Galaxy Reunion (Conclusion)
This story takes place one week after Nemo leaves Ikonian space and is the conclusion to the Galaxies Series. Thanks to everyone for hanging in there with me.
Kathryn’s eyebrows rose abruptly toward her hairline when she saw that it was the Devore Inspector. She would have recognized the slant of his eyebrows and darkly sinister good looks anywhere. What she couldn’t imagine was what he was doing here.
"Captain Janeway." His voice was the same light and carefree tone he’d used every time he forced the Voyager crew to submit to another inspection. "I’d heard you were back in this quadrant. How nice to run into you."
"Wish I could say the same," the captain returned, carefully suppressing her revulsion. "To what do we owe the… pleasure?"
The three Talaxians that surrounded them carrying energy staffs answered much of the question for her. It was obvious he had something to do with why they were dressed as priests and with the events on the other planet, but she didn’t have all the answers, like why he was no longer with the Imperium.
He shrugged dramatically and said with a hint of anger, "I guess I just needed something to do after I was kicked out of the Inspector Corps. Thanks to you and Voyager, I’m no longer a member of the Imperium. Of course I knew you were back. I ran into one of your crewmembers at a space station a few months ago. I would have recognized that shuttle design anywhere." Kashyk looked at his priests and said, "Take them to the holding area."
At one time Seven would have resisted, but in this instance she recognized the futility of such hasty action. The three Talaxian priests would be ready for any sudden moves and Seven refused to do anything that might put Kathryn in further jeopardy. She would just have to be patient until they were alone to plan an escape. No doubt Kashyk would see that they were installed in the ‘holding area’ that he spoke of and leave only one guard to watch them. Their numbers didn’t appear to be strong and Seven knew the Talaxians had only been on the planet for a few weeks. Kashyk hadn’t yet had the time necessary to build a strong foundation and it might even be possible to talk the Talaxians into aiding them.
She was also stunned by the mention of Sakonna. After the Romulan spy had stolen the Conseil and escaped Nemo they hadn’t expected to hear anything further about her. But the fact that Kashyk had encountered her not terribly long ago and within a couple of sectors gave Seven hope that they could still capture the traitor and bring her to Federation justice.
One of the Talaxians disarmed them, tossing the energy weapons into a small pile near the entrance before he took the golden bow from Seven. She saw the brief look of surprise on his face when he felt the weapon’s weight, but he didn’t put the bow with the phasers. Instead he wordlessly slung the bow over his shoulder and fell in next to the other priests.
Seven was distracted from her thoughts when Kathryn began asking questions. She recognized the tactic of information gathering that the captain easily employed on the former Inspector. Why was it that criminals always loved boasting about their activities?
"So you’re responsible for converting these ancient rituals to bloodletting? Why?"
"I don’t know," he answered in a somewhat distracted tone. "Call it something to do. Did you know that after we left Voyager Prax turned me in? It’s true I assure you. He told the Imperium I had gone soft; let Voyager go with a ship full of telepaths. Oh, well. What did I expect? Prax always was ambitious… I can’t really blame him. I probably would have done the same."
Heading deeper into the pyramid and Seven noticed he didn’t seem particularly careful where he walked. Perhaps there were no concealed traps in this structure.
Kathryn continued to question him. "So, what? Now you just go around terrifying innocent people?"
"Terrifying?" Kashyk chuckled as they rounded yet another corner. It was darker now and lit torches lined the tunnel on either side.
"Maybe the local population is a little…unsettled, but I find it interesting how many humanoids are willing to turn to violence to further their own agendas. Take these Talaxians for example."
"The Talaxians are a peaceful species," Neelix argued suddenly. "They would never agree to harm anyone just because of any false promises you could make!"
"Neelix," The captain said softly, resting a hand on his forearm to quiet the man.
"No, it’s all right, Captain." Kashyk turned to Neelix. "You’re quite right, not for any false promises. But my promises are anything but false."
Neelix angrily asked one of the priests, "What did he promise you, Jyln? Money? Power?"
For the first time Seven saw emotions cross a Talaxian priest’s features. Jyln’s face flushed and she recognized anger and not a small measure of guilt.
"He promised us sanctuary, something we haven’t had in years! But you wouldn’t know about that would you, Neelix? You weren’t with us all those years before we found the asteroid, you were being pampered on a starship with all the luxury of a Federation around you!"
"Of all the…!"
"Jyln, there’s really no need for that," Kashyk interrupted easily. Seven wondered if anything ever flustered the monster. "They’re our guests. At least until it’s time to sacrifice them."
Kathryn paled slightly, but didn’t respond further. Seven felt the flesh prickle on the back of her neck and would have tried to attack the Talaxians then if they weren’t in such tight quarters with no room to maneuver.
"You mentioned finding a member of my crew," Kathryn began. "What did you do with her?"
Janeway’s voice sounded fearful as though concerned about a wayward crewmember and Seven was impressed by her acting skills. Kashyk was completely taken in and responded dryly. "She was a telepath. By the time I finished with her…well, let’s just say she no longer needed the shuttle."
They turned a final corner and Seven saw a cell in at the end of a tunnel. It was small but would easily hold the away team. Kashyk opened the door and the away team entered knowing that escape would have to wait for a better opportunity. Karri lingered at the entrance and Jyln shoved her roughly through the opening before he slammed the iron door.
"Here, what’s this?" Kashyk asked noticing the bow Jyln carried for the first time.
"It is not for you," Seven answered, speaking for the first time. She could feel the vibrations being emitted from the weapon even at a distance and inherently understood how wrong it would be for such a corrupt individual to touch the bow. She’d never really understood the humanoid need for superstitions, but her experiences with the weapon had left her open to things she never before would have considered.
"It’s yours? How interesting! Why would a Borg drone, a being of technology, own such a primitive weapon? Jyln, hand it here."
"I don’t think that’s a good idea, Kashyk." Captain Janeway warned with a slight frown as she watched the man.
"What harm could it do? It’s only a bow." Kashyk reached for the bow and when it was still several centimeters from his outstretched fingertips Seven knew something was about to happen.
His fingertips were within centimeters of the bow’s top limb when she saw what looked like electricity arc toward him. The flash was instantaneous and if not for her Borg implants she wouldn’t have seen it. The discharge hit Kashyk; blue flames connected with his fingertips and in a split second encircled his entire body. The former inspector was flung across the cave to smash violently into the dirt wall with a sickening sound. Seven could hear bones breaking even as his eyes widened in shock and he fell lifeless to the ground.
The Talaxian priests stood in shock and barely had time to blink before Seven, Karri and A’zal disarmed them.
Janeway walked over and knelt beside Kashyk. For a moment she only looked down at him. His unseeing eyes were open and he no longer drew breath. "I told you not to touch it."
"There’s nothing we can do for him."
Janeway looked up at the EMH as though she’d forgotten he was there. "What do you mean?"
He shrugged one shoulder. "With a discharge of that magnitude death would have been instantaneous. I’m sorry, Captain."
Kathryn stood and turned to the others. "Lock the Talaxians in the holding area. We’ll escort them back to the village on our way out. We still have work to do."
"What about him?" Karri asked, lifting her chin to indicate Kashyk.
The captain looked down again and Seven was not surprised to see compassion in her eyes. Her heart was one of the many reasons Seven adored her; that Kathryn could not feel satisfaction at death, even for a being as evil as Kashyk.
"Leave him for now. We’ll bury him before we leave orbit."
"I’ll take care of that, Captain."
"Thank you, Neelix."
