All four of the assassins were dead, but I knew there would be other teams searching the woods. I accepted the grisly task of removing the impaled man from the tree before moving all four bodies a short distance into the woods and covering them with fallen snow. As I backed toward our refuge I covered the patches of bloody snow and used a small branch to erase my footprints. Once my task was accomplished, the evidence of their corpses and our fight no longer visible, I rushed back to Captain Janeway.
An iron taste filled my mouth and I realized it was generated by dread that Kathryn had perished in my absence. I did not regret what I had done to the Tingwa because they threatened all that I held dear. What I did not wish to do was inform the captain of my actions because I did not want to see disappointment in her eyes. I had just discovered my true feelings for her and could not face recriminations at this juncture. I decided I simply would not tell her until I could no longer avoid the issue.
Snow flurries had increased during my absence and I could hardly see the cave entrance from a distance of twenty feet. Broken branches and armfuls of snow helped to conceal the opening and when I was sure it would not be easily discovered I reentered the cave on my hands and knees.
She was still alive when I reached her side. I pulled off one glove, the one from my fully human hand, and stroked it tenderly across her forehead. Although her body was still deathly cold, my love had begun to burn from fever. Hours exposed to hostile weather on a strange planet had exacerbated the condition caused by her injury. Unquestionably alien viruses had also played a role in accelerating any infection and if I did not act quickly she would not survive.
"Kathryn," I said softly, my voice trembling, "I am here now. You will be all right."
She did not respond nor did I expect her to. I delved once again into the survival pack that I had earlier dropped at her side. Inside was a Starfleet medical kit. After a brief scan I determined the stab wound had not perforated any vital organs. Her condition apparently stemmed more from exposure and blood loss than to any life-threatening injury and I took the first easy breath I could remember since hearing about the attack.
A myovascular regenerator healed what internal damage had been done and a dermal regenerator knit the epidermis together afterward. I loaded a hypo spray with powerful broad-spectrum antibiotics and administered the dosage into the soft skin of her neck. Strangely, the hiss of the medication as it entered her system flooded me with relief. Now the only thing was to get her warm enough.
I must admit that different scenarios for warming her flashed through my mind and many of them had little to do with practicality. Finally, I remembered the portable heating unit contained in the pack. I set the unit up and activated it before I moved back to the entrance. It had occurred to me that we required advanced warning should we be discovered and I used my tricorder to set up a crude alarm system. I engaged a continuous beam at the mouth of the cave entrance that, if broken, would emit a shrill warning. Then I returned to the captain.
She lay as before. I settled near her on the dirt surface, wrapped the blanket more firmly around her and pulled her into my arms, her head resting against my shoulder as I leaned against the rock wall. Her breath was light but steady and I felt confident she had not contracted pneumonia.
There was nothing more I could do, but share body heat. Now that I had retrieved Captain Janeway and taken care of her immediate medical needs I realized I should attempt to contact Voyager. It was not a task I was looking forward to since I had violated a direct order and gone after her on my own, but I did not regret my decision. I would do the exact same thing if faced with a similar situation.
I touched my combadge and listened as it activated. "Seven of Nine to Voyager."
My hail was answered immediately, but the communication was garbled and full of static.
"Status?" Chakotay inquired briefly and even in the brief transmission I could hear his anger.
"I have the captain. She has been injured but I have treated her. How long until we may expect rescue?"
For a moment there was nothing but white noise and then I heard his partial response. "…ion front over the pole. And there’s…blizzard coming in hard. Take shelter. May be several days."
Several days? We did not have the necessary supplies for several days even if I refused to consume nutrition for the required time. Then I realized I could raid one of the Tingwa villages for provisions.
My combadge squelched loudly and I flinched from the sound. The communication had been terminated by the weather system and I did not know if my last response had been received. With rescue out of the question but safe for the moment, I concentrated on the only thing that mattered. Kathryn.
Holding her in my arms was something I had never considered and I had to take a moment to analyze the emotions swirling through me from the sensation. Her body was soft and strong at the same time, yielding as it pressed against my own. Her scent drew me and an instinct I never realized I possessed seized me. I placed my lips against her forehead and kissed her again, but this time the sensation was different. Tenderness for the brave woman burned like an arrow in my chest and I took a shuddering breath in reaction to such a powerful emotion. Tears pricked the backs of my eyes and I finally understood how love could actually lend strength.
"You will survive, Kathryn. You are strong and unyielding. You are Kathryn Janeway and no one beats you, not even death."
I said the words and believed them without reservation. I had seen her face down Hirogen hunting parties, the bullies of the delta quadrant, without flinching. Exposure to cold on a planet thousands of light years distant from her home would be nothing.
