This is a sequel to Encumbrance. (Posted to the web June 2007)
Kathryn Janeway's Personal Log:
"I can't seem to get the dream out of my head. As I went through my morning routine in preparation of starting my duty shift all I could think about was her, the woman in my dreams. I remembered her strength of character and nobility and tried desperately to reconcile those images with the woman who not so long ago was a Borg drone. All day I was occupied with thoughts of her. Is it really so odd then that my body would take over when I let my conscious mind wander?
I lingered in the doorway with lust-filled monsters screaming at me while I stared at the back of my crewman. Somehow my feet had wandered to Astrometrics as I completed my daily rounds throughout Voyager. My ship has been stranded here in the delta quadrant for five long years and as captain I know that I alone must shoulder the blame for our situation. For five years that blame has been a burden, spurring me on to take greater and greater chances to get this ship and crew home. They are a noble crew and Voyager has nurtured us along this great journey.
But today that burden felt like a blessing.
I stood there and studied the back of the whip-thin frame encased in living metal and vulnerable human flesh. The silver mesh biosuit hugged the beautiful woman and outlined ridges of Borg implants on which I could only speculate. The white blonde hair that not so long ago was absent was pulled back into an austere twist that the former drone that is now my Astrometrics officer finds to be efficient.
If I had not made the choices that left us on our own here in this quadrant Seven would still be lost to the collective. Regardless of the mistakes I've made and the many times that I've bent or downright broken the prime directive, if we returned home tomorrow and I were court-martialed to the full extent of Starfleet law it would all be worth it to know that I retrieved this one individual among thousands back from the Borg.
Perhaps the elation in my heart at that moment had more to do with the dream from last night. I don't know. I only know that I am left with the lingering sensation that this woman is my knight in shining armor. The silver sheen of her outfit lends credence to these illogical fantasies and for that moment all I could do was stare and remember the dream.
I remembered how deftly the woman known as Grace wielded her sword and sliced through the tender flesh of our hands as the warrior sealed our pact with blood. Most of all I remembered how Grace protected me in the face of innumerable foes with all the strength in her body, even to the threat of her very life, and merely acted as though it was the most reasonable thing to do."
Kathryn paused in her recording as the palm of her hand tingled in disjointed, half-remembered images and she glanced down at it reflexively. Somehow she was surprised to find the flesh unmarred. She knew that if nothing else the dream proved that Seven had made her way into Kathryn's heart.
"As captain of a Starship you try to tell yourself that every man and woman under your command means the same to you, that each one of them is equally as important. But you cant help it. You get closer to some of them. That's true of all of my command staff, but this woman means even more than all the others put together. The kiss we shared in the dream proves that. When she looked at me as Grace I could see passion and adoration in those blue eyes. I know that these are the things I wanted to see.
That's what dreams are; the wishes our hearts make when we are fast asleep. Would that I could see those emotions in Seven's cornflower eyes while waking. But then what? I know. I would turn away and pretend not to see those feelings because they would make me vulnerable, more vulnerable than I already am. And I am defenseless where Seven is concerned. All it takes is a quietly uttered please from those full lips or a slight trembling in that proudly cleft chin and I am undone.
I don't do weakness very well; it offends my Starfleet sensibilities."
How long had she stood there watching, a moment or an eternity? Suddenly Seven turned from her console and pinned Janeway in place with a quiet look. Kathryn could see that Seven was analyzing star charts on the large Astrometrics display and was distracted by the woman's pale beauty against the blues, purples and oranges of a swirling nebula.
"Captain?" The look in her eyes was confusion and Kathryn realized how unusual it was for her to display any lapses. But Kathryn was relieved that the look from Seven hadn't been one of passion. She didn't know how she would have reacted in that unguarded moment if it had been.
Kathryn had mentally shook herself and pulled her command persona close before she responded. "Just taking my usual trip around Voyager before I turn in. What are you working on?"
Kathryn wandered closer to Seven and felt her fingers start to tingle familiarly. The impulse to trail her hand up the silver encased arm had been strong and she compensated by touching the console instead while she pretended an interest in the readouts. She was often tactile with Seven, a touch on the arm or on her back, but not this night. Her feelings were closer to the surface than usual and she was afraid Seven would know the truth or that Janeway would confess herself if she touched Seven then.
Seven didn't seem to think anything out of the ordinary as she answered. "I am mapping the next four star systems."
"It's late. Shouldn't you be regenerating?" Surely that had sounded like the normal concern of a captain for a crewmember, even if her voice was softer than usual.
Seven had frowned a little. Had she detected…something in her captain's voice?
"I do not require rest for another twenty point two hours."
"Uh huh. And just how long has it been?" Kathryn asked, sure that she knew how Seven would answer.
Kathryn remembered the alarm and concern that coursed through her veins in equal measure. Seven was a great deal more human now, although she doubted the younger woman would ever want to admit it, and needed to treat her body accordingly.
"Come on." Kathryn could still hear how gently her own words had been spoken. "I'll tuck you in."
Since she had rescued Seven from the Borg Queen it wasn't too unusual to have this same conversation with Seven and Kathryn hoped she would think nothing of it. Seven merely raised an all too expressive eyebrow and Kathryn could almost imagine the argument about to form.
"You can analyze the data in the morning," she allowed as she held up a slender hand to forestall any objections.
The gentle sigh that slipped from the full lips had completed the statement and Janeway correctly interpreted the rest of the sentence as if you insist.
They walked through the ship together in quiet companionship until they reached the cargo bay. The room was large, cavernous and cold and Janeway was struck by the similarities of this room and the outward appearance that her friend liked to portray. Other members of the crew might think the cargo bay was the perfect place for Seven but Janeway knew otherwise. She knew Seven could be fiercely passionate like when she defended the Doctors rights and wondered if that hidden passion had been the fuel for her own recent nocturnal struggles.
Seven had stepped up to the alcove and faced outward while Janeway concentrated on entering the regeneration period into the console. Blue eyes drifted shut and Seven entered the Borg equivalent of a dream state. Kathryn knew Seven dreamed during her cycles. She had mentioned the barren snowscape from one of her dreams when forced to bring the ship through a nebula while the rest of the crew was in stasis.
Janeway thought again of her own dream and wondered if she ever made an appearance in any of Seven's. If Seven dreamt of her, in what capacity? Did Janeway merely make a cameo or was she in more of a leading role? Was she perhaps cast in a romantic lead?
More likely it was in the role of a mentor or a mother figure she decided and she was just indulging in wishful thinking.
Kathryn had stood and watched her beloved friend sleep; imagined that she gently caressed her fingers over the porcelain skin of Seven's cheeks and neck as her eyes trailed adoringly over feminine curves. How she wanted to be the one to unveil the gift that Seven of Nine would someday give to some lucky someone.
"Sweet dreams," she whispered. Then she had quietly left the cargo bay.
She wandered the bowels of her ship for another hour before she finally made her way back to her quarters and got ready for bed. She hoped to wear herself out by her wanderings and would sleep without dreams as a result, but she had to make the log entry first before her thoughts and feelings faded.
Kathryn realized she had been reliving the past few hours quietly while her personal log continued to record. She had been distracted all day and by the end of her shift even Commander Chakotay had begun to look at her oddly. Fortunately, she made her escape before he could attempt to play counselor. Maybe if she got a restful night's sleep she could focus on her duties tomorrow.
"Computer, end personal log."
"Receiving the coordinates, Captain."
Ensign Harry Kim looked expectantly over to where the captain sat in her command chair. Janeway felt his eyes on her and waited just a beat before she answered. "Very good, Harry. Inform the Chancellor that I shall arrive in one hour per our agreement."
While the young operations officer sent the message, Kathryn informed Chakotay that she would be in her ready room and left the bridge. She had a lot to do in the hour before she left the ship and needed to concentrate.
