Cold to Warm
S. Y. Thompson
"What are you doing?"
"Sitting." Kathryn thought it should be obvious yet Seven didn’t ask obvious questions so she must really be curious.
"Does this sitting have a purpose?"
Her sigh of resignation was internal. She recognized Seven’s tone and knew she would persist until Janeway explained sitting motionless as the sun beat down on her upturned face. Kathryn opened her eyes to see Seven’s curious expression and was struck momentarily speechless by the beautiful Nordic features. The love she kept concealed beneath the command façade was something she’d acknowledged freely to herself, but kept carefully concealed from all other eyes. At such moments as these, when she looked at Seven without taking the split-second needed to fortify her walls, she could be caught off guard and her feelings plain for anyone to see. Fortunately Seven’s eyes were innocent and they were alone. No one saw Janeway’s weakness, but she felt it keenly to her very soul.
"No. No purpose. I’m just enjoying the feel of sunshine on my face."
She almost laughed. She would have if her heart were not so heavy. That this beautiful angel who had lived most of her life in space couldn’t understand the simple joy found in sunshine was a crime of unfathomable proportions.
"The crew hasn’t had shore leave in months. Those of us who spent the majority of our lives on a planet miss the feel of the sun, the rustle of the breeze and the singing of birds in the trees. We need these things; psychologically and physiologically."
"But this is not Earth. The sun has only eighty-nine percent of the intensity of Earth’s star and the birds are not the same."
"It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have to be perfect for us to feel connected."
"I do not understand."
"I know," Kathryn told her softly. "But I hope some day you will."
Janeway closed her eyes again and concentrated on the feel of weak sunshine as it caressed her skin. From where she sat on the boulder she could sense Seven’s presence next to her. Eventually that presence drifted away and she was alone again. Always alone, but the heat of the alien sun comforted her. Since the incident with the Hirogen Kathryn hadn’t been able to get warm enough. It seemed the rest of the crew couldn’t remember the incident in detail due to the neural interface devices implanted in their brains. Kathryn hadn’t been able to remember at first either, but now memories had started to resurface in bits and pieces. She recalled being the leader of a resistance cell determined to undermine the Nazi Regime in the small French city of St Claire. Beyond that things were fuzzy, but she did remember holding a gun on Seven of Nine while they stood in the middle of Nazi headquarters. She had been a fraction of an instant from shooting the woman she loved when the neural interface suddenly went off line.
She regained the knowledge of who and what she was, but was required to go along with the scenario playing out on the holodecks because her crew was still under the influence of the alien mind-control devices. Tuvok had wanted to kill Seven and Kathryn’s blood ran cold as she thought of that scene again. Was that the instant she had known the truth? Was that when she discovered her true feelings for the former drone, not that of friendship or some misplaced maternal instinct but deep and abiding, soul-shattering love?
Now that incident was over, but the truth still weighed heavily on her mind and the truth was that Seven of Nine was her weakness.
I’d do anything for her. Thank God no one knows it.
"Commander," she responded coolly.
Voyager’s first officer walked up from behind and she couldn’t see his face, but the deliberate use of his title was a pointed statement. Along with her resurrected self-awareness came the knowledge of Chakotay’s perfidy. I made you second in command because I had no choice; the Maquis would never have agreed to become part of this crew otherwise. But how many times did you deliberately undermine my command?
She listened to him inhale deeply before he began to speak. "We’re going to have to work through this you know. It won’t be good for crew morale if they know the captain and first officer aren’t getting along."
"Were you worrying about crew moral all those other times?" She kept her voice calm, quiet, questioning without accusing.
"What other times?"
"When you questioned my orders in front of the crew or deliberately circumvented my authority when my back was turned."
"You’re talking about Seven of Nine and the alliance with the Borg. I thought we had settled all of that."
"I’m talking about all of it…and I thought we had too." Kathryn decided she needed to get over her feelings of resentment, or at least act like she had. Maybe eventually she would actually feel the part. She stood up and turned her back to the sun. It was going down anyway. "You’re right. This is unproductive and we do need to present a unified front to the crew." Even if she thought he was incapable of doing such a thing for a prolonged period of time.
He nodded and said, "Neelix has found some nests of very large eggs a few kilometers from here. He’s requesting some personnel to help gather them."
In spite of her melancholy Kathryn felt a grin tug at the corners of her mouth. "Trust Neelix to turn shore leave into an opportunity to fortify our food supplies. Ask Seven to help him. I’m sure she’d prefer to be doing something productive rather than suffer through down time."
Chakotay responded with a smile and another nod. When he did Janeway felt her own smile fade and felt petty, but she didn’t want to mend the rift between them. She didn’t want to suffer the company of a man who had once been a friend, but whom she now considered a bit of a traitor. If they were at home she would immediately request a replacement, but then again if they were home they would never have been in this position and Chakotay would be in prison. As happy as that thought made her it was countered by the fact that Seven of Nine would still be a Borg drone.
"They’re not the only ones who have trouble with down time."
He was so intent on trying to suck up that he didn’t catch the captain’s dangerous tone of voice. "You always get introspective when it’s too quiet."