As I spoke she turned toward the sound of my voice. Her face pressed against my chest as she instinctively sought the heat of my body. A small hand rested just below my throat, the fingers curled and relaxed. Despite my better judgment and unsure if she was completely asleep I took her hand in mine. She was leaning against my right shoulder and I carried her fingers to my lips. It was something I would never consider had she been awake and alert, but my love was new and my heart burst to tell her of my feelings.
I placed gentle kisses against her fingers one by one and ended by pressing my lips against the bend of wrist, on her pulse point. I could feel the heated blood as it surged through the veins. I could smell her scent; taste her flesh. Passion was not in attendance, at least not then. I wanted nothing more than to hold her, care for her, show her that I was worthy of her love.
"Seven," she mumbled.
I looked down and realized she was awake and watching me. "C…captain. How do you feel?"
She did not comment on my actions and I am unsure if she even realized what I had done. Perhaps she was not quite awake and still suffering the effects of her ordeal. Already I could tell her fever had abated somewhat and I was grateful for the fast-acting medication administered through the hypospray.
"Groggy. Where are we?"
"In a small cave. We have eluded the Tingwa for the moment, but must remain here until Voyager returns for us."
"Returns? Where’d they go?" she asked in confusion. Her eyes slipped closed again and I realized she was not fully awake.
"Shh, it is unimportant. Sleep. I will be here when you awake. I will watch over you."
My words spoke in the present. My heart spoke to the future. I held my captain and listened to her breathe. When my chest felt it would burst in tenderness for this one individual I began to quietly sing. The doctor had taught me the song, but now I understood the sentiment behind the words.
"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.
You make me happy when skies are gray.
You’ll never know dear, how much I love you.
Please don’t take my sunshine away."
As I sang I leaned over to the pack and withdrew a soft cotton bandage. Her injury had been healed but the sight of her blood disturbed me on a fundamental level and I felt compelled to remove it from sight. The pool of water was close and I had only to lean over to be able to dip the cloth into the edge. It was quite warm and I detected mineral properties that might aid in Kathryn’s recovery.
This heated spring was a dichotomy on such a frozen planet and I could only deduce there must be underground volcanic activity. Eventually the magma flow would build up beneath and the mountain would erupt, but that would probably not occur for another few centuries. At any rate, I had more important matters to attend to.
I lifted the hem of her tunic to remove the blood and gently sponged the recently healed injury. Now that she would live and was out of immediate danger the sight of her naked flesh elicited another response in me than that of caregiver. My breathing became quicker and shallower as I greedily took in the sight before me. Tender flesh concealed hard muscle and as I washed the blood away the muscles contracted before my eyes. I forgot the song I was singing and gasped at the sight, riveted by the beauty of the display.
"I don’t think there’s anymore blood to wash away," an amused voice said next to my ear.
Desire burned hot through my veins and with newly opened eyes I turned to look into shining eyes. A small, crooked smiled curled her lips but the amusement quickly vanished when she read the truth in my gaze. To my surprise her expression did not alter to discomfort or distress. Instead I watched in disbelief as her lips parted and her pupils dilated.
Something indefinable, something that smoldered passed between us and I knew she returned my emotions. Had this always been the case? Were her feelings as new as mine and only realized when she read the expression in my eyes? I didn’t know, but I did know that if given the chance she would withdraw.
"Seven," she began, but I did not give her the chance to bury what I had just discovered.
Without thought to the consequences of my actions I quickly dipped lower and pressed my lips to hers. Gently. Sweetly. I felt her startled intake of breath as she stiffened in my arms and knew I had taken a tremendous risk even as my lips moved over hers. She seemed frozen and I took advantage of her stillness to taste her. My body knew what to do even if I did not. My tongue darted out and stroked along the smooth softness of her upper lip. The action caused her to take a sudden inhalation that parted her lips and I slipped into the humid heat.
Kathryn groaned into my mouth and the sound caused my stomach to clench. A sighing sound of release issued from her and I recognized it as the sound of surrender. Then her arms wrapped around my neck and she drew me closer. She opened to me, moaning softly as her fingers wound into my hair dislodging pins and causing it to cascade around my shoulders. Heat rose between us, searing us as she pressed closer against my chest and I was lost. I tried to absorb every sensation that crashed through me. Kathryn’s mouth was insistent, demanding that I give everything to her completely and I could only comply. No thought remained to me except this rampant, hungry desire that swept me away. There was only Kathryn’s tongue as it slid past my lips, softly and sweetly exploring, stroking as she feasted until finally her hands slid down to my shoulders and she drew away.
