary place to stay.  I have an apartment in San Francisco, but I'm going to see my mother in Bloomington, Indiana first." She paused, her brow furrowed slightly then she grinned. "And I distinctly remember promising to show it to you sometime.  I wouldn't want to renege on my promises. So, whenever you're ready let me know.  I'm sure my mother wouldn't mind."  Janeway smiled widely and put her hand over Seven's hand gently before turning to leave the Cargo bay.

Seven was bombarded with a multitude of emotions.

Her hand tingled where Janeway touched it and she was surprisingly touched by the Captain's thoughtfulness. The offer was genuine. The Captain had offered her home to her if she needed it. She offered her mother's home as well to visit. She was considered family and Seven was warmed by it. So why did she feel so oddly flustered by it as well?

"Thank you, Captain." Seven responded. "That was thoughtful."

"Your welcome." Janeway responded affectionately. "Any time you want to talk Seven. I'm just a hail away."

Seven stared at the Captain's retreating form.

Now I wait, Janeway thought walking away.

 


 

Two days later, Janeway lowered the hover car onto the gravel driveway and powered down the aircraft vehicle before getting out. After two rigorous days of debriefing, she was glad to be away from Starfleet and landing at her mother's home even if it was only for the weekend. It was a short respite before she had to go back for more, but she was grateful for the break.

As she opened the hatch, she stopped for a second to smell the air. The wind carried the scent of corn and wheat to her nostrils.  The flow of fresh crisp clean air swam about her senses telling her she was home, unlike the sterile recycled air of Voyager. Not that she minded Voyager, it had been her home for seven years and kept her alive and healthy.  It was being stuck on a starship for so long in unfamiliar territory that gave her an appreciation for earth that she had lacked before.

It has been so long.

She stepped down feeling the unevenness of the cobblestones beneath her Starfleet boots. She brought her hand up to her face to guard her eyes against the brightness of the sun that was high in the sky as she looked out over the field into the distance. She spotted the barn and it brought old memories to the surface of her playing there.  The faded and chipped color denoted a severe lack of maintenance and it looked like it needed a paint job badly.

Just then she heard the noise of a screen door creak open and lightly close shut. Turning she saw her mother come outside.

"Kathryn!"

"Mother," she whispered. The Captain had seen her before when they had originally disembarked from Voyager, but it was only for a few brief minutes before she was whisked away by Starfleet Admirals.  Duty prevailed then, but now, she was just Kathryn, Gretchen Janeway's daughter.

Her mother had a flour caked apron on as she trotted swiftly down the steps and onto the gravel to give her daughter a long awaited hug. "Oh, I've missed you so!"

"I know mother," Kathryn sighed relaxing in her mother's embrace and patting her on the back.

"Well, well, well!" Someone else called out from the porch door.

"Phoebe!" Gretchen shouted. "Come and greet your sister."

Phoebe did so, avidly hugging her sister warmly before they all went inside to enjoy the emotional reunion and to catch up on the last seven years of Kathryn's life.

"You look a little thin, Kathryn." Gretchen remarked, while checking her pots on the stove in the kitchen. "Were you eating properly while on that starship?"

Janeway followed her mother into the kitchen. "I didn't always have the opportunity. I was rather busy."

Phoebe giggled, taking a chair at the kitchen table. "What's the matter sis, being Captain doesn't afford you special privileges?"

Janeway glowered at her younger sister. Phoebe never did like Starfleet and never missed an opportunity to make it known. However, the elder Janeway knew how to diffuse her hot tempered little sister too.

"Not when you're stranded 70,000 light years from home in a hostile area of space, I'm afraid. I should be grateful we didn't starve to death." Janeway elaborated with a serious face.

The statement wiped the smirk off Phoebe's shocked face. "I… didn’t mean it that way."

"It's ok," Janeway suddenly grinned putting a hand on her shoulder, "I've missed you too."

Phoebe grinned widely relieved that she hadn't insulted her sister too much. She marveled at how easily her sister accepted her often-derisive statements regarding Starfleet.  As hard headed as her older sister was, she was considerably opened minded and it took a lot to insult her to the point where she would retaliate.

"So what's for dinner?" Janeway asked looking forward to a good home cooked meal.

"Corn on the cob, potatoes, roast beef and fresh biscuits." Her mother offered. "Is there anything else you wanted?"

Janeway looked mischievously at her mother's back thinking about it. "You wouldn't have any homemade coffee, would you?"

Gretchen smiled knowingly.

 


 

"So what do you think?" Chakotay waved his hand and smiling as he showed Seven his temporary apartment at Starfleet headquarters. They had been transporting back and forth from Voyager for a couple of days until Starfleet decided a closer residence would be more appropriate.

"It is sufficient," Seven remarked, not impressed. It appeared more sterile than Voyager and had only bland, colors throughout. Chakotay had just finished giving her the grand tour and they were now in the living room.

Upon entering the apartment, there was a short hallway that led to the living room. The staccato walls were bone white with light cream colored sofas and couches lining against the walls. There were stainless steel tables next to them and simple paintings hanging sporadically along the main room.

To the right, before entering the living area was the kitchen entrance blocked by a wrap around wall. Going passed the living area, on the left was a set of stairs that lead to the next level. To the right was a full bathroom and straight ahead a glass door that led to an outside porch. Upstairs was the bedroom, another small room with two terminals and another bathroom.

Chakotay knew she wasn't pleased with the arrangements, but they had no choice. Starfleet decided that they wanted the maquis, the EMH, Seven and Icheb close by until the de-briefings were finished. A process that was supposed to take two weeks.

"What is the purpose to these debriefings, since Voyager's datalogs contain all the information they require?" Seven asked as she sat on a sofa.

He looked at her tentatively, meditating over his response for awhile. "Well, it's probably just a formality, as I was in the maquis so they're probably are considering whether they can trust me or not."

"And I was Borg." Seven stated passively. "We both have committed crimes against the Federation."

"Yes," Chakotay pondered that. "but I'm sure its all a technicality. After all you're no longer Borg, no longer part of the collective. You've been human now for over four years and a vital part of Voyager's crew. We couldn't have made it home without you." Chakotay admitted.

Seven's features softened at the compliment and she gave him a small smile.

"Besides, I don't think Kathryn would let them try anything." He became thoughtful. "Kathryn keeps telling me not to worry that it's just political, and although I'm not as Starfleet minded as she is... " He said not unkindly. "I'm still going to hope for the best."

Seven perked up, "Kathryn?"

"Janeway," Chakotay smirked. "I've always called her Kathryn even on Voyager during our personal time, but I accidentally called her Captain the other day and she adamantly told me to call her Kathryn since she was no longer my Captain."

Seven had spent a considerable amount of personal time with Captain Janeway and the older woman never offered to Seven to call her Kathryn. The ex-Borg wondered why she felt oddly disconcerted by that supposedly minor detail.

"When did you speak with her?" Seven asked since she had not spoken with her mentor in days.

"Actually, I've spoke with her every day since this all began four days ago."

"I have not spoken with the Captain since we left Voyager." Seven felt oddly left out.

"She asked how you were doing." He made his way to the kitchen through the open doorway and out of Seven's line of sight.

"She did?" Seven called out.

"Yes, I told her you were doing well." He said from the kitchen. "Can I get you anything to drink?"

"Water would be sufficient." She answered. After hours of having to explain her actions to Starfleet officials about her time on Voyager, her throat was parched. Much to her dismay, they were only up to asking her details from her first few months there. At the rate it was going it would takes weeks, maybe even a month for them to finish their questioning.

