She sat in her quarters chewing on a personal conundrum of epic proportions. Red alerts from the myriad hostile species thrown randomly into her path could be handled with equanimity and practiced ease, but not this. The padd Kathryn Janeway held carried the potential to hammer at the walls of her carefully erected barriers like a storm-tossed sea crashing violently against the beach. She wanted to put the padd down, to forget about it entirely, but she couldn’t stop reading the words. They were words she’d only dreamt about in her most private and vulnerable moments; words that were the embodiment of her soul’s most heartfelt wish.
Yet even as the words seared into her heart and caused it to leap in unmitigated wonder she resented them. It was so unfair and just like an uncaring universe to bestow her fondest desires when the situation precluded even the possibility of it being made real. And all because of a computer glitch! Voyager’s computer core downloaded the potentially life-altering data to her personal console six days ago and since then she could barely concentrate on anything else. There were only the words on the padd…and her.
A quick glance at the top of those volatile words was all she needed to know they had been dictated after her talk with Seven in Astrometrics. Had she given away too much of what she’d been feeling in that moment of abject misery? Images flashed through her mind, rapid-fire memories like the shutter from an ancient camera as she tried to find the moment she’d let her guard down.
They had been talking about Earth, looking at the still images on the over-sized display screen. Seven pulled up a shot of Janeway’s hometown, Bloomington, Indiana. She promised to take Seven there even with the soul-rending likelihood of her death looming.
Seven’s cortical node had malfunctioned and her implants were being rejected. There was no way to repair the damage although the doctor refused to give up. Kathryn didn’t want to accept it either, but of the two was the more pragmatic. If there was a way to rob the Grim Reaper of his greatest prize she was more than willing to try. It was only the EMH’s intervention that kept her from committing a deed she couldn’t have lived with; the murder of an unknown drone to save Seven. She was distracted, thinking about those events, when Seven changed the subject from their return to Earth and onto a topic Janeway wanted at all costs to avoid. The young woman began to list all the crewmen they’d lost along the way. Kathryn started to get angry, but her ire was caused by guilt. Seven went on to say the captain had accepted those deaths, but she didn’t believe Janeway would accept hers.
Kathryn thought the young woman was being presumptuous until she realized what she was saying. Seven said that the captain had directly affected the individual she had become since leaving the Collective. She said that Janeway felt her self-appointed task in molding her was incomplete. It had torn her heart to hear that Seven thought herself nothing more than an experiment. To hear that she didn’t believe she’d lived up to the captain’s expectations or that she would believe Janeway held any expectations whatsoever.
Tears had pooled in the corners of her eyes as she thought how she truly felt; how the deep blue of Seven’s eyes could cause her breath to lurch in her chest. She wanted to tell Seven that just the sweet sound of her voice caused warmth to spread throughout her body and that even on the hardest day thoughts of Seven would be enough to carry her through.
Of course she couldn’t say those things, how could Seven understand the love harbored inside the breast of her commanding officer and friend? Still, she felt compelled to tell the irrepressible young woman something of the truth. She spoke from the heart then. She broke the cardinal rule for Starfleet captains and allowed her tears to show even as she managed to prevent them from falling.
"You haven’t failed, Seven. You’ve exceeded my expectations. You’ve become an individual, an extraordinary individual. If I’m having trouble accepting your condition it’s only because I don’t want to lose a friend."
A hail from the doctor interrupted them. If it hadn’t Kathryn might have said more and later she felt ashamed and simultaneously relieved to have spared Seven her confession. As it turned out Icheb had a solution to Seven’s medical condition. He wanted her to have his cortical node since his body was young enough to adapt without one, but she had refused. In the end he programmed his alcove to disengage the node and left her no choice. The doctor performed the surgeries and now both were resting and would make a full recovery. Seven had been regenerating for the last six days and was due to come out of her regeneration cycle in a few hours.
Janeway glanced again at the padd she held. She had felt there was something more Seven wanted to say to her in the Astrometrics lab, but Kathryn hadn’t pursued it. She’d been too caught up in her own misery at the thought of a future without the woman she loved. She had almost told Seven she loved her, that she had from the first moment she saw her standing in a silver cat suit in the cargo bay. She’d almost told her she didn’t know how she could go on if Seven died. She would have if the doctor hadn’t called. Now all of that didn’t matter. It had been taken out of her hands by Voyager’s computer.
