Spoilers for the episode ‘One’. What did Janeway dream about while locked in that stasis tube for a month? This story carries an 'accessory warning' and contains an explicit sexual situation.
She looks at me and the expression is reminiscent of one I have seen before. It brings to mind an incident that occurred over a year ago, when the Hirogen breached our hull and forced the crew into increasingly brutal simulations on the holodeck. It is the look she gave me when her neural interface was disabled and she realized she’d been seconds away from shooting me. It is at once a look of astonishment and realization yet there is also something more.
It is an emotion I have rarely seen in the eyes of Voyager’s leader; the woman who rules the crew through strength of character. The look is vulnerability.
Captain Janeway blinks and turns away. She is looking at another member of the crew but I sense her attention is not on the girl. I wonder why she would look at me with such an expression. This is not a battle with an alien species and is in fact a cause for celebration. At Naomi Wildman’s fifth birthday there is much laughter from the crew as they circulate through the mess hall talking and eating ‘junk food’. Naomi seems especially pleased as she opens one brightly wrapped package after another; a new kadis-kot board from me, a Flotter program from the captain.
Still I wonder if this is such a happy moment why the captain regarded me as she did. I experience an odd fluttering sensation in my stomach, but the feeling is not unpleasant nor am I so ignorant of humanity that I fail to recognize what it means. I back away slowly toward the corner of the room, hoping she won’t notice. I watch her for six point eight more minutes. The artificial lights reflect off her hair and results in a fiery corona that gives her an almost mystical aura.
Her skin is smooth, unblemished, sporting a slight tan in spite of the lack of sunlight. Even though she never looks my way again I can still see the expression in her eyes. A shiver of longing starts at the base of my spine and travels upward into my medulla until it explodes in a warm sensation that causes bumps to erupt over the epidermis of my arms.
"Seven." An unwelcome voice intrudes and I glance quickly toward the EMH. "What are you doing over here by yourself?" He is holding a glass of champagne that he can never hope to drink.
"Observing." Perhaps a curt response will send him scurrying for the safety of his medical bay.
"Join the party," he encourages, apparently distressed to see his pupil failing to socialize with the others. "Look at this as an opportunity to broaden your social palette. Try the cake, have some champagne. One of us should be able to enjoy it."
I can only blink at him owlishly. He has been a good friend since I was separated from the Collective and I am torn. The compulsion to relent, to not disappoint him, wars with my own desires. All I want is to contemplate the hidden meaning of Captain Janeway’s expression.
My own desires win out. "My palette is sufficiently broad."
I leave the party aware that she hasn’t looked at me again but the fact doesn’t unduly distress me. I have seen the truth, now I need only decide how to proceed. As I walk into the cargo bay that doubles as my quarters I hope for one of the rare regeneration cycles where I actually dream. If it happens I know I will see that expression of recognition, of vulnerability… of desire once again.
Dawn breaks on Voyager as darkly as the night. Space is unrelenting in its timelessness yet the leader of the intrepid vessel has not slept. Kathryn remembers the knowledge in Seven’s eyes when their gazes met and held. Her defenses had been down as she laughed with Naomi and when she looked up at Seven she unwittingly let the love for the other woman flood her expression. She just hadn’t expected Seven to recognize the emotion in her eyes. Had she really thought the other woman so naïve?
Slowly she lowers her head until it rests against the cool, transparent aluminum of the viewport. Part of her hopes that Seven will leave things alone, but another part of her knows that hope is futile. Seven is not the type of person to let anything be, especially if it is something she wants and Kathryn knows instinctively that Seven also wants something more. In that unguarded instant she saw the answering expression, the yearning to belong and to be loved. But not just by anyone. She saw clearly that Seven loved her in return.
There wasn’t time to think about it now. Kathryn pushed away from the window and tugged the hem down on her uniform jacket. She turned and made her way quietly through the ship until she reached Voyager’s heart, the bridge. Her senior staff was already in place, talking quietly until Harry suddenly spoke up.
"I have something on sensors. What ever it is, it’s huge!"
"Well, by all means let’s see it," Janeway invited.
She stopped just to the left of Ensign Kim’s console and looked toward the forward viewscreen as the image popped up. It was huge as well as beautiful. Gaseous purple clouds filled the screen and here and there Kathryn could see the indications of newly formed planets. Yet for all it’s beauty she felt there was something wrong.