Seven was annoyed by that possibility although she couldn't explain why, since she had no place to be or duty to perform.  She was in a sense restless because she was bored. Oddly enough when she was bored which was often, she thought of the Captain and how she was doing or what she was doing, but Seven only knew she was visiting her mother's ranch in Bloomington, Indiana when she wasn't in debriefing.

Chakotay came out of the kitchen at last and handed her a glass of water. "Would you like something to eat?"

"No, I am… not hungry at this time." Seven said awkwardly. She felt it necessary to try and speak in a way that would not garner more attention to the fact that she was Borg, but it was difficult having to be so conscientious of it.  It was so much easier when she was on Voyager and she could be herself.  She never had this problem around the Captain.

Although, she was not hungry, Seven had a sudden inspiration. "I do not require food, however, I could benefit from vacating these premises."

"You mean leave the base here at Starfleet? Is it getting to you already?" he asked, taking a seat next to her, their thighs touching lightly.

"I know it has only been four days, but I feel stifled." She shifted her eyes away showing some of her uneasiness.

"Ok," he put a hand on her thigh. "What would you like to do?"

"I was hoping you could show me some of the sights of San Francisco."

He smiled widely, "Of course," leaning in for a light kiss on her full lips, which she complied to readily.

It wasn't that his kisses were unpleasant. It was just that Seven did not feel what she thought she should from them.  She had based her research on the databanks from Voyager and to her knowledge kissing and copulation were supposed to be pleasant.  She was at a loss as how to explain her current lack of an emotional reaction to it.

"I could rent a transport shuttle and show you the sights from the air."

"That would be acceptable."

 


 

Come Monday morning, Captain Kathryn Janeway sat at attention across from Admirals' Paris, Strickler, Ross and Necheyev. The four Admirals had the power to decide her fate and everyone else's onboard Voyager.  The only good thing was that the vote had to be unanimous.

They were separated by a metallic desk that had been polished to a shine.  This debriefing room was cold. The walls were a bone white, the carpet dull grey and the atmosphere somewhat antagonistic in her opinion. 

The questions were becoming intensely scrutinizing regarding some of her more questionable command decisions. Janeway would have been lying to herself if she thought she wouldn't be reprimanded for some of her past decisions.  She knew full well Starfleet could not let some of them slide.  She only hoped a reprimand would be her largest punishment and not a court-martial or worse… imprisonment.

"On Stardate, 50984.3, you willingly made an alliance with the Borg." Admiral Ross stated disdainfully. He was in charge of military operations within Starfleet and any alliance with other races without his knowledge bothered him. "Would you care to explain your reasoning for this?"

"As I stated in my logs, it would have taken us decades to cross Borg space. By initiating a temporary alliance, we were hoping to negotiate for safe passage."

"Did it ever occur to you that there could be a significant shift in power by assisting the Borg to defeat this… " Ross had to look at his PADD for the proper information. "species 8472?  This was an opportunity to defeat the Borg and instead you assisted them against the one species capable of eradicating them."

"In my estimation," Janeway stated stiffly. "species 8472 was more dangerous to the entire galaxy than even the Borg.  They have the ability to create a rift between their realm and ours. I don’t know if they are limited by time and distance like we are.  It could be theoretically possible for them to open a rift a few light years from earth." Janeway tilted her head considering. "And if you've read all of my logs you would know we ran into species 8472 a year later while they were in the middle of attempting the recreation of an elaborate infiltration scenario with the target being Earth."

Necheyev waved her hand. "Yes, we're aware of that and we know that you came to a tenacious understanding with them." She paused. "But tell me this Captain, after your combined victory why did you keep a Borg drone on board a Federation vessel?"

Janeway narrowed her eyes. "Her human cells were already starting to assert themselves. She wouldn't have survived without medical attention and I don’t believe the Borg would have come for a single drone."

"You should have deposited the drone on a nearby planet with a transceiver like it asked for.  A single drone's life is insignificant to the safety of your crew. Did you consider the dangers of having a drone onboard?" Necheyev persisted.

Janeway's face-hardened, her voice raw. "Yes, we took the necessary precautions--"

"And that explains how the drone managed to send a partial subspace signal to the Borg while under these tight security precautions?"

"We stopped her before any real damage could be done." Janeway corrected.

"Correction. You mean the Ocampa named Kes stopped her, who as luck would have it, was evolving into a higher lifeform with exceptional control over energy and matter.  If not for her sudden superior abilities, do you think you would have stopped this Borg from calling reinforcements?" Necheyev challenged.

"Yes, I believe we would have." Janeway replied tersely. "but I think you're forgetting something very important," she added. "Seven of Nine was a human being who was assimilated through no fault of her own at a very young age. Since, she was stuck on our ship with no other hope of survival, I decided to keep her onboard Voyager and give her a chance to regain what she had lost."  

"Yes and what about my standing order, 'To seek out opportunities to destroy the Borg collective evasively.' Apparently by your own logs, you've had almost a dozen opportunities and yet failed to finish them off when you had the chance especially with Unimatrix Zero."

"I tried to liberate thousands of species from the Borg collective. It was an opportunity to deal the Borg a crippling blow by dividing them. I do not consider that a failure!" Janeway rebuked.

"And if I may state for the record." Janeway continued. "I wouldn't be standing here today if not for Annika Hansen. She has saved Voyager single handedly almost as many times as I have."

"I have no more questions for today," the blonde Admiral glanced at Paris.

"All right," Admiral Paris did not appreciate Necheyev's treatment of Janeway. "On to the next set of questions."

It was going to be a long day, Janeway thought.

 


 

As evening came on the fifth day of debriefings, Seven convinced Chakotay to take her to Minnesota where her aunt Irene resided.

Starfleet was not happy the last time they had left headquarters without an escort. The brass at Starfleet gave them a hard time because they did not want them leaving the premises, but Chakotay managed to get them to agree if he took along a small security detail.

After landing the hovercar in a paved driveway, Seven stepped out with Chakotay and the two escorts. 

"You will wait here," Seven conveyed seriously to the two young men. She was not amused in the slightest by their presence.

Chakotay thought Seven should visit with her aunt alone, since it was the first opportunity she had, so he decided to wait outside.

"Chakotay, will you accompany me inside?"

"Uh no, why don't you go ahead.  I think the time alone would be good for you two. It will give you some time to catch up."

Seven studied him before acquiescing. "Very well." She replied and headed up to the door to ring the doorbell.

The door opened many seconds later to reveal an elderly lady perhaps in her mid sixties. "Yes?"

"Irene Hansen?"

The older woman opened the door wider to get a look at the young stranger. "Annika?" she called out.

"Yes, I spoke with you a few months back via subspace."

"I remember," she said her eyes growing soft. "Come on in!" She opened the door to let the young woman enter.

"Excuse the mess, the grand children were over yesterday." Irene apologized for the mess but Seven did not consider it disorganized.  There were a few items that Seven thought to be toys scattered on the floor of the living room, but everything else looked in order.  The sofas and couches were methodically placed with a wooden table centered between them. There were two shiny oak table stands at the ends of each sofa and an old fashioned light fixture on top.

It had a very domestic feel to it, which Seven did not expect. She did not expect to feel any emotional residue, but now that she was here, it occurred to her that her parents probably visited here often.

"I have two grown children, Andrew and Alexandra who like to bring the grandchildren over now and then.  It's nice to see the young ones."

The statement brought Seven out of her reverie. "I did not realize you had offspring."

Irene giggled at Seven's formality. "Yes, I was married for twenty five years before my husband died. My name isn't Hansen anymore."

"I did not realize. I apologize for the inaccuracy."

Irene waved her hand, "Oh that's nothing. I wouldn't expect you to know. You just returned from out there." She gestured to the sky.

"Yes," Seven responded reflectively.

"Can I get you something to drink or a snack perhaps?"