Kathryn considered the padd again and how it came to be in her possession. It shouldn’t be; Seven hadn’t died but her life signs had ceased for one point eight minutes. Voyager’s computer logged that information and immediately released the notification letter Seven had recorded only hours before. Now she had to decide what she should do with it. Heaving a frustrated sigh she thumbed the controls and opened the file. She read the message again although she had memorized every word.
To: Captain Kathryn Janeway
Fm: Seven of Nine
In the event of my death I wish to express my gratitude for all you have done for me. You took this drone from the Collective at great risk to your ship and crew and in so doing returned my humanity. The course has not been easy, yet you never faltered. You were my mentor who offered the gift of friendship. Any failings along the way are mine alone. I allowed distance to grow between us so you would not know the extent of my failure. How could I tell you my feelings for you had changed? How could I tell you of my love?
You are entitled to so much more than one insignificant drone could offer. Yet knowing this did not assist me in altering my emotions. Somehow all of that seems unimportant now. All that is relevant is that you deserve to know the truth. I owe you that much. You should know that I cared for you as more than my captain or my friend. I wish for you to know that you were loved.
May the rest of your journey home be swift and uneventful.
Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One.
Kathryn pressed a hand against her mouth and bit back the tears. Seven loves me. My God, she loves me! She’d dreamt of such a possibility for so long, but now that it had become a reality she didn’t know how to respond. Her concern wasn’t for protocol. Hell, even Jean Luc Picard had married his chief medical officer. The self-imposed celibacy had been her idea. But now that the potential for true happiness was there and she wanted to grab it with both hands she couldn’t date Seven. There was no way. The crew wouldn’t actually mutiny, but she was savvy enough to know it would be extremely difficult for them. How could one command people while dating another member of the crew? They would naturally suspect favoritism and it wouldn’t be good for morale.
But what of her own morale and happiness? Was she somehow less worthy of love simply owing to her rank? Kathryn stood and walked over to the viewport and stared out at an indigo blue nebula that reminded her of Seven’s eyes. Thoughts of kissing the cupid’s bow of Seven’s lips filled her mind and it was difficult to concentrate on what she should do. Despite duty or desire Kathryn was still an intensely private person. She couldn’t stand the thought of the crew speculating on her private life. So what the hell was she supposed to do now?
Hours later Seven of Nine stood wondering about the letter. Released from the extended regeneration cycle she’d awakened to find Captain Janeway standing in front of her with a soft, relieved smile. The captain told her that she was fine and expected to make a full a recovery. After that she had disappeared into her private quarters and Seven hadn’t seen her since, although she discovered that her letter had been erroneously delivered when her vital signs ceased briefly during the operation.
And computer records verified the captain had activated the file.
Since its delivery Janeway had opened the letter nine times so there was no question that she had read it. The doctor told Seven how the captain had been willing to kill a drone to save her. She needed to talk with the captain for that reason more than anything, more even than the letter because it opened up so many possibilities. The captain’s actions spoke of more than friendship or duty. Her deeds spoke to Seven’s heart though her intellect argued strenuously that Janeway would have done the same for any member of her crew. Command and responsibility were integral parts of her character and she would never abandon a member of her crew. The power and intensity housed within the small frame was unquestionably alluring and something Seven had been resisting until now. The captain had received and read the letter and regardless of the outcome Seven wanted to know her response. Now Seven was at a loss. The captain had yet to approach her and seemed to be avoiding her entirely.
It was late into gamma shift and Seven could think of nothing but speaking with the captain, but she hesitated. She had already queried the computer twice for the other woman’s location to find that the captain was still awake in the seating area of her quarters.
Seven thought back to that moment of waking in her alcove, opening her eyes to see the captain’s steady blue gaze. She wanted to think she’d seen her own emotions mirrored in those eyes as the captain spoke with her. She wanted to believe the twinkle in the blue depths was significant, but logic prevented it. If Captain Janeway loved her she would not be avoiding her now.