One of the star systems Seven of Nine discovered upon her analysis of the Astrometrics data from the previous night contained an M-class planet called Delinia. According to Seven the Delinians were a humanoid species very much like Earth beings during the nineteenth century. Although they didn't look much like Humans with their sharply pointed chins and double eyes the people were friendly and valued commerce and equitable trade, yet still maintained sophisticated technology such as warp capabilities. The prime directive did not apply and the planet was rich with various minerals and foodstuffs. Delinia also maintained a maintenance port in orbit to service wayward starships for a nominal fee. There was only one drawback as far as Kathryn could see.
Delinian customs insisted that Chancellor Colney would deal only with the leader of a group and that only one other person was allowed to attend those meetings. As head of security it made sense that Commander Tuvok be the one to accompany the captain to the planet. Of course that wasn't really a drawback as far as the captain could see. The people were friendly and she looked forward to getting off the ship for a while. Her emotions were still very raw around Seven and she was also worried that she would slip up around her friend.
Only Tuvok was unhappy with the arrangements and insisted that they needed a larger security party to keep the captain safe. Janeway happily pointed out that in this the Delinians were unrelenting and Tuvok had no choice but to go along with it. And even though these people were warp capable they didn't have transporter technology. Starfleet protocol strictly prohibited advanced technology from falling into other hands since it could upset the balance of power in any one region of space. It was an aspect of the prime directive that did apply and left Janeway with no choice but to take a shuttle to the surface. Once on the surface the shuttle would not be allowed as a means of transportation. Instead Janeway and Tuvok would be supplied with a land-based vehicle to move over the planet's surface.
Schematics of the solar powered vehicle had been sent to Voyager and Tom Paris, the ship's pilot and aficionado of all things ancient Earth, had compared the vessel to a dune buggy.
Like most people Janeway was looking forward to being behind the wheel of the antiquated craft and seeing just how far she could push the speed limit. She wondered if Tuvok would let his Vulcan veneer crack enough to show a trace of fear if she pushed the velocity just a little over the line and a mischievous smile graced her lips.
Now if only she could use the time planet side to stuff her feelings for Seven firmly back into the realm of friendship where they belonged.
Seven of Nine stood in the Astrometrics lab and used the keen sensors to pull up a display of Voyager's aft shuttle bay. She watched as the cumbersome form of the Franklin passed through the forcefield and shot toward the planet's surface. A tiny frown so small that only those who knew her well would have noticed rested between her brows as she thought about the captain's behavior the last few days. Again, she wished Janeway had taken the Delta Flyer instead of the more awkward type two shuttle, but she had made her arguments during the staff meeting and the captain had summarily decided against it.
Seven argued that the Delta Flyer was more advanced with better shields and stronger weapons, which was exactly the reason Janeway said she wanted the older craft. Janeway said she wanted to keep anything more advanced from the Delinia and that the Delta Flyer would be protected from spying eyes if it resided in the shuttle bay while Voyager was docked with the Delinia Maintenance hub that was in orbit.
She thought again of the captain's strange behavior the night before and wondered if Kathryn was starting to remember. Seven's heart ricocheted off her chest at the possibility, but she clamped down firmly on her initial reaction. There was no reason to believe that Kathryn had started to remember and there was the distinct possibility that she never would.
For the thousandth time she wondered if Captain Ducane of the time-ship Relativity knew exactly what he had cost them by leaving their memories intact. Seven ignored Tal Celes at the station behind her while she began running multiple projections and lost herself in memories of what saving Voyager had cost them.
A saboteur from the future had planted an explosive device on board Voyager and Seven had been recruited by the time-ship to find out who planted the device. After four jumps Seven couldn't make another without the risk of serious damage or death. Janeway had been recruited to clean up the time line and had finally apprehended the saboteur who turned out to be none other than Captain Braxton, in command of the time ship until that point. Ducane took command of the Relativity and all four Seven of Nines and the two Captains Janeway had been reintegrated until only one of each remained.
Ducane decided that since none of their previous jumps related to their future, only their past, that he wouldn't resequence their memory ingrams. At the time Seven had been happy about that decision…until she and Janeway were returned to Voyager's immediate past.
Seven's heart tore again as she remembered. They rematerialized on Voyager's transporter pad and she turned to Janeway. But instead of the love and devotion she had grown accustomed to on those classic features, now there was only friendship.
"Well, Seven. I'm exhausted. I think I'll head to my quarters and get some rest. See you tomorrow."
At first Seven was mystified. Ducane said he would leave their memories intact. How could Kathryn not remember them? It had only taken moments for the awful truth to register and for the full ramifications of what she now called the Altered Time-Lines Paradox to make themselves known.
Seven clearly remembered the loving, intimate relationship she shared with Kathryn. Many times they had lain awake after making love and talking about the future they would share once the crew returned home to the alpha quadrant. They had even discussed the possibility of children, a boy with auburn hair and adorable freckles and a girl, delicate and fair. Suddenly all of that had been ripped away.
Of those four separate entities Seven had been after being recruited by the time-ship, each of them had a differing future. Three of them had been involved with Kathryn, only one had not and Seven had maintained all of those distinct memories when she had been reintegrated into one being. She had no way of knowing if any of the two people Kathryn had been during that time had been involved with her, but she had a feeling that they had been.
Somehow Seven maintained those memories, but Kathryn had lost them. Seven had come to believe that her cortical implant was responsible for her maintaining those experiences and that Kathryn's more fragile human brain had been unable to.
She knew the love Kathryn felt for her was still there somewhere and remembered how she had gotten a Starfleet captain to trust her without even knowing her. Janeway had trapped her behind a forcefield during one of those jumps and with a quietly uttered please the captain had acquiesced and lowered the forcefield. Even then Seven believed she saw a hint of instinctual recognition in Janeway's eyes, but in the end it didn't matter.
Kathryn didn't remember being with Seven and Seven knew that this was the one thing she couldn't push Janeway into. She would argue for hours about quantum theory or exactly how the warp core should be tuned for maximum efficiency, but love was another matter. She would never force Janeway to return her love; it had to come naturally. For that reason Seven pretended less than what she actually felt and became Kathryn's friend again... only her friend. Regenerating in the cargo bay after growing used to sleeping by the other woman's side tore her apart in ways she couldn't begin to describe even with all the knowledge of the Borg stored in her cortical node.
Often after she finished a game of velocity on the holodeck or spent a pleasant evening having dinner with Kathryn she would return to the cargo bay and allow the tears to finally come. An area of the cargo bay was cordoned off with dry goods containers to allow her the privacy she needed and there Seven of Nine would sob out her heartbreak over the tremendous loss. Then she would gather the tattered remnants of her soul together and present a friendly face to the woman she would always call Kathryn, at least to herself.
But Kathryn had been different the last few days, preoccupied, but not really distant. If anything she appeared to be seeking Seven out more and more though she didn't have a lot to say. Just before Janeway activated the regeneration cycle Seven could see confusion in the blue depths of her eyes and yearned for it to be related to those lost memories.
Quietly Seven allowed a sigh to escape as she continued running calculations so impossibly fast that Tal wouldn't have a clue what she was doing. Patience, Seven thought, I just have to be patient. Eventually Kathryn will remember. She has to.
"Yee haw!!!" Janeway screamed in laughter as the dune buggy left the dusty surface of the road and sailed a good meter into the air as it flew over a bump. It landed heavily a few seconds later and Janeway was slammed against the restraining belt.
This was amazing! She hadn't felt this alive in years. Of course she did things for fun all the time on the holodeck, but with the safeties on it just wasn't this exhilarating. A quick glance sideways told her that her companion didn't agree with her assessment of fun and Kathryn laughed out loud again.
Commander Tuvok had his teeth clenched so tightly together that she wondered they didn't shatter. He had hold of the side rail with one hand and the dash with the other and his eyes were firmly fixed on the road.
