Seven’s Awakening:

Disclaimer: Paramount owns all Characters from the Voyager universe and no profit was made from this story. It was written only for the enjoyment of Star Trek Voyager fans spanning the world.

Codes, Pairing: J/7

Rating: NC-17, Explicit and graphically detailed sexual content between two females. You’ve been warned! There are references and scenes alluding to J/m sex, and 7/m sex, and of course J/7, so if any of this offends you in anyway, please leave now and no harm will done.

Please be responsible, if you are under 18 or if this is illegal in your part of the world, go elsewhere. There is some violence in this story too, so please beware.

Note: Special thanks to my beta reader, Jay for her input.

Summary: Realizing something in her life is missing, Seven takes steps to fill it, having no idea just how complicated her journey of the heart would be.


>>> Continued from page 3

Seven's Awakening

by Scar

 

Seven had a small hypospray tucked into the palm of her closed fist when she transported over to the Borg vessel.

The Queen watched the former drone of tertiary adjunct to Unimatrix zero-one, materialize inside her chambers.

"No matter how hard you try, you cannot escape where you belong." The Borg Queen remarked.

"I will never belong with you," Seven refuted acidly. “I am only here to save Voyager.”

"I realize it is your flawed humanity making you do these things."

"That is your opinion."

The Queen sighed. "Did you tell them of my plans for humanity?"

This played right into Seven's plan. She needed to buy time, so Voyager could get away.

"Can you not read my thoughts?"

"You are trying to block me." The Queen stated. "I've noticed for the past few minutes your attempt to hide your thoughts, but they will come if I probe deep enough."

"Then do so."

The Queen shrugged. "I don’t have to. I already know you did." She circled slowly around Seven like a Black widow studying her prey. "I also know as well as you that they will try to stop me, but the question is when and how because now that I have you they certainly won't use the pathogen. You and I both know that."

"You are correct… they will not use it," Seven stated bravely. "but I will."

The Queen's eyes went wide as she probed harshly into Seven's recent thoughts causing a sharp pain to cascade through the blonde's mind. Within seconds, Seven’s suicidal plan became common knowledge. The Queen glared at Seven's enclosed mesh hand, the one she knew held the deadly pathogen.

"Open your hand!" She commanded.

"No."

The Queen advanced on Seven, this time intending to do her bodily harm. This was the final betrayal. Seven of Nine, formerly her favorite drone and groomed successor to her very throne, was tainted black with the foul smell of humanity and all its misguided illusions of individuality. The young naïve woman would never be useful to her or the Collective again, the Queen finally realized. Yet this proclamation of failure to bring her favorite drone back into the fold enraged her all the more.

"Destroy Voyager at all costs. If any vessel becomes infected with the pathogen, cut all external links to the hive mind and initiate self-destruct.

"You've traded your life for her, but you have failed. You will die as well as your precious Voyager crewmates."

"No!" Seven backed up. "Humanity must survive, Kathryn must survive!" The blonde was adamant. Despite everything that happened, Seven still loved her.

Lunging forward, the Queen reached out grabbing for the hand that contained the deadly pathogen, managing to seize both of Seven's wrists.

“Release me!” The blonde demanded. "All I have to do is inject this modified hypospray into my hand and the infected nanoprobes will kill every drone connected to me and you!" Seven threatened.

Disgusted, the Queen tossed her easily to the ground. Seven managed to hold onto the hypospray as she landed on her back. Taking a quick glance to her left, she opened her palm, to check if it had been broken. It was not, but she knew her time was short. She would have to release it and soon... yet would that be enough to save Voyager… and her Captain?

"The emotion you feel for Captain Janeway has blinded you! You are in love with a fallacy! See with your senses, not your heart."

Lifting herself up with her hands, Seven shook her head in denial. "I will not listen to your propaganda!"

"Look at the facts… They are revealed in your eidetic mind." The Queen slowly inched forward as she spoke. Her words, although truthful, were meant to distract.

"Was her skin soft to the touch as you caressed her?" She inched closer.

Crawling backwards on the cold metallic floor, Seven attempted to distance herself from the cold hearted woman.

"Was her unique scent in your nostrils as you made love to her?”

"I will not listen to you!!"

"Did she moan her appreciation?!" The Queen was intentionally relentless.

"Be Silent!!" Seven commanded backing into a wall.

The Borg leader was not surprised at the audacity of her former pupil. She expected it from Seven of Nine, but it was all irrelevant. She made her choice and sealed her fate. The Queen would NOT tolerate another betrayal.

"You've betrayed me for nothing." The Queen spat. "You made love to a hologram in her likeness!! Your Captain does not love you!"

"No!" Seven was aghast. "You are lying!!"

"Foolish human!" The Queen asserted. "I have access to your memories and unlike you, I can see them clearly!"

"NO!"

"Yes and you will die with that knowledge." Trapped, the Queen reached for her.

 

*****

 

Captain Kathryn Janeway appeared mere seconds after Seven disappeared, a bit dazed but clearly cognizant as to what was going on. While held captive, she had heard the entire conversation, especially the horrible agreement that sent her heart into painful spasms.

"Get her back?!" She commanded teeth clenched. The EMH appeared at her side scanning her for injuries.

"She's gone Kathryn. She traded her life for ours… willingly." Chakotay replied quietly waiting for the barrage to come. Of the entire crew, only he knew what Seven truly meant to her.

"I won't accept that!" She glared at him, her face torn between anger and pain.

"It was her idea." He explained succinctly.

"Captain," Harry interjected. "The Borg cubes are charging weapons."

"Warp Nine!" Chakotay ordered.

"Belay that command!" Janeway countermanded. "I can't believe you would even suggest leaving after what I told you before I left." She growled at her First Officer.

Chakotay leaned in. "Your judgment is being impaired by your feelings." He clarified under his breath.

"We're being surrounded… two… correction five… no, ten vessels and rising." Harry warned.

"We're running out of time!" Chakotay pressured her to act on Voyager's behalf. "We have to go--"

Janeway ignored him. "Can you get a lock Harry?"

"No, not with the shields up."

"Tuvok fire a volley of photon torpedoes at the lead vessel."

As he did so, two Borg vessels drifted quickly into position to block the attack on the Queen's vessel.

"They're returning firing!"

"Evasive maneuvers Tom. Brace for impact!" Janeway shouted.

"Aye Captain," Tom replied unenthused. As good a pilot as he was even he couldn't avoid so many vessels for long.

Three successive hits, sent everyone except Tom to the deck. Conduits broke free from the ceiling to spray sparks around them. Tuvok gave a list of damaged systems, which the Captain half heartedly heard. She was too busy staring at the viewscreen and the vessel she knew Seven was on.

"Get repair crews on it." Chakotay ordered. He stormed right up to the Captain blocking her view. "Kathryn, we have to go now! If more than one of those Borg vessels decides to put us in a tractor beam, we have no hope of escape. We can't defeat two dozen Borg cubes. We won't survive!!"

She stared at him, her eyes clouded by loss.

He grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her. "We can't save her and you know it! Would she condone you sacrificing yourself, or Naomi Wildman to her fate?! You're going to let her die for nothing!?"

"Chakotay… " Janeway stammered. "I love her… " It hurt like the fires of hell. "so much."

"I know," he agreed quietly understanding her turmoil. "but we have to go."

With emptiness in her eyes, Captain Janeway turned to Tuvok and nodded morosely. "Get us out of here--"

"Captain!" Harry announced frantically. "There's a Borg sphere coming up fast from our aft."

"A Borg Sphere?" She questioned. "Where did it come from?"

"Based on the trajectory, it would appear to have come from the Beta quadrant." Tuvok informed them.

When the sphere surprisingly hailed Voyager instead of attacking them, Chakotay and Janeway exchanged befuddled glances while Harry put it on the forward viewscreen.

A familiar alien's face came up on the screen. "Do you have Annika?!" Axum asked bluntly.

"No, she's on the Queen's cube." Janeway told him. "Can you--?"

"We WILL retrieve her, stand bye." He spoke confidently.

Kathryn's shoulders slumped in relief. Despite being utterly exhausted, a small glimmer of hope passed through her, as she sat down in her chair and prayed.

 

*****

 

A deep scowl formed on Seven's brow as the Queen yanked her roughly to her feet. Moving quickly with a primal scream, the blonde jabbed the hypospray into the flesh of the Queen's chest just above the cybernetic attachment.

Gasping, the Queen's eyes went wide with fear.

Moving quickly, Seven brought her mesh covered hand up and commanded her tubules to puncture the Queen's neck.

As Seven's nanoprobes fought to invade the Borg Queen, the pathogen was steadily infecting them both.

The Queen's jumbled thoughts started coming full force to the blonde, along with the entire chorus of the Collective. A migraine of unparalleled strength punctured her skull, but the torment was necessary to achieve her goal. Regardless of the agony, Seven kept reiterating the same commands over and over.

"Stand down the attack on Voyager. Maintain the neural link. Do not close off from the hive mind. Initiate self destruct."

"What are you doing?!" The Borg leader spat as it dawned on her exactly what Seven was trying to accomplish.

"Cease the link! Do not communicate with my vessel!" The Borg Queen shouted in her mind, but it was too late. The Borg vessels had assumed that the command came for their Queen and in that moment of connectivity, they became infected with the Pathogen.

"STOP!!" The Queen shouted. Enraged, she smacked Seven across the face, sending her flying through the air. The separation was so fast, her tubules broke off, not having the time to retract properly.

Seven landed with a loud thud against a nearby Borg alcove. The side panels gouged into her back as she slammed against it causing damage to her spinal column before she slid to the hard floor.

"You were our future! You were one of us! How could you do this?!" Even at the end, the Borg Queen had trouble understanding Seven's reluctance. Who could refuse perfection once it has been tasted!

"I am Annika Hansen. Human! You took me as a child and made me into one of you against my will! Captain Janeway rescued me and taught me how to care… how to love. Even if she cannot love me the way I love her, she has allowed me to see true perfection… if only for a moment."

"You have destroyed us all!" She tried to advance on Seven to finish her, but her mechanical legs literally fell off her body, disconnecting at the joints.

Dazed and injured, the blonde tried to sit up. She choked on some blood congealing in her chest from a punctured lung. "No… Kathryn WILL live!"

From ground level, the Queen's silver eyes bore with hatred into Seven of Nine as her body and her ship disintegrated around them.

 

*****

 

My love for you still stands

This I have done for you

The final battle I have waged,

So you could live another day

 

"Scan that cube for Annika's bio-pattern!" Axum ordered Croix from the designated battle bridge; a chamber that resembled the Queen's in functionality if not design. "And isolate their shield frequency."

"I am working on it." He replied hastily. Croix normally worked on weapons not sensors and frequencies, but qualified crewmen were in short supply, so he had no choice.

"If we can match that, we can beam her out right through their defenses." Korok explained.

"I'm detecting one human life sign, with Borg components, but… " Croix stated. "her life signs are fluctuating oddly."

"Can you get a lock?" Axum persisted.

"No, I'm still trying to match the frequency." Croix complained.

"Three Borg vessels are about to engage us!" D'ruk, a Nausicaan, informed them. He was in charge of controlling the complicated navigational system. "They're firing!"

"Evasive maneuvers!" Axum turned to Croix. "Hurry!" He pressured.

"I've got the frequency!"

"Energize!"

Croix tapped the transporter controls, but nothing happened. "I can't get a lock! Her signal is destabilizing!" He grouched. "We have to get closer!"

"Move in, full impulse." Axum ordered D'ruk.

"That's too fast." Korok warned.

"We'll get her as we go by." Axum re-assured the Klingon.

The sphere rocked taking a few sporadic blasts as it edged within a kilometer of the Queen's ship.