"What have we got here?"
"Looks like a Mutara class nebula with a few trace constituents that aren’t in our database, but it’s only showing up in minute quantities."
Janeway strolled across the command center while she listened to Ensign Kim. She passed in front of Chakotay on the way to her chair, but Tuvok spoke before she could sit.
"It is vast, Captain. It extends beyond the range of our sensors."
"Well, I guess we won’t try going around it. Tom," she said walking over to place her hands on the navigational console, "take us in at one half impulse."
As they entered the nebula sensors began to detect more detailed information. Ensign Kim attempted to update her as quickly as the data streamed across his board, but the captain’s gaze remained fixed on the sight before her.
"I’m detecting a…slight…radioactive field. It’s…" He gasped in pain and couldn’t continue speaking.
Kathryn turned in sudden concern for her most junior crewman. "Harry?"
"Nothing," he reassured her gamely. "It’s just a headache coming on."
Grimacing in pain he pressed his fingertips against his temple. Chakotay stood up and faced the young man with worry evident on his swarthy features. "Maybe you should go to sickbay."
"Yeah, maybe so," but before he could put his words into actions Harry suddenly doubled over his console incapacitated by the pain.
Kathryn started toward him and was halfway across the command center when her helmsman suddenly cried out, "Captain!"
All members of the bridge crew seemed to be affected and even Tuvok gasped as sharp pain lanced throughout his body. Before Kathryn could speak she felt as though a red-hot poker was being stabbed through her brain. Chakotay moaned and doubled over grasping his head. Kathryn turned and saw a large radiation burn on the back of Harry’s left hand before she collapsed into the auxiliary chair to Chakotay’s left. The pain was inconceivable but she was still captain and her crew was counting on her. She ignored the misery as best she could and grasped hold of the railing to pull herself to a standing position.
"Tom," Kathryn swallowed against sudden nausea, "turn us around. Get us out of here."
Lieutenant Paris had collapsed to the deck, but he tried to make it back to his console. He’d crawled less than two feet before he fell unconscious.
"Janeway to sickbay."
The doctor’s response was immediate and Kathryn felt a surge of hope. "We need help!"
"What happened? I’m being inundated with calls!"
With no time to explain and her strength rapidly giving out Janeway responded with one word meant to convey the severity of the situation. "Hurry!"
At her physical limits Kathryn collapsed back into the auxiliary chair with a cry of pain, but Tuvok’s Vulcan physiology gave him the strength to struggle across the bridge. He reached the navigational controls and quickly tapped in the course adjustment."
"Course laid in."
The pain began to recede at once and Kathryn strove to shake off the residual grogginess. A few moments later the headache was almost gone, but Kathryn could still feel the radiation burn that singed her left temple. She looked around to take stock and saw that the others were in a similar condition. Some of her crew lay unmoving on the deck and others were sprawled over their workstations, though beginning to get their bearings.
"We’ve cleared the nebula," Ensign Kim reported.
Janeway heard the doors to the turbolift open and turned expecting to see the doctor. Instead Seven of Nine rushed onto the bridge looking none the worse for wear. She stopped as soon as she entered and knelt next to a fallen crewman. Kathryn moved closer as Seven turned the man over and was aghast by the burns covering his face. Hoping against the reality before her eyes, she waited until Seven looked up and spoke.
Janeway stood next to Seven in the Astrometrics lab. Overhead the nebula filled the huge viewscreen and Kathryn waited for her crewmember to fill her in on the awful truth. Of the one-hundred-fifty man crew there had been only one casualty. Kathryn grieved the loss of the young man but was thankful they hadn’t lost more. All crewmembers had been treated for space sickness and radiation burns and seemed fully recovered.
"The nebula extends for at least one hundred ten light years, possibly more."
"At the least it would take us more than a month to get through and more than a year to go around." How could she break the news to her crew that they would have to add another twelve months to their journey? It was unthinkable.
"The crew was unable to tolerate the nebula for even a few minutes. They certainly could not survive a month."
Anger lanced through her at the words uttered so succinctly. Kathryn had never enjoyed being told she couldn’t do something and this was just adding insult to injury. She refused to believe it was true.
"We’ve come fifteen thousand light years. We haven’t been stopped by temporal anomalies, warp core breeches or hostile aliens and I am damned if I’m going to be stopped by a nebula." Maybe the doctor could help her with the answer. "I’ll be in sickbay."