"Relax, Tuvok. This is wonderful!"
"I shall never understand the human need to pilot vehicles at faster than recommended speeds."
Janeway merely ignored him and pushed the accelerator to the floor as she spotted another bump in the road that offered a little boost to the short journey. Again they sailed through the air, but when they landed on the other side her teeth clicked together.
Oops, gotta keep my mouth shut when I do that, she thought, but the grin was still firmly in place when they pulled into the Capitol Circle a few moments later.
Chancellor Colney already waited on the steps along with two of his aides that flanked him on either side. Janeway could see a conspiratorial grin on the alien official's face and realized he was enjoying her indulgence. How bad could an alien species be if they enjoyed fun simply for fun's sake? Another glance at Tuvok and Janeway amended her thought; at least as long as they're not Vulcan.
Kathryn slammed on the brakes to the dune buggy and spun the wheel hard to the left. The craft screeched to a stop and sent up a cloud of dust that drifted over the official party.
"Sorry about that," Kathryn grinned as she bounced out of the vehicle and walked over to the diplomat. "I didn't mean to dust you."
Colney wore a long white robe and his hands were folded inside the sleeves. He looked very formally dressed except for the smile that never left his face. "On the contrary, I'm glad that you enjoyed the sklar ride and I can tell that we shall be great friends."
With that Colney pulled his hands out of the sleeves and offered both of them palm up to Kathryn. "Welcome, Captain Janeway of the Starship Voyager."
Being a diplomat, a seasoned captain and an admiral's daughter Janeway had a knack for reading people from the start. She might not know what they were thinking, but she generally had an instinct that told her whether or not someone was dangerous. From Colney she sensed only friendliness and someone open to new ideas as well as a sense of adventure.
Janeway took the offered hands and clasped them for a moment. Then she released the chancellor and waved a hand toward her companion. "This is my security chief, Lieutenant Commander Tuvok."
Colney didn't offer his hands to the Vulcan, but he did bow respectfully. "Lieutenant Commander, welcome to Delinia Trade Center."
Then he turned back to the captain. "Please, come inside. You must be thirsty after such a dusty ride."
They followed the official inside and for the next few hours Janeway was so busy learning about the alien customs and being waited on hand and foot by polite, but also good humored serving men and women that she didn't think about Seven of Nine.
"Please have a seat, Captain," Colney said as he led the way into a huge banquet room. The room could easily have fit Voyager's entire crew and Kathryn's eyes needed a moment to adjust to all the colors. Plump cushions of every color were scattered all around a low narrow table that looked like it was made of wood. The table was barely half a meter off the floor and the thickness of the cushions easily brought one up to a comfortable position to consume a meal.
Kathryn chose a cushion of burnished silver trimmed in scarlet while Tuvok sat on a yellow one that she thought didn't really suit him. Colney settled next to the captain on her left and clapped his hands once. A second later four servants, two male and two female, walked quietly into the room with heavily laden trays. A young boy, Kathryn wasn't sure how to judge Delinian age, squatted next to Janeway and began to pour what she thought was tea into a ceramic mug. As he finished pouring the tea the young man looked up and met the captain's eye. A smile curled his lips and he actually winked at her before he moved away.
Friendly indeed! Seven had got that one right.
The Starfleet officers sipped politely at the tea while they were served an assortment of sweet rolls, cheeses and slices of meat. The tea was bitter and Kathryn wished for a cup of coffee instead, but the food was delicious and if she enjoyed the meat a little more than Federation values suggested she should then she supposed that was all right. After all these people didn't have replicator technology and who was she to fly in the face of their traditions?
"So tell me," the chancellor began as they ate, "how is that your ship arrived in this quadrant from… where did you say you were from? Earth? You said that was in the alpha quadrant?"
Janeway nodded. "That's right, Earth." She had expected the chancellor to get started on their negotiations right away, but a little small talk wouldn't hurt anything. "We were exploring a region called the Bad Lands at the time when the ship was hit with a coherent tetrion beam. In seconds we were whisked across the galaxy by an entity called the Caretaker."
"Oh my, that can't have been very good for your vessel. It's a miracle that the hull stresses from such a velocity didn't rip your ship apart."
Colney was wide-eyed and completely enthralled with the tale and Janeway had always been a bit of a ham according to her sister. Seeing his rapt fascination Kathryn leaned forward as she got into her story. "You're right about that. Systems shorted out and overloaded all over the ship. We were lucky to have survived."
Suddenly, her expression turned grave. "Of course, not everyone did survive. I lost a lot of good people that day. But we've made new friends since we've been in this quadrant, as well as a few enemies along the way."
"How terrible for you and what a brave crew you must have. I know how difficult this sector of space can be, but you are among friends now."
Chancellor Colney seemed very interested in Voyager and for the next little while conversation revolved around that topic. Janeway was used to harsh negotiations, bantering back and forth for hours on a minor point and she was even used to deals that took place in twenty minutes and concluded with a handshake to seal the pact. But she had never experienced anything like this. Colney was more interested in Voyager's journey through the delta quadrant than haggling over the details of dilithium and vegetable exchanges. He wanted to know how the Starfleet crew became stranded, the species they had encountered and even the activities the crew enjoyed in their down time. All these facts seemed to be a source of endless fascination to the minister.
After a few hours of the Voyager Chronicles, Kathryn began to grow a little impatient although she hid it well. "Chancellor, I don't mean to be rude, but shouldn't we begin discussing our exchange?"
"Oh, there's plenty of time for that." Colney waved it away as inconsequential and signaled one of the servants to refill his tea. "Delinia customs insist that we get to know the people we deal with before any negotiations can begin, but your ship is docked with our maintenance hub and will be refitted before we finish here."
"They will? Isn't that a little fast?"
"No," he shrugged casually. "Since any bartering is required to take a minimum of two days there is plenty of time."
Two days? Janeway didn't like being away from her ship for such a long time, but protocol insisted that she follow the customs of the world they were visiting. "Is it required that we stay here throughout the entire two days, even to sleep?"
"Of course. How else can we get to know each other?"
Janeway's smile was diplomatic and she thought again about how friendly these people were. The server had even winked at her! She just hoped they didn't have other ideas about how friendly the Starfleet officers were. The information packet the Delinian government sent to Voyager hadn't said anything about staying overnight, or two nights for that matter.
"Am I at least permitted to contact my ship from time to time?"
"Certainly, Captain," Colney smiled openly. "I'm sure you'll want to check on their progress?"
Kathryn was relieved. Colney seemed open and honest and other than declaring that they had to stay for the entire two days was eagerly forthcoming with any other assistance he could give to the wayward travelers. Chewing quietly on a piece of bread Kathryn decided that arrangement was just fine with her. It would give her more time away from the ship and if negotiations continued like they had so far this was more of a vacation with a good friend than a diplomatic envoy.
"Now, tell me more. You say you encountered the Borg? However did you manage to escape in one piece?"
Kathryn grinned. "Not only did we manage to escape, but we even picked up a new passenger."
"You don't mean!" Chancellor Colney's eyes widened in shocked fascination.
"A Borg drone."
Colney almost fell over in melodramatic shock before he righted himself again and stared at Janeway. "Go on and don't skip the details."
Kathryn laughed out loud and Colney joined her. Even Tuvok seemed to be relaxing his guard around the outgoing species. "Well, she's not really a drone anymore. Now she's my Astrometrics officer. You see, her human immune system began to reassert itself and her body started to reject her implants."
For hours the two talked until Janeway started to shift uncomfortably. Her body wasn't used to sitting on the floor for extended periods of time and Colney caught on fairly quickly to the grimace of pain on her face.
"Forgive me," he said, standing and offering a hand to the captain. "I could listen to you forever. Your stories are fascinating and your voice is a pleasure to listen to. I didn't realize how uncomfortable you must be."