"I've got a clear signature!" Croix exclaimed. "Energizing… "

"Something's wrong with that cube." Korok stared at the Queen's vessel through the viewer as pieces of debris fell off the ship.

Croix scanned the Borg cube, immediately after Seven's body formed on the metal deck. "That cube is destabilizing and it’s not the only one. They’re all going to blow!"

"Raising shields!" Korok furiously punched keys. "Get us out of here." He demanded to D'ruk, who spun the vessel around sending it into high warp.

Axum hurried to Annika noticing she was conscious, but in obvious pain, with the way she was writhing around. "Call Voyager! Request their EMH immediately." Axum demanded, in shock at the extent of her injuries.

Croix nodded, sending the message immediately. "I've notified them of the situation, but they cannot beam the hologram over while our shields are up!" He announced.

"Kathryn… " Seven cried out as her mesh hand started to spasm uncontrollably.

"She's not here Annika. It's me Axum." He gripped her human hand and brought it to his chest for comfort.

She turned clouded eyes on him and realizing who it was, tried to pull away, but with no strength couldn't.

"You betrayed me… " Seven whispered vehemently with what little strength she had. "You gave me to her."

"NO!" Axum shook his head rejecting the idea. "I would never do such a thing. I only agreed to find you. I never intended to give you to her. Please… you must believe me."

"That changes… nothing… I do not… love you." Seven struggled to speak. She could feel her insides changing for the worse. Components were slowly shutting down.

"I… I know, but--"

"Where… is Kathryn?"

"On Voyager, we can't--"

"I wish… to see her… before… " Seven shivered at the prospect of not seeing Janeway one last time.

"We're trying to get you help…" Tears formed in his eyes. "Hold on."

Sudden explosions shook the sphere. There were a series of shock waves engulfing the two retreating ships as some of the infected cubes imploded. Korok went over to relieve Croix at sensors sending him to the weapons post.

Axum held himself close to Seven as the ripples passed over his ship. He swiveled his head around to face the Klingon General. "Where's Voyager Korok?" His asked urgently.

He glanced at the sensors. "Right behind us. They are trying to escape the blasts as we are."

"Can we drop shields?"

"We are NOT at a safe distance." Korok advised.

"How long?" He asked with panic in his voice.

"A few minutes at best."

"She doesn't have a few minutes!"

"I am powerless to do more!" The General grumbled, not taking Axum's outburst personally because the General knew what was at stake.

Axum withdrew into himself. Seconds passed as he thought of how to get Seven medical treatment. Then it hit him. "Send Voyager our shield frequency! The Emergency medical hologram can beam through it with minimal risk, just like we did Seven."

Korok proceeded to send the message. He waited a few seconds for Voyager to make the adaptations and then Korok initiated transport. "Energizing."

Both Captain Janeway and the EMH coalesced on their bridge.

When dark worried eyes saw the condition of her beloved, Kathryn's heart screamed out in protest. The veins of Seven's neck were grey with a sickly green tint creeping its way into her lovely features. Her face was pale and blotchy instead of the normal peach.

"Captain Janeway, I did not--"

Ignoring him, the Captain went swiftly to Seven's side.

"--know you were coming." Axum finished.

"Doctor?" Janeway implored.

Voyager's doctor moved to Axum's side and the young alien backed away, to give the physician space. Immediately the EMH scanned his former colleague and friend. "Her life signs are destabilizing. We won't be able to beam her back to Voyager. We're going to need a shuttlecraft."

"What's wrong with her?" Janeway asked the Doctor frantically. "Is it the pathogen?"

"Yes, but something else isn't right. I'm detecting nanoprobes that are not her own. They're trying to assimilate her… just as her own nanoprobes are resisting. Unfortunately both are failing… breaking down under the neurolytic infection."

With great effort, Seven met his eyes and spoke. "Tried to… assimilate… Queen… after I… infected her… "

Janeway gasped, losing what little facial coloring she had remaining.

Shocked at the declaration, the EMH moved quickly. He opened his medical kit, grabbed the hypospray containing the anti-dote and pressed it into her neck.

"How long will it take to work Doctor?" Janeway asked, a deep crease etched onto her brow.

"I wish I knew."

She glared at him aghast.

"I've never tested it before." He explained, while fumbling around in his medical kit looking for more hyposprays. "I've never had reason to." He justified hastily as he held up a hypo to check its contents.

"What's that?" Janeway asked tersely. She thought he already injected Seven with the counteragent.

"I brought these along just in case." He injected it into Seven's neck. "Although, I didn't expect this complication, it should buy us some more time."

"What is it?" She inquired impatiently.

"Icheb's nanoprobes." He grabbed another and continued to inoculate Seven. He had five lined up. "I have no idea if Icheb's nanoprobes will be able to fight off the Queen's nanoprobes, but at least, it will give her a clean set of nanoprobes to control her vital functions for a short while longer."

Janeway felt sick. "How much… longer?"

"Kathryn… " Came the hoarse voice from Seven. Her throbbing fingers twitched, a faint indication that she wanted Janeway to hold her mesh hand.

"I'm here Seven." The Captain slid the meshed appendage gently onto her own closing the fingers of her hand over it.

"I am," Seven choked out, "sorry."

Hearing the guilt laden voice, Janeway put the palm of her right hand over Seven's moist, clammy forehead. "Shhh… it's ok." She stroked the damp blonde hair back out of Seven's eyes. "Whatever it is, we can talk about it later… after you're feeling better."

Seven blinked, holding back tears. She did not believe that she had a later. "I... I was… mistaken." Her voice came out gruff, yet soft in content.

"Mistaken about what?" Brow furrowed in sorrow, Janeway concentrated on Seven's fading voice.

"I blamed… you for…" Seven trailed off fighting to stay conscious. "what happened… I was… in error."

"Seven, please… not now." Although Kathryn's interest was peaked, this wasn't the proper time. Her only concern was getting Seven medical attention as soon as possible.

"I must… "

Janeway put a hand on her left shoulder. "Conserve your strength."

"… tell you." Seven shivered.

"There will be plenty of time--"

"I… l… lo-- argghh," A torrent of pain shot through her causing her to exhale and subsequently pass out cold before she could finish.

"Seven!" Janeway laid anguished gray eyes on the EMH in supplication. "Doctor?!"

"I can only do so much here Captain. If I'm going to have any chance to save her we have to get her back to Voyager." The EMH stated helplessly. "We need a shuttle now!"

Immediately, she addressed Axum. "What's our distance from the transwarp hub?"

He looked to Korok to answer. "We're passing just over a light year now."

"Any more Borg cubes following?"

"None that I can detect." Korok replied.

"That will have to be good enough." Janeway tapped her COM badge. "Janeway to Chakotay."

"Captain," Came the response.

"Drop out of warp and send a shuttle over here ASAP!"

"Understood!"

She heard commands given sharply and decisively before closing the channel. She knew they would arrive as fast as they could. Still, Janeway despised waiting. She was never good at it… and she cursed the fates to have to endure it now… especially with the dying woman before her.

Kathryn stroked Seven's forehead. "You just hold on," she whispered.

Less than three minutes later, a shuttlecraft arrived from Voyager to take its Captain, the EMH and one very ill former crewman home.

 

*****

 

"Regeneration Cycle Incomplete."

Seven opened her eyes and stood slightly disoriented for several seconds before instinctively stepping out of her alcove. I am… alive?

Turning to her right, the confused former Borg spotted her lone visitor stepping away from the alcove controls.

"Captain?"

"How are you feeling?"

Seven quickly assessed how she felt physically. "I… appear to be functioning within normal parameters."

"Good," Janeway remarked seriously. "because we need to talk."

"I Agree." Seven acceded. Ever since that moment she had thought her death was imminent, she had wanted another opportunity to correct a grievous error, but her injuries prevented her from properly articulating herself.

"I must apologize for my recent behavior. It was grossly inappropriate and disrespectful. "The way I left… the way I treated you… was inexcusable." Seven entreated. "I realize now that it was not your fault… I should have been stronger… I should have shown more self-control and discipline… I should have realized the truth."

Janeway put her hand up. "Seven, I know what you've been going through lately isn't easy, relationships never are, but--"

"This is not in regards to Chakotay or Axum… this has to do with us."

"Us?" Startled, Janeway's turbulent grey eyes met hers.

"Yes," Seven was beyond nervous, but she kept going. " …you must understand why this happened. I was blinded by what was before me. I did not mean to overstep any established boundaries or protocols… but once it started, I was helpless to stop. I wanted to be with… " nervous pause. "you because I thought it was truly you."

"What are you talking about?"

Seven swallowed. "The holodeck incident. You are aware of it… are you not? You mentioned it on the Borg sphere so I assumed--"

"Oh," came the reply. "I see." Janeway cleared her throat. "I wondered why you didn't stop that hologram."

It was now or never. "It is… because… I have these feelings… " Seven began to explain.

A thin auburn eyebrow rose questioningly.

"I am in love with you, Kathryn." The blonde stated her case eloquently.

"You mean you fell in love with a hologram created in my image. It wasn't me, Seven." Janeway corrected.

"NO!" Seven stated decisively. "I love YOU!"

"It could never be me."

As soon as the words reached her ears, a hole formed in the blonde's heart. In light of the rejection, Seven actually stuttered her response. "Y-you... f-feel… nothing for me?"

"You know I can't love you." The husky voice said decisively. Janeway's countenance took on a severe stature.

"Why?" Seven inquired hollowly.

"I am a Starfleet Captain and you are--."

"Borg?"

"No." Janeway's face stiffened. "It's worse than that."

Confusion spread through Seven's facial features. "I do not--"

"You were in line to become the next Borg Queen," the older woman clarified.

"That is why you cannot love me?!" Seven asked appalled, the pain of rejection permeating through each pore of her body.

Kathryn sighed. "That really is irrelevant now, isn't it?"

“Irrelevant?!” Seven noted the irony. "Not to me… It is not my fault. What the Queen planned for me was beyond my control!" She proclaimed.

"I know. You were a child when you were assimilated… I don’t blame you for that. It was… unfortunate, but--"

"Was that kiss on the Borg cube irrelevant as well?!" Seven asked defensively letting her anger mask the anguish.

"It was a mistake. Call it… curiosity. I was flattered. Like you were… with my hologram."

Seven could not believe her enhanced hearing. "You are lying!"

"Seven, don't make this any harder than it needs to be."

"Why not?!" She jutted her chin out. "Life is always difficult for me."

"Seven, you WILL adapt." The finality of Kathryn's tone reverberated throughout the blonde's muddled mind as the lovely image of Kathryn turned and walked away.

"Please," Seven petitioned. "Do not leave."

The Captain kept walking.

"Have I lost your friendship as well?" Seven choked out. She was losing her lifeline.

The small form stopped and tilted her head. "I can't guarantee you anything Seven."

“Why are you forsaking me?” The shadows of torment unraveled within.

“As you were,” the redhead disappeared out of the Cargo Bay leaving the young woman in an emotional turmoil of pure chaos.

Seven had lost her most cherished friendship.

 

*****

 

Day Twenty Four, Morning:

"What's wrong?" Janeway asked at seeing the doctor's puzzled face.

"She appears healthy… it's just that… her vitals are somewhat high for regeneration." The EMH stood on the dais with his medical tricorder hovering above Seven as he scanned her.

By the blonde's appearance, Janeway knew the young woman was severely troubled, if not distraught, which was definitely not like the usual regenerative cycle at all and it concerned the Captain… a lot.

A deep furrow etched its way into the Seven’s brow, along with a few small beads of perspiration. Parting her lips to exhale, Seven let out a choked gasp, causing a severe spike in respiration.

“Ah,” Turning to his superior officer, the EMH informed her of his findings. "I believe she is having a nightmare."