Her eyes were closed and her breathing harsh in the silence. I did not understand why she had stopped and leaned toward her to initiate another kiss, but she turned her head and my lips brushed her cheek.
"Seven, we have to stop."
Her voice was low and trembling, lending proof that stopping was the last thing she truly wanted.
"Why?" I placed gentle kisses along her cheek and to the shell of her ear. She trembled feeling my breath against her, but she did not turn back to me.
Finally I drew away until I could see her clearly. Her face was flushed and she would not meet my gaze.
"Why must we stop, Kathryn? You clearly desire me as much as I do you."
"And that’s exactly why we must," she answered, finally turning to face me.
"I do not understand."
"I know." Her hand gently cupped my cheek as she tried to explain. "You’re very dear to me. You and I share an especially close friendship and sometimes, in extreme situations, things can happen between two people that shouldn’t."
"You doubt the sincerity of my feelings for you."
"No. I think you’re sincere, but I think you’re confusing what you feel for me because of a tense emotional situation."
"I am not confused. I love you!"
Her expression became sad and she leaned her head weakly against my shoulder as she considered my words. "Do you? I know that we’re great friends. I know I trust you with my life and I would give my life for you. But is that the same as romantic love?"
What she said was true. I did trust her with my life, but what I was feeling was so much more than friendship. I could not understand how she would think I did not love her in a romantic sense.
"One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about our friendship is that I can be myself with you, not just the captain." Her words were slow in coming, proof that she was still very weak. "You’re not afraid to tell me when you disagree and even forcefully dissect my orders from time to time, yet you have a way of supporting me even then. Your honesty is something I can always count on. As the captain I don’t have that with just anyone. In fact it’s been years since I have had that with someone. I’ve let my barriers down where you’re concerned. I know it shouldn’t be true, but you mean more to me than anyone else on the ship. But is it love?"
I realized she wasn’t truly questioning my feelings; she was questioning her own. Unaccountably, her confusion made me love her all the more. The tips of my Borg fingers under her chin gently encouraged her to meet my eyes.
"Perhaps you have allowed those barriers to drop because your feelings are deeper than you realize. I may be inexperienced in these matters, but I do know the difference between friendship and desire. I would give my life for anyone on Voyager, but only to you do I give my heart."
She looked at me then with that wonderful, warm smile against which I was powerless. "You are such a unique person."
"Is that good?" I asked hopefully and elicited a chuckle from her.
"Yes, it is very good."
"May I kiss you again?"
Her smile was just as bright, but she said, "I don’t think that’s such a good idea. I won’t lie to you. I know I feel more than friendship for you, but I’m just not sure exactly what that means. Until I am I think it’s best not to rush things. Besides, our situation isn’t exactly conducive to intimacy."
I shrugged in disagreement. "Why not? The Tingwa do not know where to find us and Voyager has been forced to leave orbit due to ionic interference. A blizzard is raging outside and the ship will not return for several days."
Instead of being convinced by my argument Captain Janeway frowned slightly. "That’s not good." Her eyes scanned the cave and she spotted the survival pack as well as the natural underground spring. "It looks like we have water, but the batteries in that heater won’t last over a week and the rations in the pack less than that." I said nothing about the emergency lantern since the light would take up less energy than the heater and burn for much longer.
"True, but I am capable of raiding the Tingwa supply depot for any necessities."
"What if they track you back here?"
"I have set up a tricorder at the mouth of the cave to act as a perimeter alarm."
"Thought of everything, haven’t you," she asked with another fond smile. "Still, I’m tired and this is all happening a little fast for me."
"I am sorry, Kathryn." I saw her blink in pleased surprise when I used her name. "I will wait until you are ready. Sleep now."
I pressed a kiss to her forehead and she did not resist. In fact she snuggled against me and was soon sleeping easily in my arms. I dared not hope that she would return my love, but I was resolved to be patient. I leaned my head back against the rock wall and relaxed in an attempt to rest and recharge my nanoprobes. Before I knew it I was drifting into sleep.
"Computer, pause recording Seven of Nine’s personal log."
Inspired by a challenge idea from KGG. The setting is post Hope and Fear. The story must be told in first person and begins from Seven’s point of view. This story is written for the Backdoor Challenge at the J7Faction Forum. This story is dedicated to one exceptional person; my beta reader BeachBum. Through her tenacity and guidance I’ve begun the project to improve my writing. This project will henceforth be known as the hundred-year plan!
The cold wind bit my face as thick snowflakes fell from the night sky. All around the landscape was frozen and barren trees were trapped in winter’s harsh embrace. Others would have been forced to stop searching long ago but I was driven forward by need; the need to find her before the attackers. If I could not accomplish that it would mean a death sentence for Captain Janeway.