A’zal and Karri locked up the priests while Seven picked up her bow. Jameson volunteered to remain behind and keep an eye on the Talaxians while the rest of the away team proceeded deeper into the pyramid. Silence followed them down the narrow tunnels and Seven found she just didn’t know what to say. Encountering Kashyk had been somewhat unexpected and his abrupt demise even more shocking though she had to admit she wasn’t burdened by grief at the fact.
Seven remembered all the time he’d spent alone with Captain Janeway while they were traveling through the delta quadrant last time. Rumors among the crew hinted that Janeway and Kashyk had become romantically involved, but Kathryn had never mentioned anything of the sort to her. Of course Kathryn rarely talked about her previous relationships and it was only through gossip and hacking into Janeway’s personal logs that she knew as much as she did.
She gripped the bow tighter and resolved to ask her lover certain pointed questions as soon as they returned to Nemo and time permitted. For now there were more important things to deal with, such as how the bow had begun to vibrate even harder than before. Seven felt as though the weapon was tugging her forward and she did not resist since she was curious to see what would happen next.
"Captain, I believe I am being…led."
"By all means," Kathryn invited, stepping to the side and out of the way. "Let’s get it over with and find out what this is all about."
Seven took the lead and followed the magnetic pull of the ancient weapon down the narrow corridors. Flames from torches lining the walls caused shadows to dance mysteriously, but she had eyes only for what lay beyond. Two turns to the left, one to the right and another that led almost back to the entrance and she was finally drawn to a modest inner sanctum.
Here there were no torches from intrusive faux priests. The chamber lay quiet and dark and unaccountably smelled like freshly mown grass on a summer’s day. Seven didn’t know how she recognized the scent. She’d never experienced the sensation firsthand, but she was sure in the description. She felt the others crowd into the chamber behind her, but her attention was caught by something else. The darkness in the small opening had begun to recede. More accurately, an area on the wall ahead of her had begun to glow.
At first there was only a lessening of shadows but then a brighter spot on the wall gradually appeared. The light was centered directly over an ancient carving and as the light grew Seven was able to make out the detail. The rendering was of a woman in ancient Egyptian royal robes. A raised scorpion stood in bold relief from her crown and even though the glyph was crude Seven recognized the features. Kathryn Janeway’s image stared sedately out from the pyramid wall. She held a large green crystal between the palms of her hands. Then the image seemed to shimmer and a living being moved within the illustration.
Long moments passed as the apparition shifted within the hieroglyph and Seven started to wonder if Kashyk’s priests had drugged them somehow. Then to the groups sudden amazement the presence stepped forward away from the wall. Seven blinked and shook her head, but the specter remained.
The features were alike enough to Kathryn Janeway that they could be related although Seven was able to discern the differences easily. This creature’s bone structure was slightly heavier, her jaw and eyebrows more pronounced. She could hear Kathryn breathing next to her and although she didn’t speak Seven could tell she was agitated. Then the transparent apparition began to speak.
"I am Queen Heka, ruler of the Middle Sector of the galaxy."
"I’m Kathryn Janeway, captain of the Starship Nemo."
This was clearly some advanced form of hologram and Seven was impressed that the captain had realized it so quickly. She listened as Janeway communicated with a woman that had died eons ago.
"This golden bow led us to this planet. Can you tell us why?"
Heka turned her head to look at Seven and the bow and smiled.
"Several millennia ago our world’s climate began to change. The days grew shorter and colder. Finally we realized Adria would be caught in the grip of a polar shift extreme enough to cause the extinction of all life."
"Adria? That’s the name of the planet?"
Heka appeared not to hear Janeway, but continued with her monologue. "We possessed advanced technology that allowed us to construct traveling cities among the stars. My mate, Oshir, and I took one quarter of the population. The others were divided among Setmos, Thotet and my son, Horus. All four great city vessels left Adria and scattered into the universe. Our hope was that one day we would return home, but until then we would settle elsewhere and allow our people to multiply."
The Queen smiled and stepped toward Seven with her eyes riveted to the golden weapon the young woman possessed. "An emerald crystal was placed in the heart of the bow. If the weapon were ever touched by one of our descendents and the planet once again habitable, it would activate. The bow would be drawn here and would lead our people home."
"But that’s not what happened!" Janeway exclaimed, gratified when Heka heard and turned to face her. "We’re not Egyptian. We’re just explorers. We found the bow by accident."
The smile on Heka’s face turned sad and her gaze lowered. "That is unfortunate. Our hope was that our families would return, but we still thank you for returning the Heart of Adria."
Seven assumed Heka was speaking about the bow and suddenly she wasn’t sure she was willing to give it up. She felt a powerful connection to the weapon that she couldn’t explain, but she forgot about all that with the queen’s next words to the captain.
"You are from the Sol System?"
"Earth," Janeway admitted with a nod. "It lies in what we call the alpha quadrant."
"Then you are my direct descendent. And this one," she turned to Seven. "Although mated to Oshir for the purposes of producing an heir, Aset was the consort of my heart. She and the bow you now carry watched over me and kept me safe from harm. I see you have found each other once again. Protect her, Aset; watch over her for the dangers to a ruler are many. Now it is time to return what is ours."
The bow began to grow warmer in Seven’s hand until she could no longer hold onto it. She released the grip with a hiss and watched in stunned disbelief as the bow floated through the air toward the pyramid wall. Next to the hieroglyph of Heka was a carving of Aset. The Great Protector’s hand was outstretched as though reaching for something. Before her eyes the weapon fit itself into the two-dimensional rendering and slowly merged into the carving until it was nothing more than an ancient bas relief.
"It’s gone," Seven whispered and almost didn’t recognize her own voice behind the grief. "The bow is gone."
"Only the tool has vanished," Heka corrected, "but its power will remain with you always. And now we wish to impart a gift to you, descendent of the Great Aset, for carrying it safely home."
Heka stepped toward Seven, and as she did her form solidified until she appeared to be a fully fleshed human female. One hand stretched forth until it rested at the base of Seven’s throat right over the pulse point. For a moment there was nothing and then Seven felt the warmth begin to grow. Before the heat could become intolerable the queen raised her hand and brushed he back of her fingers over Seven’s silver cortical implant.
Seven felt dizzy and shook her head expecting the sensation to fade. Instead it grew until she had to lean forward and rest her hands against her knees. She heard Kathryn cry out her name in concern, but was unable to respond for a few moments. When the dizziness finally faded she looked up to find that the hologram of Heka was gone. All that remained was the hieroglyph and a huge emerald that now hung around her neck.
Seven gaped at the gem in confusion and looked up at Janeway for an explanation, but Kathryn’s eyes weren’t on the necklace. Instead she was staring at Seven like she’d never seen her before.
"Kathryn, what is it?"
"Your implants," Jameson answered for the captain. "They’re not silver anymore."
"What?" Seven raised her hand to look at the unfamiliar Borg mesh. It was more than she could take in and once again she looked to Kathryn for the answer.
"She turned your implants to gold."
Seven kept reaching up to touch the cortical array over her left eye. She could see the golden sheen from her hand implant each time she did and each time it was a little shocking. For as long as she had individual memory the Borg implants had been silver-toned tritanium and she searched desperately for a scientific explanation for the change. Obviously the Egyptian society had been very advanced at one point and possessed highly sophisticated technology. The interactive hologram of Queen Heka had been proof of that. But no matter how she tried Seven couldn’t find an explanation that made sense.
The fact that the implants were now made of gold should have made them extremely heavy and inflexible, but nothing could be farther from the truth. The implants felt exactly the same as before. If anything the mesh on her hand felt even softer. It moved with the subtlety of silk.