"Wake her," the Captain asserted quietly.

It’s not dangerous,” The EMH insisted. “If we wait, she'll awaken naturally in a few more minutes."

Janeway couldn’t stand to see Seven in any discomfort. "Doctor," she warned. "wake her… now."

"Very well," the Doctor obeyed after a long drawn out sigh. He went over to the right side of the alcove and started the cycle’s termination sequence.

While in recovery, the blonde had remained unconscious in sickbay for an entire five days before she was stable enough to regenerate on her own and even now after two days of regenerating, the Doctor with Tom’s assistance kept close tabs on her vitals.

Kathryn had never been more grateful for the Doctor’s skill than now. It had been a difficult time for Janeway as they had almost lost Seven. Nanoprobes were malfunctioning everywhere inside Seven's damaged body, causing a cascade effect that started shutting down all of her critical systems; brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, liver… If not for a direct transfusion from Icheb, Seven would not have survived.

As a result, Janeway was in sickbay more often than she was on duty, having taken her well earned time off to see to Seven's care for a change.

"Is she alright?" Axum's voice called from behind.

"Yes," Janeway responded evenly keeping her gaze and concentration upon the blonde's facial expressions.

Unfortunately, her time at Seven's side also involved spending time with Axum and it was particularly difficult at times to keep a straight face. Janeway had to listen to him tell her stories of how they spent their time in Unimatrix zero. As a Starfleet Officer and a diplomat of the Federation of Planets, she had no choice but to be accommodating when the jealous woman in her wanted to throw him out the nearest airlock. Yet, it did make her realize just how much the young man cared for her charge. In that respect, she really couldn't blame him. Beyond being just beautiful, Seven was unique and from Kathryn's point of view, a very special person, once you saw the gentle and vulnerable soul underneath.

Still, it was hard to watch him hold her hand affectionately, all the while acting like it meant nothing. Only late in the evening, after Axum left to go back to his ship, would she finally let her guard down and allow herself to touch Seven's hands.

In all honesty, she did not want him here today either, but he had pleaded to be present when they woke Seven up. So in good conscious, Janeway allowed it, her only reasons for not letting him were grounded more in jealousy and fear than any adherence to protocol. Especially since Janeway knew why he was still here a week later; he was only waiting for Seven’s recovery so he could take her away again.

As the silent party in competition for Seven's heart, Kathryn had no reason to expect the young woman to stay onboard Voyager once she was physically healed, but this time Janeway would speak with the blonde, in private, to see if she could change her mind. The other conclusion was too painful to even consider. Unfortunately, with the anxious boyfriend nearby, the Captain had to maintain a professional distance and wait.

The computer beeped as the EMH finished keying the ending sequence.

As her mind gradually regained consciousness for the first time in almost a week, Seven knew she had visitors. Normally she was aware of visitors even while regenerating, but her mind was so occupied that she did not even notice their presence prior to awakening. It was a startling transition to go from a full REM state to a fully conscious state especially with how distraught Seven had been mere seconds ago.

As she assessed her physical condition, Seven knew her physical recovery had been successful. It was her emotional recovery that, if her dreams were any indication, could prove to be a real, living nightmare, literally.

As her clear blue eyes landed on Janeway, painstakingly, Seven instinctively knew that the Queen's words were accurate. Everything that happened between them was a lie. What Seven, saw, smelled, felt, and experienced, what she thought was the most wonderful enlightening day she ever had… had been all a falsehood.

Stepping off the dais, Seven greeted her visitors. "Captain, Doctor…” Amazingly, even after her declaration of not being in love with him, he was present. “Axum." She added.

The EMH was immediately in her face with his medical tricorder, scanning her a second time. Janeway moved to Seven's right observing the Doctor with growing interest as Axum watched impatiently from behind.

"How are you feeling Seven?" Janeway asked softly.

"I am feeling acceptable Captain." She avoided looking directly into the Captain’s eyes, which the redhead noticed.

"Well," the EMH informed everyone present. "The extended regeneration cycle seems to have done you good. You're back to full health Seven. You can return to duty whenever you like…" He hesitated. "If you’re staying onboard Voyager… that is."

Seven tilted her head, "Thank you Doctor," grateful that she didn’t remember the painful time spent in recovery.

As the blonde was about to address Janeway, Axum interrupted. "Captain?" He had to speak to Annika alone before Janeway did. "May I have a word with Seven, alone?" He inquired softly, with expectant eyes.

Damn! "Yes, of course," She nodded. "Doctor?"

Seven wanted to protest, to speak up and ask her to stay… needing clarification of so many things, but after the devastating results of her dream, she couldn't articulate her feelings into words just yet, and she did not want to explain with Axum present, so she let both the EMH and Captain Janeway exit the Cargo Bay leaving her all alone with him.

The young woman linked her arms around her back waiting for the other occupant of the room to speak. When the young man didn't say anything for several seconds, Seven became antsy.

"I have to start my duty shift soon." She headed for her terminal. "I am behind on my work."

He followed her to the station. "I waited for you."

"What for?" She asked bluntly while going through the database looking for something to work on.

Axum carefully put his hand over her human one. "You know why. You shouldn't have to ask."

Seven pulled back from the touch. "And you know that is not possible. Not now."

Axum recoiled at the rejection. Nothing he did seemed to convey how much he cared. "I love you." He tried the direct approach. "That's why I didn't leave."

Not believing his words, Seven swiftly broke eye contact, shut down her terminal and went to leave. "I have work to do."

Axum grabbed her arm to delay her departure. "Does this mean you have changed your mind?” He asked his face pale. It was becoming quite obvious she didn’t plan on leaving a second time.

"I cannot go with you." She stated bluntly.

His grip tightened. "I need you, Annika."

"And I need her," Seven declared with brutal honesty.

His arm slid off hers as his only thread of hope dissipated. "She won't reciprocate. She is not in love with you." He grumbled.

In her anger, Seven’s icy glare was sharp, but she could not deny the possible validity of his words... And it was a possibility the young woman had to live with. The kiss on the Borg cube could have been only curiosity, or maybe she had found out about the hologram. Janeway could have been testing me… But Seven had no way of knowing for sure and the pointless conjecture would only serve to upset her.

Axum waited for a strong protest, but continued when none came. "She's doesn't know what it's like to be Borg. She could never understand you like I do… could never love you like I am willing to!" His voice rose an entire octave.

"Then so be it!" Seven stated through teeth clenched.

"How can you be satisfied with that?!" He retorted.

Seven fathomed that it wasn't about satisfaction, physical or otherwise, as much as it was out of a spiritual necessity. In a metaphysical sense, Janeway was the air she needed to breath, although she couldn't explain scientifically why. "I love her." A single tear fell down her left cheek. "At this point, all I require is her presence… her friendship."

"Friendship?" He repeated in disbelief. "And what of our friendship?"

Without realizing it, he opened a can of worms causing tears to turn to rage. "You betrayed my friendship! You only sought me out so you could barter me to the Borg Queen!" Seven cast big, dark eyes on him. "She informed me of everything! I should despise you for what you have done!"

"NO! That's not what happened." He stepped towards her with Seven quickly stepping back. "Please … you have to believe me. I… I never intended. I had to tell her something. She would've assimilated all of us!"

Seven cringed.

"Don't you see, it doesn't matter anymore. The Borg Queen is dead. We can have that life now, if you'll just take a chance!"

She kept her countenance severe, her gaze sharp.

"How could you have forgotten what we had together?!"

"It was not… " Seven’s throat suddenly went dry. “real.” It reminded her of recent events.

"It was real to me!! In here!" He pointed to his head. "And here," He patted his chest. "That's all that matters."

Seven lifted her chin and stood firmly grounded, her posture unrelenting. "I am not in love with you any more Axum. Therefore I will not be leaving with you this time. Go, join your people. They need you."

His face went cold. “Is there nothing I can do or say to--”

“No,” Seven cut him off.

Hearing this, Axum dipped his head in defeat. "As you wish," he stated quietly leaving her in solitude.

After exhaling in relief, the blonde started to head for Astrometrics when Janeway suddenly re-entered the Cargo Bay, forcing Seven to compose herself quickly.

Having waited outside Cargo Bay Two, Kathryn witnessed Axum’s despondent departure, mumbling incoherently under his breath as he went by her in the corridor, presumably on his way back to his ship. Even so, Janeway had to check on Seven.

"Is everything all right?"

The young woman truly pondered that. "No," she answered truthfully. "Everything is not."

Janeway did a double take.

"I did not get the opportunity to apologize for my behavior towards you from before I left Voyager… and the guilt weighs heavily on my conscious."

Not wanting to see her friend so flustered, Janeway tried to alleviate Seven's guilt, despite those very actions causing her severe heartache. "Actually you did--"

"But I did not finish." Seven interrupted needing to articulate her culpability. In a shaky voice, she began apologizing. "My behavior was inexcusable. What happened was entirely my fault and I take full responsibility for my actions. I only hope it does not affect--"

“Seven!” With her free hand, Janeway reached out and touched the young woman's shoulder to calm her down. "I accept your apology."

"You do?"

"Yes."

"You are not… angry?"

Janeway ruminated. "I was more hurt than angry Seven. I couldn't figure out why you left so suddenly.”

They made eye contact, searching each other.

"I truly did not want to leave, but after being mislead by what happened on the holodeck, I felt I had no choice."

"Yes, I was informed… albeit late, about what happened so I know it wasn't your fault."

Seven was curious who had told her; Tom or B’Elanna, but ultimately it wasn’t as important as having Janeway’s understanding about the situation. She was certain the Captain would have been highly upset, but perhaps in her haste, Seven had been mistaken. "It does not bother you that I copulated with a hologram in your likeness?" She asked bluntly.

"Well, I admit it does bother me, but its not the end of the-- " Janeway stopped suddenly only to stare in astonishment at the younger woman.

"What?! What did you say? Did you say COPULATE?!"

"Yes," Seven blinked.

"Y-You had sex with THAT hologram??!!" Kathryn had put up with Chakotay revealing his month long courtship right when she wanted to claim that honor; had to put up with Axum stealing the beautiful woman from both of them, only now to find out her woman had slept with a hologram of herself!! It was too much.

"I was under the impression you were aware of that fact." Seven inquired shyly.

"I thought… kissing… not sex!"

Mr. Paris conveniently left out that bit of information! She fumed. But why didn't Seven stop it before anything happened? Certainly her acute senses could see through such a trick…

Unless…

Heartrending disappointment filled her.

Seven did it… deliberately. Was it an experiment in intimacy? What about the kiss on the cube that I had instigated? Hadn’t Seven participated before she got beamed out? Or was that mere curiosity and nothing more? That could explain why Seven is so nervous.

Outrage built quickly inside Janeway. "I'm going to strangle him," she mumbled thinking ill of her pilot. After I deal with her!

Seven swallowed deeply; the deep lines etched into her Captain’s forehead were not a good sign. "You mentioned the holodeck incident while we we're on the Borg cube… So I assumed you knew the full extent of what happened." Seven's nerves were on edge.

"You assumed wrong!" Janeway spoke rather harshly as she faced Seven. "How come you didn't know it wasn't me Seven? Didn't your Borg enhanced senses tell you otherwise?" Kathryn challenged. In exasperation her hand found its way onto a hip.

The young inexperienced woman did not know how to explain; she hadn’t been particularly paying attention to her enhanced senses, certainly not as much as other more interesting physical sensations.

"I am sorry Captain. I should not have done that." Seven felt miserably conflicted. But I wanted too!!

Janeway was crushed. So it was an experiment. All hope drowned into a cold dark abyss.

"So how was it, practicing on my hologram in preparation for being with Axum?" She commented out of bitterness.

Floored with the sudden accusation, Seven could not think of a response.