"It's all right," Kathryn assured him as she stretched out the kinks in her back. "I've enjoyed it, too. But if we're going to spend the night Mister Tuvok and I need to go back to our shuttle for some supplies."
"Are you looking for another chance to drive the sklar, Captain?" Colney teased gently.
"Of course." Janeway smiled in good humor as the chancellor led them back toward the entrance.
The dune buggy was sitting just where Kathryn had parked it earlier, but she was a little surprised to see that darkness had fallen while they talked. Colney showed her how to turn the lights on to the small craft before he sent them on their way. Janeway was impressed that he didn't suggest sending one of his guards with them and thought it was just another indication of how peaceful these people were. They were definitely starting to grow on her even if she wasn't sure which pair of eyes to look into when she was speaking with them.
"I'm going to retire for the evening," the chancellor said, "but one of the house servants will be waiting for you when you return. She will show you to your rooms and take care of anything else you need. Negotiations will begin promptly at eight."
"I understand, Chancellor. And thank you for your hospitality." Kathryn started the sklar by stepping on the ignition switch and had just prepared to shift into drive when Colney stopped her.
"Oh, and Captain, tomorrow I look forward to hearing more about this …oh what did you call it? Snow skiing!"
Kathryn drove off into the night with Commander Tuvok sitting quietly beside her. The pace driving back to the shuttle was a lot more sedate, but Janeway didn't feel as comfortable driving at maximum velocity in the dark. She was looking forward to getting some supplies from the Franklin and taking a sonic shower before they returned to the palace. Normally she preferred a bath, but that wasn't an option and she would be more relaxed taking a shower in a familiar environment.
"You were extremely forthcoming with information about Voyager tonight, Captain," Tuvok finally spoke from beside her.
"What, you mean about our adventures in the delta quadrant?" Kathryn grinned. "Nothing wrong with being friendly, Tuvok and it's not like I gave him the command codes or anything."
"Nevertheless, if the Delinians have hostile intentions then any information about the ship and its crew could be used against us."
"I knew I should have brought B'Elanna," Kathryn mumbled.
"Lieutenant Torres is a formidable opponent in a physical altercation, but I don't believe she would be the best choice to notice an ulterior agenda."
Kathryn sighed in exasperation. "And did you notice an ulterior agenda, Tuvok?"
For a moment there was silence while her security chief thought about the question. "No."
"With all due respect, Commander, lighten up. I promise not to give away any important secrets. This is just a two day negotiation with an outgoing race who for once isn't out to slit our throats and take Voyager for themselves."
Kathryn could see the Franklin's running lights now and came to a stop only a few meters away. The conversation with Tuvok was tabled for later and all she could think about at the moment was finding out how her beloved ship was fairing at the maintenance hub.
"You can have the shower first, Tuvok. I'm going to contact Chakotay."
An hour later they pulled back into the Trade Center compound. Janeway switched off the lights and then the engine of the sklar and grabbed her bag as she got out. Tuvok was already waiting for her at the steps and quietly they ascended together. Kathryn had checked in with Chakotay and was happy to know that repairs and refits were going very well. The Delinians were every bit as accommodating on the maintenance hub as they were on the planet and the only problem Chakotay had was refusing all of the gifts the people continually tried to lavish on the Starfleet personnel.
A young woman met them at the door and Janeway noticed that all of her face, except her top two eyes, was covered with a veil. The rest of her body was covered in a long flowing robe and a hood covered her head.
"This way please, and I'll show you to your rooms."
Rooms, plural. Good. At least they don't expect us to share .
Kathryn had endured worse during away missions, but she did relish her privacy when sleeping. Even when she had been engaged to Mark Johnson it wasn't a regular occurrence for him to spend the night. Even after particular heavy nights of lovemaking Kathryn often sent him home afterward claiming that she had a lot of work to do the next day and had to get up early.
Now all she could think about was going to bed. The lack of sleep the night before and being on her best diplomatic foot all day had worn her out. She was shown to a room right next to Tuvok's and was bid a good night by the young woman after Janeway assured her she didn't need anything else. Then Kathryn closed the door and looked at the room for the first time. She gasped in surprise at the opulence before her.
The bed was enormous and round with a canopy overhead and soft pillows everywhere. Thick carpet covered the floor inviting her to remove her shoes, which she promptly did. Kathryn sighed in pleasure as her toes dug into the thick pile. Candles adorned every corner of the room, the tapers held in sconces on the wall. Even the window was some kind of stained glass. This room was even more decadent than the banquet room.
Kathryn wondered if Tuvok was able to appreciate the beauty since she had no doubt his room was decorated the same way. She smirked as she thought Tuvok would consider beauty inconsequential. She stifled a yawn and decided to get ready for bed.
Being away from home, so to speak, Kathryn wasn't comfortable wearing her usual nightgown. Instead she settled for Starfleet issue gray pajamas, combed out her hair and climbed eagerly between the sheets. It was like falling into a cloud and she was asleep in seconds.
Kathryn had hoped for dreamless sleep tonight, but it didn't take long for her eyes to flutter behind closed lashes. A small smile curled her lips and once she whispered, "Anne".
"Come down from there, you're going to kill yourself." She couldn't help the gurgle of laughter as she shielded her eyes from the sun as it glinted off of the sea.
Anne stood up high on the crows nest; her booted feet planted firmly on the edge of the basket as she perched precariously and looked out over the rolling water. The blonde was tall and strong and Kate never tired of looking at her. Sea winds caused the billowy sleeves of Anne's white shirt to flap in the breeze and highlighted the fullness of her breasts. The purple sash at her waist was snug and the brown breeches terminated inside boots that came to the young woman's knees.
Anne looked down at Kate where she stood on the heaving deck of the ship and grinned. Her blue eyes were full of adoration and happiness as the pirate woman finally threw her head back and laughed openly. One hand held onto the mast rigging and the other fist casually rested on her hip.
"Its wonderful up here, Kate. You should come up and have a look."
"Well, that would hardly be practical with this skirt on!"
Anne's eyes darkened with desire and she said in a lower tone, "Then by all means, take it off."
Kate only feigned her outrage. Secretly she was delighted by the other woman's bawdiness. Her heart began to pound a moment later when Anne leapt out of the crows nest and onto the ropes beside it. Muscles flexed as the young woman slid down the rigging to the deck and suddenly turned to take Kate into her arms.
"We can do what we like here, Kate. This is my ship and no one will deny you anything."
Anne's head descended, their lips met and parted. Kate gasped at the contact of the wet tongue against her own. Then Anne knelt swiftly and lifted Kate into her arms. Kate didn't question where they were going as Anne strode quickly over the deck toward the captain's cabin. The dark desire in her lover's eyes communicated her intent without words, and Kate was more than eager to participate.
Somehow she was on the bed and their clothes were gone. Anne's creamy flesh was covered with sweat as she surged over Kate's body and pressed down between her legs. Fire beat a steady pulse in Kate's groin and Anne fanned the flames with skilled fingers. Their eyes locked together, both of them panting in need as Anne took her. Kate felt the tension in her loins building steadily until in one hoarse scream she surrendered to her passion.
Janeway came awake gently with the name still on her lips. Pleasure thrummed through her veins and she resisted the urge to awaken fully. She wanted to be back there, back in Anne's arms. She wanted to feel more of the loving passion that existed between them, needed it.
Hugging a pillow close in sleepy substitute for her imaginary lover Kathryn plunged willingly back into Morpheus' embrace.
The town was hot and dry, dirt clods exploded when she stepped on them and Cathy didn't know how much longer she could hold on to the barren, dying ranch. Her husband had been killed by one of the Dalton boys a year ago and she had been on her own ever since. It was just like Mark to go charging to someone else's rescue without weighing the consequences and now Cathy was paying the price.