Kathryn had told her the goddess considered what she had done to the implants a gift since the Egyptians valued gold above all other metals. The EMH informed her that due to the conductive properties of gold she wouldn’t have to regenerate as much, if at all, anymore. Seven was beyond speechless by the events of the last few hours, but for all the wondrous changes she still missed the bow.
Material wealth had never meant anything to Seven and in truth she knew that wasn’t the issue with the golden bow. What she missed was how strong it made her feel. When she carried the weapon she was minus the insecurities she concealed most of the time. It had taken a long time to get over most of the insecurities she developed when Kathryn separated her from the Collective, but some of them lingered. Most notably Seven felt unsure where her romantic relationship with Kathryn was concerned. It wasn’t anything Kathryn had done that caused her feelings, but what she had observed with Lieutenants Torres and Paris. They had once loved each other, too. They had married and created a child together, yet now they could hardly stand to be in the same room. If love did not truly last forever what would she do if Kathryn one day changed her mind?
The doors to Astrometrics opened without warning and the chief engineer walked in. Seven noticed the young woman looked preoccupied and she waited for B’Elanna to initiate the conversation.
"Hey, Seven." The Klingon looked up at her from beneath lowered lashes.
"B’Elanna. How may I assist you?"
For a moment the other woman didn’t respond. Then she took a deep breath and said, "Just hear me out before you say anything."
Seven nodded her agreement.
"I was pretty mad at you for what happened on Ikonia. I know I said some things to you then and I wanted to apologize now."
B’Elanna hadn’t referred to the incident since being rescued by a team from Nemo. That team included Seven who had torn an alien plant off of the Klingon when they took her from the Chthonian stronghold. Unbeknownst to Seven the plant initiated an alternate reality in the victim’s mind that granted their fondest wish. If left in place the aconite generated fond dreams and wishes granted, but if abruptly removed it caused excruciating pain. Seven couldn’t have known what the consequences of her actions would be, but she did know B’Elanna had hated her for a time after that. When the Klingon suddenly began to regard her in a less hostile light Seven hadn’t questioned the change. She had merely accepted the renewal of their friendship and hadn’t forced the issue.
"Your apology is unnecessary. I caused you pain by the rashness of my actions."
"Yeah, you did." For an instant there was a flash of anger in the sable eyes, but when B’Elanna blinked it was gone. "Look. If I had been there I probably would have done the same thing. It was Doctor Brahms that pointed out what an ass I was being so I tried to let go of my anger. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I still get mad when I think about it but you did the right thing. I never apologized because I let my pride get in the way and you’re such a forgiving person that you never questioned it."
"What has prompted you to do so now?"
B’Elanna smiled a little and stepped closer. She reached up to brush her fingertips over the golden cortical array and said, "This."
Her hand dropped and she continued in a soft voice. "Karri told me everything that happened on the planet. We could have lost all of you to that damned Kashyk and all I keep thinking about is that I never told you that I forgive you. You’d think after everything we went through in the delta quadrant before I would have learned that lesson."
Gratitude and relief washed through Seven and she remembered something Kathryn had said to her once in Voyager’s cargo bay. She smiled and repeated the phrase to her best friend. "It would appear you still have some things to learn."
"Tell me about it!" B’Elanna snorted and changed the subject. "So, do they feel any different?"
"Yes, but the sensation is difficult to describe. I feel…energized. And the implants feel softer, more supple."
"Can I see?"
Seven held her hand out and B’Elanna took it without hesitation. Borg implants on Seven didn’t bother her. She’d worked on them almost as much as the doctor and she regarded them with an engineer’s curiosity. She turned Seven’s hand over and looked at the palm where the bands came together. Gently she explored the lines with one finger before she looked up and asked, "How’s the sensitivity?"
"The same, I believe. I still have all the sensitivity of a normal Borg implant, but the devices themselves are not as rigid."
"That’s good, for Janeway I mean." B’Elanna gave a mischievous grin and Seven tried not to roll her eyes. It was just like her friend to turn the discussion to one of a sexual nature. "Where is the captain, by the way?"
"Captain Janeway is still on the surface negotiating the return of the Talaxian priests to Oxilon and overseeing Kashyk’s burial."
"It’s better than he deserves if you ask me. Smarmy bastard. I just can’t believe he’s the one responsible for all the needless bloodshed on these worlds."
"I concur. It was unexpected."
"Is it true he killed Sakonna?"
There was a look of fascination in the Klingon’s eyes as she waited for a response, but Seven was forced to disappoint her. "I assume so from what he said, but he did not impart any gory details."
"Oh," B’Elanna’s shoulders slumped in disappointment. "That’s too bad. Well I guess I should get back to work."
Something occurred to Seven and she said, "B’Elanna, I would like to speak with you about something first."
"Yeah? What is it?"
"One week ago Kathryn asked me to marry her."
"She did? That’s great! Why didn’t you tell me before? Do you have a ring? Can I see it?"
B’Elanna’s features were animated by her excitement and Seven couldn’t help but smile. "I did not tell you because events aboard Nemo have been hectic. Yes, she gave me a ring, but I do not have it with me."
"Why not? You should be flaunting that thing. Do you know how many people would be jealous of you?"
Seven blinked in surprise. She had not considered such a possibility. "What people?" she asked in a lethal voice. B’Elanna had no doubt that if she volunteered any names assimilations would quickly have followed.
"Don’t change the subject. The ring?"
"I have not worn it because Starfleet regulations prohibit the wearing of jewelry while in uniform."
"No they don’t. Well, most jewelry I suppose, but wedding bands and engagement rings are an exception."
"I did not realize."
"I’m starting to see that." B’Elanna hesitated and asked, "Why do I get the feeling that there’s something more going on here?"
Seven couldn’t prevent her lower lip from trembling when she responded. "I am afraid that she has changed her mind."
Slowly, carefully, B’Elanna prompted her. "And why is that?"
"She has not broached the subject of our union since she asked me to marry her."
"And? Has she been any less affectionate or said something that would make you think that?"
"No, but surely she would have pursued the discussion if she truly wished to wed." Seven thought that should be obvious but was surprised by her friend’s reaction.
"Are you out of your mind? It’s only been a week, Seven. Hell, most people are engaged for months or even years before they set a date. From what I understand, Janeway was engaged to some guy in the delta quadrant for three years!"
"But you wed Lieutenant Paris the day after he asked you," Seven pointed out with a frown.
"Different strokes for different folks," B’Elanna answered with a shrug. "Believe me when I tell you that is highly unusual. Besides, I’ve seen the way Janeway looks at you. She adores you and you’re damned lucky. Try giving her some credit."
"What do you mean?"
"You said it yourself, Seven. Things have been crazy around here lately and she is the captain. If you have questions try talking to her instead of assuming you know what’s going on in her head. All you’re going to get if you do that is trouble."
"So, I have been illogical?"
"Damn straight you have, not to mention a little melodramatic. I know you don’t have a lot of experience at this stuff, but you can trust Janeway. She wouldn’t have asked you to marry her if she didn’t know you were the one."
Seven suddenly felt much better and took a relieved breath. She knew Kathryn loved her and had never been unsure about that. Her only reservation was that Janeway would truly want to marry her. In light of her discussion with B’Elanna she realized she was letting more of her own insecurities affect her.
"Thank you. I believe I understand now."
The console beeped and Seven glanced down to input more data before glancing up at the main display.
"Whatcha working on anyway?"
"Sensors have detected a wormhole two hundred thousand kilometers from our present location."