"I must admit… I expected more from you than this Seven."

The young woman felt like a spear had punctured her heart. The former Borg drone did not appreciate such an accusation from her Captain and friend.

"What's the matter, you didn't think you could handle the real thing?" Wanting a fight, Janeway dared to make eye contact with her accused pupil. It was preferable than sulking. She had enough of that for a lifetime.

Seven was not as naïve as the individuals on Voyager thought. She knew of her Captain's affair with the Irish hologram and Seven had been through way too much aggravation to simply walk away without a response. She would always serve Janeway to the best of her abilities, but she would not take this caliber of an insult from her. Not like this. If she wasn't worthy of a hologram then neither was Kathryn!

"You take your sexual needs to a sub-par hologram, made in the image of an Irish man; who in charge of an establishment that sells intoxicants no less, yet you see fit to accuse me! I say you cannot handle the real thing, Captain! Michael Sullivan is insufficient and not worthy of you!"

Janeway gaped at her protégé. If only her mind wasn't so muddled, she might have seen the hidden sentiment, the pedestal that Seven had unintentionally elevated her on rather than the verbal attack on her honor.

"I don't have to justify my relationships to you!"

"You also copulated with the alien Jaffen, did you not?!" Seven shouted forcefully.

Janeway's color deepened. "At least I have feelings for him!" Kathryn shouted back. "What do you feel Seven?"

"My feelings are none of your business!!"

"I'm surprised you feel anything at all!!" Kathryn countered.

Seven suddenly appeared pale as if stricken by an ailment and her eyes darted to the door as the tears slowly piled up. Seven was at her ropes end and her future path, although bleak and lonely, was clearly defined.

"I understand perfectly--" Seven never got to finish the sentence as a sharp and sudden blast sent the Captain off her feet and forward right into Seven's arms resulting in both women falling to the floor unable to keep their footing. Thankfully, Seven's heavier more robust body cushioned Janeway's fall.

Chakotay's voice boomed through her COM badge. "Bridge to the Captain! We're under attack!"

Slapping her COM badge, she responded hastily. "Who is it!?"

"Another Borg cube!" He stated incredulously.

"How?!"

"I have no idea! It came out of nowhere!"

"Shields up, return fire! I'm on my way!"

Seven stiffened underneath Janeway, her mind racing. "If a cube received the Queen's command to disengage from the link before I infected it, it is possible it avoided contamination from the pathogen."

"It's been almost over a week since we destroyed their hub! Why would it come after us now?"

"The Borg would utilize that time to make extensive repairs, but they would not concede defeat. Especially, not now when they need new drones desperately… and they know we are heading for the Alpha Quadrant. They have our trajectory."

Finally realizing she was fully on top of her love interest, the Captain blushed severely as she extricated herself, pretending to dust off her uniform. "Um… yes… that's a distinct possibility… Thank you."

Flustered while staring into Seven's intense blue eyes, Janeway pointed a finger towards the door. "I have to get to the bridge.”

"Yes, Captain." Seven looked on with keen interest at Janeway's sudden nervousness. Perhaps it is you, who cannot handle me.

"We'll discuss the rest of this later." Janeway verbalized in a serious tone before rushing out the door.

Seven sighed. What would be the point? You obviously do not--.

Another loud explosion caused her to stumble to her hands and knees. A hissing noise could be heard before the computer spoke up. "Warning! Hull breach has occurred on Deck 8, section 10 through section 15. Emergency seals have been initialized.”

Seven breathed in relief, but it was short lived.

“Warning, emergency seals have failed. Aft shielding is failing on Deck 8. Hull breach is imminent… decompression in 10… 9...”

"Decompression? Deck 8? It didn't take long before Seven realized the horrible implications. Her heart knew fear like no other time. "CAPTAIN!!"

Seven tied desperately to pry open the Cargo Bay doors, but they wouldn't budge. The Emergency systems had already locked her in for her own protection.

"Captain!! Seven dug her metal fingers into the door despite the pain. Growling in frustration, all she could do was claw frantically at the tightly sealed double doors.

 

*****

 

Kathryn knew a hull breach was imminent when part of the floor opened up underneath her. As soon as she heard the blast, Janeway knew she was in trouble, but she didn't have time to think let alone react.

A visual of Seven of Nine cascaded through her regretful mind for she figured her death was imminent. Yet even as she expected to be sucked out into the vastness of space to freeze and suffocate almost simultaneously to a painful death, she saw the familiar energy barrier holding steadfast…

"Warning! Hull breach has occurred on Deck 8, section 10 through section 15. Emergency seals have been initialized.

Whew! She breathed a sigh of relief.

Warning, emergency seals have failed. Aft shielding is failing on Deck 8. Hull breach is imminent… decompression in 10… 9...”

DAMN!? Janeway moved quickly. Jumping to the side of the fissure, her mind worked quickly. I'm on deck 8… just came from Cargo bay 2, going towards the bridge, therefore… there's an emergency airlock… where?

8… 7… 6…

Where?! Spotting a junction ahead, she probed her memory. At the end of the next corridor?

5… 4… 3…

YES! There's an airlock!! Janeway made a mad dash for it as Voyager took more hits slowing her forward progress.

2… 1…

With sweat beading up on her forehead, Janeway rushed into the airlock chamber and slammed the controls to the hatch. She thought she had made it before the shields finally gave out, yet the mechanism responsible for closing the door took a few extra tenths of a second causing some of her precious oxygen to expel before an airtight seal was established.

Unfortunately, the effect was immediate. Shivering, Kathryn hugged herself, suddenly feeling cold and breathless, wondering how much oxygen has been sucked out before the door latched shut.

Obviously, there was no way Janeway could get to the Bridge now, but she still had to inform her First Officer of the situation. Reaching for her communicator, Janeway found… nothing.

Damn it all!! She must have lost it in the scuffle to get to her refuge. Tapping the communications console, she received another unwelcome update.

"Communications for Deck 8 are unavailable."

Disgusted, there was nothing she could do now but try and conserve her strength. Finding it stuffy to breath, Janeway sat down and willed herself to breath shallow. Conservation of the precious remaining oxygen was vital.

Her last thought was of Seven, praying she was still safe and sound in Cargo Bay two.

 

*****

 

Axum, knew something was very wrong when the Turbo lift heading for Transporter Room One came to a sudden halt.

"Computer, what is happening?!"

After the computer informed him of the situation, Axum commanded the Turbo lift to return to deck 8, despite the computer's warning that that action was not advisable.

Once the lift arrived at the proper destination, the door refused to open despite how much he struggled to pry it.

"There is no breathable atmosphere on Deck 8, Section 10 through Section 15. Please stand by."

While Axum fought with the door seal, it seemed like an eternity had passed by before the computer spoke again. "Emergency force fields have been re-initialized."

Once the locking mechanism released, the door slid open easily.

Annika!!

Running down the corridor, he noticed a hole in the floor leading to the vastness of space. Heart skipping in his chest, he stopped to survey the damage, looking through the force field, hoping beyond belief Seven wasn't out there.

Then he heard a noise, almost imperceptible if not for his Borg enhanced hearing. Fearing it was Annika, who could be injured, he rushed to the source of the sound. Rounding a corner that headed down a side hallway, he heard it again more pronounced. Whop!! Whap! The sound appeared to come from the end of a hallway. Was that an airlock? The glass on the door was steamed up, but he could make out the imprint of a human fist.

 

*****

 

If only someone could hear her! Janeway shouted in her mind as she pounded on the hatch door with the last of her energy reserves. Air was rapidly running out and although she knew Chakotay and Tuvok would mount a search and rescue, Kathryn feared she would die of oxygen deprivation before they arrived.

As Janeway struggled for her next breath of air, she glimpsed movement on the other side of the fogged up window.

The young alien put his face to the glass to find out the true identity of its occupant. "Janeway?" It was none other than Voyager's Captain. She was trapped inside the outer airlock and by her disheveled appearance Axum surmised she wasn't doing very well.

On the verge of seeing black spots before her eyes, Janeway still recognized him. "Axum… " She could hardly articulate words let alone sounds, never the less hope filled her. His presence meant that the deck had been re-pressurized with air. Thus, she tried to open the hatch electronically, but when it didn’t work, she assumed full power had not been restored. Now only Axum could let her out, as the manual lever was on his side only; a fail safe to prevent accidents from taking out the entire deck.

Wiping the condensation off the glass to get a better view, she mouthed the words, "Open… hatch…" She indicated while barely able to hold herself up.

Axum blinked…

It was at this point that all rational thought left him. All Axum had to do was unlatch the handle on his left to open the door to the now safe corridor full of breathable air… Such a simple action would allow fresh oxygen into enter into Kathryn’s starved lungs.

Yet he hesitated.

Janeway looked into his eyes, puzzled at the delay. "Open… door!" She worded empathically pointing at the handle, thinking he didn't understand.

"She is in love with you…"

"What?" She articulated with her lips, trying to form sounds. "What did you say?" Exasperated, Janeway feared he was trying to tell her there was something wrong with the controls and he couldn’t open the door.

"You heard me! She's in love with you!!" He shouted. This time the choice words reverberated through the glass, hitting her oxygen deprived brain like fireworks.

Janeway's eyes widened in total disbelief, but her starved brain could not fathom it.

What the hell was he trying to convey?! That Seven was somehow in love with me?! That made no sense. After all, Seven chose to go with him; chose to leave her Captain, friend and mentor; chose to leave the silent wishful lover behind to go create a better life with the handsome young alien. Briefly, Kathryn wondered if maybe they had had a bad fight, something irreconcilable that had happened between the two lovers and he needed someone to blame for their break up… or maybe Seven had used her and Voyager as an excuse because she wanted to come back and he assumed the rest. Kathryn had no clue.

"Do you even love her?!" He demanded to her stunned silence. "Like I do?!"

It only took the time for the second question to register in her practically numb brain, for Janeway to mouth an answer.

"I do," she croaked. "Now open the damn door… "

"No," he stated his eyes intense. "Not until you renounce it. Give me your word. You will never tell her!!"

Momentarily dazed by her own declining condition, Janeway couldn’t believe what he was asking her to do. His behavior was… inexplicable and irrational and something inside Captain Kathryn Janeway snapped. Despite being Captain of the USS Voyager, in charge of almost 150 lives, responsible for getting them home and deprived of life sustaining oxygen, she would not sacrifice her right to love the former drone from afar. Not for anyone or anything.

"I can't… I'll always love her," Janeway spoke assured through deep gasps while watching his gaze harden.

Axum shouted. "That is unacceptable!!"

Then that's just too damn bad!!

"You must encourage her to come with me!"

Like hell I will!

"Seven is… my friend. I won't… push her away… " And you've had all the time you're gonna get to steal her heart away from me while on my ship!! She thought selfishly.

"You must encourage her to leave… explain that it is best for her! I know she loves me. I just need more time to make her see that."

Struggling, Janeway drew in more air. "I won't… abandon her… just because… you're afraid of… her finding out."

"No! You must!"

Janeway attempted to shout back at him, knowing she wasted precious oxygen to do it. "If she asks… I will NOT…. lie to her."

His eyes narrowed.

So, she thought… was he going to let her die over this or what?!

Time was rapidly running out as Kathryn could feel consciousness ebbing from her.

 

*****

 

Finally the door to the wretched Cargo Bay opened with one determined former Borg bolting out in search of her Captain. A rapid discussion with a worried Commander Chakotay revealed to Seven that Janeway had never arrived to the bridge and worse, her COM badge wasn’t registering her life signs anywhere on Voyager.

Frowning, Seven avidly kept searching the exact route she knew Janeway would have taken to get to the bridge. Unfortunately, halfway down the corridor of deck 8, she halted upon a hole in the floor plating that was being re-enforced by the internal force field.