"No, I am… fine."

"Are you sure, you wouldn't like any strawberries. I have some ripe ones in the refrigerator."

Seven managed a small quirky smile. Her aunt remembered that she liked strawberries as a child. "Perhaps later," Seven was amused.

"You don't mind if I clean up a bit while we chat?" Aunt Irene reached for a toy.

"No, not at all." Seven replied while considering proper manners for this type of occasion. "Do you… require assistance?"

"No, I know where everything goes. It's just a matter of putting the toys where they belong." She reached down to pick up some more. "So what brings you here Annika?"

"I… was unaware of having any other living relatives." Seven disclosed dispirited by that fact. "And I wished to meet with you."

"Well you do now," Irene affirmed merrily. "I'm sure they would love to meet you. My son and daughter are around your age I think."

Seven raised a brow.

Irene marveled at how much Seven resembled her mother. The young woman was even more beautiful if that was possible, but the thought brought back the tragic memories as well. Irene's features took on a somber shadow. She looked at Seven compassionately. "I'm sorry about what happened. I tried to talk him out of taking you with them, but you can't blame parents for wanting to be with their child."

Seven's countenance became stern instantly knowing what Irene was referring to. "No, I do not. However, it was unwise to take a child with them to go on an expedition that could only end up in failure."

Irene contemplated her niece's words. "I see you still harbor some resentment towards Magnus and Erin." She stated delicately.

"Their decision affected my life. I lost my parents and 18 years because of their short sightedness."

"I know," her aunt agreed. "I was angry with them too, but we can't change the past Annika.  It's time to move on with your life.  You still have so many years left to live a full life.  I hope you can see that."

"I am uncertain that will be possible. It depends on Starfleet what is too become of me."

"I don't understand. What could this Starfleet possible do to you?  Don't they realize how young you were when you were taken by these Borg people?"

"Starfleet is committed to the protection of their citizens. I believe they are assessing my threat potential."

Irene's brows lowered. "I'm sure your Captain won't let that happen."

"Captain Janeway has no choice in the matter. As a high ranking officer, she answers to Starfleet."

"Isn't she the one that took you from those Borg?"  Irene asked.

"That is not entirely precise. Captain Janeway with the assistance of her crew, stopped me from assimilating Voyager. It was after that incident that she decided to keep me onboard."

"I must thank her." Irene remarked casually as she finished putting the toys she had picked up away, inside a small wooden chest.

"Why? She was only doing her duty." Seven commented unkindly.

Irene frowned turning to Annika. "Why would you say that, Annika? Has Captain Janeway treated you unfairly?"

Seven realized it was not Janeway she was angry with. "No, she has not treated me unfairly.  In fact, she has been instrumental in assisting me to regain what I have lost. It is Starfleet I am angry with."

"Well, you're not alone anymore Annika." Her aunt told her walking up to her and giving her a hug. "If you need me to talk to these Starfleet people on your behalf, just let me know. Or if you feel the need to chat for whatever reason, you can stop by anytime. Please feel free to do so, you are family Annika."

Seven nodded appreciatively, being warmed by the compassion from her aunt.

 


 

After nine days of debriefings, Seven was getting restless at not being able to leave the premises without an escort.  She was outside on the porch of their shared temporary apartment getting some fresh air when Chakotay had found her.

"I am not certain how much longer I can tolerate this," Seven pouted as she leaned on the railing overlooking the large garden below from their loft on the fifteen floor.

"Seven," Chakotay declared lightly. "Just a few more days and all this will be over." He hugged her from behind, feeling the soft curves of her body mold into his. "Please be patient." He added feeling her tension through the embrace.

She brought her mesh hand up to touch his hand that rested around her shoulders. He was a kind individual and she wondered why she did not feel more for him as he apparently did for her.

It was difficult to understand her emotions while she was being questioned so harshly day after day.  Her mind mostly concentrated on that, which left little time to discuss anything else, but Chakotay had other plans for the topic of this evening.

"Seven, I know this isn't an ideal time to ask," he started to say. "But I wondering when all this is over, if you would consider living with me?"

"We have not had a chance to discuss it I know, but I assumed that would be the next logical step." She proclaimed honestly.

"True," he smirked from behind her. She could feel his breath on her ear and cheek.  "but I was wondering if you would consider living with me as my wife."

Seven was grateful Chakotay could not see her surprised reaction as he tightened his grip upon her. She was warmed by his suggestion, but had no reference on how to respond. What should she do?

"It is so sudden I… "

"I know," he rescued her smartly knowing it was a big decision. "Just think about it. You can give me your answer after all this is over."

"Thank you, I think things will be much clearer once this is behind us." She conceded hoping it was true in more ways than one.

 


 

"I wish to visit the Captain," Seven stated firmly the next day as they were walking out of Starfleet headquarters. Since Captain Janeway was in contact with Chakotay practically every other day and inquiring about Seven's status, she decided to bring up the idea of visiting the Captain in person.

They had just finished a long day of answering questions and Seven found herself dwelling on why the Captain only talked to the Commander and did not attempt to contact her directly.  It disturbed her and so unaware was she of her emotions, she did not realize that she was actually jealous of their interaction.

"Of course," he responded. "She's still in debriefings too, but she travels from her mother's home to the meetings instead of living in her apartment in San Francisco."

"That is inconvenient." Seven did not understand. "Why would she do that?"

"Kathryn likes to get away from it all once in a while. It's her way of dealing with the other more oppressive side of Starfleet. "

"This is her way of dealing with these unpleasant debriefings."

"Yes, I believe so. She's also alone being a Captain and without any duty at the moment so she probably wants to spend some quality time with her mother and sister. After all, she is being evaluated probably more so than we are so I'm sure she could use their support."

Alone? Seven thought casually. Does the Captain get lonely?

"Why would they need to evaluate the Captain?"

"Well," he started not sure she would understand. "She made some questionable decisions while in the Delta Quadrant and I believe they're assessing that."

Seven stared at him wide eyed. "The Captain made the best possible decisions based on the situation at hand. We were alone with no backup.  Certainly they do not blame her for those decisions?"

"We all have to answer for things we've done. It's called responsibility."

"Yes, but that does not mean the process is fair or the verdict just."

"I know, but we have no choice."

"Perhaps," she allowed.

"Things usually work out in the end Seven."

"We will… see." She answered skeptically.

 


 

Later that evening, Seven was excitedly nervous as the hovercar landed on the gravel in Gretchen Janeway's driveway.

Watching their arrival from the window, Janeway wasn't sure how she was going to feel about seeing both Seven and Chakotay together, but she knew she could not say no to Seven's request for a visit.  She had avoided chatting with the young woman long enough and it was time.

As she went outside to greet them, she hoped she could keep her internal struggle to herself as she still did not know how she truly felt towards the young blonde and with all the confusion of the past few weeks, she was distracted from contemplating it. In a way, she was grateful for the distraction, part of her didn't want to think it through fearing the answer.

"How are you doing? It's good to see you Seven… Chakotay." Janeway gripped Seven's hand firmly after the young woman exited the car.

"I am acceptable… considering." She allowed.

The blonde noticed Janeway's attire; a light blue blouse with relaxed fitting tan Khakis pants and sandals. The Captain looked different than when in her Starfleet uniform. Seven liked the way the red and black uniform looked on her Captain, considering it efficient and functional enough, but this was more in some way. She conceded that it was 'pleasing' and more than acceptable to Seven, although she couldn't fathom why the difference mattered.

"Don't I know," Janeway agreed sympathetically. "It seems relentless, but eventually they will have all the answers they need and hopefully leave us be." Before Seven could form a reply, Janeway coaxed them inside to meet her mother and sister.