"Yeah, I heard about that. So? It’s just another wormhole."
"True, but it is my custom to launch a probe into each spatial anomaly we encounter. The probe is now approaching the wormhole’s event horizon."
"Never know what you’re going to find, huh?"
B’Elanna grinned. "Have fun investigating your wormhole. I better get back before Brahms sends out a search team." The engineer was almost to the exit when she turned and said, "Oh, and I expect an invitation to the wedding."
"You shall receive it."
Kathryn Janeway took a deep breath and stretched the muscles in her shoulders as she walked down the corridor toward her quarters. Her shift had technically ended hours ago, but it taken a while to convince Oxilon to take custody of the Talaxian priests. He had wanted her to take the men and drop them off on the nearest uninhabited planet. It was only after she put her foot down that he finally relented. Then she had to oversee Kashyk’s burial although Neelix had taken care of most of the details.
She still couldn’t believe he was dead, but she was surprised at her reaction. She didn’t much care either way. The man had tormented the Voyager crew like a cat with a mouse during their previous encounter and this time he’d encouraged needless bloodshed on countless planets. Still, she expected to feel something. She’d been raised to believe that every life was precious, but in this case she had to wonder.
At least they had the Conseil back. After his comment about taking care of Sakonna Janeway had Kim scan the area for a Starfleet shuttle. The Conseil was found hidden in the forest on the planet’s surface very close to the pyramids. Now it was safely back in the cargo bay and Nemo was back on course for home.
With all of her crew accounted for the only things Kathryn wanted now were a bath, something to eat and a long evening with Seven of Nine. Thinking of the young woman caused a smile to grow and she remembered how her love looked with the new and improved implants. They looked even more stunning combined with her beautiful blonde hair and blue eyes.
"Captain! I’m glad we caught you. Can we have a moment of your time?"
Kathryn closed her eyes for a second before turning back toward the sound of Neelix’s voice. His wife, Daxa, accompanied him. She frowned before schooling her features to a more neutral expression.
"What can I do for you, Mister Neelix?"
"We wondered if you’d decided on what we talked about earlier, about us coming with you?"
Why was this so important to him?
"Neelix, of course I’d love for you to join us, but may I ask why? If you do that you may never see another Talaxian again."
"I know, and at one time that would have meant a lot to me. But things have changed."
Daxa answered for him. "Brax. Our life is harsh here and our son will never have the opportunities he would in the alpha quadrant. He wants to be a scientist, it means so much to him. In the alpha quadrant he’ll have access to the best schools and life will mean more than just survival."
Their reasoning was something Janeway couldn’t argue with. Of course his parents would want only the best for him and that couldn’t happen secluded on this small and otherwise uninhabited planet.
With nothing more to question Kathryn said, "Welcome aboard."
Neelix beamed happily at her and put his arm around Daxa. "Thank you, Captain. Goodnight."
She watched them head back down the corridor and turned again to her cabin. The doors parted and she walked into a dimly lit interior. Seven should have finished her shift several hours ago.
The young woman walked out of the bedroom. Her hair was wet and hung loosely around her shoulders. She carried a towel in her hands and wore only a white, terrycloth bathrobe. She looked incredible.
She lifted a hand to briefly touch the implant over Seven’s left eye and was aware of the awe in her gaze. Would she ever again look at her lover without a touch of that amazement in her eyes? Then Seven’s arms went around her waist and pulled her into a loving embrace.
"You look tired, Kathryn."
"I am, a little. But I feel better now."
"Are you hungry? I prepared a chicken Caesar salad with garlic bread for you. It is in stasis now if you are interested."
"Sounds good," Kathryn admitted. She stood up slightly on tiptoe to place a tender kiss on Seven’s lips. "I think I’ll take a shower first, though."
She took Seven’s hand and started walking toward the ensuite. She felt something hard against her palm and looked down to see what it was.
"You’re wearing your engagement ring."
Seven had stopped wearing it the day after Kathryn gave it to her and she hadn’t known why. That she was wearing it now caused a brief surge of pride to shoot through her breast.
"Yes. B’Elanna advised me that it is permissible to wear engagement and wedding bands while on duty."
That answered that.
"Of course it is, but even if it weren’t the rules don’t apply to you anyway. Technically you’re a civilian contractor."
"Ah. I had not realized. However there is something I wish to discuss with you concerning our betrothal."
Kathryn had been about to remove her uniform in preparation of taking a shower but now she hesitated. Her voice was noncommittal but her heart was suddenly in her throat at what Seven might say.
"I thought you had not solidified our engagement by setting a wedding date because you had come to regret your proposal. I discussed the subject with B’Elanna and she responded by saying I was being melodramatic and illogical. She told me humans often go months or sometimes years without setting such a date. Since it had only been a week since you proposed she implied I was being unreasonable."
Kathryn suddenly remembered to breath and said, "Remind me to thank B’Elanna, although I’m not sure how I feel about you discussing our relationship with her."
"I do not understand."
Kathryn took Seven’s hand again and led her toward the bed. "Here, sit with me."
She was relieved that Seven hadn’t suddenly decided to tell her she had changed her mind, yet she was also concerned that her lover would think Kathryn had. She couldn’t think of anything that had happened between them in the last week that would give such an impression and it took a moment to gather her thoughts.
Gently she reached up to cup Seven’s soft cheek and her thumb brushed over the full lower lip. She looked into Seven’s blue eyes and said, "I have never for one moment regretted asking you to marry me. I could no more stop loving you than I could survive without oxygen. You are absolutely stuck with me. Do you understand?"
Seven’s eyes glinted and she leaned against the palm of Kathryn’s hand. "Thank you. I do not know why I was worried; it seems absurd now."
Kathryn shrugged slightly. "Sounds perfectly normal to me, perfectly human. You’re such a wonderful partner that sometimes I forget how inexperienced you are with romantic relationships. I should have taken the time to communicate with you more about these things."
"You are captain of this vessel. I understand you have concerns of a higher priority."
"No," Kathryn corrected her strongly. "That’s not true. Sometimes my duty to this ship may have to come first but it is not a higher priority. When I asked you to marry me I made a lifetime commitment to you. Never forget that."
"I will not," Seven responded with wide eyes, impressed by her partner’s intensity.
"You know, all of this has reminded me of something."
"Is it about our engagement?"
Kathryn smiled at Seven’s hopeful expression. "It is at that. Before all this mess with Kashyk I had planned to speak with Neelix about arranging an engagement party in the new mess hall."
"Do you still intend to speak with him?"
"Yes, but with one small change." Kathryn shifted closer and leaned against Seven. A loving arm wrapped around her shoulder and she said, "I had intended it to be a surprise for you, but I don’t see any reason for that now. What do you think? Would you like to have an engagement party in a few days?"
"That would make me very happy, Kathryn," Seven admitted in an almost shy voice.
Seven showed just how happy the suggestion would make her by kissing Kathryn passionately. Lips parted and Janeway moaned deep in her throat with all thoughts of a shower completely forgotten. A few breathless moments later a hail from Commander Tuvok interrupted them.
"Captain Janeway to the bridge."
Kathryn pulled away and took a second to catch her breath before she responded in a husky tone. "On my way."
She glanced at Seven and was struck by the luminous beauty of her smile. "Care to join me?" she asked offering a hand.
Seven smiled and took her hand and pulled her toward the bedroom. "I would love to join you, Kathryn, but at the moment I’m a tad underdressed to report to the bridge."