And that’s none of your business, she thought. Anger burned in her belly and Kathryn’s expression froze. "Dismissed, Commander."
Kathryn walked away headed back to the ship. She still had reports to do and they weren’t going to get finished sitting on a rock absorbing sunshine. When Janeway was out of Chakotay’s sight she touched her combadge and requested a transport back to Voyager.
Contrary to what she’d led Captain Janeway to believe Seven of Nine understood perfectly. She understood the appeal of sunshine as it warmed her body and the scent of the flora and fauna on the planetary surface as it caressed her olfactory senses. She just wasn’t comfortable letting others see that it was appealing because appearing to have a weakness in any way was anathema to her. She also understood the melancholy exhibited by her commanding officer as she sat on the boulder. Melancholy had been one of the first emotions Captain Janeway introduced her to when she separated Seven from the Borg Collective, although she had been unable to name the terrible emotions at the time. Melancholy, loneliness and fear were feelings she became well acquainted with those first few months aboard Voyager and if not for Captain Janeway Seven didn’t believe she would have survived the transition.
The doors to Astrometrics parted and Seven turned to greet her visitor although she had already identified the woman in question. With the majority of the crew on shore leave there was only one individual who would come to visit Seven in the lab.
"Captain," she said politely.
"Seven." Janeway came to stand beside her where she was entering incredibly long strings of data. Seven doubted most of the Starfleet crew would be ale to decipher the code, but she had learned never to underestimate Captain Janeway.
"Were you able to help Neelix gather the supplies?"
"Yes. The task was not difficult however I would recommend the crew use caution near the eastern lake region."
"Oh, why is that?"
"The eggs were each point thirty meters in length. The creature who laid them could easily carry a crewman away."
"And feed them to their young," Janeway finished with a barely noticeable shudder. "Duly noted."
Seven found it difficult to believe the captain had come to Astrometrics to discuss food supplies and she felt it was appropriate to bring up the subject that had troubled her all day. "Captain, may I ask you a question?"
"Of course, Seven. You know I always have time for you."
Indeed. Seven blinked. She knew the captain always made time for her, but never attached any significance to it until now. Janeway was a busy woman yet always took time to interact with Seven when she frequently did not make time for other members of the crew. The former drone made a mental note to consider the ramifications of that fact at a later time and concentrated on the current conversation.
"I’m fine," the captain returned right away, obviously by rote.
"I do not believe that to be a truthful answer."
"Seven," Janeway began in a dangerous tone.
Seven recognized the tone of voice. It was a clear warning not to intrude or force the issue, usually employed when the captain was feeling particularly vulnerable. She didn’t want to make Janeway angry, but had come to realize she had always freely taken support from the captain and never given anything in return. It was time to change that.
"Captain, please," Seven said, gently interrupting. "In the two years I have been on Voyager you have always been available to me. When things were…difficult you supported me. I feel we have become more than mentor and student. We are friends."
Seven felt the words were lacking in what she wanted to convey, but Janeway’s expression softened measurably. "Yes, we are friends."
"And do not friends confide in one another, support one another?"
"That’s true. Unfortunately I don’t have that luxury."
"Explain." Janeway ran her fingertips across the console and Seven ignored the shiver that skittered up her spine. She could almost imagine that caress across her skin. Seven frowned at the unexpected thought and concentrated on her friend’s response.
"I’m the captain. I have to bear my burdens alone."
Seven could clearly see the unhappiness in the smoke colored eyes and in spite of Janeway’s words could sense the woman’s desire to reveal her burdens. All she needed was a little push. Turning to face the other woman fully, Seven deliberately stepped into the captain’s personal space. She couldn’t back up because of the console directly behind her, but didn’t make the attempt. She merely looked curious and Seven could only conclude that Janeway trusted her implicitly. Warmth suffused the former drone’s chest at the thought and she lifted a hand to gently cup the captain’s face. Janeway gasped a little at the intimacy of the touch, but she didn’t pull away. She was curious to see what Seven would do next.
"Please tell me why you are sad. Allow me to assist you as you have assisted me on so many occasions."
Janeway’s eyes closed and she leaned slightly into the warmth of Seven’s hand. A moment later she opened her eyes and Seven could see her internal struggle. For the first time in their relationship Seven deliberately took advantage of their bond to get the captain to open up to her. "Please Kathryn. Tell me what is making you unhappy."
Janeway looked surprised that Seven called her by her first name, but let it pass unchallenged. She had been on her own for so long and the thought of opening up to the one person who wouldn’t take advantage of her weakness was too tempting. She closed her eyes again and trembled as she began to speak.
"I’m cold, Seven."
It wasn’t the response the younger woman expected, but she kept quiet and allowed Janeway to gather her thoughts.
"I’ve been cold for so long, empty inside and so alone. I know I shouldn’t with the crew around me or that if I do it shouldn’t matter." Kathryn opened her eyes and her voiced firmed. "I’m the captain and the crew depends on me to be strong. I don’t have the luxury of self-indulgence, but sometimes I just wish…"
Janeway’s voice broke and she turned away. Seven knew she was lucky to have gotten this much from her intensely private captain. Kathryn would internalize her feelings and shut down again if she didn’t make a move to prevent it.