Kathryn strode quickly through the ship. The determined set to her features caused crewmen to scurry out of her way as she stalked the corridors and fairly burst into sickbay. She made it clear to the doctor in seconds that she expected him to help find a remedy, but when he informed her that he had discovered sub nucleonic radiation and that the only treatment he could recommend was stasis chambers she was momentarily speechless.
The doctor wanted to stay online to monitor the crew himself but there was more to getting through the nebula than watching the crew. There was the need to regulate ship systems and make course adjustments in addition to dozens of other things. The EMH pointed out that he possessed the rudimentary skills necessary to run the ship, but Kathryn had other concerns. He would need back up. With no idea how the nebula affected his holo-matrix there was always the possibility he would go offline. In that event the entire crew could die in their sleep. Then he pointed out something, such a minor detail but it changed everything.
"There was only one crewmember besides myself that seemed unaffected by the nebula."
Kathryn froze as the ramifications hit her. As a woman, how could she expect her beloved Seven to remain exposed to the radiation for an entire month while she waited safely in stasis? As the captain, how could she not?
"Computer, what is Seven of Nine’s location?"
"Seven of Nine is in cargo bay two."
"Looks like I’ll be in cargo bay two if you need me, Doctor," Janeway said with a sad smile.
The journey to the cargo bay was slower than the mad dash to sickbay had been. Kathryn dreaded the necessity of what she had to ask, but there really was little choice. When the large double doors parted she walked in like a woman being led to the gallows, but Seven quickly agreed to the captain’s plan.
Somehow Kathryn felt Seven should argue rather than acquiesce so easily. She wanted her to be frightened and resist being exposed to harm in such a way. She wanted Seven in the stasis pod next to her or better still, in the same pod wrapped safely in her arms. To her surprise, Kathryn found herself arguing with Seven in an attempt to change her mind.
"I want you to understand the seriousness of the situation. The lives of the entire crew will be on your shoulders."
Seven sounded disappointed when she asked in a small voice, "You doubt my ability to fulfill this task?"
"Ordinarily not at all," Kathryn responded, beginning to pace. "But this is a unique situation."
Searching for an argument that would carry weight Janeway finally came to a stop in front of the younger woman and looked intently into her eyes. "After being in the Collective…it wasn’t easy for you to adjust to a ship with only a hundred and fifty people on it, was it Seven? How would you feel with only the doctor for company?"
"I will adapt."
This wasn’t going the way she wanted so Janeway tried a new tactic as she began to pace again. "Most humans don’t react particularly well to periods of long isolation. Borg drones have even more difficulty."
Seven’s expression clearly indicated that she was unmoving. "As you’ve pointed out I’m neither human or Borg."
Seven walked up to her, so close that Kathryn could feel her breath ghost across her cheeks. The emotions she remembered from Naomi’s birthday party were back, tearing at her defenses, but there was something more. There was a plea in Seven’s deep blue eyes asking Kathryn to trust her.
"I can do this, Captain."
Her voice was soft and filled with conviction and carried more impact than any shouted words. Kathryn realized she’d been trying to talk Seven out of this suicidal plan when, in reality, she was the only hope they had. Her own actions were generated by fear that Seven would come to harm, but Kathryn wasn’t being fair. She did trust Seven. Completely.
A smiled graced her lips as she finally relented. "All right. I’ll work with my senior staff to draw up a list of duties."
Decisions made, things were set in motion. Captain Janeway held a meeting with her senior staff during which Tom displayed a disturbing amount of claustrophobia and Chakotay questioned who she was leaving in charge. All were reassured that stasis was like taking a nap and Tom was quieted for the moment. Eventually, reluctantly, Chakotay relented to the decision to leave Seven in charge by saying he understood that Kathryn’s bond with her was unique. Kathryn didn’t think he understood the depth of that bond or that it wasn’t generated by something as innocent as friendship. She was just happy he had decided not to argue and freed the crew until it was time to go into stasis.
At 1700 the crew assembled on deck fourteen and began the task of slipping into the stasis pods. Most were uneasy, but some decided that if the captain said it was the right thing to do than they had no problem with the decision. Tom again displayed his fear and until Harry teased him about replicating a teddy bear the helmsman refused to enter the pod. Janeway had to show him that the units could be opened from inside, but his parting question had more of an impact than she cared to admit.