Kathryn waited the few moments it took for Seven to dress. Then they walked to the turbolift together. Kathryn had taken her fiancée’s hand again as the left their quarters and deliberately maintained her hold until the last moment. She released Seven just as the doors parted to the bridge.
"Report," she ordered, stepping into the command center.
"Telemetry from the probe Astrometrics sent into the wormhole has been analyzed and verified."
"And why is that significant? What’s so special about it?" the captain asked as she sat down in her command chair. Telemetry and data from spatial phenomena were always being analyzed and she couldn’t understand why her first officer would interrupt her downtime with such mundane information.
Harry Kim, overcome with excitement, answered for Tuvok. "It intersects with another spatial flexure in the Denorios Belt."
Kathryn could only consider the information for a few stunned moments. The Denorios Belt was a charged plasma field located in the Bajor System and the only wormhole there led directly to Deep Space Nine.
"How can that be? The Bajoran wormhole terminates in the Gamma Quadrant. It doesn’t jump around." In fact, the Bajoran wormhole was the only known stable wormhole in the galaxy. Even as she argued against the possibility her heart hammered in excitement.
"This isn’t a stable anomaly," Kim answered, verifying what she already suspected. "It’s a random flexure that is intersecting with the Bajoran wormhole…at the moment." His dark eyes glittered merrily as he continued. "Readings indicate the anomaly will only be stable for another three hours."
The decision was hers and it was one that had to be made quickly. They could be wrong about the terminus of the anomaly, sensors could be off or it could be another bio-plasmic life form trying to trick them into thinking it was a way home. On the other hand Nemo wasn’t crewed by cowards and even if it didn’t lead to the alpha quadrant there really was no other choice.
"What are we waiting for? Set a course; warp six."
Tuvok nodded once and said in his typically neutral voice, "Aye, Captain."
Janeway looked up at Seven who stood next to her and her heart swelled in happiness. Minutes later they entered the wormhole and without any interference readings began pouring in.
"Captain," Harry said, his voice trembling, "Preliminary data has been confirmed. ETA to the Denorios Belt is twenty-six minutes."
Cheers sounded throughout the bridge but Kathryn was quiet as she reached up to take Seven’s hand in full view of her crew. She felt the engagement ring against her fingers and when their eyes met she asked, "What do you say we have that engagement party in Indiana?"
She couldn’t wait to show off her fiancée to her mother and sister.
"I think that is an exceptional idea, Kathryn."
Kathryn Janeway’s personal log.
"Once again my crew returned from the delta quadrant, but this time it meant so much more to me than a triumphant and safe homecoming. This time my love, Seven of Nine, was beside me as my partner and soon to be wife. Starfleet threw a parade and all of the brass from Nautilus’ former captain, Captain Thomas, to the President of the Federation were in attendance. In total Nemo was in the delta quadrant less than four months, only slightly longer than the original amount of time we were due to be out for the shakedown cruise. All in all, things could have been much worse.
I’m not sure Tom and B’Elanna agree. From what I hear they have been civil with each other and tried to work out joint custody of their daughter, but I’m sure it can’t be easy. Hopefully after the Starfleet debriefings are concluded they’ll be able to focus on family issues and be able to work things out.
As for my own debriefings, Starfleet seems to feel that my actions were in the best interests of the ship and have reflected well on the Federation. They were eager to elevate me once again to the rank of Admiral. I had to defer. If there is one thing this misadventure to the backend of the galaxy has taught me is that I belong behind the helm of a starship and not behind at desk at Starfleet Headquarters. Seven agrees wholeheartedly.
Admiral Patterson handled another concern immediately. He informed me that Lieutenant Sakonna was indeed a member of Section 31, but that Admiral Paris had no affiliation with that band of outlaws. Apparently even the highly sophisticated encryption systems utilized by Starfleet can be hacked.
On a more personal note my family absolutely adores Seven of Nine. I still can’t get over the gold implants; they look astonishing! Mom thinks she is the perfect woman for me while Phoebe demands to know why it took me so long to find someone who’d actually stand up to me. Right now they’re planning the perfect wedding and I’m convinced they intend to invite the entire alpha quadrant! Seven’s conversations with Starfleet were cursory at best since she’s a civilian and as a result she’s been free to contribute to the wedding preparations. I’m thrilled she’s getting involved with that and getting to know the family better, especially since I’ve been so busy at Headquarters lately.
The discourse with Starfleet should be over in the next few days and I think Mom wants to have the wedding in the next two weeks. I thought I’d be more nervous about the prospect of walking down the aisle, but surprisingly I’m not. I look at Seven of Nine lying in our bed and I wish it were happening tomorrow. My beautiful fiancée is sleeping on her side with one fist curled against her chin and the tenderness I feel is staggering.
It’s getting late and the talks with Headquarters will resume tomorrow so I’m off to bed, to wrap my arms around Seven and sleep. Once my shift concludes tomorrow we’re off to Indiana for the weekend and I’ll get the chance to catch up on what my family and Seven have planned. Maybe I’ll even get the chance to put my own spin on things.
End Kathryn Janeway’s personal log."
"Then Admiral Paris will walk Seven down the aisle and place her hand in yours."
The Janeway trio sat around the dining table at the family homestead with Seven sitting across from her captain. Kathryn had been born and raised in this house and the familiarity comforted her in ways that nothing else ever had, until today. Seeing Seven, her future wife, in this setting caused her to feeling something new… centered. She’d always felt driven; driven to succeed, driven to inspire, driven to lead and most of all driven to be the best officer Starfleet had ever seen. Now, for the first time she felt at peace. Seven completed her and she gazed at the younger woman while Phoebe continued to describe how the church would be decorated and what they would wear. Gretchen Janeway stood just to Seven’s left with one hand resting unconsciously on her future daughter-in-law’s shoulder.
Kathryn smiled at the domesticity of the picture and then glanced into Seven’s blue eyes expecting to see her own happiness reflected back. Instead she discovered unmitigated terror.
Her heart froze and for a split second she wondered if Seven was getting cold feet. She reached across the table, wordlessly trying to reconnect and convince Seven that she was worth marrying. When Seven quickly grasped her hand with ice-cold fingers she realized that wasn’t it at all.
"Phoebe," Kathryn interrupted quietly, "all that sounds great, but do you mind if we pick it up in the morning? I’m afraid it’s been a long week and we’re a little tired."
"Uh, sure. Okay."
Phoebe and Gretchen shared a confused look, but Seven only looked relieved. With the change of expression Kathryn realized there was something about the wedding plans themselves that were upsetting Seven. It was definitely time they had a private discussion.
"You girls get some sleep and we’ll pick it up after breakfast in the morning." Gretchen’s comment was off-hand, but Janeway knew if her mother managed to get her aside she’d quiz her about what was really going on.
"Sounds like a good idea, Mom." Kathryn quickly kissed her mother’s cheek and said, "Night, Phoebs."
Kathryn grabbed Seven’s hand and tugged her toward the stairs. In moments they were alone in the captain’s childhood room. As soon as the door was closed she urged Seven over to the edge of the bed and knelt on the floor in front of her.
"What is it? Talk to me?"
Seven held tightly to Kathryn’s hands, but wouldn’t meet her eyes. Her gaze was fixed on the carpet and her lower lip trembled in abject misery. "I’m sorry, Kathryn. I do not know what’s wrong with me. The more Phoebe spoke about the ceremony the more agitated I became."
Kathryn felt a smile coming on and tried to suppress it. "Sounds like cold feet to me."
"I just mean it sounds like you started to panic. The question is why? Don’t you want to marry me?"
"Yes!" Seven looked up as though astonished Kathryn could think otherwise. "There is nothing I want more."