"You are lonely," she said softly.
The captain’s shoulders tensed as her head dropped slightly. Her hands fisted and she nodded once before she said, "It’s all right. I appreciate your concern, but I’ll be fine."
Janeway straightened up, her eyes shutting as the flawless command mask began to drop into place. Suddenly Seven knew she couldn’t allow it. I love her too much…Love? The knowledge hit her like a fist to the abdomen along with the realization that there would probably never be more than friendship between them. Captain Janeway rarely let anyone into her inner circle, but she had already admitted they were friends. If that’s all she would be allowed then Seven would be a good friend…a better friend.
Before the captain could erect her walls once more and walk away Seven stepped forward and wrapped her arms around her. The hug felt awkward with Janeway’s back against her chest, but Seven held on even when she felt the captain tense.
"Seven, what are you doing?"
"I am hugging you." Seven had the assimilated memories of thousands in her mind and knew what a hug was even if she had never performed this action before.
"I know that, but why are you hugging me?" Janeway’s voice had an odd inflection that Seven couldn’t identify.
"Because I … care about you and I want you to know you are not alone. I will never leave you."
She feared she had revealed too much when Janeway began to turn around, but instead of pulling away the older woman stepped into the embrace. Seven was surprised but gratified as Janeway’s arms slipped around her waist. She pulled her close until the fiery auburn hair brushed her jaw and the scent of Janeway’s skin made her head spin. Seven could feel their hearts pound in tandem and thought she had never felt anything so wonderful. Then Janeway squeezed her slightly and stepped away.
"Thank you," she said smiling. "I’m not used to leaning on anyone and I’m not good at it. But thank you for supporting me. And thanks for the hug, I needed it."
"You are welcome, Captain. I needed it also."
"It’s Kathryn, remember?" Janeway said. "We are friends and when we’re alone or off duty I’d like it if you’d call me by my given name."
Seven’s eyes shone as she responded. "Yes…Kathryn."
Captain Janeway sat in her ready room with a small smile on her face going over departmental reports. The bulk of the crew was still on the planet, but she felt better after Seven’s hug and wanted to get some real work done before Voyager left orbit. She was interrupted from her task when her combadge chirped.
"Paris to Captain Janeway."
"Janeway here," she answered curiously.
"Captain I’m having trouble recalibrating the warp manifold on the Delta Flyer. I was wondering if you’d come down and take a look."
The shuttle had been damaged recently when Chakotay flew it into an ion storm and Paris had obviously assigned himself the task of repairing the craft. The Delta Flyer had been designed and built specifically for use in the delta quadrant and was the only shuttle they had that boasted multi-phasic shielding. Kathryn assumed Tom was calling her rather than B’Elanna because the couple recently had an argument.
"Tom, aren’t you supposed to be on shore leave? It ends in two days you know."
"You know me, Captain. I’m just a grease monkey at heart. Besides, in two days Voyager will be back in space and I won’t have time to work on the Flyer."
"So what is it you need?" she asked indulgently. "I doubt if I can talk any of the engineering crew into giving up their R&R to help you tinker."
"Actually I was hoping you could help. Next to B’Elanna you have the highest engineering rating on the ship and I’m having trouble with the dilithium intermix ratio."
"And you knew I had nothing better to do than come down and take a look." She could almost hear the helmsman stutter as he tried to formulate a response. It was a well-known fact that the captain rarely availed herself of downtime, but after Seven’s hug Kathryn felt more centered than she would have after a week of shore leave. "It’s all right, Lieutenant. I’ll be right down."
With the ship in orbit around the planet and a skeleton crew manning the stations onboard Janeway left the bridge. She was looking forward to getting her hands dirty and several hours later she and Paris had the Delta Flyer fully functional. She felt better than she had in a long time and decided she needed to thank Seven for that.
"Janeway to Seven of Nine," she said after tapping her combadge.
"Seven here, Captain."
"I was wondering if you’d like to join me in my quarters for dinner? In say…twenty minutes?"
"I would like that," Seven answered immediately.
"I’ll see you then. Janeway out."
The meal itself was a leftover casserole Kathryn had discovered by roaming Neelix’s deserted kitchen. Paired with a bottle of white wine it was actually quite palatable. The conversation was light and ranged in topic from quantum mechanics to what kind of breakfast Seven would eat if she ate breakfast. It was the best evening Kathryn had enjoyed in a long time and the perfect ending was another wonderful hug from Seven before she left to regenerate.
They were back on course for the alpha quadrant the following day and on many nights after that first dinner Seven and Kathryn got together after their duty shifts. Sometimes they began with a game of velocity or a little hiking on the holodeck before they retired to the captain’s quarters for dinner and conversation. Whatever else they chose to do, the evening always ended with a friendly hug at the doors to the captain’s quarters before Seven left.