She could go to the captain’s quarters now, in the middle of the night, as she had done so many times before. She could even euphemistically call it a philosophical discussion and try to convince herself she only wanted clarification about Janeway’s motivations, but it would be a lie. Seven wanted to know if the captain loved her. Asking directly would be taking a great risk. If the captain felt only friendship she would be embarrassed by Seven’s declaration of affection. But why then had she read the letter nine times?
Finally she could stand it no longer; she had to know. Seven shut down the Astrometrics console that was busy compiling projections on an unremarkable system they wouldn’t be exploring anyway and left the lab.
No one was in the corridor so late into the evening and she quietly took the turbolift to deck three. She stood in front of the captain’s quarters and took a settling breath before she pressed the admittance chime. There was no response. Seven pressed the chime twice more, but still there was no response. She began to shift from foot to foot, uncharacteristically nervous while she waited. She would have thought the captain was asleep if she hadn’t already checked with the computer a fourth time to determine Janeway’s status. Just when she had decided the captain wasn’t going to answer the door Seven’s Borg-enhanced hearing detected faint footsteps.
The door slid open to reveal Kathryn Janeway’s tired, pinched features and Seven could only stare as she tried to imprint every characteristic on her eidetic memory. In that moment she decided that to love Janeway in silence was no longer acceptable. As a drone she had always sought perfection and now she realized it had been with her since being taken from the Collective. Seven stared into tempestuous blue eyes, darkened by the muted lighting, and noticed the hesitant and shallow inhalations and the nervous way her tongue darted out to moisten ruby lips. The captain started to speak, stopped and finally took a step back to let her in.
She accepted the silent invitation and turned to face the captain as soon as the door closed. Janeway was quiet and Seven was unsure what to say to break the uncomfortable silence. Summoning all of the courage in her heart she finally asked quietly, "You read the letter?"
Janeway’s gaze slid away, unsettled and unable to maintain eye contact. "I read it."
Pain lanced through her and Seven’s voice trembled. "You do not approve."
"I…I don’t know what to say."
Janeway sat down the glass she was holding and turned to walk over to the viewport, putting distance between them. She stared out into the endless black at the swirling blue nebula, an action Seven had seen her perform so many times before. This was her habit whenever the captain was facing a dilemma or unhappy or confused. Which was it this time?
A low gossamer strand of plasma burst from the nebula and created a halo around Janeway and a small hand came up to rest on the transparent aluminum. The captain was awash in a sea of Armageddon blue and gold and Seven felt her breath catch while she waited for the small woman to gather her thoughts. When she did speak it was not what was expected.
"You’ve never disappointed me," Janeway said softly, so softly Seven had to strain to hear. "Not many people could come back from being assimilated at such a young age, could regain their humanity so completely. You’re the most remarkable woman I’ve ever known and I’m…proud to call you my friend."
Seven hadn’t expected this quiet contemplation or easy acceptance of her feelings. Janeway was an intense woman and seeing her subdued, her eyes dark and unreadable, was troubling. She took a step closer, but the captain wasn’t finished addressing the issue of the letter.
"Gratitude? You don’t have anything to be grateful for. You came into my life and challenged me to be more than I am. Without you I would have become merely the captain, I would have forgotten what it was to be human…to be Kathryn."
Captain Janeway was finally quiet and Seven realized she was finished speaking, but there was so much she hadn’t said. "And the rest of it?"
Seven stepped up behind the captain, so close she could feel the heat of the woman’s body, breathing deeply of her perfumed scent. Her body yearned for a closeness she didn’t quite comprehend, the pressure of the captain’s warm body against her own. In a whisper she continued. "Is friendship all I can ask from you? Is there nothing more?"
Janeway turned away from the viewport for the first time since she’d begun to speak. Seven was only a half step away but the captain didn’t try to put distance between them. She looked up at Seven and the young woman could still see uncertainty in the deep blue gaze, but fear had never stopped the captain from facing anything and it didn’t stop her now. She reached up with one hand until her fingertips gently brushed Seven’s eyepiece. Her fingers trailed lower until she cupped a soft cheek.
"I’m sorry you felt the need to put distance between us in an effort to hide your feelings. You have never been insignificant to me and anyone would be proud to have your love."