"I thought you’d say that." Kathryn smiled crookedly and said, "I have a theory."
Seven didn’t respond and could only wait for the explanation to such confusing emotions.
"Onboard Nemo you said you thought I’d changed my mind about wanting to marry you, even thought we’d only been engaged a week. Now, the more Phoebe and Mom discuss wedding plans the closer you get to an absolute panic. I know you love me and you know I love you so it makes sense that neither of us intends to change our minds. You’re feeling insecure about something, but I can’t figure out what it is."
Seven frowned and considered the possibility. "I feel insecure, but not about our love," she said slowly. "It’s about the wedding."
"How so, darling?" Kathryn encouraged, raising Seven’s hand to brush her lips across the gold mesh.
"B’Elanna and Tom once loved each other," she said, surprising Janeway." "They married and from all appearances were quite well suited. They conceived a child and lived on Earth as a family unit for three years."
"Darling, we’re not Tom and B’Elanna. I understand what you’re saying. How can they love each other one day and not the next? How can they suddenly not want to be with each other anymore?"
"No. I am saying that if love does not last forever, what is the purpose in trying?"
The question frightened Kathryn more than she cared to admit and she sought a way to make the other woman understand. "Oh, my love. The point in trying is us, me and you together." She clasped Seven’s hand tightly and held it to her chest. "I could never be with anyone else but you. I have never loved so deeply or been more committed to anyone. You are all there is and if you told me you wanted me to leave Starfleet, if you said you wanted to live together on an uninhabited planet, I’d do it."
"You love Starfleet and being a captain," Seven argued.
"Yes, I do. But I don’t love duty more than you. You are my life now. My point is that just because their relationship failed, it doesn’t mean ours will. Do you understand?"
"I believe I do, but Kathryn…"
"I am uncomfortable with all of these wedding preparations. Insecurities notwithstanding, what is the purpose for all of these archaic rituals?"
Kathryn chuckled and said, "Ah, now we’re getting down to brass tacks. I should have realized all these details would be a little overwhelming."
"I do admit I am somewhat…disconcerted. But it seems very important to your family."
"Now you listen to me. I’m thrilled that Mom and Phoebe love you so much that they want to have a magnificent ceremony, but ultimately our wedding is up to us. If you’d prefer something simple just say the word."
Seven looked deeply into her eyes trying to assess the sincerity of the statement. Finally she must have decided that Kathryn was indeed sincere. "I would prefer something simple, something private."
"Private, huh?" The idea appealed to Kathryn’s rebellious nature and she grinned at the thought. "All right then. What could be more private than eloping?"
"Kathryn! Are you serious?" Seven couldn’t conceal her excitement.
"Mom will probably kill me, but I think she’ll get over it eventually. Pack a bag, darling. I know the perfect place. We can be there in two hours."
Seven’s incandescent smile was enough to let Kathryn know she’d made the right decision. While her fiancée began to pack Kathryn went downstairs to use the small communications unit in the study. She had a few preparations to make and considering the magnitude of what she was about to do didn’t hesitate to use all the privileges of her station to accomplish her goal. First she had to reserve a room for them in one of the grandest hotels in Lake Tahoe. Just the name Kathryn Janeway was enough to ensure they were given the best suite in the place. Then she made a few calls to find out the best jeweler in the area. Seven wore an engagement ring, but neither had discussed what they’d like for a wedding band. That particular task had been scheduled for the weekend prior to the wedding her family was planning, but things had just taken a rather unexpected turn.
When she thought she had everything in place Kathryn left the study headed for the upstairs bedroom. Years of practice in Starfleet had left her with the ability to pack quickly so she wasn’t unduly concerned when her mother stopped her at the foot of the staircase.
"Kathryn, is something wrong?"
Gretchen was frowning slightly, obviously expecting the worst. Kathryn knew she had a reputation for suddenly backing out of a relationship when things began to get overly serious, like planning a wedding, but she had given Seven her word. Part of the thrill of eloping was doing it secretly even if she did suddenly feel like a guilty teenager.
"No, Mom. Everything’s fine. Why?"
"You just seem jumpy all of a sudden. Where’s Seven?" Gretchen asked, concerned.
Oh, yeah. Mom definitely thinks I’m backing out of this.
"She’s upstairs. Speaking of which, I’d better get up there before she wonders where I am. Goodnight, Mom."
Kathryn didn’t wait for a response but trotted up the stairs and quickly closed the door. "Almost ready?"
Seven’s eyes were glowing as she closed the lid on her suitcase. "Yes. Shall I help you pack?"
"No need, I’ve got it. We’re going to have to sneak out of here though and the front door’s out since mom’s downstairs," Janeway said, tossing an empty bag onto the bed.
Kathryn tossed some shirts, jeans and underwear into the bag. Then she pulled a black pin-striped suit out of the closet and folded it neatly on top of the other items, being especially careful not to crease it. "Yeah, it’s easy. I did it lots of times when I was a kid."
Seven didn’t look convinced but waited patiently as Kathryn finished and closed the lid on the suitcase. She was surprised when the older woman walked over and opened the window before she peered down toward the front door.
"You expect us to climb out the window?"
Kathryn grinned in delight. "Trust me, it’ll be fun."
"Just do what I do and you’ll be fine."
Kathryn grabbed her suitcase in one hand and threw a leg over the windowsill. Moments later she had climbed off the sill and onto a trellis that was attached to the house. Seven could have sworn she heard the fragile timber creak under her fiancée’s weight and she wasn’t sure this was such a great idea. Still, Kathryn seemed intent on leaving the Janeway farm by this inefficient method so Seven kept her mouth shut and followed quietly. She waited until Kathryn was on the ground before she started her own exit and she was halfway down the trellis when she thought this might work after all. Then she heard the sharp shriek of nails pulling out of the wall and knew the makeshift ladder would not continue to hold her weight. Half a story from the ground Seven let go of the trellis and leapt the rest of the way.
She heard Kathryn’s startled whisper, but she was already safely on the ground before her lover finished speaking.
"Don’t do that to me!" Janeway ordered in a sharp whisper. "You scared me to death!"
Seven merely raised an eyebrow and asked, "Shall we go?" She was relieved when Kathryn’s rebellious grin returned instantly.
Kathryn grabbed her hand and tugged her toward the barn. They jogged to where Kathryn had parked the Starfleet requisitioned hovercar and were soon speeding west toward the Transport Center. Seven didn’t understand why Kathryn seemed to enjoy sneaking away from the farm so much, but she did delight in seeing the woman so happy.
"That was great!" Kathryn threw her head back and laughed into the night air. "I’d forgotten how exhilarating that was."
"I’m enjoying this very much," Seven admitted, "but Phoebe led me to believe that a honeymoon period was required right after a marriage. We will not have time for an extended absence. Was she incorrect, Kathryn?"
"No, love, she wasn’t wrong. I’ll admit we have only tonight and tomorrow for this since I have to be back at headquarters Monday, but don’t worry. As soon as the debriefings are over we’ll take a very long honeymoon and I’ll show you everything there is to see on Earth. Will that be all right?"
Kathryn looked at her almost shyly and Seven felt her heart melt. She linked her arm through the captain’s and said, "That would be wonderful, Kathryn. All I want right now is to be with you."