She warned them both ahead of time about her sister, but Seven did not believe that her blood sister could be so different from her.

Janeway introduced her former first officer and Seven to her family and they hit it off quite well. Phoebe was even polite at first.

"I'm making a stuffed turkey for dinner with a variety of delicious sides dishes. Would you both be kind enough to join us? There's plenty." Gretchen called from the kitchen.

"Yes, we would love to," Chakotay answered for himself and Seven, but she did indeed want to stay. It felt good to visit her Captain again and she really liked her family too. They accepted her easily despite her appearance as an ex-Borg drone and what that meant.

"So what exactly does that metal above your eye do?" Phoebe asked while grinning from ear to ear. She was sitting in a chair in the living room with her legs under her.

"Phoebe!" Janeway admonished standing in the doorway. "Pay no attention to her Seven. She is simply trying to embarrass me."

Seven looked between the sisters confused. "Why would her inquiry about my optical implant embarrass you Captain?"

"It doesn't embarrass me!" Janeway corrected. "I didn't want her off the wall questions to be insulting to you." She added giving Phoebe a narrowed-eyed version of the Look.

"What she means to say is that it embarrasses her to have me as a little sister." Phoebe grinned mischievously at her older sibling. "So are you going to tell me or keep it a secret?"

Janeway rolled her eyes and went into the kitchen to assist her mother. Chakotay just tapped his fingers on his knee that was casually crossed over his other leg as he sat comfortably on the sofa.  He was amused by how easily Kathryn's sister got under his former Captain's skin. It was an amazing thing to watch.

"The metal above my eye is connected to my optical implant and other internal systems if manipulated to do so." Seven explained.

"Would you excuse me for a moment, ladies?" Chakotay excused himself. Seven nodded to Chakotay as Phoebe stared at her implants unflinching and began asking more questions.

He left them to their conversation and headed for the kitchen. He spotted Kathryn sitting at the table shaking her head back and forth. She smirked at him when she saw him.

"Do you have any… brutally annoying brothers or sisters?" She asked him humorously.

"No, I don't," he chuckled. "It's quite refreshing actually to see this side of you Kathryn."

"I'm not sure if I've just been complimented or insulted… Commander." She teased playfully.

"It's a compliment," he insisted. "Is it ok if I speak to you outside for a moment?"

Kathryn looked to her mother.

"Dinner won't be ready for another thirty minutes dear."

Janeway acknowledged that deadline and went out the back door to walk along the plush green grass that stretched far into the distance.  They walked side by side as the sun was setting to their right in the western sky.  It was turning a beautiful orange reddish hue that she had missed watching for so many years.

The chirp of the local crickets could be heard and the prolonged silence was starting to make Janeway nervous.

"Kathryn?"

"Yes?" Her tone was light and she figured he was going to ask her about his possible career choices once his business with Starfleet was over.

"I wanted to ask your opinion on something." He rubbed his hands together.

"Of course, go ahead."

"I asked Seven of Nine to marry me."

The sounds of nature became silent to the Captain. Her emotions came to the front deafening anything else. Suddenly the feelings that she tried to avoid considering for almost two weeks became all too clear to her in that instant.

Chakotay saw her startled reaction despite her turning away quickly. "Oh, she didn't tell you did she? I thought you knew we were dating. I didn't mean to throw this at you so suddenly. I know you both have a special bond. She's like a… daughter to you."

Daughter?! No, I don’t think so! Not with feelings like this! Kathryn fought for control over herself. "No, it's ok, I actually knew. The Admiral… my futuristic counterpart mentioned it.  I was just startled. I didn't realize you two were that… serious."

"I know it's sudden, but I told her she didn’t have to decide right away because of all this debriefing. However, I was wondering if you would talk to her."

"Me?"

"Yes, I thought she would open up more to you regarding how she feels. I don't want her to feel pressured to do something she's not ready for, but I am ready to settle down."

Kathryn felt her skin become hot and her blouse suddenly felt restrictive as she breathed in and out carefully. "I'll talk with her, but I'm not promising anything.  I will not influence her one way or the other." She answered without looking him in the eyes.

"Fair enough."

 


 

After dinner, Phoebe occupied Commander Chakotay's time with conversation that surrounded painting styles as Janeway took a walk outside to clear her head. She wanted to be alone to meditate over the intense emotions that crept up on her over Chakotay's declaration of marriage.

It wasn't meant to be though as Seven joined her a few minutes later.

"Captain?" Seven asked walking briskly to catch up. "May I join you?"

Janeway sighed, her back was to Seven as she sat down on the grass to watch the full moon. "Of course and please call me Kathryn… I'm no longer your Captain."

"You will always be my Captain." Seven confessed with a slight smile as she peered down on the older woman. She was secretly pleased to be given permission to call her by her given name.

Kathryn smiled lightly pleased that she had such loyalty from such a free spirit that Seven was. In the past, when Seven followed orders, it was more so because she chose to than because she had to. Even punishment and isolation was not much deterrent to the strong-willed young woman.

"So what do you think of my mother's place?"

"I can see why you wanted to get home.  It is… peaceful here."

Janeway looked up to see Seven staring at the stars. "How about you? How are you coping with being planetside?"

"I have no problem with being on Earth. I would surmise that I might actually find some enjoyment with the experience if I wasn't so cooped up at Starfleet headquarters."

"Yes," Janeway was irritated. "I saw the escort. I'll see what I can do regarding that, but even I have only so much voice when it comes to upper management."

"I appreciate that… Kathryn, but there are only a few more days then I will be done and this will be behind us."

Janeway noticed the 'us' and wondered if she meant herself and Chakotay. "So, what will you do when all this is over?"

Seven sat down next to her Captain and looked at her. "Chakotay mentioned getting an apartment among other things."

"He told me a little about that." Janeway remarked and although, she really did not want to go in that direction, she knew in her heart the sooner she found out Seven's feelings the easier it would be to move on.  She almost shook her head in disgust. Who was she kidding? Wouldn't the futuristic Admiral had moved on if she had a choice?

Seven stared at Janeway. Her pupils grew larger to accommodate the growing darkness and her apprehension. "He… he told you?"

"Yes, but I already knew. The Admiral told me."

"Which Admiral?" Seven questioned annoyed. "I had told no one."

"My counterpart from the future." Janeway clarified.

"I see," Seven understood. "I was only made aware of my impending death. What else did she say?" Seven asked perturbed. The Captain has known all this time and yet said nothing. Does she approve?

Janeway eyed her former Astrometrics Officer carefully. "I don't think that would be appropriate."

"I suppose, " She reluctantly agreed, "it does not matter, since that future is no longer a certainty."

"I hope not." Janeway remarked softly and Seven stared at her Captain some more. "He told me he asked you to marry him." The redhead added while picking at the tall grass.

Seven couldn't explain why those words spoken by Janeway would illicit such a strong reaction within herself, but her heart sped up considerably.

"How do you feel about that?" Janeway asked hesitantly.

"I am… uncertain."

Janeway started pulling the grass strands more frantically and shredding them in her hands. "I know it's sudden and you've only been dating him for about five weeks, but you must have some idea of how you feel towards him."

Seven wondered why the Captain was putting her on the spot like this, since Chakotay had not. "With all that has been going on, I have not had the time to consider it properly. He told me to take my time and I intend to."

"A wise choice," Janeway remarked evenly.

"Hypothetically speaking, If I turn him down, do you think someone else would ever want to marry me?" Seven asked Janeway knowing her to be honest in her answers.

Janeway turned sad but hopeful eyes on Seven. "You don't marry someone for that reason, Seven.  If you don't love him, it won't work."

"I do care for him."

"Caring for someone is good, but it's not the same as being in love."