Bitterly frigid temperatures and the rugged terrain did not unduly trouble me. Unlike other humans I hear better, see further and my body temperature sinks much more slowly. Then again I am not completely human. I was once Borg and as much as I abhor my past it is at times useful. It lends me a physical strength and resilience that others simply do not possess. In that moment I was grateful for that strength, the hardiness to keep going and rescue the one individual that meant more to me than she could possibly know.
I saw a darker spot in the snow ahead of me and for a moment wanted to believe it was simply a shadow caused by the lifeless trees, but I knew it wasn’t true. My Borg eyepiece easily identified the stain even in the darkness. Blood. Kathryn’s blood.
"Red. The child you spoke of, the girl. Her favorite color was red."
I remembered saying those words to her two years ago after she had taken me from all that was familiar and forced me to wear human garments. Even through my anger there was something indefinable about her that drew me in, magnetized me. She couldn’t know I was speaking about the fire in her hair under the artificial lights and how the command red of her tunic caused that fire to ignite. She thought only that I was confessing a secret and opening up to her for the first time.
Seeing the red in the snow as I searched for her changed my mind. The crimson stain conjured none of the warm feelings I remembered when I said those words to her. Here there was only the arctic blast of reality forced into me by the implications of what such a stain could mean.
I pushed the heart wrenching thought aside and sensed the others were close behind me, close on Janeway’s heels. The damned Tingwa! They’d been so deceptive in their friendly welcome. Everything progressed rapidly until suddenly a diplomatic meeting became an assassination attempt. All so the Tingwa could get their hands on Voyager. If they seized the Intrepid-class ship they would become a military power in this sector. Chaos had erupted in seconds in that meeting and with her security contingent dead Janeway did the only thing she could. She fled into the forest and the bitter night; the closest available sanctuary that might confound even the determined Tingwa.
I forced my frozen feet forward into the thick snow and found myself praying to a deity in which I had never believed. Please, let her be alive. Please, don’t let me be too late.
Had I been present with the away team this would not have happened. The security team would not have been killed and Captain Janeway would not be fleeing through these alien woods. But I had not been there. I was on the bridge at the aft science station when the call came through, a short, bitten off emergency transmission before the signal was abruptly terminated. It was clear the away team had been attacked but Commander Chakotay insisted on wasting time to put together a fully armed rescue/assault team. I had other ideas.
A simple override of command protocols allowed me to transport to the surface and begin a search of my own. Even in my haste I realized the commander was right about one thing. The terrain called for caution. I had quickly changed into a thick black snowsuit and sturdy boots. A white parka with an insulated hood and thick gloves completed my apparel; it was only as an after thought that I had grabbed the survival pack from the cargo bay before I initiated the site-to-site transport. Now I was slogging through the deep cold, following her footprints that grew ever more faint as it continued to snow.
At the base of a massive tree moonlight glinted off a metallic object and I reached for it in growing fear. Her combadge. It was broken, useless and seemed to me another sign that I was searching in vain to find my captain alive. My hand clenched in anger and I felt the edges bite into my palm. The pain helped to center me and I realized I could never give up. Even if she was dead at least I would be able to bring her home to her beloved ship and crew. After all she had done for me, all she had given me, it was the least I could do. But if the captain were alive she wouldn’t be for much longer. She’d only been wearing her uniform to the negotiations and she would not be able to survive for long in the ice-cold night, injured and without assistance.
"I’m your captain. That means I can’t always be your friend. Understand?"
"No. However, if we should be assimilated our thoughts will become one and I am sure I will understand perfectly."
It was one of the rare times I’d ever seen Janeway look shocked. I enjoyed the expression since the captain rarely showed such an emotion and I was pleased to be the one that generated it.
"A joke, Captain. You, yourself, have encouraged me to use my sense of humor."
"It’s nice to know you’ve taken some of my advice to heart."
It was the first time Janeway acknowledged I had a heart; the first time she said she was my friend. Ironic that such a meaningful moment could occur in an alien brig and cement my half-hearted attraction into relentless devotion.
The searchers were moving closer and I threw off my haze of reverie. Perhaps the cold was affecting me more than I had at first assumed. Unacceptable. I had to find her before it was too late.
Moving swiftly through the trees with all the strength of a Borg-enhanced physique I put distance between us. The snow quieted my passage, but time continued to tick forward. Suddenly I crested a hillock and an image I had dreaded was presented to me at the bottom of the valley. The blood trail had lessened but it led directly to the humanoid figure lying huddled between the trees. I wanted to call out to her and barely stopped the shout from bursting from my lips for fear I would be overheard. I couldn’t risk drawing her attackers to this place.