Kathryn’s heart thumped in her excitement as the rented hover car touched down. Thankfully there had been none of the usual weekend lines at the Transport Center and they’d made great time. It was only six-thirty in South Lake Tahoe, Nevada and dusk was just beginning to settle. Already the lights from the casinos and hotels less than a mile away were brilliantly lit. To Kathryn the casinos held the age-old promise of excitement and fortunes that could be won or lost by a single roll of the dice. But they weren’t here to gamble and she had been very aware of that when she called ahead to secure their reservation. She wanted everything to be perfect as she and Seven began their lives together as a joined couple. The Lake Tahoe Vacation Resort was the ideal choice for their abbreviated honeymoon stay. Nestled on the south shore of the lake they had a view of the water and the snow-capped Sierra Nevadas in the background.
"What do you think?" she asked as the hover car powered down.
"It is beautiful here, Kathryn."
The sound of awe in Seven’s voice caused Kathryn to smile as she handed their bags to two bellhops that had appeared when they landed. "I hoped you’d like it and there are all kinds of things to do here. Tomorrow, if you want, we could try snow skiing or go down to the marina. You could even try your hand at gambling; I have a feeling you’d be a natural."
Seven replied by slipping her hand into Janeway’s and looking deeply into her eyes. "Tomorrow will be our first day of matrimony. I have no intention of leaving our room."
Kathryn swallowed with difficulty and surprised herself by blushing from head to toe. "Whatever you want, darling."
They walked into the resort still holding hands. Kathryn gave her name to the concierge and in no time they were shown to their suite. The Ponderosa Suite was located on the sixth and topmost floor. A rooftop garden opened out over the water and Kathryn turned from tipping the bellboy to find that Seven had already gone out on the terrace. Her hands rested against the railing and a brilliant smile lit her features as she gazed out over the water.
"You are so beautiful."
She didn’t realize she’d spoken aloud until Seven turned toward her. Kathryn walked to her feeling as if drawn by some force she couldn’t and didn’t want to control. Long arms embraced her shoulders as her own clasped Seven’s narrow waist. The kiss was soft, gentle and full of love. For several moments everything ceased but the sensation of being with Seven until the need to draw breath forced them apart.
Kathryn placed gentle kisses along Seven’s jaw and finally said, "I wish we could just keep going like this and never stop."
"Why can we not?"
Seven punctuated the question by drawing the tender flesh under Kathryn’s ear into her mouth and sucking lightly. Janeway shivered in response but said, "Because we still have to pick out our wedding rings and I’ve reserved the chapel for nine o’clock."
"Then we should hurry," Seven responded softly, showing no signs of releasing her anytime soon.
Kathryn closed her eyes and enjoyed the warmth of her fiancée’s body in the cool night air. From a distance she could hear voices coming from the boats on the lake. She felt like she was in a Fairy Tale and this was the promised happy ending. For all her vaunted Starfleet discipline it was Seven who finally pulled away.
"Come Kathryn. I do not wish to miss our wedding night."
"No. I definitely wouldn’t want that," she mumbled, distracted by the promise in Seven’s eyes.
Tiffany and Co.ä was only a few blocks from the resort so they decided to walk. Kathryn walked as closely to Seven as she could with their arms entwined. The night sky was clear of clouds and full of stars to light their way. An occasional streetlight further illuminated the walkways and flowers poured their perfume into the air.
"Kathryn, why did we simply not replicate wedding bands from inside the suite?"
They had originally planned to go shopping for rings the weekend before the wedding but all of that had changed with the decision to elope.
"Where’s the fun in that? Sure, we could have replicated them, but then we’d lose some of the tradition that goes along with a marriage. Besides, Tiffany’s is famous for their creations and I want us to have something breathtaking."
"I could have designed a wedding band that would have been equally as breathtaking," Seven assured her.
"I’m sure you could, love, but I’m not all that artistic and I’d really like to contribute to whatever we choose."
"I understand." Seven smiled indulgently and wrapped her arm around Kathryn’s shoulder.
They entered the shop and were immediately met by the manager, Tim Pearson. After explaining what they were looking for he led them to a viewing room and closed the doors to afford them some privacy before pulling out a special collection. Kathryn had contacted him from Indiana and he already had several one-of-a-kind sets ready in their sizes.
At first there was nothing that Seven really seemed interested in and Kathryn recognized the look in her eye that signaled when she was becoming frustrated.
"I think I’d like something in blue," she told the manager, who looked at her in confusion. Kathryn didn’t notice since she was too busy looking into Seven’s eyes. "Yes, that’s it. Sapphires and diamonds. Do you have anything like that?"
"I have just the thing," Pearson said, and disappeared for a moment.
"Kathryn," Seven whispered, "you’re staring."
If she thought Kathryn would be contrite she was mistaken. "Who can blame me? I’m about to marry the most beautiful woman in the quadrant."
Seven’s response was terminated abruptly when Pearson stepped back into the room carrying a velvet-covered tray. The two rings displayed took their collective breath away. They were platinum with alternating sapphires and brilliant round diamonds. Kathryn thought the blue of the gems were the exact shade of Seven’s eyes when she was most happy and the band would be the perfect compliment to her engagement ring. The platinum would stand out brilliantly with the color change to Seven’s implants and Kathryn had to admit there was a proprietary part of her that enjoyed that thought. She wanted everyone to know that Seven had chosen to spend her life with Kathryn Janeway.
"I think these are perfect," Kathryn breathed.
Two simple words uttered so plainly, but in a voice full of emotion, were all Kathryn needed to hear. "We’ll take them."
They tried the rings on and were delighted to discover the fit was just right. Soon the rings were boxed up, Janeway had authorized the credit slip and they were on their way back to the resort. It had taken over an hour to select their rings and they had little time to dress.
Seven insisted that Kathryn shower first while she recycled her fiancée’s suit to get out the wrinkles and as pressed for time as they were Janeway didn’t argue. She set the shower on a low sonic burst that was sure to get her nice and clean without need to dry her hair. Minutes later she jumped out to discover Seven had already recycled the suit and hung it inside the bathroom door. She brushed her hair and teeth and applied a light sheen of makeup before dressing carefully.
Kathryn was surprised to discover her hands were trembling slightly and she grinned, thinking it was ironic that she was starting to get nervous. No doubt Seven was logically proceeding through her own preparations in the other bathroom just as calmly as she did everything else.
"I could definitely learn something from her."
Seven of Nine sat on the toilet seat in the other bathroom trying her best to quell the urge to throw up. She had never actually vomited before but she was familiar enough with the urge to recognize it when she felt it. An incident aboard Nemo had introduced her to the sensation when she’d broken open the plasma injection pod to keep the ship from being destroyed. Fortunately the doctor had given her medication to suppress the urge but he was very much absent now and for several minutes she fought against the rolling nausea.
She didn’t know why she was suddenly so nervous; she loved Kathryn and wanted to marry her. She had wanted nothing more for as long as she could remember. Yet now that they had chosen rings and were dressing for the actual ceremony her stomach felt like it wanted to come out through her mouth.
"I am being silly," Seven thought and was profoundly disturbed by the thought.
She pushed the nervous feeling away and took a deep breath before she stepped into the sonic shower. Kathryn would be waiting for her and she wanted to look beautiful for her. Hopefully the gown she’d replicated before entering the bathroom would help her with that.
Kathryn stepped back and checked her appearance. The pin-stripped suit gathered slightly at the waist and emphasized her trim physique. Diamond stud earrings caught the light and mirrored the shine in her eyes. All in all she was happy with the look and smiled in anticipation as she walked into the living area looking for Seven. What she found left her speechless and she felt tears prick her eyes.