"I see," Seven stated thoughtfully.

If only you could. Janeway speculated.

 


 

Another day at Starfleet headquarters found Captain Kathryn Janeway in front of the Admirals'. Of all the officers, she had no personal animosity towards Admiral Paris, who also happened to be Tom's father, mostly because he was the only one treating her with a resemblance of respect.

"Captain Janeway," Admiral Ross stated. "Why did you go along with Admiral Janeway and agree to outfit your ship with armor and weapons from the future?"

"It gave us a tactical advantage against the Borg, since we decided to utilize the transwarp hub and then destroy it. Without that technology we wouldn't have been able to do either.  By doing so, we delivered a severe blow to the collective by destroying that hub."

Admiral Strickler frowned deeply. "You've changed a lot of peoples lives by this stunt."

Janeway blanched. "Excuse me? What do mean 'stunt'?"

"You've broken the temporal prime directive." He announced to Janeway's disbelief.

"I did NOT break the temporal prime directive… Admiral Janeway did. I used a Borg transwarp hub to get home."

"Oh we don't deny that," Strickler spoke easily. "but you still used her technology to get your crew home. Since when does a Starfleet vessel exist just to protect itself?"

Janeway could not honesty believe what she was hearing.  After all the losses and sacrifices to get to this point. "I saw an opportunity to get my crew home. I took it." She defended herself severely.

"We are not unsympathetic to that fact. Your loyalty to Starfleet is not in question, just your adherence to regulations." Ross interjected.

"We… haven't decided unanimously on how to deal with this infraction." Strickler glanced an intense look at Admiral Paris. "But we'll let you know in a few days. Dismissed."

She stood up and jutted her chin out proudly in acknowledgement and left.

 


 

Seven stood with her fists clenched at her side and her face bone white as they passed judgment over her. "I thought you were aware of this fact. Did you not receive the Doctor's medical reports?"

Admirals' Paris, Strickler and Necheyev sat before her at the metallic oblong table.  Necheyev's eyes were cold and hard, while Strickler's were indifferent.  Admiral Paris frowned while looking down at his stapled hands looking pensively thoughtful. Apparently, Ross could not attend as he was absent for this hearing.

"Those reports are very interesting." Necheyev commented. "And I assure you we've read them… thoroughly, but right now I am very concerned about this ability you have retained from the Borg."

Seven linked her hands in her lap. "I have no intentions of assimilating anyone or anything.  It is an unpleasant process for both participants and I am now an individual with no such compulsions."

"And we'd like to believe you," Strickler spoke up. "but based on your EMH's reports you have the tendency to malfunction and although you haven't assimilated anything to date… this greatly concerns us that it could happen."

"I assure you--"

"Can you guarantee that you will not malfunction in the future?" Admiral Necheyev asked her accusingly.

Seven's confidence faltered. Of course she could not guarantee that.  She was still 18% Borg. "I cannot, my cybernetic systems require maintenance and occasionally some units require replacement." She explained in a low voice.

"You see our dilemma then," Strickler divulged. "Imagine how the public would feel if they knew you had the ability to turn them into drones in a few seconds.  There could be panic not to mention the threat to you."

Seven leaned back stiffly in her lone chair on that side of the table speculating. "I give you my word, I will not assimilate anyone.  I do not wish to lose my individuality that I have struggled so hard to acquire."

"And I wish that were good enough, but it's not." Necheyev replied. "I want to know if there is a way to disable your ability to assimilate?"

"Is that really necessary?" Admiral Paris spoke up addressing Necheyev.

"Yes," She replied clipped and Paris did not respond. He hadn't been participating or questioning much in these debriefings, preferring to stay quiet and observe, but he knew they would need his vote when the time came.

Seven was caught off guard, "I… I have not considered it, I do not know. Drones do not consider not having the ability, they just do."

"Well, unless you want to have a security escort with you wherever you go for the rest of your life, I suggest you found out. In the meantime, I want another opinion other than your doctor's and Admiral Ross wants you to undergo a psychiatric evaluation tomorrow starting at 08:00."

Seven had already undergone an extensive physical as did all the Voyager crew the day after they arrived back in Earth's orbit. She did not feel another one was warranted or necessary. Angered by the threat of being mistreated because she was Borg, Seven retaliated harshly. "So this is human freedom."

"Sometimes freedom comes with a price to protect the greater good!" Necheyev spat.

"I refuse to become a slave because of your misguided fear!"

The blonde Admiral opened her mouth to speak very close to arresting the arrogant ex-Borg on the spot when Admiral Paris spoke up interrupting her.

"Seven," Admiral Paris said lightly trying to diffuse the tension in the room. "You have to trust me.  We need you to do this… It is important.  I'm sure we will come to a mutually acceptable agreement. After all, you want earth to remain a safe place for all its citizens, don't you?"

His speech calmed her down some. "Yes I do, therefore, I will comply."

 


 

Seven explained everything to Chakotay as soon as she entered their shared temporary apartment. Seven was very upset and he was having a difficult time calming her down so he called Captain Janeway and explained it to her over a communiqué. 

Janeway said she'd be right over despite the fact that it was almost 20:00 hours and she had her own version of a bad day. She jumped into her loaned hovercar and made it to San Francisco in record time.  She parked the car outside and was knocking on the door inside 30 minutes.

Chakotay opened the door, which revealed a brooding Seven sitting stiffly on the couch.

"Captain," Chakotay seemed relieved to see her. "Maybe you can cheer her up. I've tried everything."

"I'll do my best," She answered entering the apartment. She immediately went to sit next to Seven. The young woman looked more angry than anything else.

"Seven?"

The blonde looked up into Janeway's accepting and concerned eyes. They held more emotion than Chakotay's did and the mental comparison in her mind caught her off guard.

"Seven," Janeway didn't want to acerbate her condition, but she needed to find out the facts. "Please tell me what is bothering you."

Seven looked from Chakotay to Janeway and something passed over the young woman's eyes. Was it uncertainty?

"Seven, tell the Captain what happened." He tried to encourage her. "I'm sure she'll be able to help." 

Seven almost panicked. What she had to say she did not want to say in front of Chakotay. That look passed over her eyes again and Janeway thought it to be fear.  Could it be possible that what she has to say makes her uncomfortable around Chakotay? Janeway played a hunch.

"Chakotay, could you fix me some coffee please?" She asked him politely, since he was just hovering above them.

"Of course. Would you like anything Seven?"

"Water please… "

He nodded and went into the kitchen disappearing from view.

"Seven what's bothering you?" Janeway asked quietly.

She swallowed before speaking. "There is only one way for me to guarantee my inability to assimilate anyone." She stared at her left hand encased in mesh.

Janeway followed her gaze. "What is it?"

"They would have to remove my hand." She revealed trying to suppress the glistening moisture in her eyes while consigning to the loss of another part of her dwindling humanity.

Janeway's eye grew large. "I don't understand. I know your assimilation tubules are part of your left hand but how could they remove it without severing your human hand underneath?" Janeway finished appalled at the idea.

Her face grew serious and she flexed the metal enclosed fingers. "Because it is not my original hand."

The Captain's jaw dropped open involuntarily completely horrified. "No," she breathed out in a whisper. All those years together on Voyager and she had not known that.

Seven looked quizzically at the Captain noticing how much it bothered her mentor over what had happened to the blonde so long ago. "It is… ok.  My human hand was severed when I came out of the maturation chamber.  I was outfitted with this hand so I could withstand the heavier Borg attachments and voltages required for making repairs."

Janeway gently put her right hand over Seven's meshed covered one. "Does it hurt…?"