She had given up frilly feminine clothes when she determined they were impractical. Now she wore Mark's old clothes with the sleeves rolled up and the trousers cinched at the waist so she could carry out the chores necessary on the rolling hundred-acre spread.
Cathy's workday started at dawn and ended well after dark, but it was the only way she could keep things going. With the drought it wouldn't matter in a few months anyway. The herd would either die of thirst or have to be sold off. All she would have left would be the land. If things just weren't so hard.
Kathryn Janeway started abruptly awake and sat up in the darkness against the headboard. The last thoughts from her dream were reverberating over and over in her head and she tried to work through what was so troubling. She recalled the events from the Relativity or at least most of them and knew that in this case it wasn't a dream. It was a memory. She couldn't recall everything that had transpired, but had assumed that small lapses would be the norm in such a situation. Now she wondered.
She had forgotten the expression on Seven's face when they transported back to Voyager, but now the moment returned in full force. Not only had there been confusion in the icy depths, but an intense expression of hurt.
Had Seven known something she hadn't, or was this nothing but idle speculation? Could this be the product of Kathryn's wild imagination and heartfelt yearnings? The more she thought about it the more Kathryn decided she didn't have that good of an imagination. Then there were these wildly sequential dreams, like highlights of moments out of time.
Lost in her thoughts Kathryn didn't hear the servant tap against the door and it wasn't until the door opened that she realized she wasn't alone anymore.
"I'm sorry, ma'am. You didn't answer the door. I brought your breakfast."
"Thank you," Kathryn said and made to get up. "I was just thinking."
"Now, never you mind," the servant told her and came over to the edge of the bed. The maneuver left Kathryn no room to get up, but the young woman didn't seem to notice. She sat the tray across Janeway's lap and poured tea into a small cup. "It doesn't hurt to have breakfast in bed every once in a while."
"No, I suppose not," Kathryn agreed. The gesture was very kind and exactly the sort of thing the Delini would do. Still a little distracted Janeway was staring down at her tray but not really seeing it.
Seven likes tea, Janeway thought from out of nowhere.
The Delini woman behind her reached over Janeway's shoulder to place a napkin on her lap. The pale skin of her arm from the corner of Kathryn's eye jogged another memory only this time she knew it was a memory. She felt it.
"Kathryn if we are going to have children we must set the example. Use a napkin."
It was Seven's voice, loving and indulgent. And Kathryn heard her own teasingly dry response, "Yes, darling."
Janeway flinched hard and knocked the tray from her lap onto the floor. The teacup shattered impressively as Kathryn leapt from the bed with a wild look on her face, her heart leaping madly in her chest.
Distantly she heard the serving woman's concerned voice, "Captain, are you injured?"
"I have to go. I have to go now!"
Kathryn ignored the frightened young woman as she stripped off her pajamas and began to tug on her uniform. Her normal modesty didn't so much as rear its head as the captain dressed quickly and efficiently. When she finished she began to thrust her belongings into her pack, but the woman was already gone.
A moment later Commander Tuvok was at her open door.
"Captain, is something wrong? The Delini woman informed me that you were agitated about something."
Kathryn turned to see that Tuvok had entered her room and was within a few feet of her. She could see concern in his dark eyes, but didn't know how to explain this to him. She wasn't sure she understood it herself. In the face of that she took a calming breath and tried to respond to him rationally.
"We have to go, Tuvok. I can't explain it now, but I need to get back to Voyager."
Tuvok held her gaze briefly before he nodded once. "Very well. I shall retrieve my belongings."
He was gone before she could thank him, but she started shoving the last of her things into the pack. By the time she was done Tuvok was already waiting for her in the corridor and Kathryn decided he must have packed most of his things last night.
"Now we just have to make up an excuse for the Chancellor," Kathryn said as they headed for the main hall.
The only thing Janeway could think to tell the diplomat was that as captain she had pressing responsibilities waiting for her on the ship. But when they ran into Colney and his aides near the front exit she found there was no need. One look at her face told the chancellor all he needed to know.
"You've experienced it, haven't you? The re-emergence?"
His voice was low and awed and if Kathryn hadn't been so surprised by the question she might almost have found it comical.
"You knew this would happen?" In a way she felt betrayed by him. In two days Kathryn had come to trust these people, but now she felt they had somehow taken advantage of her.
"No." Colney held up his hands in self-defense. "The re-emergence is something that our people live with continually. It's caused by the rings around our planet and the gases they give off, but travelers are rarely affected by it."
"Captain, what is he talking about?"
Janeway held up a hand to silence Tuvok. "How did you know I was affected and why didn't you tell us about this re-emergence?"
"I only began to suspect last night, Captain, when you looked so tired. But as I said it is very rare that other species are affected by the rings, so rare in fact that I can only remember two cases in the last hundred years. Even when others are affected it is only after they have suffered a life threatening injury or had their memories altered in some way."
"What is it exactly," Janeway ordered in her lowest tones that could make younger crewmen wet themselves in fear.
"It is not an attack," Colney said, offended. "The re-emergence is sacred. It allows all Delini to remember past animations and the mistakes that they have made so that they can make more appropriate decisions."
"Past animations? You mean you remember your past lives?"
"Yes, all of them."
Kathryn was floored by what Colney was telling her, but something didn't fit. "It doesn't make sense. Even if these rings have had the kind of effect you claim, I started having the dreams days before we arrived here."
"The rings give off energy in all directions, Captain. It may be that you were simply affected when your ship came in range of that energy and it began to affect you then."
Janeway was of two different minds about this situation. On one hand she wanted to throttle Colney for not telling them about what could happen. On the other hand she suddenly felt she owed him a debt that was too large to ever repay. Without the energy from the rings would she have continued on her way to the alpha quadrant, never knowing what she had shared with Seven?
"Chancellor," Kathryn asked softly, "will the effects of the rings continue after we leave Delini? Will I keep having these…visions?"
"I cannot say for sure. I would imagine that with distance the dreams, as you call them, will lessen but the memories you have already regained would remain."
Kathryn nodded quietly and took a deep breath. "Thank you. I think you'll understand when I say that we need to return to Voyager now."
"I do." Colney's expression was sincere as he walked up and placed two familiar hands on Janeway's shoulders. "Please know that this was never intentional. You have my sincerest apologies for any pain I may have caused you."
Pain? Kathryn couldn't begin to express what she was feeling, but pain wasn't it; elation and monumental relief that she wasn't going crazy?
"You have nothing to apologize for, Chancellor, and you will always have my lasting gratitude."
Kathryn reached up to squeeze the man's forearms briefly before she stepped back and picked up her pack.
"Shandu will drive you to your shuttle," Colney said and indicated one of his aides by name for the first time.
The man in question dipped his head briefly and led them out to the sklar where Janeway and Colney exchanged goodbyes.
Tuvok held his questions but as soon as they were on board the Franklin he started in. "Captain Janeway, please explain."
"I'm not sure I can, Tuvok. I experienced something very personal on the planet that showed me I was making a serious mistake. I have to do something to correct that error before it's too late. That's why we have to get back to Voyager."
"From what I understood of your conversation with the Chancellor you experienced dreams, visions, is that correct?"
Kathryn nodded. She knew that Vulcans used meditation and often induced visions for any dilemma they were facing. For that reason she expected Tuvok to understand how compelling all of this was for her now.
"Past lives, actually," Janeway said. "I experienced glimpses of my past lives and ones not so far in the past." She was thinking about the Relativity now and knew that it wasn't a past life, but an altered life. She and Seven had been involved until then and somehow she had lost all of that when Captain Ducane reintegrated them.
"And somehow these past incarnations have a current bearing on Voyager now?"
She knew what he was asking and sought to reassure her security conscious friend. "Not on the ship, Tuvok. Voyager is fine. This is personal and involves only myself and one other."