Seven stood in the center of the living room. Her hair was swept back away from her face and gathered loosely at the nape of her neck. Long ringlets hung from the sides and softly framed her face. She wore a satiny white gown that left her arms and shoulders bare and hugged her breasts without being overt. It tapered down her body and began to flare slightly at the knees before terminating just above floor level. Although the style was casually elegant Seven was an absolute vision.
"You look…" Kathryn stopped, speechless.
She circled slowly around Seven, taking in how the gown zipped in the back to just below her ribcage. It was obviously designed to be removed quickly and easily and she felt her blood pressure creep up another notch.
"Am I acceptable?" Seven asked almost shyly.
"Oh, darling. You’re exquisite," Kathryn assured her when they stood face to face again. "Have I told you lately how very much I love you?"
Seven smiled slightly and said, "Not for at least the last four hours."
Kathryn took her hand and said, "I love you, more than I have ever loved anyone or anything. And I am so lucky to be the one standing here with you."
Seven reached up to gently caress her cheek with backs of her knuckles. "There could be no other for me. You are the one I will always love, Kathryn."
Janeway took a steadying breath and said, "Then I guess we’d better go. We’re due at the chapel in ten minutes."
"Is it far? Are we walking?"
"No to both questions, but I’ve arranged to have a holo-photographer there and I’d like to get some pictures ahead of time. The chapel is going to provide the witnesses and the marriage certificate so I guess everything is covered. We’ll use the resort’s transporter to get to the chapel."
The Lake Front Wedding Chapel stood at the water’s edge and offered the perfect scenic backdrop for wedding holo-pictures. It featured a panoramic view of the lake and the mountains in the background. Inside the chapel boasted Artesian inspired décor. Kathryn had deliberately chosen this place over others offered in Lake Tahoe because it didn’t offer cheesy Elvis impersonators or ‘theme’ ceremonies. Only traditional, elegant and romantic weddings took place here and the chapel had a reputation as the best in the industry for the last fifty years.
Kathryn remembered very little of the actual vows made to each other later, but she did recall the soft look in Seven’s eyes as they were spoken. The moment she slid the wedding ring onto her love’s finger was burned indelibly into her mind and the instant Seven slid the band onto hers she was lost.
"I now pronounce you married. You may kiss your wife."
Seven’s lips brushed softly over Kathryn’s own. Her tongue slipped out to part her lips and then Seven claimed her, kissing her thoroughly and quite slowly until Kathryn thought she would pass out. When the kiss ended she felt a little dazed and it took a moment to realize the minister was grinning at her.
"Thanks," she mumbled.
The next few minutes were a whirlwind. Seven suddenly appeared to be in a major hurry as she saw to the signing of the marriage certificate and hustled Kathryn to sign the credit authorization for the ceremony. Before she knew what was happening Seven had taken her hand and pulled her onto a small transporter pad.
"What’s the hurry?" she asked with some amusement.
Seven looked at her very seriously and replied, "The wedding night."
"Oh. You have a point."
They ignored the congratulations of the resort staff as they stepped off the transporter pad. Kathryn was a little embarrassed by how focused they were on getting back to their room, but finally shrugged it off. These people saw newly married couples every day and were no doubt used to this. After that she couldn’t have cared less what they thought. She clutched her wife’s hand and pressed repeatedly on the button that would carry the elevator to the sixth floor.
Kathryn’s heart began to hammer in anticipation as the elevator doors closed, but that was as far as anticipation was allowed to go. Suddenly Seven grabbed her by the shoulders and slammed her forcefully against the back wall of the lift. Full, red lips smashed against hers and Kathryn was seized by a hunger she couldn’t ignore.
She fumbled for the emergency stop button on the control panel and buried her fingers in Seven’s golden hair as she felt the elevator bounce to a stop. Seven’s hands were all over her. Kathryn’s jacket was shoved off one shoulder and her shirt yanked from the waistband of her trousers. A strong hand skirted her stomach before it plunged inside the trousers and underwear. Two long fingers entered her without warning and Kathryn gasped in pleasure.
Her leg rose to encircle Seven’s thigh and grant her wife better access. Seven’s mouth tore away from Kathryn’s to suck intently at the flesh under her ear even as her fingers plunged in and out of the wet center. Kathryn slid her hands down Seven’s back until she seized her buttocks, pulling the other woman tightly against her as she thrust against the impaling fingers.
Kathryn arched her back, trying to drive herself further into Seven’s hand. Seven responded by biting down suddenly on her neck. The bite wasn’t painful, only pleasurable and Kathryn cried out as tingles raced over her body from head to toe.
"Oh," Kathryn groaned, "Do that to me forever!"
Seven’s pace increased steadily, taking Kathryn with a thoroughness that rocked her to her core. When she used her thumb to brush over her sex Kathryn lost all coherent thought. The double onslaught was more than she could handle and she was sent into over the edge into pleasure that left her gasping for air.
For a moment neither of them spoke or moved. Seven merely held her until Kathryn’s body began to quiet. Then she pulled away and Kathryn could see the overwhelming desire in the blue eyes.
"Let’s get out of here before someone manages to get that door open." Kathryn said. "I want you on that big king-sized bed. Now!"
It was the only word Seven could manage and she was trembling as Kathryn reached out to re-engage the elevator controls. Moments later they were through the doorway of their suite and Seven took control again. A trail of clothes led from the entrance to the foot of the bed.
They had been a couple for months, but never had their hunger been so great. Passion took over that night and the next day. They rarely left the bed and when they did it was only by necessity. Seven was loving, demanding and giving; readily letting Kathryn know what she wanted and not afraid to give as much in return. Midnight the next evening they finally fell into a deep, exhausted sleep.
Monday morning Kathryn and Seven quietly entered through the backdoor of the Janeway farm and into the kitchen. It was barely daylight and they had needed to come back so Kathryn could get dressed in her uniform before reporting for duty. All was quiet and Kathryn silently hoped her mother and Phoebe would sleep until they were finished and she’d left.
"Would you care for some breakfast, Kathryn?" Seven was bent over slightly and pulling bacon and eggs from the refrigerator.
"Thanks, love, but I’ll just have coffee."
Seven sat her supplies on the counter and turned around to face Kathryn. She wrapped her arms around her waist and pulled her close before saying, "You have expended a lot of calories this weekend. You should replenish your reserves."
"Hmm, I like the way you think." Kathryn laced her fingers in Seven’s hair and pulled her wife down for a long, satisfying kiss. Before their lips could meet they were rudely interrupted.
"Kathryn Elizabeth Janeway! Where have you been? And you too, Seven!"
Seven started to pull away, but was prevented when Kathryn held on and calmly looked at her mother. She would have spoken, but it was clear that Gretchen had just started on her tirade.
"Now I know getting married can sometimes be a little frightening, but you’ll get through it. Both of you will. Being nervous is perfectly normal."
"Mom, I didn’t change my mind about marrying Seven."
"Good." Gretchen nodded once sharply and then started in again. "That’s good. But I’d really like to know why you just took off for the last two days when we still have a ceremony to plan. There are guests to invite, colors to choose, not to mention you still haven’t shopped for rings or decided where to go for your honeymoon."
"I’m not finished, Kathryn."
"Where will you live after you get married? Will you stay here or are you getting a place in San Francisco? Of course you’re perfectly welcome to stay here…"
Gretchen finally stopped speaking as Kathryn held up her hand to display the wedding band.
"I don’t know how to tell you this, but the wedding’s off."
There were still debriefings to hold and choices about the future to make, but this weekend Kathryn had made the most important decision of her life and it had been the right decision. Seven was her wife and nothing could be more wonderful than that.
The End of the Galaxies Series. Thank you so much for taking this journey with me.