The area of space they were traversing was quiet and Kathryn began to rely on her time with Seven. Two weeks later she had even begun to loosen up with Chakotay; she couldn’t stay mad forever and she had other things on her mind. With nothing else to occupy her thoughts she sat on the bridge or in her ready room each day and thought about how she felt with Seven. She had thought she loved the younger woman before, but now love had become something even deeper. The hugs each night were the only outlet she had for her feelings and even though she knew they were offered in friendship she was willing to take whatever Seven could give. It was also rapidly approaching the point where those hugs were the only way Janeway could bear to say goodnight to the other woman.
Janeway glanced up at the chronometer on her computer and smiled in anticipation. It was near the end of alpha shift and she was already thinking about her plans for the evening. Seven had indicated she wished to try free climbing and researched the subject in great detail. Kathryn had agreed and they’d already set up the holodeck time. With thoughts of rock climbing, dinner in her quarters and stimulating conversation on her mind Kathryn began to shut down her board. Best of all of these things was the hug she knew Seven would have in store for her at the end of the evening. It was the moment Kathryn always looked forward to and if she enjoyed it more than she should, well, no one needed to know.
Her door chime sounded and Kathryn looked up in mild annoyance. "Come in."
Chakotay walked in bearing a data padd. "Here’s that supply report you wanted."
"Anything noteworthy on it?"
"No, we’re good for another two months barring anything unexpected."
"That’s good news," the captain said. She accepted the padd and dropped it onto the desktop. "I’ll look at it in the morning."
Chakotay sounded far too interested, but Kathryn decided to ignore it. "Just a work out with Seven on the holodeck."
"You two have been spending a lot of time together lately."
Janeway froze and looked at the burly man. "Is there something you want to say?"
Chakotay shook his head a little. "I know you have a special bond with her. I just want you to know that if it turns into something more you have my support."
"Thank you for your permission, but you can relax. Seven and I are friends." Kathryn kept the sarcasm out of her voice with difficulty. He really was the most presumptuous ass sometimes.
Chakotay started to say something else, but changed his mind and responded with, "Understood, Captain."
"That’ll be all, Commander."
Janeway left him standing there and stalked back to her quarters. She knew full well that he’d been fishing. Chakotay had always had a romantic interest in her and didn’t do a very good job hiding it. After everything that had happened between them she was amazed he was trying to find out if he still had a shot with her.
She entered her quarters and pushed thoughts of Chakotay to the back of her mind as she changed quickly. Fingerless climbing gloves, long pants, a gray tank top and rock shoes completed her outfit. Twenty minutes later she walked onto the holodeck to discover Seven already there. Although the young woman wore standard climbing gear she literally took Kathryn’s breath away. It wasn’t often that she saw Seven in anything other than her biosuits or velocity outfit and seeing her in the relaxed attire made Kathryn’s mouth go dry.
Seven’s hair was pulled back into a ponytail to keep it out of her way during the climb and Kathryn was astonished at how it softened her features. Her eyes drifted lower to take in the denim shirt and khaki cargo pants. Kathryn swallowed in a desperate attempt to work some moisture back up in her mouth and turned to address the computer.
"Computer, two sets of rock climbing gear."
The requested equipment materialized on the holodeck floor. Kathryn picked the packs up and handed one to Seven as she tried very hard not to look at the other woman until she had her libido back under control. In addition to the packs they each wore a bandolier of pitons and carabiners, a coil of rope and a safety harness. Seven began to put one of the harnesses on while Janeway struggled with her own.
Seven didn’t seem to notice as she said, "Computer, begin holodeck simulation Seven omega one."
The yellow gridlines of the holodeck disappeared and the backdrop changed to that of Earth’s Yosemite National Park. They were standing at the foot of a mountainside at Upper Cascade Falls. A five and a quarter inch crack ran seventy feet into the air along a sheer rock face and was euphemistically termed Meltdown. At the apex of that seventy-foot climb the rock face became craggy and broken.
Kathryn had allowed Seven to program the simulation and now wondered if that had been a wise decision. Her eyebrows climbed to her hairline as she craned her neck to look up at the summit over one hundred and fifty feet in the air. This could be a problem.
"Seven, are you sure about this?"
"I have researched the subject in depth. This location will provide maximum enjoyment of the sport."
"You’ve never even climbed before! This is something only an advanced climber should attempt."
"You are an advanced climber and my implants will compensate for any weakness in my skills. Besides," Seven pointed out, "the holodeck safeties are on."
Janeway couldn’t argue with that. Seven could be very determined when she set her mind to something and Kathryn wondered if this was one of those times she had to let her friend fail in order to learn. Both of them had their harnesses in place and carabiners clamped onto their leads. Kathryn indicated that Seven should take the lead and stepped up behind her as the Borg faced the cliff side. At least this way, with the help of the pitons, ropes and ‘biners, Kathryn could belay her if Seven fell from above.
Seven dug her Borg enhanced left hand into the crack and Janeway heard the stone creak under her grip. She rolled her eyes and realized she should have thought of that. Seven would be just fine. Twenty feet up Seven set the first piton and attached the rope before she moved on. Kathryn stepped up to the wall and began her own climb. Soon both were panting from exertion and Kathryn felt her muscles strain pleasantly. From time to time Seven would loosen shale from the rock face and Janeway would have to turn her face away, but for the most part it was a pleasant if exhausting climb. Especially when Kathryn could take a few seconds break and look up to see Seven’s posterior dangling ten to fifteen feet above her.