A weight eased from her chest suddenly and Seven gasped at the release from a tension she didn’t even realize she’d been feeling. Tears sprang to her eyes and in an unsteady voice she asked, "Does this mean you could someday love me in return?"
"Sometimes I look at you and I feel so much for you it hurts. Love you? I already do, darling. I have for as long as I can remember."
"It’s Kathryn, darling."
Janeway cupped both sides of Seven’s face and stepped toward her. Seven’s lids drifted shut as Kathryn closed the distance between them. Seven expected the other woman to kiss her mouth, but instead incredibly soft lips caressed her jaw. Kathryn trailed gently along Seven’s jaw line and down to her neck; butterfly soft touches that sparked tingles along their path until she was trembling. Her arms came up to hold Kathryn against her and she instinctively caressed up and down the planes of the soft body.
Tremors raced through her as Kathryn touched her face and stroked her shoulders. Kathryn’s skin was fire against her and Seven panted from the heat of answered desire. Then Kathryn’s lips finally touched hers and she moaned into the open mouth, the sensations of her first kiss overwhelming as she tasted the sweet wine on the other woman’s lips.
Kathryn’s kisses were like sunshine and spring after a long, dark winter. Seven drank in the nourishment of her kisses and felt her soul finally knit together completely. After all the atrocities committed as a Borg drone here she found redemption; here she found peace.
She held Kathryn against her gently, aware of the strength of enhanced limbs. Janeway’s body was soft and yielding. Strong fingers threaded through Seven’s hair, releasing it to cascade down her back before Kathryn sighed and stepped away. The sudden lack of contact frightened Seven until she opened her eyes. Kathryn reached out and took Seven’s hand and tugged her toward the bedroom.
The queen-sized bed took up the majority of the room and drew Seven’s gaze like a magnet. From the promise whispered in Kathryn’s eyes and the kisses they had already shared Seven knew they would make love now. She was suddenly nervous. Would Kathryn find her lacking? Would she see the scattered silver of Borg implants and find them repulsive? She didn’t have the answers but she did know that if this were the only time she would have to love Kathryn she would make it count. She would take the time to luxuriate in every sensation. She would show Kathryn Janeway how she felt in every touch, every kiss. If Kathryn later decided not to pursue a relationship it would not be because she could doubt Seven’s love.
Stopping beside the bed, Kathryn turned toward her. "If you don’t want to go any further now is probably the time to tell me." She sounded so unsure, just a woman reaching out to another in every way and taking the risk of having her heart broken.
"Words are insufficient to express my emotions, Kathryn. They are imprecise, clumsy. I wish to make love with you, to show you how I feel."
The captain smiled gently. "Sweet talker."
The lights were out in the captain’s bedroom, illumination being given off by the unnamed nebula and the living area. Seven held her breath nervously as Kathryn’s arms encircled her neck reaching for the clasp of the biosuit. The zipper parted neatly to the middle of her back and the material unfolded softly. Then Kathryn was back in her arms, kissing her slowly as she lowered the garment to Seven’s waist. Her hands reached to caress the back of the leonine neck and down to map the contours of her back, flesh and metal alike. Seven never anticipated such tenderness and she leaned into the caress aching in the white heat of desire.
Kathryn broke the contact and pulled away to gaze at her in the muted light. "You are so beautiful."
Seven wanted to disagree and cover implants but Kathryn was already moving again. She finished undressing Seven and urged her to sit on the edge of the bed. When she reached for the hem of her shirt and pulled it over her head in one swift move Seven forgot about being self-conscious.
"It is you who are perfection," she whispered.
Kathryn only smiled and tossed her uniform toward the chair in the corner of the room. Then she leaned down over Seven, pushing her down onto the mattress and claiming her lips once more in a gentle dance. Her hands were everywhere on Seven; soft, fleeting touches on her neck, down the lengths of her sides and the curve of her thighs. Seven gasped and pulled away from Kathryn’s mouth with the need to draw breath. Their legs entwined and she felt the wet heat of arousal against her thigh.
Small hands caressed her breast before she felt Kathryn’s lips gently close over one nipple. Seven’s hands encircled Janeway’s waist as she held onto her love. Waves of molten heat coursed through her as Kathryn tasted her nipples, alternating between the hardened peaks before she pulled away to look into Seven’s eyes.