"Seven of Nine," he responded immediately.
Kathryn jerked in surprise and looked intently into his eyes. "How did you know?"
If Tuvok could have sighed in exasperation he would have done it then. "I have always sensed a deeper affection between you and Seven of Nine than any other member of the crew."
"So you understand why this is so important to me?"
"I do, Captain," Tuvok said softly. "It is not common knowledge, but the Vulcan heart can be very…passionate. I would not give up my bond with T'Pel no matter that it takes an eternity to return to Vulcan."
"I'll get you there, Tuvok. I promise you that."
Janeway and Tuvok strapped in and started the preflight sequence while the captain checked in with Chakotay. She explained that negotiations were concluded and the away team was coming home. Chakotay took everything at face value and assured her that all of the promised supplies had been loaded into the cargo holds and Voyager was ready for sustained space flight in far better condition that it had been in a long time.
The Franklin lifted off and Janeway punched thrusters as fast as they could go all the way back to the ship. A quick glance from the corner of her eye told her Tuvok was hanging on again with his jaws clenched and she resisted the urge to yell yee haw.
As soon as the shuttle was properly docked she mumbled something about debriefing the senior staff in the morning and took off. Tuvok had already agreed to brief the commander and Janeway was free for the time being. She had to see Seven now!
Ignoring the startled looks from passing crewmembers Janeway leapt onto a turbolift and took it to deck eight. Her heart was in her throat and adrenaline sent blood thundering through her veins. What if she was wrong? What if the memories weren't really memories at all and the chancellor was mistaken about the effects the rings had on an alien brain? Worst of all, what if he was right and Kathryn remembered but Seven did not? Doubts assailed her along with the driving need to know.
The doors to Astrometrics obediently whooshed open as soon as they detected Janeway and she strode into the lab. If the memories were false she would know as soon as she saw Seven, but if they weren't then the promise of an incredible life with the woman of her dreams was there for the taking. No matter the outcome she couldn't run away from this.
Time seemed to expand and slow down as soon as she saw Seven. The younger woman was turned with her profile toward Kathryn. The lights from Astrometrics glinted off the implant over Sevens left eye and Kathryn gasped. Each time she saw Seven she was forcefully reminded of the other woman's ethereal beauty, but this time the emotions resonated throughout her entire being. Memories of love and home and laughter surged through her and she knew it was real. Or at least it had been real. Could it be again?
Janeway came to an abrupt halt just as Seven turned. For a moment they simply stared at each other.
"Annika?" Kathryn's voice was at its lowest register, but the uncertainty was still strong. Had she imagined the life together with Seven?
Their eyes met across the room and Kathryn read the knowledge in Seven's startled blue eyes. Seven stumbled back a half step and a sob escaped her. Her eyes filled with tears that brimmed immediately before they overflowed.
"You remember?" Seven asked uncertainly and took a few involuntary steps toward the captain before she stopped.
Kathryn easily recognized the fear and uncertainty on Seven's face. How long had she remembered them? Had she known all along and suffered in silence, reluctant to push Janeway into something she wasn't ready for? She must have been suffering the tortures of the damned while Janeway blithely went on with every day life, unaware of the pain Seven was in.
Her heart began to slow from its panicked pace and Kathryn slowly walked over until she stood less than an arm's length from the woman she loved. Gently Kathryn raised her hand and caressed Seven's optical implant. She felt the tremors that passed through her at the touch and whispered, "I remember…everything!"
Another involuntary sob escaped Seven and her arms came up to pull Kathryn tightly against her. Slender arms clasped around Seven's neck and hugged the taller woman desperately in return.
"Kathryn…Please, love me again."
"Oh my darling, I do." Kathryn's heart twisted in her chest at the achingly raw pain Seven's request suggested. She wanted nothing more than to heal the hurt inside both of them. Tears streamed unchecked from both women as they clung to one another.
"I'm so sorry," Kathryn whispered huskily. "I can't believe I forgot us."
Seven pulled away shaking her head until she could look into Kathryn's stormy gray eyes. "It is not your fault. It is the fault of the Relativity."
Standing there with her beloved finally back in her arms Kathryn suddenly felt words were extraneous. She needed to reconnect on a more primal level. Her eyes lowered to Seven's full lips and Seven stopped talking struck by what the other woman was about to do in a public setting. Even in the remembered lives she had shared with Kathryn, the captain would never have done such a thing, believing that it would lessen her in the eyes of those she commanded.
"Shh," Janeway whispered.
She stood on tiptoe and pressed her lips to Seven's. At first it was just the press of flesh to reconnect, then all of the love that Seven had buried came bursting forth and her lips parted in welcome.
Kathryn fell into the slow, melting kisses that her subconscious had remembered through everything. Her fingers gently removed the pins that held Seven's blonde locks in place and she combed through them eagerly with one hand while she deepened the kiss.
"Uh, I think I need to be…somewhere…" Tal Celes mumbled an excuse from where she was working in the back of the lab but she doubted that either woman heard her and she stumbled quickly out of Astrometrics.
Countless minutes passed as Janeway and Seven reacquainted themselves with half-forgotten kisses until Kathryn's knees began to shake and she thought she might collapse with the overwhelming emotions that flowed through her.
Finally Kathryn pulled gently away and looked into Seven's blue eyes. "No more time travel, hmm?"
"Agreed," Seven said softly and claimed Kathryn's lips again.
This time nothing would keep them apart, not spatial anomalies, unrelenting and outdated protocols or temporally displaced saboteurs. Whatever future they decided upon they would be together.
"Take me home, Annika," Kathryn asked huskily. "I need to make love with you."
Uncaring of the expenditure of ship's energy Seven lifted her head and requested a site-to-site transport for two to the captain's quarters.
"We'll take a short recess and meet back here in two hours," Colney told Janeway and Tuvok as they stood in the main hallway.
As soon as they were alone Janeway turned to Tuvok. "I think I'm going to rest for a little while. Maybe after this break we can get some business accomplished."
"It does seem to be taking an inordinately long time to come to terms with the Delini," Tuvok said showing as much concern as he was capable of as a Vulcan.
"At least it's almost over. I'll see you in a couple of hours, Tuvok."
"Rest well, Captain."
Janeway closed her door and fell onto the bed fully clothed. She drifted on the edge of consciousness for a while but finally she fell into a heavy sleep.
Loving words floated. "Kathryn, my love. Kiss me."
Looking up into Seven's blue eyes. Light refracting off her optical implant. Kathryn's own fingers reached out to stroke over it gently. Seven shudders, no one else touches her here, no one else knows this is an erogenous zone for my lovely Borg. The first time she touched it was in an alien brig. Seven flinched away from her and Kathryn thought the reaction was in fear of pain. She couldn't know then the reaction was from fear of the pleasure Seven knew would course through her veins.
Full lips descended, arms and legs twined. The scent of Seven was in her head, her nose, all around her. Seven's pleasure flowed over her belly as Seven straddled her. Borg mesh from the left hand grazed her center and Kathryn jerked in anticipation. Then the penetration and an all white, all-encompassing light flashed as Kathryn's ecstasy burst from her.
Suddenly a different place, walking through a green meadow with children at their feet. Seven's arm around her shoulder as she nuzzled Kathryn's auburn hair.
"We're home, Kathryn. We're home."
A sharp rap at the door caused Janeway to jerk harshly awake.
"Ma'am, the chancellor will be ready to begin in ten minutes."
Kathryn cleared her throat and said, "Thank you. I'll be there shortly."
She had to take a few minutes to will her hands to stop shaking and finally just clenched them into fists. What the hell was the matter with her? Thinking about Seven of Nine was one thing and even dreaming about her from time to time was acceptable, but this was something else. This was an obsession!
Unfortunately it was also an obsession she didn't have time to worry about.