It took almost two hours to reach the top, but finally they stood panting together and looking out over Yosemite Valley. Kathryn laughed in triumph and put a friendly arm around her companion’s waist. Even Seven had a radiant smile on her face as she draped an arm over Janeway’s shoulders. Their hearts were pounding and Kathryn had blisters on her fingers, but it had been worth it.
"It’s beautiful, isn’t it?"
The heartfelt sound in Seven’s voice made Kathryn look over to see that the younger woman was looking at her, not the valley. There was an expression in her eyes that Kathryn had never seen before and something electric flashed between them. Standing essentially in Seven’s arms she could see the pupils dilate and the full lips part and in that instant she was convinced that Seven would kiss her.
Seven abruptly took a deep breath and stepped away. She walked over to look over the edge of the cliff and out over the valley while Kathryn took the opportunity to get her racing heart under control. What was she thinking? Another second and she and Seven would have been in a major lip-lock. And that’s bad because…? chided her inner voice. Ruthlessly she quashed it and took a deep breath.
"Are we going to climb back down?" Seven asked.
Kathryn’s stomach chose that moment to growl loudly and she laughed when Seven cocked an eyebrow at her. "I’d say that’s a no. Our holodeck time is about to expire anyway."
The intimate moment that had passed between them almost made the captain cancel their usual plans and she had to take a moment to compose herself. It wasn’t Seven’s fault that Kathryn loved her more than propriety dictated and she knew the young woman looked forward to this time together almost as much as she did. She wouldn’t punish Seven because of her own feelings; she would just have to have a little better control.
She turned to Seven and asked, "Would you give me about a half hour to clean up before dinner?"
"Of course. Should I stop by the mess hall and bring the meals to your quarters?"
"Not tonight. There’s a recipe I found in the data base that I’d like to try." Kathryn laughed at the dubious look on Seven’s face and said, "Don’t worry, it’s not that complicated."
"Very well. I shall join you in one half hour."
"Great. Computer, end program."
Dinner was a delicious affair of chicken parmesan, garlic bread, a breathtaking wine and one-sided conversation. Kathryn simply couldn’t get her mind off the look on Seven’s face at the top of the mountain. She kept the conversation flowing by asking occasional questions concerning the pulsars Voyager had passed two days ago so she could watch the way Seven’s lips moved. Stellar phenomenon was one sure way to cause a passionate response in the young woman and Kathryn happily took advantage of it. Halfway through the evening she realized she had come to rely on Seven more in the last two weeks than she had anyone in her entire adult life.
Seven stood and Kathryn realized they had finished eating some time ago. The young woman picked up both their plates and carried them to the recycler while Kathryn organized after dinner drinks for both of them. With a cup of coffee for herself and a mug of tea for Seven she settled at the coffee table. Seven sat next to her and took the mug in her hands.
"Kathryn, is everything all right?"
Janeway was startled by how easily Seven was learning to read her moods. She had been distracted this evening; not just by her feelings for her companion, but also about Commander Chakotay. Normally she wouldn’t dream of voicing her concerns to a member of the crew, but Seven was much more than that and Janeway trusted her. Perhaps what she needed was another perspective to put her doubts about the man aside.
"To tell you the truth I have been a little troubled by Commander Chakotay lately. I probably shouldn’t even be discussing this, but frankly there’s no one else I can talk to and I know you’ll be discreet."
"What has he done?"
Seven asked the question as though it was a foregone conclusion the commander had acted inappropriately; in all fairness Kathryn couldn’t let her think that. "Nothing, at least not lately. I guess after all we’ve experienced in the last two years I’ve come to feel that he…"
"Undermines your command."
"I’m not sure that’s it. It’s just…what do you think of him?"
"My opinion of the commander is irrelevant."
"Not to me. Please tell me what you think."
"I have always wondered why you chose him instead of Commander Tuvok."
"I didn’t choose him, not really." Kathryn sipped her coffee briefly while she thought about how to explain it so Seven could understand. "When Voyager was pulled into this quadrant by the Caretaker my first officer was killed. It became necessary to combine both the Starfleet and Maquis crew and it seemed logical for their captain to become my first officer."
"Because the Maquis would have refused to follow your command?"
"Partly. And we can’t forget that Commander Tuvok doesn’t have the people skills that Chakotay has."
Seven raised an eyebrow skeptically and the captain rushed to justify her statement. "Seriously. Chakotay has a better feel for which personalities will work smoothly together and the crew trusts him. The fact is that the reasons I made him first officer haven’t changed; only my perspective has. What about you? Do you trust him?"
"Commander Chakotay does not like me."
Kathryn couldn’t argue with that. How many times had Chakotay argued with her and urged her to put Seven off the ship? How many times had he said that her Borg nature would cause Seven to betray them? But she really thought his initial dislike had been motivated by fear of her being Borg. If he was still a little reserved around the young woman Kathryn thought it had more to do with Seven’s unique way of doing things.
"That wasn’t what I asked. Do you trust him?"
Seven considered the question for several long moments. "Yes, but only within certain parameters. I would not trust him to command Voyager. There is only one individual on this vessel I trust in that capacity."