"You feel so wonderful in my arms. I love you, Seven of Nine and I will never stop."
"Kathryn," Seven begged, overcome with need, "please make love to me."
Kathryn’s hand slid down her body to part her thighs as she gazed into Seven’s eyes. "For as long as you want me to, darling."
"I want you to love me forever," Seven whispered, seeing the love and desire reflected back at her.
"Then that’s what you shall have." Kathryn’s fingers stroked softly into the moisture between Seven’s thighs, causing the young woman to jerk at the sensations. "I’ll make love to you like this for the rest of our lives. Right now, I want to know how it feels to be inside you."
Seven gasped at the jolt of arousal that shot through her from Kathryn’s words. "Yes! Oh, yes, Kathryn!"
Janeway’s arm slid around Seven’s waist to hold her tightly as she penetrated her gently with one finger. She slid inside the velvet sheath carefully; almost afraid she might hurt the younger woman. Seven’s hips came up to meet her as she moved in soft, slow strokes. The sight of Seven’s breasts was too tempting to ignore and Kathryn lowered her head to take a hardened nipple into her mouth as their tempo escalated. She could feel the tension mounting in Seven’s body and soon her hips were thrusting sharply against Kathryn’s hand. When Seven suddenly went rigid in her arms and cried out her name Kathryn felt her own climax crash through her body.
As the trembling lessened Kathryn began to kiss Seven’s body, tasting flesh and implant alike and letting her know that she accepted every part of her without reservation. Seven stirred and turned over until Kathryn lay beneath her.
"I wish to love you now, Kathryn."
"By all means, my darling."
There was joy in Seven’s eyes and Kathryn was heady with the knowledge that she was the one who put it there, but a moment later she forgot about being cocky when full lips closed over her breast.
"Oh! Just like that, Seven!"
Seven’s mouth and tongue mimicked her earlier ministrations and soon Kathryn was squirming with desire. When Seven pulled away to look down at her Janeway’s breath caught in her throat from the image. Framed in blue light Seven was strong, chiseled features and feminine beauty. The younger woman slipped down Kathryn’s body, the promise of her destination clear. Kathryn’s eyes fluttered closed when she felt hot breath caress her sex and then Seven’s mouth claimed her, carrying her away on the tides of passion until she forgot everything save this one perfect moment.
Hips rocked and strong arms held her safely. Kathryn panted and moaned, her hands fists as she clenched the bed sheets for something to anchor her. Seven’s tongue stroked her so softly that she could have been imagining it, swirling through her sweetness and up over singing nerve endings. Kathryn felt a Borg-meshed finger slide into her and groaned from the exquisite pressure caressing her deep inside.
"Oh, my love, don’t ever stop."
The mesh on Seven’s fingers was soft and warm, applying just the right amount of firmness to drive Kathryn’s passion to a crescendo. Her hips moved faster and Seven’s tongue danced over her. Another finger joined the first and Kathryn felt completely filled. Her breath burst from her as their momentum increased. Janeway’s hands were clenched tightly, almost painfully. She was moving faster now and Seven was countering the driving force of her hips.
"Oh, now, I’m gonna…! Oh! Seven!"
Starbursts went off behind closed eyes when it happened. Kathryn’s body tensed and she arched into Seven, the mental image of coming in her lover’s mouth causing her to peak again and again. Finally the intensity passed and Kathryn collapsed sated onto the sheets. Seven lay over her and they held each other in a warm embrace, rejoicing in the feel of one another for a few quiet moments.
Eventually Seven lifted away from Kathryn minutely. "Did you mean what you said? That you would love me for the rest of our lives?"
"Oh, yes. I meant it." Janeway reached up to caress Seven’s cheek with the back of her knuckles. "But I don’t think either of us can settle for half measures after all we’ve been through. Will you marry me?"
Kathryn’s voice was low and sultry, the dulcet tones washing over Seven and making her feel she was dreaming. If that was the case she never wanted to wake up. "Yes."
It was such a simple word but it meant everything. Kathryn smiled as she realized the rest of her entire life rested on that one word and she couldn’t have been happier about it.