Janeway stood and tugged down the hem of her tunic before she quickly brushed her hair and left the room. When she got to the banquet room everyone else was already there waiting for her.
"Captain, are you all right?"
The question was from Chancellor Colney and Janeway could read the concern in his expression. Even Tuvok had one eyebrow raised in silent query.
"I'm fine, just a little distracted. Let's get started, shall we?"
Colney didn't look convinced and a concerned frown rested between his eyes as they settled down. Kathryn was relieved that this time the chancellor was intent on conducting business. By the time dinner rolled around all of the negotiations had been concluded and Janeway had started to settle down a little. She chalked up her overreaction to her dreams to being awakened so abruptly. They were just dreams, they didn't mean anything.
"Then it's agreed, two kilo-tons of dilithium ore and three kilo-tons of various vegetables in exchange for three kilo-tons of gold. The supplies will be shipped to your vessel within the hour."
"Very good, Chancellor." Janeway stood and offered her hand in a handshake, pleased that the Delini would accept something so worthless in trade as gold. The gesture was automatic and Colney hesitated for only a second before he understood that he was supposed to grasp it. Kathryn ignored the slight faux pas and blamed it on her distracted state.
"My staff has prepared a sumptuous repast in celebration of the conclusions of these talks. I don't know about you," Colney said leaning over and speaking conspiratorially in her ear, "but after two days I can use something more filling than finger foods."
Janeway laughed and couldn't have agreed more. She took the opportunity while the servants began to bring out trays laden with Delini delicacies to stretch her back and share a look with Tuvok. They had been friends for a long time and he was also well-versed in diplomacy. His quiet during these talks was the norm for the logical man, but Janeway knew he hadn't missed a thing. With one inclination of his head Tuvok conveyed a plethora of information to his captain. He considered that the talks had gone well, sensed no subterfuge and had finally concluded that Delini were no threat.
Kathryn snorted quietly. She could have told him that the first day!
The meal went on for hours. Delini jugglers and dancers entertained the diners while conversation and laugher flowed. Janeway had several glasses of sweet spring wine in the hopes that it would induce her into a deep dreamless sleep before their return to Voyager.
Eventually it was over and the dishes stripped away. Janeway and Tuvok were bid a gracious goodnight by their host and promised a filling breakfast in the morning. At the moment food was the last thing Kathryn wanted to think about. All evening she had been trying to forget about Seven, imbibing enough wine to hopefully cause her to sink into oblivion, but now that it was time for bed her body had begun to hum in anticipation.
She found she was looking forward to those delicious dreams and if it was the only way that she could be with Seven then she intended to embrace it from now on.
"Well, goodnight Mister Tuvok," Janeway said as they parted at their rooms.
"Sleep well, Captain."
Kathryn prepared for bed and just as she had last night, fell asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow.
The Delini moon passed slowly through the night sky as Janeway slumbered peacefully. Her body was calm and her mind untroubled as she slept without dreams for the first night in a week. Kathryn awakened slowly unsure what had disturbed her until she realized that a light was shining in her eyes from outside the window.
Grousing at the interruption she turned her back to the light of the full moon and drifted back to sleep.
"See you in the past."
"I look forward to it, or should I say backward?" Seven of Nine asked with a small grin curling her lips.
They stood on the transporter pad of the time-ship Relativity and Kathryn could feel her headache begin just from the innocently uttered question.
"Don't get started," she warned and held up an elegant hand.
Seven raised an unrepentant eyebrow and Kathryn smiled at her good humor. Now that this crisis was over and Voyager saved from another catastrophe she and Seven could take up in their relationship where they had left off when they had been so rudely interrupted.
The crew had taken their relationship in stride and after eight months they had even started to plan a future together; one that actually included children and a home in Indiana. Seven didn't really care where they lived as long as they were together.
On the transporter pad Janeway and Seven shared a loving look before the beam was engaged that would reintegrate them into their other selves. When we get back to Voyager I'll ask her to marry me, Kathryn thought.
Then the transport was engaged and Kathryn could feel her past and future selves begin to merge. The process seemed to take forever and there was a brief moment of nothingness when their patterns were broken down to the molecular level before being routed through the transport buffer. They were rematerialized and whole and Kathryn abruptly became conscious again on the transporter pad of Voyager. She turned to her companion and read a most curious expression on the blonde countenance of her friend, but she ignored it in lieu of more pressing concerns.
"Well, Seven. I'm exhausted. I think I'll head to my quarters and get some rest. See you tomorrow."
One day, as Cathy was walking back from feeding the cows, she noticed a horse tied up near the front door to her cabin. Curious, but unconcerned she looked around for her visitor and was shocked to see a figure huddled over the horse trough. The stranger was definitely a female judging from her backside, but she was bent over the trough with her head submerged in the cooling water.
Just then the stranger raised her head and flipped her long blonde hair back in one flowing arc. Water streamed from the saturated locks and ran in rivulets down the long neck. The woman turned her head and the electric blue of her eyes met Cathy's. For just a beat Cathy sensed menace in the gaze, but then the eyes softened and an amazing smile lit the woman's face. She was the most gorgeous creature Cathy had ever seen.
"Hi. I'm Sarah. I heard you needed some help around here."
Conflicting thoughts surged through Cathy's head, resentment that anyone would think she couldn't do this alone, relief that someone cared enough to help her, confusion why a stranger would suddenly show up at her door and offer to solve all of her problems. She opened her mouth to throw the presumptuous woman off her property and surprised herself by saying, "I can't pay you."
Sarah smiled. "I don't want your money."
Days became weeks. Cathy and Sarah worked hard side by side on the ranch and eventually the rains did come again. The ranch began to thrive and the women grew closer. Sarah was as stubborn as Cathy and many times they butted heads, hard! But each time they were able to work it out in the end through mutual trust and respect.
One night as Cathy sat on the porch swing and looked up at the stars Sarah came to her. She wore only a long white shirt that stopped just above her knees and her long blonde hair flowed freely about her shoulders. Quietly she held her hand out to Cathy and waited for the other woman to take it of her own volition.
Cathy looked at the hand and then into Sarah's eyes. All of her questions were answered in the cornflower gaze. Without qualms she took the offered hand and allowed Sarah to lead her to her bed.
Naked together for the first time Cathy moaned at the sweetness of Sarah's flesh against her own. The touches were warm, tender, almost fleeting, but intensely felt in Cathy's heart. Her breath burst from her as Sarah explored her throat and breasts with lips and tongue. Hands caressed her knowingly, beseeching her complete surrender to this angel/cowhand that had come from nowhere to take the burdens from her shoulders.
"Yes!" Cathy surged against the maddening touch as Sarah descended her body, her destination clear. "Take me, Sarah! I am yours!"
Cathy felt full lips close around the hardened nub of her womanhood as strong hands held her thighs down. She was nothing but raw instinct, yearning toward release in the arms of the woman she loved so desperately. Starbursts went off behind her closed eyes when her release hit. Cathy was shaken and disoriented by the force of the explosion, but when it was finally spent she opened her eyes to look up at the woman that held her.
Sarah looked down at her with a tender look of adoration and the moonlight glinted off the metal framed over her left eye.
"You've been hurt," Cathy said anxiously. She raised trembling fingers to touch the metal piece and felt Sarah shudder in her arms.
"It is nothing."
Cathy felt Sarah shudder again as her fingers continued to caress the silver that set her blue eyes off so wonderfully. "You like that, how it feels when I touch you there."
"Yes!" Sarah's eyes fluttered closed as she settled over Cathy's muscular thigh and started to slide against her flesh.
Cathy could feel the wetness against her and continued to stroke the eyepiece with one hand even as she clasped Sarah's backside with the other to help her increase the contact. Watching Sarah as she neared her peak stimulated Cathy's desire once again. She felt her breasts heave in time with Sarah's efforts. Sarah's knee was against Cathy as she rode toward her release and Cathy eagerly stroked herself as they ascended together.