Careening down the slight incline and stumbling through the drifts, I dropped onto my knees beside her. My hand was trembling when I reached out, afraid of what I would find. She was still warm although much colder than a human should be. I turned her over to find her lips whitened by the cold and eyes that were barely open.
"Seven," she whispered weakly, and I’m sure I did not imagine the relief in her voice.
"I’m here. Do not try to speak, the Tingwa are close behind me."
The front of her tunic was stained and wet and she was shivering from exposure. I lifted the hem of her uniform until the wound was visible although I didn’t know how I could possibly treat her in this environment. Still, I was encouraged by what I saw.
"The injury is severe, but it has stopped bleeding. The doctor will be able to treat you once we return to the ship. For now we must find shelter and a heat source."
I dropped the survival pack into the snow, thankful that I had remembered it at the last moment. There was a Starfleet-issue blanket inside that I wrapped around her before putting the pack on again. Carefully I slipped my arms under her and lifted her from the frozen ground, gratified when she wound her arms around my neck. The cold was intense and her warm breath against my neck caused me to shiver. We moved deeper into the forest toward the mountain peak that seemed so far away. My hope was that as the terrain grew more rugged the Tingwa would fall farther behind.
My stamina quickly waned as I carried her and my arms began to tremble. Where was all of that vaunted Borg strength when I needed it? Stumbling through the snow and hills for hours had already begun to tax my nanoprobes and carrying her now would not prove possible for very long. I adjusted my hold and clasped her tighter against my chest, determined not to let her down. Her head lolled against my shoulder and I realized she had lost consciousness, either from blood loss or from exposure.
I searched the trees ahead of us, adjusting my eyesight with a silent signal sent to my cortical implant. At first there was nothing but the harsh landscape of snow and ice. Boulders were concealed beneath the white powder, offering the promise of pitfalls that would shatter bone and rend flesh. My heart was a runaway shuttle as it pounded in my chest while I considered the climb to the top of that peak. Then I saw it. It was only a suggestion, a gathering of inky blackness in the already darkened night. The wind blew stronger and flung frozen precipitation into my field of vision. I blinked it away and focused on the area again. Whether it was merely a crag in the surface of the mountainside or a deep crevice it was a measure of protection from the elements and the pursuing Tingwa.
By now my feet were frozen blocks of ice. They responded sluggishly to my urge to move toward the shelter, but I insisted and we closed the distance slowly. Surely if I was working this hard and was still so cold the Tingwa were fairing much worse. I tried not to remember they were native to this weather and simply concentrated on making it to the shelter.
Forty minutes later we were close enough for me to see that it was not merely a crevice in the rock face. We had found a small cave. The opening was barely large enough for me to crawl into and even harder to access with the unconscious woman in my arms. In the end I resorted to lifting her a few feet in front of me, crawling forward and moving her again until we were out of the snow. To my surprise the interior of the cave appeared to be on the lee side of the wind. Snow did not blow in behind us and the farther we moved into the shelter the less precipitation covered the ground.
I began to feel warmth against my face as we moved deeper and wondered if my nanoprobes had malfunctioned. Without the biting wind it made sense the cave would be less cold but I could not imagine discovering a heat source so near to the surface on this frozen planet.
When we finally entered the cave proper my breath was coming harshly and I was nearing the limits of my endurance, but what I discovered helped to reenergize me. A small pool of water sat near the rear of the small cavern. At first I thought it to be runoff from melting snow that had found an opening near the surface. I quickly discounted that conclusion since it was too cold for the snow to melt and steam rose in lazy swirls from the surface of the pool. The interior of our small sanctuary was indeed warmer than the surface temperature as well.
Confused but grateful I lifted my precious burden as soon as I had room to stand and moved across the truncated space. Out of the frigid temperatures that had numbed my extremities I could feel my fingers start to come alive again. The tips of my human hand buzzed and burned as the sensation returned and along with it I could feel how very cold my adored captain’s body was. If I did not warm her soon the hypothermia and blood loss would claim her.
I sat Kathryn gently on the sandy floor as near to the small source of heat as possible and pulled the emergency blanket tighter around the petite frame. Fear hammered through me as I briefly considered all I needed to accomplish in minutes to keep her safe. I needed to treat her injuries and warm her. She would be suffering from shock and blood loss, both of which could be fatal, yet the danger behind us was just as grave.