Fearing the worst, Seven quickly scanned the immediate area of space with her eye implant, her heart skipping a few precious beats upon seeing the glint of a familiar metallic object. Mentally, she commanded her Borg eye to constrict to give her the ability to see farther.

The object was unmistakably a COM badge...

My Captain's?

Seven's throat constricted as her heart seized up, palpitating in her chest hard enough to cause pain as her mind filled with terror. The blonde turned bone white. "NO!!" Seven suspected the absolute worst… and found it decimated her functionality. Frantically, she got down on her hands and knees, to search with her enhanced vision, desperately hoping she would not find a body.

"Computer!" It was a question she had to ask. "Is there any inert biological matter within a thousand meters of Voyager?" She asked bleakly. Seven knew Janeway would not be alive if she was out there. In the unforgiving depths of space, death was almost instantaneous.

She remembered how she felt when ‘One’ died, only this hurt ten fold. Seven now understood the true emotional impact associated with death. No wonder humans reacted so illogically. It made perfect sense and although it was a normal biological process that everyone eventually went through… the loss of a loved one, was simply… devastating.

"Unable to comply. Aft sensors are not functioning.”

Seven groaned pounding the floor with her mesh hand, refusing to give up, to give in to the possibility, the probability. Feeling as if her soul was being ripped apart, she stood up forcing herself to continue until she had irrefutable proof that the Captain was…

The faintest sound of a voice came across her sensitive ears and Seven's head shot up facing the direction it came from. Swiftly, with renewed vigor, she followed the sounds that oddly lead to a dead end corridor. Seven then rounded the corner and froze, stunned. Axum? She tilted her head speculating on why he was here.

"That is unacceptable!! You must encourage her to come with me!"

"Seven is… my friend." Janeway squeaked out. "I won't… push her away."

"You must encourage her to leave… explain that it is best for her! I know she loves me. I just need more time to make her see that."

Drifting to her inner ear drum, Seven heard the unmistakable sound of her Captain’s faint voice. The Captain was alive!?

"I won't… abandon her… just because… you're afraid of… her finding out."

The joy of having her most valuable friend alive pierced her heart, but as overjoyed as Seven was, something about the Captain's tone did not sound optimal. Now paying closer attention to the content of the discussion, Seven perked her ears.

"No! You must!"

"If she asks… I will NOT…. lie to her."

Seven’s eyes widened. Axum was shouting, the Captain's voice was severely strained and she was in an airlock!! Is he is attempting to terminate her!?!?

Sprinting the distance, the blonde made haste to save her Captain. The instant she arrived, Seven pushed Axum aside, out of her way and slammed her hand into the manual controls, forcing the computer to pump life sustaining oxygen into the airlock.

Turning towards her former boyfriend, Seven eyed him dangerously analyzing furiously if he would physically try to stop her from saving her Captain. As the blonde unlatched the door, she fathomed that could very well be a fatal mistake on his part.

Aghast to see Annika, so suddenly, Axum stumbled backwards both from shock and momentum, quickly appearing embarrassed at his actions upon being caught.

Seven saw him with new eyes, glaring at him defensively as she assisted her Captain. "Leave my presence before I am inclined to damage you." She growled.

"I'm all right Seven." Janeway replied gathering her breath.

"I… " Desperation led him to this. He honestly had no excuse.

"Leave!" Seven moved threateningly towards him.

"Seven!" Janeway put an arm across the younger woman's collar bone to forestall any possible violence. "I'm sure it was just a… lapse in judgment." She turned hard eyes on Axum. "However, I believe your welcome here has run out.”

Looking between the two women he knew it was over. "I'm sorry Annika." He said quickly before departing their presence.

Kathryn didn't take any chances. Utilizing Seven's COM badge she contacted Tuvok and had him arrange for an escort to make sure Axum left the ship… peacefully.

"Thank you, Seven. I don't know what I would have done… If you hadn't shown up."

"You are welcome," Seven breathed a sigh of relief. The normally calm woman's nerves were on edge and it would take awhile for her to calm down.

"I need to get to the bridge.” Janeway gripped Seven's forearm to steady herself. “If I can make it." Her lip curled in a slight smirk.

"You should go to sickbay." Seven suggested seeing her weakened state.

"I'm fine Seven." Janeway answered hoarsely.

Seven did not wish to argue the point, so she decided to escort the Captain to the Bridge. "Then I will accompany you."

Not wanting another disagreement, Janeway acquiesced, proceeding slowly to the turbo lift.

"Deck 1."

Kathryn cleared her throat. "Listen about what I said earlier… It um… I um… " She tried to apologize, but the movement of the turbo lift acerbated her already precarious condition. Light headed and sick to her stomach, Kathryn’s vision blurred and her surroundings started swirling about.

"Captain?" The blonde questioned.

"Oh no…" Janeway reached for her pounding head as blackness filled her vision. “Computer! Halt Turbo lift!"

Seven cast big, worried eyes on her companion.

"Seven… " Janeway met her eyes squarely before passing out.

Although, startled at Janeway's sudden turn for the worse, the blonde easily caught the smaller woman in her arms.

"Computer! Emergency transport to Sickbay!"

"Transporters are offline."

"Computer!” Deck 5, Sickbay!"

Seven shifted Janeway's weight scooping her up into her arms. Once the doors parted, she walked briskly with her human cargo to sickbay. Seven felt an inexplicable kinship at being able to carry her Captain this way. Despite the fact that her friend was not well, it felt like a privilege.

Picking up the pace, Seven shouted for the EMH immediately upon entering the medical bay, only to find him busy with other patients.

"The Captain has lost consciousness." Seven informed him immediately.

"Yes, I can see that," he grabbed a medical tricorder. "Do you know what happened to her?"

"I am not entirely certain." Seven put her carefully down on a nearby biobed. "but she was in an airlock--"

"An airlock?!" The Doctor exclaimed, shocked. "What in God's name for?!"

"To avoid the inevitable hull breech, I imagine." Seven explained curtly. "I was not there when it occurred Doctor."

"Oh," he replied. Running the medical tricorder over his Commanding Officer, the EMH found the culprit of her problem easily. "Ah, yes." He frowned reading the scans. "I see the problem."

Seven misinterpreted his facial expression. "Will she live?" She asked tense.

"Of course." He replied confidently. "Thankfully, she was exposed to the elements of space only for a brief period of time, but it's nothing I can't rectify easily."

"Space?" Seven repeated shaken.

"Yes, the frost bite damage is minute... but the oxygen deprivation is a tad bit more... serious, but it's nothing that time and medication won't heal. She might be light headed for a few days until her equilibrium recovers."

“Equilibrium?” Seven seemed rattled.

"Yes." He replied while searching for the proper medication.

“You… are sure? If you require any of my nanoprobes--"

"That won't be necessary." He injected medication into Janeway's neck.

Seven still felt uneasy. "Never the less, I will be available should you require--"

The EMH scrutinized her odd behavior. "Since when have you started doubting my medical abilities?" He asked curiously.

Seven appeared a trifle embarrassed. "I do not doubt you Doctor."

He appeared to study her. "Good, because I promise you, the Captain will be fine."

"Thank you, Doctor."

The EMH continued to observe her as the blonde exited sickbay.

 

*****

 

Day Twenty-Seven, Morning:

Three days later, feeling almost back to her normal self and bored to tears, Janeway went back to work. However, after entering the Ready Room and seeing the stack of PADD’s left for her, a somewhat irked Captain summoned her First Officer for a quick chat.

He entered the room with a bounce in his step and stood before her with a smile on his jovial face. "You wanted to see me Captain?"

She pointed to a dozen PADD’s lingering on her desk. "Were you ever going to finish these?"

"Sorry, we didn't bother to do reports in the Maquis.” His eyes twinkled unapologetically.

“That’s your excuse?”

“Well, I had to give you something to look forward to when you came back.” He remarked smugly.

Janeway shrugged, mumbling something incoherent under her breath.

“I’m sorry?” Chakotay inquired amused. “Is there something else?”

Taking a brief moment to compose her growing irritation helped her to remember what else she wanted to ask him. “Actually, I have been wondering, how did you manage to defeat that last Borg ship?"

"You didn't read my report Captain?"

"No, I haven't had a chance to read your report," she responded curtly.

"Oh?” He started shuffling through PADD’s. “Well, I'm sure it's in one of these."

"I would prefer you just tell me instead." Janeway almost growled at him.

"That's what you get for leaving Voyager." He teased. “So I suggest you don’t do it again!”

That made her smirk. "Point taken Commander, now if you would please?"

He grinned from ear to ear. "I didn't defeat them, really."

Janeway looked at him skeptical.

"We returned fire, but none of it was very effective."

"So how then?"

"I opened up a COM link and told them to go ahead an assimilate us." He told her with a straight face.

Janeway eyes bulged. "You told them what!?"

Chakotay couldn't resist a chuckle. "It took almost a minute before it finally came to me, then I told them, 'Go ahead and assimilate us for all the good it will do you, because we're infected with a neurolytic pathogen that will destroy you.'"

Janeway couldn’t believe the answer had been so simple, but it made perfect sense. Why assimilate what would destroy you?

“Their own fear defeated them really,” he added.

"I'm impressed. That was very clever."

"Less than 3 seconds later, they high tailed it out of here."

"Good job."

"You're welcome."

Silence permutated the room for several seconds before the Captain spoke, her tone significantly changing in cadence and mood.

“Thank you Commander, that's all I wanted to know.” It was delivered as a subtle dismissal, but Chakotay hadn't had a chance to see if Kathryn was truly doing all right in her recovery and by studying her appearance, the dark circles under her eyes despite three days rest, he sensed she was hiding something important, something that disturbed her greatly and he thought he knew why.

Now he had to get her talking, only then did he have a chance to get her to open up with what he thought had her so… mentally occupied.

"So, how have you been feeling lately?"

"Oh I'm fine." She grabbed a PADD and tried to concentrate on its contents.

"How's Seven?" That got a subtle reaction out of her, but she still didn't look away from her PADD.

"I haven't seen her for a couple of days, but she was doing fine when I last saw her." She delivered a cool, somewhat detached answer.

"Did you tell her?" He dove into her personal affairs on purpose.

Sighing, Janeway careful put down her PADD and looked at him. "Tell her what?"

Chakotay looked back at her incredulously. "Are we back to this?"

"Back to what?" She played dumb.

"Back to being just Captain?"

"I am the Captain!" Her brow crinkled.

Chakotay would not relent. "Yes, but you’re also the woman who was willing to leave her ship, leave her command behind to travel into the heart of enemy territory filled with an armada of ships just to bring back one woman, simply because you loved her!"

Giving in to the truth, Kathryn pinched the bridge of her nose. "No, I haven’t."

"So what's stopping you?"

"I overreacted and started an argument."

What’s so different about that? Chakotay fought to restrain a growing chuckle and shook his head. Don’t they always argue?

“Ok,” he acknowledged. “So have your feelings changed?"

A severe furrow developed on her brow. “No, I still love her, but that’s not the problem.”

“Then what is the problem?” He asked seriously.

"I’ve been avoiding her until I know what to say." Kathryn admitted somberly.

Chakotay could only sigh. This was going to take awhile, so he pulled out a chair and sat down. “Talk to me Kathryn. Tell me what’s going on?”

Against her better judgment, Kathryn gave him an abridged version of what happened on deck 8 during the attack.

"So you see, she's probably still angry with me anyways." Janeway remarked quietly. “And she hasn't tried to contact me in over three days.”

Chakotay looked on sympathetically and with a little guilt. The truth was that during Kathryn's first night of recovery, Seven apparently restless with herself had come to his quarters to speak with him and knowing how badly he treated her when she had broken up with him, Chakotay was unexpectedly surprised.