"Why do they have to design these things to look like coffins?"
Finally, he ran out of arguments and entered the pod. The doctor activated the unit before Paris could change his mind and that left only the Captain, the doctor and Seven of Nine standing in the cavernous room.
Her own fears began to manifest and Kathryn took a deep breath to quiet her thundering pulse. "I’m leaving the ship in good hands," she said walking over to the final stasis tube.
Janeway sat at the edge of the unit to address the doctor but her eyes remained fixed on Seven of Nine. She couldn’t help it, she was frightened by what might happen and that she might never be able to tell Seven her true feelings, but she wasn’t about to declare herself in front of the doctor.
"I have every confidence in both of you. See you in a month."
Finally Kathryn glanced at the EMH to include him in the conversation though her eyes darted quickly back to Seven. She nodded once and closed her mouth before she said something she couldn’t take back. Then Kathryn turned and entered the pod, lying down quickly. The last thing she saw before the doctor activated the unit was Seven of Nine standing over her. Blue eyes were looking tenderly into her own and Seven’s Borg hand rested on the transparent casing like she was trying to touch Kathryn’s face in reassurance.
Artificial sleep claimed her and Kathryn was drawn immediately into the intensity of her most cherished dreams.
The mattress dipped and Kathryn looked into Seven’s passion-filled eyes as the young woman climbed into bed with her. She didn’t know how this had come to be, couldn’t remember the events that led to this magical moment. All she knew was that Seven was finally in her arms, that they were both gloriously naked and she wanted Seven with an intensity she had never felt for another.
She was finally allowed to touch Seven. Lying on her, with fingers that trailed across satiny skin, Kathryn followed the line of a silver implant. It glinted in the starlight and her eyes traced the path as it cupped one perfect breast, encircling the lower curve before it terminated at her sternum. A thin offshoot of the implant continued to follow the lush fullness until its final filament encircled the aureole, drawing Kathryn’s attention to the hardened nipple that begged for her ministrations.
Kathryn lowered her head and sucked the pebble into her mouth. Seven’s breathless cry of pleasure drove her desire higher and she was moving, a mindless being who could only feel the heat surging through her veins as she sought sweet release. Intimate, swollen flesh ground against Seven’s hipbone and Kathryn threw her head back at the sensation.
She had thought about this moment for so long and wanted it to be perfect for Seven, but her own hunger was threatening to take over.
"What is it? Why did you stop?"
Kathryn panted out the answer with difficulty. "I have to… If I don’t… I’m going to come."
"Can you come again if you do?"
The question was hopeful and urged Kathryn to keep going. It took only a nanosecond to respond. Kathryn knew multiple orgasms in this woman’s arms would never be an issue.
"Then do it, Kathryn. I want to feel you."
"Look into my eyes. I want you to watch me; I want you to see what you do to me!"
Kathryn gazed at Seven as she rode against her partner. Exquisite pleasure coursed through her from the point of contact at her groin and traveled throughout her core to her nipples. The storm gathered and as she neared the apex she tried to keep her eyes open but they fluttered under the onslaught. The orgasm tore through her and her fingers dug painfully into Seven’s shoulders as she rode against the wave. Finally, the storm passed and she collapsed onto Seven’s breast, but only for a moment.
Rather than satiate her desire the heat had been driven higher, the furnace stoked. Kathryn was in frenzy, craving the taste of Seven like a drug.
She slid down the perfect, female body until she was cradled between Seven’s legs. She could smell her partner’s arousal long before she reached her destination and a feral growl ripped from her throat. As strong as the urge was to take Seven, she resisted it. She wanted to tease and drive Seven to the brink of insanity before granting her release. Kathryn slid her arms around Seven’s muscular thighs, grabbing on for leverage before she eased toward hot, moist flesh. The folds of Seven’s sex were swollen with need and Kathryn licked her lips in anticipation.
Very slowly she lowered her head until the tip of her tongue made contact with the top of the younger woman’s shaft. Seven groaned and shivered. Her fisted hands twisted in the sheets. Kathryn slowly dragged her tongue along Seven’s length until just before she reached the throbbing tip. At the last moment she reversed direction and Seven issued a frustrated moan. Kathryn smiled and changed direction again, but lightened her touch until it was feather soft. At last she grazed the hardened nub and Seven’s hips jerked forward in response.