"No," Seven replied touched by Janeway's sentiment. "Rather it is more sensitive than my human hand, which is precisely why I do not wish to lose it." She was visibly unsettled. "It is a part of me now… and all I have left. As my human hand is gone…" Despondency crept into her tone.

Without thinking, Janeway brought her left hand to Seven's cheek. "That's not going to happen. Do you hear me? I won't let them, but let's keep this to ourselves for now… Ok?" Janeway told her adamantly while trying to keep her voice down, but Seven wasn't completely in tune with the Captain words.

The touch on her face, so innocent at first sent bolts of electricity through her face.  She stared into Kathryn's eyes now mostly blue with only a tinge of grey outlining the cornea.  The Captain's mouth parted and Seven glanced down at her fine wine shaded lips.  She thought she saw Janeway's ears redden some and her breathing increase as she peered back at Seven.

The auburn haired officer felt the cool soft skin from Seven's face slowly getting warmer under her fingertips. Seven stared at her so oddly.  A current shot through her hand, traveled up her arm and into her torso spreading a warmth and giddy feeling all throughout her rapidly warming body. A pang of arousal engulfed her suddenly. Janeway then focused on the full red tinted lips before her and she swore her face moved closer a few inches on its own before an interruption snapped her out of it.

"All right, here comes one water and one coffee." Chakotay called out before appearing in the doorway.

Janeway snatched her hand away from Seven's face much to the stunned surprise of the younger woman and she stood up to meet Chakotay hoping her face didn't give away her sin. Damn! Was I about to kiss her?!

Janeway took the offered mug and swallowed her dry throat before speaking. "Thank you." She took a drink of the hot liquid as she strolled around the living room trying to calm down.  She closed her eyes as she tasted the bittersweet sample.  Not as good as her mother's but definitely better than the replicated version.

"So," He handed the water to Seven. "Did you enlighten Kathryn?" he asked.

"Yes," she replied concisely still thoughtful more over Janeway's actions than their conversation.

Janeway regained her boundaries and thought carefully about Seven's problem. "Has the Doctor been maintaining your implants?"

"No, they will not allow him to visit me."

Chakotay shrugged nodding in agreement.

"When do you leave tomorrow for your appointment?" Janeway inquired in command mode again.

"I must participate in a mental assessment at 08:00 before proceeding to their medical bay for a physical."

"Expect me at 07:00 tomorrow. I'll bring the Doctor.  We'll see if he can shed some light on this problem."

Chakotay scratched his chin. "Kathryn, the guards outside won't allow him to visit."

She rose a sharp eyebrow in response. "What makes you thinks they'll know he's visiting?"

 


 

That night as soon as she arrived at her mother's home, Janeway brushed past her mother and went up the stairs to her room.

"Kathryn?" Her mother called from down the hallway.

"I'm here mother," She replied quickly before heading for her computer terminal that was on a desk located against the far wall.

"Is everything all right? You rushed out of here earlier." Her mother appeared in the doorway in a nightgown.

"Yes, everything's fine," she lied. "I just need to take care of some business." She replied turning to face her mother as she sat down at the desk.

Gretchen was the wife of an Admiral and she knew the signs of reticence. She knew when they were keeping things from her. This was not her daughter in front of her now, but the Starfleet officer she had become.

"If you care to talk about it--"

"I can't," she interrupted quietly lowering her head, thinking of both her professional problems and her personal problems with Seven.

"I see." Gretchen never let their necessary secrecy deter her from inquiring if she thought her loved ones were in emotional turmoil. There was a look in her daughter's eyes of sadness. "You aren't in any trouble… are you?" Her mother asked lightly.

"No," Another partial truth. "I need to help a friend that's all."

"Is that all?"

"Yes," she answered evenly. "I need to call someone now."

Her mother knew a polite dismissal when she heard one. "Very well, but I am here if you need me Kathryn." Her mother reached in to close the door behind her.

"I know." Her mother heard her daughter say almost inaudibly as she closed the door.

Janeway pondered over her mother's departure for a brief moment before opening her terminal and sending a private message to the former EMH of Voyager.

 


 

Seven walked up the stairs to the shared bedroom feeling confused and dismayed over the past 11 days. Nothing seemed what it appeared and everything was not as she expected. Her future was uncertain, her feelings were jumbled, chaotic at best and she didn’t know what she felt or for whom.

She was beginning to think she had made a mistake as she changed into a pair of loose Starfleet issue pajamas before joining her boyfriend in the queen-sized bed.

She stared at the ceiling and pondered what had happened that evening with her former Captain. Seven had felt a connection of sorts.  The connection was good and Seven felt at peace with it… So why did she pull away so suddenly? She did not seem disgusted by my implants nor adverse to being closer. Janeway had shown more honest affection in that one moment than Chakotay had in their entire courtship. 

Seven wondered if he was truly giving her time to adapt to their relationship or if he was too afraid of intimacy with her to suggest it.

"Chakotay, are you awake?" she questioned.

"Sort of." He grumbled. Then he sighed and turned over to look at her. "I'm sorry, I guess I'm worried about these hearings too.  My sessions haven't been going all that well either."

Seven nodded, but that was not what was on her mind. "Is there a reason why you have not attempted intimacy with me since I kissed you on Voyager?"

Chakotay swallowed lightly. "What do you mean? I've kissed you."

"Yes, but do you… desire me?"

He smiled, "I asked you to consider marrying me, didn't I?"

"Yes, you did."

"Listen Seven," he explained. "I know you're new to all this and I want to do right by you, so there's no rush. It will happen when we're ready."

Seven gave him a half grin.  He was really very kind and compassionate if not overly passionate about her. Not to mention, extremely patient compared to Seven's knowledge of normal human mating habits.

She went to touch his face with her implant hand and his eyes hesitated on the mesh before returning to her eyes with a slight smile.

"Perhaps you are right," Seven disclosed disappointed, noticing both his hesitancy and her lack of not feeling something more. "Good night."

 


 

The next morning, Kathryn arrived at 07:00 promptly after having a terse disagreement with the Doctor. He did not appreciate having to be smuggled, but since his own hearings were still going on and he cared deeply for Seven, he agreed to do it. So Janeway went to his temporary quarters in an adjacent building and smuggled him out just before heading to Seven's apartment.

Seven let her Captain in and closed the door.

"Why is there only one guard today?" Janeway questioned curiously.

"Chakotay went out for his morning run.  One of them always follows."

"Oh," Janeway considered it. All the better, she thought. "I think we should take this upstairs… perhaps your bedroom?"

Bedroom!?  Seven blushed at the concept. "Captain?"

Janeway looked at her puzzled for a moment. "So your remaining escort doesn't hear anything… "

Seven was perplexed and stood rigidly. "Hear?" She couldn't be referring to that, could she?! The ex-drone couldn't explain to herself why odd images and visuals cascaded through her mind.  She would have considered them inappropriate at best.  Does one think of their Captain and friend in that manner?

"The Doctor tends to be loud." Janeway eyed her suspiciously as she pulled out the mobile emitter. Was Seven feeling ok?

"Of course," the young woman recovered quickly leading Janeway upstairs after seeing the emitter. Seven had no idea why the statement had such an odd connotation to her.

"You're really worried about tomorrow, aren't you?" Kathryn asked upon entering the bedroom.

"Yes," Seven concurred readily to cover up her confusion. She was mystified at what she had been thinking and it unsettled and excited her.

Janeway keyed in a few commands and the infamous EMH appeared. "Please state the nature… oh!" he realized where he was. "Hello Seven."

"Doctor," she greeted.

"There's one other thing I have to do." Janeway tapped her combadge and spoke a few choice words including security encryption codes and a plethora of medical equipment was beamed onto Seven's bed.