This time their release was simultaneous. Cathy cried out as she heard Sarah call her name.
Kathryn came fully awake and sat up on the Delini bed panting at the images that still crowded her mind. Her mouth was dry and sweat covered her body as she remembered the images from both dreams. Finally, she was able to get her pulse back within normal limits and slowly looked around the room.
That's what I get for sleeping in such a decadent room with thoughts of Seven on my mind!
Janeway threw back the heavy covers and climbed out of bed. Sweat was starting to dry on her skin and she felt a little cool so she pulled on a robe before she walked over to the Delini bathroom. Kathryn splashed some water on her face and used the facilities. When she was finished she walked over to the window seat and sat down. All was still quiet and she pulled the robe tighter as she looked out over the horizon. Dawn had just started to break and the early sun's rays were beautiful.
Kathryn felt restless, anxious and knew her feelings were connected to her dreams. It seemed she couldn't sleep anymore without Seven being there. First she was Grace, a sword-wielding warrior during the dark ages, and then she was a swash-buckling pirate and a cowhand. Kathryn smiled. She could see Seven of Nine in any of those roles. The young woman was brave, sure, strong and yet at the same time curiously tender and vulnerable. But it was strange how these dreams were so progressive and each time Kathryn had one the setting became more current.
She tried not to think about the sexual aspect of the dreams, but her body insisted that she remember. Kathryn closed her eyes and could feel the softness of Seven's lips against her own. It just felt so damned real!
Easy, Katie. Get a grip. It's just a dream.
Janeway pushed the thoughts away and started to get ready for her day. Soon there was a gentle rap at the door and she opened it to another tray bearing servant. Room service was certainly good even if it was more of the same bitter tea they had served yesterday.
"Thank you," Janeway said as the woman laid the tray down on the bed.
"The Chancellor will be ready to begin in one half hour."
"I understand." Kathryn smiled as the woman left her again to her own thoughts.
Kathryn bit into a scone that tasted curiously of blueberry before she tapped her combadge to check in with the ship.
"Janeway to Chakotay."
"Chakotay here, Captain. It's good to hear your voice."
He sounded a little anxious and Kathryn frowned. "Is there something wrong?"
"No, nothing like that. I'm just not very comfortable having my captain on an away team with a security escort of one. Tuvok checked in about ten minutes ago and said that the chancellor hasn't even begun negotiating yet."
Kathryn was touched by her first officer's concern as well as amused by Tuvok's report. "It's true, but I'm hoping to change that today. It is the second day and even if we are required to spend the night again, I believe we can wrap up the details of our exchange before then. How's the refit coming along?"
"Great!" Chakotay's voice sounded animated and Kathryn could tell he was excited by how things were progressing at the maintenance hub. "At this rate we should be completely refitted by lunch time and the crew is even staying out of trouble on the space station."
"I'm sure they're not happy about that," Kathryn teased. "As soon as repairs are finished authorize shore leave to the space station. I want to wrap up the details here before we speak to the Delini government about extending that leave to the planet."
The captain met Tuvok in the hallway just as he was coming out of his own room. "Good morning, Tuvok. How did you sleep?"
"Well, Captain," he answered succinctly, then peered closer at Janeway. "You do not look well rested, Captain. Are you all right?"
"I was just a little restless," Kathryn shrugged. "I got off eventually."
Kathryn led the way toward the room where they had met the chancellor the day before and tried not to blush at her choice of words. In her dreams she had actually got off several times.
"Ah! Good morning, Captain Janeway and Lieutenant Commander Tuvok."
Kathryn looked up into the smiling visage of Colney and his two aides and returned the morning greeting. Colney led the way back to the banquet room and the small group seated themselves while the servants brought tea and snacks for the upcoming talks.
As Janeway settled herself she drew on her command mantle in preparation of getting down to brass tacks and working out the details they needed to finalize things as well as proposing the idea of shore leave.
The first thing out of Chancellor Colney's mouth after they got settled was, "Now, I believe you were going to tell me about snow skiing?"
Seven of Nine ignored Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres as the feisty half-Klingon threw a good-sized temper tantrum in the middle of engineering. Most of her staff found other places to be, but Seven was unconcerned. The lieutenant was wrong and secretly Seven took great pleasure in pointing that out to her.
"Dammit, Seven! You can't just waltz into engineering and take over like it's your own private Borg cube!"
"You are correct, Lieutenant. On a Borg cube there would be no privacy."
"Huh?" Torres froze and took one long look at the former drone and felt her hackles rise again. It wasn't bad enough that Seven ordered B'Elanna's crew around like they were her own, but now she was mocking her? "You have a lot of nerve, Borg."
B'Elanna closed to within inches of Seven. Eyes to chin she looked up as threateningly as possible into the icy blue gaze of the coldest individual she had ever known. "If we weren't on duty I'd kick your butt all over engineering."
Seven calmly turned away and ignored the other woman's tirade, which only incensed B'Elanna further. "But we are on duty and you are still wrong. The Delini crystals are less dense than the ones Voyager's engines are accustomed to. If you tune the warp fusion matrix to standard parameters you will fracture the crystals and render them useless."
Seven was helping in engineering during the refit since there was really nothing to do in Astrometrics and was getting along with the lieutenant even less than usual. Since the incident with Relativity Seven had withdrawn from other members of the crew even more than when she had initially come on board, if that was possible. She just was not interested in any friendships except those she maintained with Kathryn and Naomi. She still enjoyed baiting Lieutenant Torres, but would insist that any such attempt was not deliberate if pressed on the issue. The worst of it was that parts of her, no doubt those from other time-lines, remembered cultivating a friendship with the engineer.
She knew she was being even harder to get along with than usual today, but Seven was worried about Kathryn. She had been on the bridge when the captain checked in with Commander Chakotay and knew that she was well, but Seven didn't like that Janeway was on the surface all but alone.
"Well, this is my engine room and I'll be the judge of that," Torres said, drawing Seven back into the conversation.
Seven turned and looked at the engineer again. Memories from four different lifetimes surged through her cortical node and her gaze softened. In one of those lives Torres had a child, a daughter named Miral. She and Seven were very close and had almost become lovers until Seven fell in love with Kathryn. She knew how volatile B'Elanna was, but also knew that she could be gentle and even lovingly romantic when the mood struck her. She had a huge chip on her shoulder, but could be shy and vulnerable. Emotions of remembered love and friendship for the fiery woman crossed her face, unknowingly obvious to the Klingon that stood waiting for the next challenge.
When B'Elanna saw the emotions cross Sevens normally stoic features she almost dropped her hyper-spanner, but what came out of Seven's mouth next made her feel dazed.
"You are right, B'Elanna."
Since when did the drone call her B'Elanna?
"It is your engine room. You are in command and I am here merely to assist you." Seven handed B'Elanna a padd, not belligerently but carefully like she expected it to be swatted away. In the softest voice B'Elanna had ever heard from the blonde Seven said, "Would you please look at my calculations? I shall be in Jeffries tube twelve section thirty-two making the repairs that you requested."
B'Elanna took the padd and watched in confusion as Seven calmly walked away.
"What the hell's got into her?"
After lunch Chancellor Colney took Janeway and Tuvok on a tour of the countryside. Janeway thought it would never end, although she did learn that Delini wasn't all dry deserts and shale. Colney proudly showed them the Kisti Waterfalls, an area of verdant green with three waterfalls that cascaded over smooth rock to fall hundreds of feet below. Butterflies swarmed in droves and landed all over the humanoids present, perching on their heads and shoulders.
Kathryn thought it was an amazing site, even if it did take up most of the afternoon. She was starting to feel drained from the constant need to keep on her toes and the lack of quality sleep. When Colney suggested they return to the Trade Center she was more than eager to agree.