Kathryn had expected that reaction and drew back, maintaining the light touch. Slowly she swirled her tongue around the clitoris over and over. Seven was panting now and reaching toward the pinnacle. Rather than let her go over the edge Kathryn left the throbbing bundle of nerves and tongued the humid opening below before plunging in as deeply as possible.
Seven’s shoulders came off the mattress as Kathryn penetrated her with her tongue and then began to thrust as deeply as she could with the strong muscle.
"What are you doing to me?" Seven asked, flopping back onto the mattress overcome by the sensations.
Rather than answer Kathryn pushed into her a few more times before moving back toward the excited nerve endings above. She pulled Seven’s nub into her mouth and began to suck gently. The response was immediate. Seven wound her long fingers through Kathryn’s hair and held her head to her. She was reaching her limits and Kathryn was more than ready for Seven to explode in her mouth.
Still sucking, Kathryn used her tongue to stroke the clitoris from underneath. She sped up the tempo suddenly, sucking fervently while she moved her tongue quickly back and forth.
Seven was incoherent as she held onto Kathryn’s head, pushing her into her aching cleft. Kathryn responded by moving faster and holding tightly to the muscular thighs. Then Seven was there. She arched off the bed and a low, keening cry began deep in her chest. The sound grew louder until it was a hoarse groan of release. For several long moments Seven shuddered and came against Kathryn’s tongue.
Finally she fell back against the sheets, gasping and spent. Kathryn crawled up her body, reaching for Seven’s right hand as she moved and placing it against her aching center.
"Do you want more, my Kathryn?"
"I want you inside me!"
All Kathryn could think about was being penetrated by her love, held down and fucked until she couldn’t see straight. Somehow Seven knew that and turned her over on the mattress. She lay against Kathryn and suddenly something full and hard stroked along her thigh. Kathryn recognized the feel of an artificial phallus, but didn’t question how it came to be. She wanted only to be completely taken.
Her hips rocked and the length of the dildo slid easily in the wetness of her swollen folds.
Kathryn groaned as Seven moved over her and her fingers dug into the other woman’s back. "Do it now, darling. Go inside me!" Her legs parted and she offered herself without reservation.
Seven seemed to understand that Kathryn didn’t want tenderness at this point. She reached down to grasp the thick shaft before guiding the head to Kathryn’s opening. Looking lovingly into Kathryn’s blue eyes Seven suddenly plunged into her, sinking the entire length into her body without warning.
Kathryn cried out her pleasure and gripped tightly to Seven’s shoulders. Her hips rose to meet her on the downward thrust until their groins impacted wetly. Seven’s cries and the sounds of their coupling stoked Kathryn’s passion. Seven began to rock her hips faster and her head came down as she sought a kiss from her lover.
Kathryn felt the sharp pleasure radiating from her center and pushed back against Seven as the sensations built steadily. Seven tore her lips away and was panting in her ear. Kathryn held her close, loving the weight of Seven in her arms, feeling Seven thrusting in and out of her until in that instant of unrestrained delight they cried out together.
As soon as it was over Seven lay down against her with her head cradled on Kathryn’s breast. The phallus was gone and Kathryn didn’t think to ask about it. She wrapped her arms around her love and realized it was time for the truth.
"I’m crazy for you, you know? I’ve never told you how I feel before and now I can’t help but wonder why. I love you."
Seven rose onto one arm and said softly, "I have always loved you, Kathryn. But I knew the time would have to be right and that you would have to be the one to initiate any physical encounter. Now was simply the right time."
Seven lowered her head and Kathryn’s eyes closed. She knew the kiss was coming and craved the fullness of the sweet lips.
"Rise and shine, Captain! We’re out of the nebula and all is right with the world!"
Captain Janeway’s eyes snapped open and she was staring into the simulated brown eyes of the EMH. All around her were the walls of deck four and the incongruity of the stasis pod. Heated blood still thundered through her veins and she gulped cool air as she tried to stowe her desire.
"Where’s Seven?" she asked groggily as she sat up and drew a hand over her hair. The split-second of hesitation on the doctor’s part caused her to look up in sudden concern.
"There was a problem."
Suddenly Kathryn was wide-awake. She jumped off the stasis unit and pinned the doctor with a demanding stare. "What kind of problem?"
"The nebula caused all kinds of glitches with the ship’s systems, Captain. A few days ago it caused my program to go off-line."
"Get to the point, Doctor!"