Kathryn smiled and nudged Seven with her shoulder. "I think you’re a little biased."
"Agreed," Seven said, surprising her yet again. "But that does not change my belief that you are the only one who could have forced me to become an individual again."
"Do you regret that?" Kathryn asked softly. She was afraid of the answer, but she needed to know she hadn’t forced the other woman into something she regretted now.
"No. I am grateful. If you hadn’t I would never have gotten the chance to know you or know what friendship feels like."
After a moment of looking into soft blue eyes Kathryn said, "I’m glad to know that."
She took a sip from her mug in an effort to break up a suddenly awkward moment and grimaced at the cold coffee. "Ugh!" Kathryn got up and recycled the mug. When she turned around Seven was behind her with the empty teacup so she recycled that one as well.
They were standing near the view port and as was her habit Kathryn turned to look out at the passing stars. She felt the heat from Seven’s body as the young woman came up to stand behind her. "What are you going to do about Commander Chakotay?"
"Nothing," she responded after a brief pause. "Even when he’s questioned my authority I believe he was only doing what he thought was right. I just wish he wouldn’t do it in front of the crew. Maybe I’m just making too much of it."
"No," Seven argued. "You are the most unbiased and even-handed individual I have ever known and while I do not completely understand the Starfleet hierarchy even I know it is inappropriate to question the captain in front of the crew. You should tell him this."
Kathryn didn’t say anything for a few minutes as she stared into the blackness of space. There was something else bothering her that she hadn’t told Seven and it was just as much a part of the problem as the insubordination. She just couldn’t come to grips with Chakotay’s expectations on a personal level.
"Did you know that during the first two years of our journey here in the delta quadrant Commander Chakotay and I contracted an illness?"
"Yes," Seven answered immediately. "I downloaded that information shortly after joining your crew in an effort to familiarize myself with this vessel."
Janeway smiled at the phraseology. "I knew he was attracted to me before we transported down to the planet," she said softly, grateful when Seven didn’t interrupt. "The virus would have been fatal to the crew and we had to be left behind on an uninhabited alien world. He was literally the last man on the planet and he was a friend."
"Did you…enter into a union with him?" Seven asked, trying hard to keep the bitterness out of the question.
"I… considered it. Thankfully the crew discovered a cure and rescued us before anything could develop. I realized after we returned to the ship that I could never feel that way about him, but I don’t think he ever got over it." Kathryn didn’t need to mention that all of that had taken place before Seven of Nine came aboard. Once she met the Borg drone she had been captivated and her heart irrevocably claimed.
"That answers a great deal."
"Oh?" Kathryn asked, turning her head to meet Seven’s eyes. "How so?"
"Commander Chakotay still sees a relationship with you as a possibility. By challenging you he is showing he is your equal as a mate."
"You can’t be serious!"
"It is a reasonable hypothesis. He is involved on a personal level with you and therefore argues with you more strenuously than he would if you were merely his commanding officer."
The theory was a little convoluted and Kathryn wanted to argue that she was not involved with the commander on an intimate level, but she realized it was beside the point. Even if she didn’t return his feelings Chakotay obviously was involved. The only problem was Kathryn couldn’t see how they could go back to being merely commanding officer and second in command without further damaging their relationship.
"It makes sense," Kathryn said tiredly. She sighed and reached up to rub her eyes.
"Perhaps he will try to be a better first officer in the future."
Janeway smiled and turned toward Seven. "That’s my girl, always looking on the bright side."
Seven returned her smile and said, "It is late. I should leave."
"Not without my hug."
"No, not without that. Never without that."
Janeway slid into Seven’s embrace, closing her eyes as she felt long arms gently encircle her shoulders. For long moments they just stood there, but then she opened her eyes and noticed their reflection in the transparent glass through her peripheral vision. Usually they hugged goodnight next to the doorway of her quarters, but this new location gave her the opportunity to study them together and she was struck by how good a couple they made. Then she noticed the look on Seven’s face.
The young woman’s eyes were tightly closed, but the look of sweet agony and unmitigated love was unmistakable. Even as she considered the possibility that Seven returned her feelings she saw the other woman gently press a kiss to the top of her head. The touch was so light Kathryn wouldn’t even have realized it if she hadn’t seen it.
All thoughts of propriety went out the airlock as molten fire ran through her veins. Heart hammering and fingertips buzzing her mouth went dry as all the moisture in her body migrated for parts further south. Kathryn pulled away and looked into Seven’s face. Blue eyes opened slowly and she wondered how she could have missed the love that was so obvious. She suddenly remembered two weeks ago in the Astrometrics lab and Seven’s remark. I will never leave you.
The younger woman looked startled to have been caught and began to stammer urgently, "K…Kathryn…I am sorry…"
Janeway silenced her with a finger over the full lips. When Seven was quiet Kathryn’s eyes fell to her mouth, riveted to the sight as she wondered what they would feel like against her own. Seven’s lips parted and her tongue darted out to moisten her lips. It accidentally grazed Kathryn’s finger and Janeway gasped at the sensation. She finally looked up into Seven’s eyes to see them heavy-lidded with desire.