At first, she had profusely apologized to him insisting that she did not mean to damage him, that she would not have done so, if she had had more experience with dating, that if she had never been assimilated, she would have known better.

That took over 15 minutes alone.

Then after a nervous pause, amazingly to Chakotay, the blonde came clean about how she felt for Kathryn, proving just how wrong he was about the former Borg, about what she could feel and what she could become. Now he knew better.

It was actually heartwarming. He had never seen this side of the blonde before and had to acknowledge that it was the Captain who brought this passion out of the stoic woman.

It had always been Janeway.

Thus, after explaining what had happened, Seven asked him for his opinion on what she should do and since the young woman had mentioned about a disagreement, Chakotay advised her to give Janeway some time to heal and cool off.

Although, Seven was adamant in wanting to visit the Captain while in recovery, she acceded to his advice. Up to that point, Chakotay had never seen the young woman so selfless in what needed to be done compared with what she wanted to do. So, he knew exactly why Seven was avoiding Janeway.

It had been his idea.

Janeway shook her head in frustration. "So many things have happened… and I just don’t know what to believe… "

He wondered why Kathryn couldn't just tell the young woman what she felt and go from there. Why couldn't she, especially someone as confident and successful as Janeway?!

"Just go to her and tell her what you feel."

"Maybe I shouldn't throw my emotional baggage on her right now." Janeway said unsure. "I don't want to pressure her. What if she feels obligated because I'm the Captain?"

Chakotay's eyes lit up, like she had lost a marble. "Do you know of anyone who could pressure Seven into doing something she really didn't want to do?" Chakotay crossed his arms. "You’re just making up excuses, one right after the other, because you’re afraid."

"I am NOT!" She protested heatedly.

"Then stop playing games and go talk to her!"

After rubbing the tension hiding behind her eyes, Janeway peered at him closely. This was an argument she wasn’t going to win and deep down, she didn’t want to. "You seem awfully self-assured today. What has you in such in jolly mood?"

Chakotay smiled widely. "I'm just glad to have my friend and Captain back."

"Is that all?"

"No, I've decided to date this cute young Ensign on Deck 9 from the beta shift." As he laughed all the way to the exit, Janeway rolled her eyes.

 

*****

 

Inside of me there is a fire,

Burning my soul’s true desire,

Touching me like the sun,

Because I cannot deny

That you are the one!

 

Day Twenty-Seven, Evening:

Janeway just finished gulping a glass of cold water when the chime to her quarters rang.

"Computer, who's outside my quarters?" She fidgeted, waiting for the answer.

"Seven of Nine."

The redhead let out a nervous breath and ordered the computer to let her in.

Seven linked her shaky hands behind her back and entered the Captain's domicile. Peering around, she quickly found her mentor near the replicator. "Captain," Seven greeted nervously. Initially, she was intrigued when Janeway contacted her requesting her presence at 20:00, yet the prospect of another heated argument, made her apprehensive and the conflict of emotions was most disconcerting.

"Hello Seven." Janeway greeted, her tone excessively polite. "Would you care for something to drink?"

"I do not require liquids at this time."

Well I certainly do. Janeway replicated herself another glass of water; this time with ice.

"Would you care for something to eat?"

"No, I do not require nutrition at this time," A pause. "but thank you… for offering."

Janeway fully agreed. She was so wound up, she couldn't eat a thing either.

"How have you been… feeling Captain? Have you fully recovered?” Seven asked awkwardly, truly wanting to know.

"Oh, I'm fine." Janeway walked passed the blonde to take a seat on her sofa. "I just needed a couple of days of rest to recover."

"I am relieved to hear that." Seven was extremely disappointed when Chakotay suggested she give the Captain some time to recover before seeing her.

"You can sit down if you like."

"No… thank you." Seven's eyes drifted around the room. "I prefer to stand."

"As you wish," Janeway was being exceptionally accommodating, Seven noted. But is this the calm before the storm? Risking a glance in the Captain’s direction revealed her looking sternly into her glass as if in deep contemplation, only the silence made Seven even more anxious regarding what was to come.

"What did you wish to speak to me about?" The blonde asked, almost sounding impatient.

The question put Captain Janeway on the spot sooner than she wanted to be, but she had contacted Seven requesting her presence without any explanation whatsoever. So, taking in a breath of freshly recycled air, Janeway began. "With all that’s happened recently, I just wanted to say that I am glad to have you back onboard Voyager… and I wanted to make sure you were doing all right." That’s a good start.

"Thank you Captain." Seven answered grateful to be back among friends, people she could trust with her life, if not her heart.

Their eyes met briefly and Janeway surmised from Seven's mannerisms that the young woman was extremely uncomfortable. No, I am glad to be back speech? Janeway took a large drink of her ice water, relishing the cool sensation it made going down her throat, too bad it couldn’t quench the regret she felt.

Well here goes nothing.

"Was that your first time, Seven? With my hologram?"

Seven's face turned ten shades redder.

"I should have realized that you were probably just curious… about sex... that is."

Lifting her ocular implant, Seven made her disdain known from being asked such a personal question. "Is there a point to this Captain?"

"You're angry with me," Janeway stated, "and you have every reason to be."

"Yes," Seven responded in a controlled tone. "but I am not as disappointed in you as you apparently are with me." The young woman lifted her chin up. "So if that is the only reason you requested my presence Captain, I will be going now." Seven made her way for the door not bothering to wait for permission to leave.

I'm such an idiot! Kathryn swiftly put her glass down onto the nearby table, spilling a good portion of the contents out.

“Wait!” Rushing to outpace Seven, the Captain inserted her small compact form between the blonde and the door effectively blocking her in. "I'm not finished!"

With vexation quietly smoldering within, Seven halted her progress. Does the Captain like to argue with me?! The blonde could not figure out the purpose of this particular action, thus forcing her to believe Janeway was becoming mentally imbalanced. "I do not wish to argue with you any further!"

“Just hear me out,” The redhead stated calmly, not waiting for a response to the contrary. "I know I owe you an apology," Janeway continued. "I said some things I shouldn't have… and I’m sorry."

Seven was not sure she believed Janeway's sincerity. "But you did," she objected. "You sought to intentional hurt me because you falsely assumed that is what I did to you by copulating with the hologram," Seven exhaled. "And although I take full responsibility for my actions, you fail to realize that I was seduced. I was a victim in these circumstances."

"I know Seven. It was an unfortunate accident that you shouldn't have gone through and I'm sorry I didn't handle it properly." The redhead reiterated.

Although not intended maliciously, the statement stung the former Borg. One of the best experiences of my life with a holographic version of the woman I believe I am in love with and she explains casually that it was an ‘unfortunate accident’. Feeling wounded, Seven desperately held back the emotion that wanted to break loose. "Very well, now if you will excuse me."

Janeway could tell Seven didn't believe in her apology, the ex-drone's distress was so obvious. "Listen… Please… I said some harsh words that I didn't mean. I was--" Jealous.

"Apology accepted." Seven interjected smoothly, moving to bypass Janeway only to be stopped by an arm across her path.

“I’m still not finished.”

“I need to regenerate.”

“A few more minutes won’t hurt you.”

“There is nothing more to say.”

“but there is! I haven’t finished apologizing!” Kathryn insisted.

“Yes, you have apologized and I have accepted it!” Seven countered.

“but that’s the problem, Seven. I don’t believe you have, not really.”

“Please Captain,” Seven seemed quite desperate in her effort to vacate Janeway’s quarters and Kathryn wasn’t going to make her stay if she didn’t want to, but…

"All right, I'll let you go," Janeway promised, but she did not move. "After you answer one question."

The blonde was already discontent and looking forward to getting this over with. "And what would that one question be Captain?"

“Something has come to my attention and I need to know the truth.”

“And?” Impatience saturated her tone.

"I want to know… I need to know… Are you in love with me?"

The words hit like a phaser blast and Seven shivered with the possible repercussions. She did not want to tell a falsehood, but she also did NOT want to face more humiliation in the form of a rejection. I must evade a conclusive answer. With her nose flared and eyes wide Seven answered. "The question is irrelevant."

Kathryn moved in, their faces only a mere six inches apart. “Irrelevant?!” The contempt really irked Janeway.

"Yes," Seven asserted, utilizing a healthy dose of animosity, she attempted to conceal the answer her heart wanted to give.

“How can you say that after all we’ve been through? Love is everything. Humans have nothing without it.” The redhead stared profusely. "All I want is a straight answer and I am not letting you leave until you give me one?" Janeway imposed.

Seven stood her ground. "Why even ask Captain, when it is quite obvious you are in love with Jaffen."

Thunderstruck, Kathryn looked into the harsh gaze of the blonde woman, shaking her head. "I am not in love with Jaffen!"

"There is no point in lying to me Captain!" Seven fumed. “I have enhanced hearing and I heard you say it!”

“When?!”

“That day in your quarters when I came to visit, you held his hands and then…” Seven couldn’t finish.

“I remember,” Kathryn winced as that day came back to her. "and I’m not lying. I do care for him Seven, but sometimes humans say and do things they don’t mean… especially when they’re in a lot of… pain. I was in a lot of distress and I thought he could help.” She rubbed her hands together. “It was an accident that shouldn't have happened."

Another untimely accident? “You expect me to believe it was an accident?”

Kathryn didn’t appreciate Seven’s disbelief, not regarding that.

Yes, just like you chose to have sex with my hologram in preparation for being with Axum!” Janeway accused her intentionally being spiteful.

“I never had sex with Axum!" Seven divulged heatedly.

Uh oh… Janeway felt like a jack ass times two. "You didn't?" Her voice became small.

“I did not.” Seven held her chin up arrogantly.

Kathryn quickly ruminated on the facts available. Ok, so Seven didn’t sleep with Axum and she didn’t sleep with Chakotay. Kathryn stroked her chin, pondering. A young, beautiful, sexy, lean blonde with intelligence, in the prime of her life… had two boyfriends and didn’t sleep with either of them?! So why the hell not?!

Another attempt to escape by Seven, brought the Captain out of her thoughts. “Oh no you don’t! You still didn’t answer my question.” Janeway stared intensely at her protégé. "Are you in love with me Seven…” Janeway's heart raced. “or not?"

The blonde's respiration spiked in distress, but she refused to answer the question directly. Not willing to put her heart on the line in the form of a confession, Seven erupted. “I refuse to discuss this matter with you. Allow me to leave!”

For Janeway, disappointment became an understatement. “You don’t have to shout,” the, defeated voice acceded. “I heard you.” Loud and clear. In good conscious, Kathryn could not pressure the young woman any longer. Stepping aside, she wordlessly granted Seven the right to leave with a dip of her auburn head.

The blonde was momentarily surprised by Janeway’s sudden withdrawal, but would not waste the opportunity to flee such an emotionally charged situation.

Brow furrowed in deep contemplation, Kathryn’s mind churned. Was Axum completely wrong about Seven’s feelings towards me or is she just not ready to divulge them? How will I ever know which?! What if… what if she’s just afraid that I don’t reciprocate?!”

A small deceptively strong hand snugly grabbed Seven’s forearm and the taller woman turned to peer down caustically at the restraining appendage then back up to her superior officer.

Storm grey eyes met defensive blue eyes, both unflinching. “Know this Seven,” Janeway stated with utter devotion despite the fear that crawled into her heart. “regardless of who you choose to love, or who you will eventually marry, I WILL love you for the rest of my natural life.”

Blinking in disbelief, Seven could only stare dumbfounded at her Captain. The declaration was so totally unexpected, that the blonde became uncharacteristically tongue tied.