"Apparently systems degraded to the point that Seven was forced to shut down life support to route enough power to the engines to get Voyager out of the nebula."
"She’s not…" Kathryn couldn’t finish the question, but the doctor rushed to assure her.
"She’s fine and in sickbay. As soon as we cleared the nebula my program came back on-line and I was able to reinitiate life support."
Janeway barely heard him as she raced out of the room and toward the medical bay. Chakotay had already been revived and strode along beside her, but she didn’t speak to either of them. She was still being driven by the intensity of the emotions she’d experienced in her dreams and needed to reassure herself that Seven was fine. She remembered how Seven had looked at her during Naomi’s birthday party, the absolute love she saw there. She remembered how well the young woman had loved her in her dreams and her confession near the end. All of those things were racing through her mind as the doors opened and she saw Seven lying unconscious on a biobed near the rear of the medical bay.
Machines beeped reassuringly and Kathryn took her first easy breath as she looked down at the woman’s quiet features.
"The ship’s engines lost power," the doctor continued quietly. "She re-routed power from every system including life support to protect the crew. You’d have been very proud of her, Captain."
She didn’t think about her response, didn’t even realize she’d spoken until the words died away into the quiet. "I always have been."
A gasp from Chakotay caused her to look up and she read the disturbing knowledge in his eyes. At one time she would have tried to reassure him, but that time had passed. Kathryn loved Seven and sooner or later he would have to accept that.
"She’s coming to."
Kathryn couldn’t keep her emotions out of her eyes as Seven awakened. She leaned forward until her forearms were resting on the edge of the biobed. Seven saw the trio standing over her and frowned as she tried to sit.
"Not so fast," the doctor said. "Get your bearings.
Kathryn wasn’t surprised that Seven’s first concern would be for her crew. "We came through the nebula in fine shape thanks to you."
"You were the one we almost lost. When the ship cleared the nebula the doctor came back online and found you unconscious. He reinitiated life support and woke the crew."
Janeway was impressed that Chakotay was showing such support to the young woman. He’d never been shy about his disdain for the former Borg and she felt perhaps this was his way of showing silent support. Whatever the case, Seven was the only thing she could see and she strove to connect with her on a more personal basis.
"He tells us you’ve had quite an adventure."
Confusion reigned on Seven’s features when she looked into the open adoration in Kathryn’s eyes. "It was …interesting."
"Well, when you’re rested I’d like to hear about it."
The request was low and intimate, perhaps too intimate. Kathryn seemed to realize that and decided it was time to allow her hormones to calm down. It wasn’t fair to pounce on Seven when she was still recovering and certainly not in front of other members of the crew. She and Chakotay left sickbay, but she had already decided she wouldn’t allow things to return to how they had been before. There had to be a way to approach Seven without pressuring her.
Kathryn raced to deck five in an attempt to catch Seven of Nine. The doctor had told her Seven had been released from sickbay and a quick check with the computer told her the former drone’s location. Alpha shift had ended an hour ago and she longed to reconnect with the young woman, find out how she was feeling and if there was any possibility of something more between them.
She saw Seven outside the messhall and followed her into the room in time to watch her approach three other occupants from behind.
"Lieutenants Paris and Torres, Ensign Kim."
"Seven," Harry responded. "I’m surprised to see you here."
"May I join you?"
For a moment the officers looked confused but then Tom gestured to the empty seat next to B’Elanna. "Sure, have a seat."
Even B’Elanna seemed to feel more friendly toward the young woman than usual as Seven sat next to her. "Have some soup. It’s actually edible."
"I don’t require nutrition at this time. I…felt the need for companionship."
Kathryn knew the cost of that admission and hung back near the far wall unwilling to intrude. Unaccountably, the admission made her love Seven even more.
Shocked silence followed Seven’s statement but as usual Tom was the first one to try and make her feel better. "Well, after a month with only the doc for company I can understand it."
The others tried to make an effort though Kathryn could tell they were still a little uncomfortable. Harry joined in by asking a question. "Yeah, what was that like anyway, just the two of you?"
"The doctor was very helpful. I cannot fault him."
"Well, we owe you one," B’Elanna offered.
"Yeah, just think," Tom interjected. "We could have died in those coffins."
Torres and Kim smirked at the mention of the young man’s claustrophobia, but Seven was quick to respond. "I suspect you would have found a way out before that, Lieutenant."