"There you go Doctor. You should have everything you need to examine Seven properly." Janeway turned toward the stairs. "I'll be downstairs."

 


 

Janeway waited downstairs making herself a cup of coffee and sat down quietly on the sofa until the Doctor finished his assessment around 40 minutes later and both he and Seven joined her.

The EMH walked over to the Captain, "There is no reason why they would have to sever her hand." He informed her calmly. "Her nanoprobes can be programmed not to assimilate. It's a lengthy procedure, but not too difficult. I've programmed them to do worse." He finished explaining thinking of the battle with species 8472.

Janeway looked up at him wistful. "Will their doctor's know about her hand?"

"If they do a thorough physical, yes. They won't know about m ability to alter the programming of her nanoprobes."

"If we need you to testify on her behalf--"

"Of course I will." He interrupted. "If I'm allowed to."

She frowned, "Oh, you will be." Determination was etched into her face. "If it's necessary."

Time was moving close to 08:00 when Seven spoke up. "I must leave to go to my assessment," she informed them, relieved that she would not have to lose her hand.  

Janeway stood up and put an arm on Seven's shoulder. "Let them do most of the talking and don't tell them anymore than you have to."

Seven agreed with a non-verbal tilt of the head. "Chakotay should be back momentarily," she announced before leaving.  The Doctor waited in the kitchen until after Seven had left before Janeway ventured in to join him.

He was leaning against the countertop, supporting his head on his chin and sporting a very pensive look as he stared at the floor. "Captain, there's something else I found out."

 


 

Seven met Counselor Troi at Starfleet Headquarters where she waited in the lobby as usual before her appointments began.

When the Counselor called her into her office, Seven sat stiffly in the chair before her waiting for the grilling of questions she expected.

That didn't happen though.

Counselor Troi suggested they go to Starfleet Academy. There was another young ex-Borg male that she had been assigned to and she knew that Seven was fond of him from their time on Voyager.

"Icheb?"

"Yes," Deanna replied smirking. "He's been taking classes for over a week now. He was very anxious to start and since the Admirals' were quite impressed with that, they agreed to it as long as he was available for more briefings if necessary. Would you like to visit him?"

"I would love to, but I need permission in advance to go anywhere as I have a permanent escort." Seven glanced at the door. Her current guard was lounging in the waiting room.

Troi smiled widely, "I'll take care of that."

 


 

Arriving via transporters at Starfleet Academy, The Counselor walked with Seven down a long corridor leading to Icheb's room when she had forgotten to take care of something pressing. She asked Seven to be excused saying the ex-Borg could head on alone to Icheb's dorm and she would join her there later. Seven nodded her understanding.  As the Counselor disappeared down another corridor Seven continued on her way to the dorm room where she was to meet with Icheb. She had not seen him in a long time and missed him.

Before Seven reached the end of the long corridor a loud, piercing siren went off.  Emergency doors at both ends of the corridor came slamming down cutting off her escape route.  Another larger door, a few feet behind her opened up, revealing sounds of broken conduits and the smell of something burning. Seven didn't know exactly what to do at first. She considered attempting to force the doors at the end of the hallway, until she heard sounds coming from the damaged, smoking room.  She quickly went into the room to see who was calling out for help.  Immediately, Seven froze.  Straight ahead, she saw Captain Janeway trapped under a large fallen adrift about ten meters away. 

It was loud and noisy, steam was swirling around and the room was shaking significantly.  Seven thought she heard the Captain say something.

"Chakotay!" Janeway yelled and pointed to her left, which was on Seven's right side.

Sure enough, Chakotay was 15 meters to her right. He was unconscious, blood dripping down his face. It looked like a large metal beam had fallen and hit him in the head.

What would they be doing here? Before she could consider that further, she heard the computer inside the room announce something amidst the chaos of noise.

"Plasma fire, evacuate level 3B, 30 seconds to plasma rupture of the coolant bypass system, imminent explosion."

She had no time to mull over why they were here. She moved quickly towards the Captain formulating a plan as to how she would get both of them out of this room in less than 30 seconds.  Fear coursed through her.  It's not possible! she thought. Unacceptable! She recanted to herself.

She reached the Captain, noticing the conduit was crushing her legs. She grabbed the conduit to remove it.  It was heavy, but with her Borg enhanced strength, she managed through great exertion to move it enough to slide her Captain out from underneath.  She pulled her triceps muscle in her right arm in the process, but ignored the pain.  However, she was unable to ignore the other twinge of fiery pain that erupted in her shoulder on that same right arm. With her left-enhanced arm, she picked up the Captain.  She gently tried to lean most of the weight on her left arm, but grimaced in pain as she had to use her right arm to balance the Captain's weight.

The computer continued its merciless countdown. "15 seconds until plasma coolant leak rupture."

She reached the hallway and gently putting the Captain down, swiftly returning to the room to get Chakotay.

She picked him up, attempting to carry him, when her right arm gave out, the pain shooting up into her nerve endings, forcing her to cry out.  Using only her Borg enhanced left hand and arm, she managed to grab him across the chest and lift him to her height.  She would have to drag his feet and she knew it would slow her down, but she had to get him out of this room.

"8 seconds.."

Only 8 meters to go!  Her right arm ached and her lungs were burning with the smoke from the plasma fire, which gave off noxious fumes.

"5 seconds.."

Four meters more to go!

"3 seconds.."

She had two meters to go when the emergency doors started to shut.  "No!"

"2 seconds.."

With one last ditch effort, she flung the Commander through the four-foot gap remaining before the doors shut tightly leaving her inside.  She fell to her knees gasping for air, waiting for the inevitable.

"1 second.."

"0…"

There was a bright flash of light, blinding Seven for a few seconds, before she realized, she was not dead.  She had felt no heat. Her skin was not on fire. She should have been dead.  After a few moments, she heard the door open.

"Computer! Freeze program!" she heard a woman's voice say. "Seven! Are you all right!?"

It was Counselor Troi's voice. Her hand was on Seven's shoulder assisting her to her feet as Seven's vision cleared.

The Counselor looked worried as she looked intently at the younger woman's face.  There was a man next to her looking at Seven oddly.  Shrugging off her initial shock that she was still alive, she remembered her Captain and the Commander.

"Captain Janeway! Chakotay! They are injured!"

"How did you do that?" She heard another familiar voice say unbelievably.

"It's ok, Seven.  Everything's been taken care of." The Counselor noticed the odd way Seven was holding her right arm. "Seven, are you injured?" She inquired perplexed.

"My right arm… is damaged." She was still recovering her breath.

Upon further inspection, Seven realized the stunned man wore the uniform of a high-ranking officer, an Admiral.

"There's no way you could have saved both." He was amazed. "It's not written into the program."

"What?" Seven inquired astounded by such a statement, finally noticing it was Admiral Strickler that looked completely confounded.

"Seven, I think we should get your arm looked at.  Come on." The Counselor coaxed her towards the door, but Seven looked at the Admiral stringently as she was leaving. 

 


 

The Captain paced the living room liked a caged animal awaiting Seven's call.

"Kathryn you're going to rub the shine off the floors if you keep that up." Phoebe jeered her.

Janeway gave her a dark look and Phoebe frowned deeply. "I think I'll leave you alone." She stated not amused by her older sister's morose attitude, but knowing well enough to leave her alone.

Her mother stood in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room staring worriedly at her daughter.

"Why don't you tell me what's bothering you, Kathryn?"

"Mother… " She warned as she stopped to look out the front window. "I'm really not in the mood to discuss it."

"Fine," her mother said tersely. "Don't tell me anything just like your father. I'll just wait under you're clinically depressed and stuck in your room for months. Then it will be my and Phoebe's job to clean up the pieces of your mental health!"