Feeling as if her soul were laid bare for Seven to see all her insecurities, Kathryn looked away. “And that will remain true, even if you cannot reciprocate.” With her heart throbbing mercilessly fast in her chest and her eyes filling with moisture, Janeway moved away and spotting her glass, finished what was left of the melted ice water to relieve her suddenly parched throat.

Still in shock, Seven could not believe her ears, could not fathom what had been said by her Captain… and could not deny the effect it had on her. The strong willed redhead never revealed such strong internal emotions to her before, but that did not necessarily make it true. But it was possible that Seven had misinterpreted Janeway’s sentiment towards the alien, Jaffen. Is it so implausible for me to believe that Kathryn could feel something more than just friendship for me? Even romantic love? Hope started brewing in her heart as Seven refused to believe that Janeway would have said such a thing unless she meant it. The words were poignant, stated with heartfelt sincerity… held an edge of longing and a sad yearning, almost an emptiness.

Seven understood those things. Glaring with eyes full of unshed tears, Seven’s heart leapt inside her ribcage. The young woman had to see where this could go.

The blonde quietly came up from behind the redhead. "I find I no longer wish to leave." She remarked softly.

The voice was so close, Janeway flinched. “Oh?” Her voice trembled, and she gently put down her empty glass. “Are you… sure?”

"Yes, can we discuss this… love you feel for me further?" Seven asked shyly.

Janeway moved to sit down on the sofa and took the time to get comfortable all the while attempting to shake how strung out she was. “Well,” she padded the area next to her, an indication for the blonde to join her. “We have all evening… unless you absolutely have to regenerate.”

 

*****

 

Day Twenty Eight, Morning:

"Computer, where is the location of Lieutenant Tom Paris?"

"Tom Paris is currently in Engineering."

After the computer responded, the tall blonde entered a turbo lift and headed for deck 10. Entering Engineering, she scanned the area for who she was looking for. Finding the individual not present she decided to take the lift to the upper deck. As the lift ascended to the second level, she overheard a discussion.

"I'm busy Tom, maybe later." The voice belonged to Lt. Torres.

"Oh come on, I have an awesome program I want to try with you. It's like Risa. You'll like it."

"It's only 08:00 Tom. My shift just started. I can't right now!"

He just looked at her with puppy dog eyes.

As the lift brought Seven to the top, she heard a muffled sound before she saw visually what was transpiring. Leaning over Lt. Torres, Tom was kissing her as she leaned back on the Engineering terminal.

B'Elanna cleared her throat. "We have company." She whispered straightening her uniform.

"Lt. Paris." Seven called out.

Tom turned to see who had called out his name and swallowed nervously after he saw who it was.

"I wish to speak with you in private."

"Um, I'm kind of busy right now, Sev." He looked to B'Elanna for support but she just smirked at him.

"You can copulate with your wife later. I request and audience… now."

"Seven," Torres warned her. "I don't apprec--"

She turned accusing eyes on her. "Were you aware of what truly happened between myself and the holographic representation of Captain Janeway?"

"Oh Kayless," B'Elanna's second heart was firmly logged in her throat. "Did you speak with the Captain about... that?"

"Seven that was a terrible mistake, you see, we hit an anomaly." Tom hurried to explain. "And there was this malfunction on the hologrid. It wasn't anybody's fault directly, just one of those odd things that happen in space."

Seven unlinked her hands behind her back. "The Captain has given me permission to assimilate you." She stated with dead seriousness.

"Uh don’t you think you're overreacting? The Captain would never… " He trailed off, backing up under her icy gaze. Torres crossed her arms, knowing Seven would do no such thing.

Seven edged towards him her face tense, her posture, slightly aggressive. "Come here."

Tom tensed backing up. "It wasn't my fault, I swear!"

"Seven, that's enough." Torres jumped in the middle. "You'll have to assimilate me first. I asked for his help so it's partially my fault." Torres really didn't think Seven would do it, but…

Seven sighed. "I do not blame you B'Elanna. In fact, I appreciated your efforts to help me, despite your husband's ineptitude at safe holodeck programming guidelines."

"You see!" Tom waved his hands in full agreement. "An honest mistake!" He chuckled nervously. "And no more holodeck quickies." He paled. "No pun intended. I'll take my time and program them properly. I'll be good from now on, I promise."

Looking past Torres, Seven held Tom's eyes giving him his sentence. "Per the Captain's instructions, you are hereby relieved of all your holodeck privileges for one month."

"Aw no." Tom looked stricken.

"Yes," Seven asserted. "You should be glad the Captain asked me to deal with you in whatever way I saw fit. Her suggestions of punishment were… more severe.”

Tom gasped.

 

*****

 

Later that morning:

“Captain you wanted to see me?” Seven inquired after stepping foot into the Ready Room.

“How did it go with Tom?”

“I believe you would have been pleased. The thought of assimilation displeased him.”

Kathryn shrugged. “You didn’t?!”

Seven nodded indicating that she did.

“You know, I was very angry when I said that.”

“I am aware of that.”

Janeway snickered. My Borg is getting a wicked sense of humor. “So what sentence did you give him?”

“Thirty day without the usage of the holodecks.”

Outraged, Janeway abruptly stood up. “That’s it?!”

“I thought more would be cruel and unusually punishment.” Seven explained calmly.

Janeway started mumbling. “I would’ve thrown in the brig, hung him up by his bootstraps and--”

“I could not do that Kathryn,” Seven interrupted gently. “The time I was… restricted for a month in the Cargo Bay, completely alone gives me a unique perspective of what it means to be isolated. I know my sentence was fair and I regret my actions even to this day... yet it was still difficult to bare.”

Seeing her mate in discomfort, Janeway went to her side. Although reinforcement of Starfleet protocol was necessary, she didn’t realize the true impact the extended isolation had on the former drone and she regretted the decision, especially since she hadn’t been unbiased.

“I’m sorry.” Janeway touched her hand.

“Do not be. I violated your trust. I deserved it.”

“That’s not entirely true.” Kathryn shook her head with guilt. “I was very angry.”

“I concur.”

“It was more than that. I took your disobeying my orders rather personal and it wasn’t just about Starfleet protocol Seven.” Taking both of Seven’s hands in hers she continued. “I started to fall for you back then… and well… your words… in the Cargo bay…” Kathryn met the blonde’s eyes. “they hurt.”

Seven’s face went white. “But that was three years, six months, twenty two days--”

“Please Seven, I know how long ago it was,” she pleaded.

“Why did you not say anything sooner?”

Janeway looked at her crassly. “Do you honestly think you could have reciprocated?”

Hastily, Seven went to respond, then stopped and after thinking more clearly, shook her head back and forth. “You are correct, I would not have been able to. Emotions were still irrelevant to me. I am sorry I did not realize what I felt for you sooner.”

“Oh Seven. You can’t rush true love.” Janeway became lost in thought as she traced the outline of Seven’s face with her forefinger causing both women to become aroused under the contact.

The Captain is being quite affectionate, Seven mused, while watching the redhead’s facial expressions.

“No… I suppose not.” Seven murmured wishing Kathryn would break down and make love to her some time soon before she imploded. The blonde would never have fathomed how difficult it would be to resist the desire and longing once she found that special person.

“Did you say something darling?”

“Nothing important.”

“You know, I was thinking. I could take the rest of the afternoon off. I rarely take vacation time. We could… do something… fun. I don’t know maybe spend some time on the holodeck.”

Seven’s lowered brow suggested that wasn’t a viable option. “Your quarters would be preferable.”

“Yes, but there’s nothing to do in my quarters,” Janeway turned slightly away, but truthfully she wanted to avoid being that alone with the young woman.

“You are incorrect, there is plenty to do in your quarters. For instance, we have excellent philosophical discussions.”

“Yes, but that’s about it.” Janeway quietly answered, thinking about the previous evening. They had talked for hours without even so much as a kiss, and it hadn’t been easy to resist those natural urges or explain to Seven why they should wait. She avidly recalled the short conversation, when Seven whole heartedly disagreed.

“I have forgiven you and you have forgiven me, correct?”

“Well yes, but--”

“Then why wait.”

Flustered, Kathryn answered. “because I don’t want to rush you into something you might regret.”

The young woman brooded at the suggestion. “I assure you I will not.”

Hoping her stubbornness didn’t put a damper on their blooming relationship, Janeway applied her command tone. “I’m not ready Seven. I’m just too strung out right now.”

Seven appeared to understand Kathryn’s need and relented. “Then I will capitulate… until you are ready.”

Kathryn kept telling herself it was for the best, that going slow was for Seven’s benefit and not hers. Emotions were high over everything that had happened and Janeway didn’t think it was a good idea to become intimate for quite awhile.

“I disagree,” Seven, stated bringing the redhead back to the present.

“About what?”

“In the future, the very near future, I fully believe we will have superb love making sessions,” She smiled mischievously. “in your bed.”

Kathryn couldn’t have turned more red faced if she tried, now realizing that the former Borg was determined to have her Captain sooner rather than later.

“Uh… um…” Janeway really couldn’t think of anything else to do but sex now.

Seven reveled in her newfound ability to make Janeway blush. “When you decide what it is you wish to do, hail me Kathryn.” She strolled out, leaving a flabbergasted Captain in her wake.

Since when did Seven become so… damn confident… so bold?

 

*****

 

Epilogue:

Later that night…

The pale starlight shined through the windows above the double bed to reveal two occupants snuggled within each other’s arms. Starfleet issue sheets were crumpled at the bottom of the bed as the two forms laid together ready to begin the dance of merging hearts.

Kathryn trembled in delight as Seven hovered over her, obviously more than ready to consummate their union into a physical one.

If she wants to make love, who am I to deny her that? She made it very clear she didn’t want… correction, didn’t need to wait, so why punish her… or myself any longer.

“I’m glad you came.” Besides, I held out rather long any ways… almost 26 hours.

“I would not miss it for all the knowledge in the Collective.”

So poetic… “Did you know you have the heart of a poet?

“That was not my intent, although I have researched the topic.”

Kathryn giggled. So literal.

Casting her eyes upon Kathryn’s lips caused the young woman to shiver in anticipation. “Do you… need to converse some more Kathryn, or may I love you now?” Seven asked politely, but with an edge of impatience.

“You may,” Janeway answered huskily.

In a highly ethereal state, Kathryn watched in slow motion as the blonde head descended towards her until she felt a wonderful softness graze her outer lips. Closing her eyes, the redhead surrendered, letting the younger woman set the pace of their lovemaking.

With delicate precision, Seven sampled Kathryn’s lips with sweet caresses, before needing more. Deepening the kiss, Seven pressed her body lovingly against her auburn lover.

Despite how difficult the holographic encounter had been after she found out the shocking truth, the experience now gave Seven the confidence to love Kathryn effectively… and she so needed to show Kathryn how much she really cared; with every touch, every motion. I must be able to please this woman! Nothing less is acceptable!

Seven slid a hand down along side Kathryn's left leg and moving to the inside, gently coaxed them apart. Sensing her intentions, Janeway rotated her legs outward, giving full access to her partner for she never thought this moment of intimacy with the love of her life would ever truly come to pass.

Feeling around the opening, Seven teased the moist area, but only for an agonizing minute. Entering her lover in a gentle stroke, she clamped onto Kathryn’s mouth with full lips to instigate an impassioned kiss while rotating her fingers inside.

As the wonderful motion began to take over all of Janeway’s senses, she sucked in a tentative breath letting her hands roam freely across Seven’s arms and shoulders.

While gaining speed on every upstroke of her hand, Seven snaked her tongue out, with Kathryn opening to receive the succulent offer, drawing the moist tongue into her mouth.

As her auburn hairs were tickled with every stroke of Seven's palm, Janeway squirmed. Sliding her arms down Seven’s backside, Kathryn engulfed the twin cheeks with both hands. Clutching at Seven’s buttocks, she attempted to bring their bodies’ passionate gyrations even closer.