"What do you mean?" Harry asked curiously.
"Lieutenant Paris refused to stay confined. On four separate occasions the doctor and I had to return him to his stasis unit."
B’Elanna grinned and Harry chuckled out loud before he asked, "Were you locked in dark closets or something as a child?"
"I just don’t like closed spaces," Tom defended. "I never have; I don’t know why."
Seven’s expression turned serious and she said softly, "Perhaps you dislike being alone."
Kathryn’s heart twisted and she realized Seven was saying she didn’t like being alone. If she had her way Seven would never be alone again. It was time to approach her. Kathryn pushed away from the wall and started across the room. Seven saw her before she was half way there and rose to meet her.
"Hi," Kathryn said softly, feeling inane and self-conscious yet determined to persevere. "I hope I’m not intruding."
"Not at all."
Was she imagining the thrill in Seven’s eyes? "I was hoping we could take a walk in the holodeck."
"I would like that."
Kathryn took a slightly easier breath as she led the way out of the messhall, but agreeing to take a walk was a far cry from agreeing she shared Kathryn’s feelings. Her heart still hammered in her chest, but she walked quietly to the holodeck with Seven at her side. Kathryn turned at the holodeck doors and looked up trying to assess the other woman’s mood. So often Seven was like an open book in her innocence, yet at other times she was a complete mystery.
"Computer, initiate program Janeway/Seven’s garden."
Seven’s eyebrows lifted curiously at the title and Kathryn smiled slightly. The doors parted and they entered into a lush, tranquil park. Flowers of every description and flourishing trees abounded. Multi-colored butterflies floated on a soft breeze and birds sang in the branches overhead. A slate path wound through the garden and Janeway stepped off slowly with Seven beside her.
They walked quietly for a moment before Kathryn said, "How are you feeling?"
"Better. The experience was…unsettling, but now that the crew have been revived and the others are around me I feel…better."
Janeway remembered telling Seven that few humans did well with prolonged isolation, but chose not to mention it. Instead she said, "I’m glad."
They walked in silence for a few moments and Kathryn could feel Seven’s body heat. She’d deliberately designed the path to be narrow so they could walk close together and she could feel Seven’s hand brush her own. She was tempted to take it in her own but refrained. A gazebo came into view and she led the way over, gratified when Seven settled next to her on its bench.
She meant to confess her love to Seven and surprised herself by saying, "You know they don’t bother to tell you that you dream in stasis. The funny thing is that the dreams are even more intense than usual. Do you dream, Seven?"
"Regeneration is not like sleep…but yes, I have dreamt on occasion."
"Then you know how that feels. You know how…real it can seem. In stasis it’s like you’re living it."
Seven silently assessed what the captain was trying to tell her and finally had to ask, "What did you dream about?"
This was it, the moment of truth. She either admitted everything now or forever held her feelings in check. Spending the next fifty years on Voyager without the possibility of Seven in her life.
Taking a deep breath Kathryn said, "Us. I dreamt about you and me, how it could be between us."
Seven didn’t reply and didn’t move. She seemed frozen and Kathryn feared she had said exactly the wrong thing. Maybe she had been wrong and Seven didn’t feel the same way.
"Am I crazy?" she finally asked. "Am I the only one who feels an attraction? If I am just tell me and I’ll never mention it again."
Her fingers gripped the edge of the bench tightly while she waited. She’d never put herself on the line in such a personal way before and now she was waiting for the ax to fall.
She felt Seven turn though her eyes were pinned fearfully on the ground. Then a warm hand covered hers and she closed her eyes in relief.
"You are not mentally incapacitated, Kathryn," Seven said, seeming to understand that the intimacy of the conversation called for more familiar terms. She released the elegant fingers and gently touched Kathryn’s cheek. "I simply never expected you to admit to any intimate feelings for me."
Kathryn smiled and turned to face her, leaning into the warmth of her palm. "That was deliberate on my part, I’m afraid. I was afraid of admitting the truth, but recent events have made me realize that life is too short not to take a chance."
"I’m grateful for that. I have loved you for a very long time, Kathryn."
Tears pricked her eyes and Kathryn felt ashamed; for all that she had started this confession she still hadn’t spoken the words that would give Seven her heart. "And I love you as well, darling. If you come back to my quarters with me I’ll show you just how much."
Seven smiled sweetly. "I would like that, my Kathryn."