Janeway turned to her mother grimacing as if stabbed. "This has nothing to do with that!"

"I know, but you left me no choice. I needed to get your attention. This change in you over the last few days has me worried. I don't want to see you go through that again, and I will also not tolerate disrespect in my household either. You can mope around just as easily in San Francisco." Gretchen hinted.

Janeway gasped at the possibility of her mother kicking her out of her childhood home. "I'm sorry, mother." Kathryn knew she had been rude to her mother and distant, but she did need her. Her families presence was comforting, despite her inability to articulate her troubles verbally.

"It's just so confusing. I'm about to lose everything, but I feel as if it doesn't matter. That if only I could… I... "

Phoebe listened from the stairs. She was shocked to hear such uncertainty and pain in her normally confident sister.

"What's happened?" Her mother asked sympathetically. "It's Starfleet isn't it? They're not happy with you?"

"Yes, but it's not just that. It seems like they want to prosecute Seven severely."

"Is it because she's Borg?"

"I think so, but I also expected them to be more understanding than this!" The pressure of the last 24 hours was wearing thin on Janeway's ability to hold it in.

Her mother was beside her quickly and put a compassionate hand on her daughter's shoulder. Kathryn turned a pain filled face to her mother. It was full of aggravation, concern and loss, all rolled up into one.

"Come," She coaxed her daughter. "Sit down and tell me what has you so upset."

She nodded, sat down in the chair, folded her hands in front of her and explained in detail what happened with her and Seven in regards to their debriefings.  She also reiterated that this information could not be shared with anyone else as she was violating protocol by telling of her adventures with her futuristic counterpart.

Phoebe quietly came downstairs and sat next to her mother.

"Where is this Admiral Janeway now?" her mother asked.

"She died so I could get my crew home." Janeway stared at her hands.

"And they blame you for this? Typical Starfleet," Phoebe commented angrily at what they were doing to her loyal sister.

Gretchen put a calming hand on her younger daughter's knee as she spoke to her older daughter. "But you're not her dear, how could they blame you for her crime?"

"I'm not so sure about that mother," Janeway claimed. "I mean… I could become her under the right circumstances."

"Kathryn?"

"I don't think she did it just to get her crew home. I think she did it because she fell for one of the crew.  Someone who ended up dying on her before she had a chance to do anything about it."

"Fell?" Her mother echoed.

Phoebe blanched knowing exactly what Kathryn was talking about.

"Romantically… " Kathryn clarified embarrassed.

Gretchen took her time to compose herself with the idea. "I don't see why that's so bad Kathryn."

"It's not proper to have an affair with a married member of my crew." She clarified, not looking at them.

"Admiral Janeway did that and she told you!" Phoebe exclaimed. It was unbelievable that her sister would do anything so raunchy and immoral, but secretly Phoebe was pleased that her sister in some time frame had the guts to be so bold and live a little.

"Not directly, but she left me a PADD explaining certain things."

"It's not like you're her Kathryn, you would never considering doing that with a married person." Gretchen tried to soothe her disturbed daughter before she noticed the look of guilt she received. 

"Kathryn?"

Kathryn looked up sharply at both of them and there was no denying the heartache and longing in her mostly grey shaded eyes.

"Kathryn!" Gretchen called out disturbed. "You didn't sleep with a married man did you?!"

"No!" Janeway rebuked. "This individual is not married… not yet anyway." She added somberly, not wanting to elaborate despite the incorrect gender reference.

Gretchen was relieved at that, but she was not convinced and then the idea hit her. "Are you in love with this individual as well?"

Janeway only looked at her refusing to respond, but with the watery build up in her eyes, it wasn't hard to guess what she was feeling.

 


 

Seven was unusually quiet as they headed for the local sickbay.  The Counselor was concerned for the ex-Borg.  Seven's face was serious and dark as they entered the medical bay.

The Doctor on duty saw them come in and grabbed a medical tricorder on route to their destination, a local biobed.

Seven noticed it was the same Doctor who gave all of Voyager's crew their initial examinations. A Doctor Harper.

His brow elevated slightly when he saw her. "I've been expecting you, but not for another hour." Doctor Harper had been ordered to do her examination.

"There's been a slight complication." Counselor Troi informed him.

"I didn't expect you to be injured." He commented taking a closer look at her as he ran a medical tricorder over her. "What are your symptoms?"

Seven looked at him flabbergasted holding her arm. "I am in pain," she uttered sarcastically. "My right arm, obviously."

"I see," he scanned the area over her right arm. "It appears you have almost severed your triceps muscle from the bone. You have a slight biceps tear as well and your right shoulder is separated." He frowned at Seven who showed no surprise at his findings.

Counselor Troi was shocked that such injuries, in her opinion severe, should have occurred in a holographic environment.  She was feeling pretty low.  She was angry at Admiral Ross and planned to give him a piece of her mind the next time she saw him.

He rose one eyebrow, "What exactly were you doing to cause such damage?" the Doctor asked.

Seven looked at the Doctor then to Counselor Troi, with an expression that suggested she should explain.  "Perhaps, you would care to explain, Counselor?" she stated tersely.

The Counselor's heart sank.  She knows!  She put a hand delicately on Seven's knee. "I'm sorry, Seven.  I was under orders."

Seven's face tightened. "So, the Captain and the Commander?  They were not real, correct?"

The Counselor nodded sadly as she could sense Seven's anger. 

"Holograms." Seven's voice quivered in irritation.

"I'm going to give you something for the pain." The Doctor proceeded to repair Seven's injuries, by running a bone knitter and suture scanner over the damaged area.

"Pain is irrelevant." Seven said distastefully in her anger.

"Oh! You think so, eh? " the Doctor mused. "Wait until later when I have to reset your shoulder.  Even with today's technology, there's only one way to fix a separated shoulder."

"Very well, proceed." She acquiesced.

The Doctor injected a hypospray into Seven's neck for the pain from the torn ligaments.

"Are you feeling any more discomfort?"

"No."

"Good, since I can't fix your shoulder until the swelling goes down, I'm going to do the examination now, if you have no objections."

"None." Seven stated tersely, but deep down she did object.

He ran more scans utilizing different instruments that took well over thirty minutes. He pressed a hypospray into her neck a few times and Seven was getting suspicious that he was doing more than just examining her.

"Ok, let's put that shoulder back in now." He remarked.

"You will need to wear a sling for a few days until the subcutaneous ligaments and muscles heal.  I strongly suggest you follow that advice." He pressured her, positioning the sling under the arm and over her neck.

Then he gently put his hands on both shoulders. "This still might hurt a bit despite the pain medication."

Seven hissed audibly as he pressed her arm up and toward her shoulder joint putting it back in its rightful place.

"...but since pain is irrelevant to you, it shouldn't bother you." He jested.  As soon as he said it and looked into her red burning eyes, he knew he had made a mistake.

"You did that on purpose." She stood up hovering over him. "Perhaps, I should demonstrate how it feels." She stated while glaring at him severely.

He flinched and backed away from her slowly. "No! Not at all, just kidding. You have a clean bill of health. You can go now." He spoke nervously.

Troi could feel the anger coming from Seven, but she knew the young woman did not intend to harm the rude Doctor despite her verbal threat. 

"Seven, I think we should talk. Let's go." She didn't want to leave Seven without explaining her part in this fiasco.

"I have nothing to say to you, Counselor." Seven briskly walked out.

This was turning into a disaster of a day, the Counselor thought.

After they left, the Doctor cautiously looked around and then carefully took the three vials he had extracted and put them inside a shatterproof container before going into a side room. Inside a concealed section of the wall, he opened a safe, put them inside and closed the door shut tight.

 


Continued >>>>>

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