I did not want to leave her but there was no choice. If for some reason the Tingwa did not know of this small niche I couldn’t take the chance that it would be discovered. Even if they did, my course was clear. I had to conceal the entrance. I noticed that she still had not regained consciousness and that worried me most of all. In that moment my heart insisted that I stop and look at her, truly look and see. What I discovered took my breath away. It wasn’t just her classic beauty and the remembered fire in her now dull hair. It was also what I felt when she laughed, the way my heart stuttered at the sound of her husky growl. I’d always known I was devoted to her, would give my life for her. It was only now that I discovered the truth that had been there all along.
I loved her. Such a small word, yet it meant everything.
With the feeling of a net closing about us I still took the time to do something that I had only done once before when saying goodnight to Naomi Wildman. I leaned down and kissed her cheek. Then I stood and whispered, "I will be back soon, Kathryn. Do not give up."
It was only after I left the cave that I realized I had said her given name aloud for the first time.
The wind hit me and I hunched instinctively against it, turning my face slightly away from the ferocity of peppered ice. It was only by chance I saw the Tingwa as he neared the edge of the forest and stepped into the open. Accustomed to the extreme temperatures he wore only a pair of light, doe-soft trousers and ankle high boots. His chest and arms were bare though covered with a thick white pelt. He spotted me immediately.
"There!" he shouted. The wind tore at his voice, but his companions heard him clearly. There were four of them. They did not seem to be affected by the weather and their breath came easily. I was exhausted from fighting the cold and the terrain, but my beloved lay helpless behind me.
Drawing on limited reserves I sent a mental command to my cortical node to release a fresh flood of nanoprobes. They would be the last until I could rest or regenerate.
The Tingwa rushed toward me with crude weapons pointed. I thought they must be phasers of some sort. I would find that I was wrong.
"Where is she?" one demanded. "If she gives us the command codes for Voyager we will let you live."
Another snorted at the comment. "Yes, we’ll let you live. In a penal colony!"
"You lie! I will never tell you where Captain Janeway is!"
They exchanged glances and one of the men shouted, "Do it! If we have this one at least we’ll have something to bargain with."
All moved until they surrounded me. I turned continuously with my hands up in a defensive posture. The wind whipped the hood around my face and obscured my vision, preventing me from seeing who fired the weapon.
Suddenly a large net dropped over me and I smelled the burn of ozone just before it contacted my body. Electricity caused me to jerk uncontrollably and fire surged through my veins. The pain took my breath and drove me to my knees before I fell over to one side. The charge didn’t last long, but would have rendered another humanoid unconscious. Apparently that was the result they expected as well.
"Pick her up," the leader shouted, "and lets get back to the hall. Janeway won’t survive out here anyway; you saw the blood in the snow. We’ll use this one to get them to give us the command codes."
When the first one touched me it was all the opportunity I needed. Adrenaline flooded my system and the nanoprobes I’d recently released helped me shake off the effects of the electrical charge. I surged to my feet and grabbed two by their hair, smashing their faces together in a satisfying crunch. They dropped wordlessly to the white ground. Another leapt onto my back and clung to the parka. For the moment I could not reach him so I concentrated on the final Tingwa rushing toward me. Without remorse I grabbed his neck with my Borg enhanced left hand and crushed his windpipe. Kicking and gasping wetly he dropped to the ground, thrashing as the life quickly drained from his body.
The final attacker reached around the hood in an attempt to gouge out my eyes. When he did I grabbed his hand and pulled him from my back. I turned to face him and could see the knowledge of his own death in his eyes. He did not seem to care, but grimaced in anger and leveled another net weapon preparing to fire. He never got the chance. I threw him twenty feet through the air and into a thick tree trunk. Impaled on a jutting branch, I knew he was dead instantly.
I awakened to the aroma of cooking food and heard my stomach rumble in response. Seven of Nine sat near the entrance to our small shelter next to a survival camp stove that had come from the pack. Something simmered in the pot and she tended it quietly. I took the opportunity to study her silent beauty and felt my breath catch. She still wore the parka, but it was unbuttoned and the hood thrown back. Her platinum hair was mussed and had come loose from the normally austere twist in which she wore it. She had never been more exquisite.
I’d always known Seven was beautiful just as I’d always known she was special to me. My heart yearned to be closer to her even as my rational mind resisted. My concern wasn’t for duty or what the crew would think. Starfleet protocol might frown on a captain being involved with a crewmember, but there wasn’t a regulation against it. If I found someone I truly loved I wouldn’t hesitate to pursue it.
The problem was I simply couldn’t admit, even to myself, that what I felt for her was love. I’d confused physical attraction with that emotion before and the results had been disastrous. Mark Johnson. Cheb Packer. I’d been deeply involved with both and even engaged, yet each time the attraction had worn off before we’d ever set a wedding date. I didn’t want that any more and I wouldn’t hurt Seven by putting her through that. Until I was sure, I couldn’t let a physical relationship develop.