Kathryn cupped Seven’s face gently and pulled her close. She met her halfway and her eyes slid closed at the heavenly feel of their lips pressed together. The kiss didn’t last long, only brief seconds before Janeway pulled back slightly. Seven was panting through parted lips as she looked down at Kathryn, but she hesitated only a moment before she pulled Janeway back into her arms and kissed her again. This time the kiss was just as gentle, but more exploratory. It went on until the need to breathe forced them apart.
"I think we need to talk," Kathryn whispered as Seven pressed her lips to her forehead. "But not tonight. I’m too tired."
Seven nodded and pulled back. "I should leave."
"You should, but I wonder…Would you mind staying a little longer? I just want you to hold me for a while."
"I will stay for as long as you like."
Kathryn slipped her arm around Seven’s waist and led her over to the sofa where they settled down together. With their arms around each other and her head tucked against Seven’s chest she felt a joy she had missed for years erupt inside her. But after only a few minutes the day began to catch up with her and Kathryn almost nodded off.
Seven felt the movement and smiled gently as she stretched out on the sofa, pulling Kathryn down with her. Janeway didn’t respond beyond snuggling into Seven’s arms. Her smile widened as she pulled Kathryn closer. Seven hadn’t meant to make her feelings known, but now that they were she was happily surprised by Kathryn’s reaction. Instead of the stilted protestations of duty and inappropriate behavior that she had expected Janeway seemed to understand that their feelings were undeniable. Of course she hadn’t said as much and there was always the possibility that Kathryn would change her mind later, but for now Seven was content to simply be able to express her feelings. She rose up on one elbow to look at Janeway’s lovely face and couldn’t resist pressing her lips against her forehead.
Janeway was completely relaxed, caught between restful slumber and the desire the tugged at her insistently when she felt Seven’s full breasts press down on her. She felt so warm and loved and completely in love. She reached for Seven and this time it was not a dream as it had been so many times before. This time the lips kissing her had substance, texture. The breath was sweet and fire coursed through her as she came fully awake and hugged Seven with her entire body. Her arms slid around Seven’s neck and one hand went up to unclasp the golden mane. Blonde hair fell around them like a curtain and Kathryn entwined her legs with Seven’s.
Seven gasped and rose up as her leg pressed against Kathryn’s center. Kathryn’s hands roamed her back, stroking softly from shoulders to hips as she molded herself against her partner. Emboldened by Janeway’s caresses Seven slid a hand over Kathryn’s breast. Janeway arched up into the contact and moaned.
"Feels so good."
Seven slipped her hand under Janeway’s blouse and began to swirl her fingertips over the hard bump that formed under a final barrier of cloth. Kathryn’s arms tightened as she tried to catch her breath, but Seven wasn’t content to stop there. She raised the shirt and bra and touched the hardened nipple that pebbled even as she watched.
Kathryn grasped both sides of her face and pulled Seven toward her. She heard Kathryn’s breath grow heavier as she leaned in close and nuzzled behind her ear. The hoarse whisper of "Use your mouth," caused Seven’s stomach to flip-flop.
The young woman’s nipples hardened in response to the naked need in Kathryn’s voice. She pulled away and began tugging at Janeway’s clothes in a desperate effort to remove the barriers between them. Fortunately Kathryn understood her urgency and helped her remove their clothing. Seven’s breathing became heavier when Kathryn’s breasts were completely revealed and moving in answer to her lover’s plea she dipped her head and took one firm nipple into her mouth.
Kathryn was moaning constantly and her head rolled back and forth against the cushions while Seven suckled at her breast. She used her Borg enhanced hand to gently tweak the other nipple until Kathryn’s gasps began to drive her to distraction. Just when she thought she would explode from desire she felt Kathryn grab her human hand and guide it down between her legs.
"I can’t… take anymore. Please darling, I need…touch me, Seven, please!"
Seven pressed her fingers down into auburn curls and whimpered at the sensation of heat and moisture. Kathryn’s hips began to undulate as she transferred the moisture up to swirl over the hardened knot of flesh at the top of her crease.
"Oh God, you feel so good!"
Kathryn’s hips began to move faster and Seven responded by quickening her movements. She dipped her head again to take a turgid nipple into her mouth, flicking it with her tongue. Kathryn’s arms tightened around her shoulders and her movements became more insistent. Seven moved her fingers faster, increasing her pace until Kathryn was crying out and shuddering convulsively in ecstasy. When it was finally over she fell back against the sofa cushions sated and limp.
Seven was overwhelmed by the sensations coursing through her body. In addition to the raging desire her heart felt ready to burst from her love for Kathryn. There seemed only one way to relieve the intense emotions and Seven couldn’t refrain from saying, "I love you, Kathryn."
"Oh Seven," Kathryn said, her voice full of tears as she looked up at the beautiful young woman. "You are absolutely my heart."
The burning sensations in Seven’s body finally got the best of her and she began to press against Kathryn’s thigh. "I …need you to touch me, Kathryn."
"Nothing would give me greater pleasure, love. Would you like to go into the bedroom? It would give me greater access to your body."