Kathryn’s hot folds fluttered, tightening around Seven's fingers, her channel convulsing, her face flushing in retaliation to the pleasure provided.

Then the redhead grunted as the moment was upon her, gripping the Borg’s shoulders tightly. "Oh Annikaaaa!!" Kathryn roared out her ecstasy, leaving red indentations on her lover’s fair flesh, as she tried to hold onto to her climax.

Watching Kathryn closely, Seven draped her body lightly against the redhead’s fathoming just how much she needed this union, this closeness with her more than anything ever since the redhead somehow, unfathomably captured her heart and soul.

After the quaking was over, Seven prodded her lover quietly. “Kathryn, was it… acceptable?”

Kathryn looked at her with satisfied eyes. “That was incredible Seven. How did you learn--” Realizing her error, she stopped, looking almost aghast that she had even begun to ask. “Never mind it’s not important.”

“You are thinking about my experiences with the hologram.” Seven estimated correctly.

“Forget I said anything.” Kathryn tried to change the topic. “Besides it your turn.” She grinned from ear to ear, ready to please the blonde thoroughly.

“No,” Seven stated firmly.

“You don’t want me to make love to you?” Janeway asked astounded.

“I do, but not until I correct this jealousy you are feeling.”

“Seven,” Janeway’s rebuked. “I’m not--”

A metal cased finger touched her lip silencing her effectively. “No hologram could duplicate this. Being with you is a privilege and a gift… Please believe me when I say you are not replaceable.”

Kathryn’s heart melted.

“Please understand Kathryn, I was ignorant before the experience taught me how to love you the way I wanted to be able to.”

Janeway gave Seven a compassionate kiss. “And you loved me quite well… so can I have my turn now?”

“Please,” Seven dipped her head, “I do not think I can bare this level of arousal much longer.”

“Oh you won’t have to my darling.”

After flipping Seven onto her back, Kathryn started with slow tender kisses that soon led to a passionate embrace of tongues. Nibbling the ear lobes next, she sampled all the delicate skin along the neckline, taking the time to properly claim the woman with a small mark, causing Seven’s breathing to hitch for a second.

“I’ll take care of you.”

Sitting back on her hindquarters, Kathryn straddled Seven, just below her hot loins. Utilizing tender touches and smooth finger-tips, she stroked all over the full breasts, then latching onto a hard nipple that ached to be touched, the older woman breast fed like never before.

“Just be patient… and enjoy.”

Gasping in response, Seven bent her legs and without conscious thought opened herself up to her auburn queen. Aware of Seven’s readiness, Janeway slid down in-between Seven's wetness. Reaching down to caress the slick folds, Kathryn slowly penetrated her golden lover, stretching the silk-like walls of her vagina, filling the woman she loved with slow, deep thrusts.

“Let it come, baby. Don’t hold back.”

Awashed in stirring sensations, it didn’t take long for Seven to feel the build up of exquisite pressure, both from the actual penetration along the sensitive walls of her vagina and the masterful thumb that rubbed over her clitoris ever time the talented fingers pressed inward. In response to the sweet rhythmic sensations, Seven’s hands instinctually tore at the bed sheets.

Kathryn’s breasts brushed against Seven's every time she pressed into the movement. “Oh god, you feel so good!”

The action of the blonde’s hip muscles increased dramatically, gyrating and swaying fervently until… "Ohhh," the blonde cried out as the moment came upon her. "Oh… Omega…" She exclaimed, marveling at how such a diminutive body could pack such a punch into her physically.

Janeway took that precious moment to watch her golden angel spasm through her release. "You are so beautiful," Janeway murmured, placing a multitude of small kisses on her flushed face. "God I love you."

The words only made it harder to control the onslaught of emotion and Seven did not want to appear weak in front of her lover, but she could not stop the cascade of tears that escaped her eyes. The combination of making love with what she felt for Kathryn was apparently unstoppable, yet it wasn’t sadness, the blonde was experiencing, no it was… could only be described as… happiness. Seven was content and… felt at peace, with herself and her humanity.

“Did I…. hurt you?” Kathryn asked alarmed.

“No…”

“Please don’t cry." She pleaded.

“I cannot help it,” Seven replied meekly.

Kathryn felt Seven’s whole body tremble, but she knew the orgasm had passed. "There's nothing to be afraid of." She whispered. “I won’t hurt you… Please believe that.”

"I know," Seven stated thickly.

Kathryn traced her lover's face with delicate fingers. "I have loved you for so long…” She moved a stray piece of blonde hair off of Seven's damp forehead.

“I am beginning to realize that. Even so…, it was so much more… more than I expected… more than I ever hoped… ”

Hearing Seven’s reaction caused tears to build up in Kathryn’s eyes. “For me too, Annika.”

“You are my Omega, Kathryn.”

Kathryn swallowed through falling tears because she knew exactly what that meant coming from Seven of Nine. Pulling the blonde into a tighter embrace, Janeway hugged the larger woman, feeling her body relax, the tension drift away into nothingness. Time passed without a care as each woman took comfort in their closeness.

Engrossed in her partner’s unique scent, Seven closed her eyes. “Kathryn?"

“Hmm,” Janeway murmured against her ear.

Taking in a deep breath the young woman spoke in a hushed whisper. "I want a future with you Kathryn Janeway."

Pulling back to look into Seven’s eyes, Janeway searched for any hidden meaning in her lover’s bright face. “Y..You… want a future… with me?”

“I wish to be yours alone. Is that not possible?” Seven held her breath.

Was Seven asking for my hand in marriage?! Suddenly, Kathryn felt small and momentarily displaced. “Are you… asking me to marry you Seven?!”

Seven’s heart pounded in her throat as she ruminated on it. That was not what I meant, but should I inform her of that?! I do love her… more than I ever thought I could love someone, but do I know how to be a wife? For a brief moment, Seven felt uncertainty.

Kathryn watched the mental wheels churning. “Seven?”

Continuing to ruminate on the idea, Seven considered the positive aspects of a union. However, if Kathryn is agreeable, she will be considered spoken for and no one else would be able to lay claim to her love, except for me. The last thought pleased Seven immensely. In a sense, we will become one.

“Annika?” Janeway called out trying to get the blonde’s attention.

For her… I will learn and adapt… “Do you accept?” The young woman couldn’t help beam a wide smile.

The older woman hesitated and it wasn’t because she didn’t want to. On the contrary, Kathryn couldn’t imagine anything better than marrying Seven and being given the privilege to call the young, beautiful woman her wife…

Only it was too soon. They had just started a romantic relationship… just shared their first night together. There were so many other intangible things to consider that they had no control over and like all new relationships, especially between two head strong women, they needed time to grow. But how am I going to say all this without hurting her feelings?!

The prolonged silence from the redhead dampened Seven’s initial joy at the prospect of becoming Janeway’s wife and truthfully she had not intended to put her lover on the spot so soon. It just seemed like the logical course of action to secure Janeway for herself, but perhaps she was being selfish in rushing Kathryn to commit.

After all, Janeway was committed to marriage twice before yet due to unusual circumstances both ceremonies never occurred… Perhaps she is fearful of a similar outcome… that something will happen to me or her.

However, what if Kathryn is hesitating because she doesn’t want to marry again ever?! It is possible she is content with her single status and simply wants to love me that way.

Seven sighed. But I ‘want’ to marry her. I ‘want’ HER in my personal collective. The blonde thought, not sure she could bare hearing ‘no’, regardless of how valid the reasons were. Not wanting to risk what she had only recently achieved with the redhead, the former Borg quickly decided to withdraw the question. “Kathryn, I withdraw the question.”

Janeway looked up startled. “What?”

“You do not have to answer. I have withdrawn the question.”

“Why?” Kathryn stared. Did Seven change her mind just like that?!

“Please, forget I asked.”

Unnerved, Kathryn frowned deeply. “Seven you can’t withdraw a question once you’ve asked it… especially one so complex and personal.”

“Please Kathryn, if you do not… cannot… I understand.” Seven stated while trying hard to keep the disappointment from coloring her tone.

"Oh but I want to Seven," Janeway answered swiftly. “Please don’t doubt that. More than anything, I want to, but we have to take things a bit slower.”

Seven blinked at the unexpected response, feeling cautious but hopeful. “Please clarify?”

Kathryn started off by gently rubbing the palm of her hands over Seven’s arms and shoulders to reassure her young love. “I love you Annika Hansen and as far as I’m concerned I doubt anything could change that, but I have to be realistic. Just a few weeks ago you didn’t understand the concept of love and now--”

“You doubt that I love you?” Seven asked, her tone firm.

“Absolutely not,” Janeway cupped her lovely face. “I believe you do and tonight went a long way to proving that, but we’re both going to need time to adjust and not only to ourselves but to the crew’s reaction of ‘us’ as well.”

Seven disagreed. “I do not care what the crew thinks of our union.”

Janeway softened her voice even as she pressed her point. “I know, but as Captain I have to. I need to keep their respect in order to command this ship effectively. They won’t follow my orders otherwise, so it’s only fair to give them time to accept what I feel for you, even if they don’t like it…”

Seven listened attentively, letting Kathryn’s viewpoint sink in. “As I am quite familiar with Star Fleet rules and regulation, I believe I understand your concerns.”

Janeway breathed a sigh of relief. “Good, because you need to if we’re going to be living together.”

Seven’s eyes brightened. “It pleases me that you would consider cohabitating with me.”

Truthfully, Janeway was a loner and despite how much she loved Seven, living with someone was not something she was used even with her past fiancés. And Kathryn didn’t want to rush into anything that could end up damaging what she now had with the younger woman. She wasn’t the easiest person to live with even on her good days, so in Seven’s infancy, she needed to do it right the first time so she didn’t end up with her heart shattered in a million pieces.

“I’d like to try,” Kathryn admitted, trying to hide her fear. “but it is something I’ve had difficulty with in the past, so when we decide to do it, you’ll have to be patient with me.”

“Cohabitation makes me nervous as well because I have never done it, so I will be patient if you will.” Seven told her honestly.

Kathryn gave her lover a wide lopsided grin, happy that Seven comprehended all the unusual dynamics of their relationship.

"However,” Seven added in a serious tone. “just because we have decided to wait does not mean that I intend to share you with anyone or anything. I simply refuse."

Raising her head, Kathryn looked upon her lover disheartened. “I am the Captain, Seven I don’t know--”

" …other than your obvious duties as Captain of Voyager of course." She smirked, teasing.

Relief flooded Janeway and shrugging she teased right back. "Do you honestly think you can follow my orders… without question?"

"I did not say I would not question your orders." Seven stated mockingly serious.

A pout became visible on Kathryn’s features as she reflected on how difficult it would be having her lover… her future wife question her orders so openly… or worse disobeying outright.

Mercifully, Seven bowed her head acquiescing as she leaned in for a kiss. “As my Captain I will yield to your authority." As long as you do not endanger yourself foolishly…

The redhead exhaled relieved, offering a muffled, “thank you,” as their lips met together in a loving, gentle kiss.

When they parted, Seven returned a rare, but full smile. "But please remember… here in these quarters that we will eventually share…” Seven paused watching Kathryn process the request with a sharply raised eyebrow. “we are equals.”

Cupping Seven's chin, Kathryn stroked along the bottom inquisitively. “Is that an order?”

“You must comply.” Seven demanded, eagerly molding her lips to Kathryn's.

“I can live with that,” came the muffled response.

Seven took the lead fully intending to start another round of love making just so she could see that moment of bliss pass over her future fiancé’s face again.

THE END

Deep in the dark,

We surrender our hearts

Letting go of the pain

With so much to gain

Our passion survives

 

 

END


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