Still, I couldn’t tear my eyes from her as she sat in front of the stove.
"What’s for dinner?"
Her eyes lifted and when she looked at me I could clearly see what she felt for me. I felt ashamed. How could I have suggested she was confusing friendship for passion?
"A small white hare. It is not much, but should supplement the rations."
"You snared it?" I asked, pulling the blanket closer as I stood and walked over to her. The cave had warmed significantly, but was still much cooler than I found comfortable. "How long was I asleep?"
"Nine hours. The blizzard has passed, but another is brewing and should hit within the hour."
"Anything else? Have you heard from Voyager? The Tingwa?"
I was worried about my ship, but knew Chakotay would keep the vessel at a distance from the ion storm until it was safe to return. Without my combadge there was no way I could attempt to contact them myself, but Seven would be able to make the connection when it was time. My concern was more for the hostile species on this world that had attacked us without provocation at what I considered a peaceful negotiation. I swallowed the bitterness of grief at the thought of how the Tingwa had so heartlessly murdered my security team.
"The magnetic storm is still over the pole and I have not been able to contact Voyager. The Tingwa appear to have given up on locating us. For the moment there is nothing to do but remain concealed and wait for the weather system to pass." She hesitated momentarily and then asked, "How are you feeling?"
"Famished." I squatted down next to her and didn’t attempt to put distance between us. My arm brushed lightly against her thigh. I still wasn’t sure a relationship with her was the right course of action, but it was something I was willing to consider.
"That is encouraging, but I should still take another scan with a medical tricorder to determine if you are fully recovered."
"How about later?" I suggested softly. "I feel fine after sleeping for so long and I’m sure I just needed to recover from the blood loss."
"Nevertheless, I shall scan you after you eat to be sure. You were hypothermic and very close to shock."
For a moment I felt the familiar flash of temper that occurred when she and I clashed. Then I realized she was right and let it go. Fighting with her suddenly didn’t have the appeal it once did.
Seven finished cooking the small rabbit and served it to me on dishes contained in the survival pack. I worried the smell of the cooking meat would give our location away to the Tingwa but she assured me that wouldn’t happen. With another storm raging on the surface and the wind blowing so hard the aroma would dissipate quickly. I couldn’t argue her logic and decided to eat my dinner and enjoy looking at her from the corner of my eye.
She did scan me after our meal and I was relieved when she pronounced me healed. I had already known, but it was nice to know she wouldn’t be poking and prodding me the rest of the time we were on the planet. With all of the necessities out of the way and no threat of being attacked in the immediate future I began to eye the heated pool of water near the rear of the cave.
"Seven, do you think it’s safe enough to bathe in that water?"
She looked at me like I’d lost my mind and I found myself explaining. "I haven’t had a bath in two days, I’ve been lying on the ground and my uniform is covered in blood. No offense, but I would really like to clean up."
It occurred to me that in order to bathe I would have to be naked in front of Seven and I struggled not to blush. I couldn’t exactly ask her to stand out in a raging blizzard while I soaked, but I was willing to withstand some discomfort if I could be clean again.
"There are no harmful properties in the water and the temperature is within acceptable parameters, but it is cooler in here than would be comfortable for you."
"That’s all right. The heat from the spring will compensate long enough for me to dress when I get out. You don’t mind, do you?" I knew how she felt about me and wasn’t willing to make her uneasy by seeing me unclothed.
"I do not mind. Proceed."
Her voice was eager and her eyes glued to my body as if she expected me to disrobe with her watching. Just thinking about such a thing made my face burn and caused a bolt of heat to shoot through my core. Suddenly I wondered if bathing was such a good idea after all, but I’d started this and couldn’t back down now.
"Seven, it’s impolite to stare."
"It just is," I finally huffed in frustration. "Can you at least turn your back while I undress and get in the water? I’ll tell you when you can turn around."
She took a deep breath that clearly conveyed her confusion and finally said, "Very well."
I knew I was being irrational, but my upbringing insisted on a measure of modesty. After she turned away I disrobed quickly and dropped my uniform at the edge of the pool. I stepped into the heated water and gasped at the sudden increase in temperature. The heat from the spring was extreme in relation to the ambient temperature, but Seven was right when she said it was within acceptable parameters.
Moving to the side of the spring near the back cave wall I sat down in water up to my neck. Heat permeated my body and I sighed in pleasure. I looked up to tell Seven she could turn around and found that she already had. Although her eyes were fixed to the ground I had the feeling that she had been watching me, and a faint blush covered her pale cheeks. Her chest heaved and I realized, even if she didn’t, that she was very aroused.