"Access is good," Seven agreed quickly.
She took Kathryn by the hand and led her quickly into the bedroom. Kathryn merely smiled and reached down to draw the sheets back. They stretched out on the bed together and the warmth of Kathryn’s skin made Seven dizzy. Kathryn kissed her and Seven felt her pulse race out of control. Then Kathryn moved away from her mouth and began to kiss and nip her way down Seven’s body. When she reached the full breasts she took a soft pink tip into her mouth and began to suck gently. Seven suddenly understood the other woman’s previous reaction as she arched into the heat and wetness of Kathryn’s mouth.
The hand that was resting on her stomach began to move in a circular motion and eased toward the juncture of her legs. Seven instinctively parted them and cried out again as she felt strong fingers start to lovingly explore the sensitive, warm and very wet spot. Her chest heaved as she struggled to draw air and then Kathryn released her breast and began to nuzzle down over her stomach until she was between Seven’s legs. She positioned herself between them and leaned forward to lightly run her tongue along the wet crease.
Seven reached down to touch Kathryn’s hair and the oral caresses became stronger. She felt her lover concentrate on the small bundle of nerves at the apex of her sex, drawing it into her mouth and sucking tenderly on the sensitive nodule. Seven’s hips moved instinctively, rocking against the pressure of Kathryn’s lips and tongue as she felt the pressure inside her start to build. Strong yet slender arms pinned her hips in place as Kathryn concentrated on Seven’s pleasure. A low, keening cry escaped her as Kathryn sent her over the edge into her first orgasm. Kathryn continued to feast on her until Seven’s body was stretched upward in a tight bow. She came a second time and her strangled cry ended in a passionate sob.
The sensations finally crested and Seven fell back against the mattress, limp and exhausted. Kathryn wiped her mouth surreptitiously on the sheets and climbed up Seven’s body until she was lying on top of her. She planted a gentle kiss on Seven’s temple before she said, "I love you, too."
Seven smiled and encircled Kathryn’s shoulders as the smaller woman drew up the covers and snuggled tightly against her. In seconds both of them were fast asleep in each other’s arms.
Kathryn awakened slowly the next morning to an annoyingly insistent sound. It took a while to understand that what she was hearing was the sound of the door chime. She inhaled deeply and smiled as she felt the weight of Seven’s head on her chest and all the memories of last night flooded her mind. She had expected to feel riddled with guilt this morning for having indulged her feelings for the young woman, but all she felt was an incandescent joy.
The door chimed again and Kathryn slid out from under Seven. She drew on a robe and walked toward the door, pushing her hair out of her eyes as she did. The doors parted and she was suddenly looking into Commander Chakotay’s eyes.
"Commander," she said with a small frown. She didn’t remember a meeting scheduled for this morning and the alarm hadn’t gone off so she wasn’t late for her shift.
"Good morning, Captain," he greeted far too cheerfully. "I was wondering if I could interest you in some breakfast before duty."
Before Kathryn could answer she felt Seven’s warm body move in behind her. A possessive arm slid around her chest and Seven rested the other hand dangerously low on her abdomen.
"Kathryn, what is it?" Seven asked in a sleepy voice.
Janeway’s body had responded instinctively to the other woman’s proximity, leaning back against her without any conscious thought on Kathryn’s part. Chakotay went completely white and he swayed for a moment before a look of intense anger came over his face. He could only stare at Seven in shock before he looked back at Kathryn.
"I’m sorry, Chakotay. I didn’t want you to find out like this."
The anger faded from his face as he recovered slightly. Finally he shrugged a little and said, "It’s all right, Kathryn. I knew this was coming and like I said yesterday, you deserve to be happy." He tried to smile, but failed miserably. "See you on the bridge."
The door closed and Kathryn turned around into Seven’s arms. "You did that on purpose," she said softly as she inhaled the scent of the young woman’s body. Desire stirred once again and she couldn’t find it in her to be angry.
"I knew it was the commander, yes."
"So why did you do that? I assume you had an ulterior motive?" Kathryn gently nuzzled Seven’s ear, delighted when she felt her breath catch.
"He is now aware that he will never have you. He is also aware that if he undermines your authority again I will terminate him."
Kathryn laughed and said, "Very efficient. All that conveyed without speaking a word." She pulled away and looked into Seven’s blue eyes. "I guess you’re always going to be defending my honor, aren’t you?"
"Yes. I can do nothing less. I love you."
"And I love you, darling. Now, let’s go back to bed. The alarm hasn’t even gone off yet."
"I will comply."
When Kathryn finally reported to the bridge fifteen minutes late for her shift Chakotay wouldn’t even meet her eyes, but for the first time in weeks she didn’t feel any anger or resentment toward him. Seven had been right. Chakotay could be trusted in his duties as a first officer and it was up to her to make him see that questioning her in front of the crew was inappropriate. She had blamed him for that when the responsibility had been hers and she wouldn’t continue to make that mistake. If he didn’t change after that then Tuvok would make a fine first officer. At the moment she couldn’t care less. She was in love and the happiest she could ever remember being. More importantly because of the love of an amazing woman, Kathryn Janeway was finally warm.