I wondered if this woman, this angel, had ever experienced the sensation before and felt my own body tense in response. I should have questioned where the thought came from, but thinking suddenly became overrated. I can’t say for sure what caused it; perhaps it was residual weakness from my injury or the freshness of Seven’s revelation. Whatever it was I finally saw the wonderful creature she was, clearly and without reservation.
From the top of her golden head to the tips of her black combat boots she was perfection. I remembered lying against that curvaceous form several hours before and my half-lidded eyes drifted down to her breasts. I imagined the fullness I had not yet seen and remembered the softness. Warmth spread through me that was not caused by the mineral spring and my lips parted as my breath came faster.
I tried to tell myself it was only physical desire and even half believed it. Then I made the mistake of looking up into cerulean blue eyes that demanded from me an armistice, a capitulation that asked only my heart. I surrendered suddenly, completely and willingly.
"Seven, I think maybe you should join me."
I heard her swiftly indrawn breath from across the cave and watched as she slowly reached up to push the parka from her shoulders. Seven moved with deliberation, each movement a private display only for my eyes. I greedily watched as each article of clothing drifted to a pile at her feet until she was revealed to me like a gem.
The soft light of the emergency lamp glinted off of implants scattered over her body and she was a breathtaking manifestation of womanly flesh and living metal. I couldn’t take my eyes from her and watched speechless as she walked toward me. Seven entered the water, lowering her body toward me as she closed the distance and somehow my arms were reaching for her.
Our lips met again and this time there was no holding back. The touch was different than any I’d felt before. It was overwhelming in its intensity and before I knew how I had pushed Seven back against the sandy side of the spring and pressed myself full-length against her. I was driven by need, by want, by heat; her strong embrace told me she felt the same.
Firm, full breasts pressed against my chest and I dipped my head lower, wanting only to show her how much I loved her. My hands caressed her body, stroking slowly from breast to loin before dipping into the viscous moisture I found there.
Seven was crying out from the sensations cascading through her body, emoting more than I had ever thought my darling capable of and driving my passion to a frenzy. Water lapped at our bodies, generated by our movements and lending another dimension to our lovemaking. I circled my legs around her thigh, latching on and grinding into her. The sensation caused me to cry out and tear my mouth from her nipple.
"Seven," I cried breathlessly in my hunger for her. I looked down into eyes that were full of tenderness and desire and my breath stole from my lungs. All along the truth had been in front of me, but I had refused to see it. I’d let duty and Starfleet drive me when something so obviously more important was waiting.
"Seven, I think I just fell in love with you, too."
Her eyes glinted suspiciously with my admission, but her smile was radiant. A hand, the one with the Borg mesh, reached up to touch my face and I turned my lips into the palm. Wordlessly she drew me back down to her and when our lips met the touch was gentle and driven by the need to communicate our emotions rather than burn furiously through the act.
When I raised my head to catch my breath a moment later Seven whispered, "Kathryn, show me."
This would be her first time and I intended to bring her to the pinnacle of pleasure slowly. My fingers were gentle as I brushed them through the obvious signs of her pleasure, spreading fluids over sensitive flesh that were distinctly differently from the mineral water in which we lay. Joyous cries issued from her throat as she arched against me and I lowered my head to nip at her throat. One finger slid into her and Seven grasped me tighter, calling my name and moving her head from side to side.
As I gently caressed within my thumb moved suggestively over the tender knot of flesh at the apex. Seven began to shudder and thrust her hips in that primal dance. Her cries and tremors and scent began to overwhelm me and I found I was moving synchronously against her thigh. Then Seven began to shake and her body suddenly went rigid with the intensity of her first climax. My body was helpless to resist and I joined her in an infinite moment of ecstasy.
Seven was still twitching in reaction as I held her and murmured words of adoration and reassurance in her ear. I kissed her temple and hugged her close, profoundly and unaccountably thankful for all that happened recently to bring me into her arms.
We spent two more days on that frozen planet before Voyager returned for us. Despite the tragedy of losing some of my crew I will always remember that cave with fondness; our hideaway, our sanctuary. Seven and I spent that time making love, talking and planning our future together. How the crew will react, how Chakotay will react, knowing their captain is in love with her Astrometrics officer is something to worry about another day.
For now I am happier than I ever thought possible. Seven of Nine is asleep in our bed and the starlight shines upon her precious face. For me she is a rebirth. She is the end of one life and the beginning of another. It is a new beginning that I will be happy to wake up to for the rest of my life.
"Computer, end recording Kathryn Janeway’s personal log."