Fandom: Star Trek Voyager
Summary: An injury reverses the roles in Janeway and Seven's relationship. Post Endgame, first time story.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Also, not a native speaker, so mistakes abound.
Author's note: I had a short story that turned into a photo comic and got discarded for a while. Later I used it to practice my English writing skills, and this came out of it. Hope I didn't completely waste your time with it... :)
1. Disconcerting Thoughts
I look myself over once again in the mirror and I have to nod approvingly. The silk blue dress I chose to wear tonight accentuates my figure perfectly, and I am well aware it will draw many looks during the reception. Chakotay likes that. He is much more at ease when I attract admiring and envious glances, instead of the more usual anxious ones. I know people are still wary of my presence, no matter how much they try to hide it. Everybody is helpful, accommodating, but outside of work if they can, they give me a wide berth. It stung a bit in the very begging, but as more days passed, I have learned to accept it. After all, what those people think is really of little consequence to me. My aunt and Chakotay on the other hand seem to care great deal about that. Every now and then they "casually" propose a change in style when I am not working; maybe I should let my hair down, maybe wear something more comfortable than my usual body suit, relax my stance a bit... Occasionally I will do that to humor them, and strangely enough, it always works. It is interesting how much attention people pay to the way I look when they asses my humanity versus my borgness. That is one of the things that continuously puzzle me. The more I imitate everybody else, the more I am accepted; as if a dress and a new hair style make me a whole different person. They do not, and while the two of them might enjoy it, I cannot take pleasure in acceptance based on something I am really not.
Still, tonight I let my hair flow down over my exposed shoulders. I did not do it to humor Chakotay or anybody else; no, this time I simply want to look my best. I am not even sure why this particular night matters that much. It is thoroughly annoying that I cannot find a logical reason for this apprehension I am feeling. It is just a reception like many others I have been to since our return. Just a reception... Except that tonight Captain Janeway is going to be there as well. Admiral Janeway now, actually. I have to remind myself of that every now and then, despite my eidetic memory. I have learned during my "reintroduction" to humanity that some things simply stay with you, no matter what. I have not seen her for almost two months. We have talked several times, but it was always rushed, with a promise of more that never came. I never let it show in front of her that it bothers me, but if I am honest with myself, it does. I miss her, I miss our friendship. I am not used to not having her around, not after all those years that she was there for me every step of the way. Even now, more than two months since our return to Earth, I always open my eyes after my regeneration cycle half expecting to see her standing there... And I am always disappointed when she is not... I hate the fact that her absence is affecting me as much as it does. She obviously has no problems moving on from our life on Voyager, and I should be able to follow her example. I am Borg, I was supposed to adept by now. I was supposed to... but I did not.
I am startled from my thoughts by the door chime, and I know it is eight o'clock sharp without even having to look at the watch. Commander is always on time, he is nothing if not reliable. He looks good; official garb always suited him the best, and he knows it. I mirror his smile as I great him, trying hard to shake off the somber mood that somehow crept up on me.
"Good evening Chakotay," I say as I lightly kiss his cheek.
"Seven, you look amazing."
He has told me that many times already, and I know that my reaction should be more enthusiastic than it is. Still, all I do is nod once and start towards the door. Transport site is not that far from the house, so we decide to walk there, enjoying a bit of fresh air.
"So, how was your day?"
He offers me his arm as he asks, and I link my hand through his before I answer. "It was agreeable."
He nods, accustomed to my short clipped answers by now. "Did the meeting go well?"
"Yes, there were no problems." I know he is trying to engage me in conversation, but I cannot seem to concentrate enough to really participate.
"Well, that's good to hear. I spent most of today fighting with one of the Admiral's assistants. He was constantly trying to..."
Seeing that he was not going to get much more from me, he launches into a description of the day's events, and I am grateful to be able to distance myself and just nod automatically. I still feel nervous, but I hope that will pass once we reach the party. It is only the Captain after all; the new insignia and a few weeks could not have changed her much. I force myself to pay more attention to what Chakotay is saying, and before I know it we are at the transport site.
As we enter the room a young man working the console looks me over admiringly, and for a brief second I can see a look that passes between him and Chakotay. It is the look I have seen several times before, something of a congratulatory nod to the winner of... whatever I am supposed to represent. I do not like it. It makes me feel like a trophy, something to be owned, and I am annoyed by the smug smile that formed on Chakotay's lips for just a moment before his attention was again on me. I feel like saying something, but I just pull my arm from his and turn towards the pods, deciding not to comment on it. Tonight is too important to be ruined over such trivial thing. I will however file this information for future discussion. We step on the transporter, and I take a deep breath, anticipation in me reaching new levels. I am going to see the Captain...
"Energize," I hear a voice order, and we are on our way.
2. Captain on the Deck
Another one of these parties and I can't guarantee that I won't scream. I've been paraded around like a token heroine by every dignitary there is for several months now. I guess after the Dominion War people need to be reminded that heroes still exist. Heroine. I am not sure everybody would agree with that assessment. Parents of the crew members who didn't make it back probably don't quite agree. I am not sure I agree with it myself. But being a heroin is a part of the role I choose to play when I accepted my promotion to Admiral, so another party it is. At least this time all of my senior staff will be here, and that's the main reason why I am not currently at home, enjoying a long hot bath. I've missed everybody in the past two months, some of them particularly... When you get used to seeing certain people every day for seven years it's not so easy to simply walk away. I sip my drink as I slowly scan the crowd, happy that I have finally gotten a minute for myself this evening. In less then an hour I've already talked to three admirals, four ambassadors and one cultural attaché, only managing to get in a few words with Tom and B'elanna in between. Just as I am about to move towards Admiral Paris who I noticed just entering the party I cringe as I hear my name from one of the most boring man ever to have served in Starfleet. "Ah, Admiral Janeway, it's so good to see you!"
It's too late to duck now, so I force a smile on my face and turn around extending a hand to him. "Admiral Ferretti, I didn't know you'd be here tonight. What a surprise." Well, at least I didn't lie openly, although my smile could be a bit misleading.
"Janeway, such a pleasure, as always." He sloppily kisses my hand and continues to talk, all in the same breath. "I was supposed to leave for Bajor this afternoon, but I postponed my trip for a day. It's so far away, and I wanted to spend a bit more time in actual civilization. As I told my secretary just this morning..."
I resign myself to my fate, figuring there's no getting out of it now, until I notice Tom not five steps away from me. I do my best to discreetly get his attention, but I seem to be too good at the inconspicuous part, since he is steadily ignoring me. Finally I catch his eyes, but he just raises his drink at me and continues his conversation with Bolian Ambassador. I know Ferretti is still talking, so I add a yes every now and then, while I keep throwing pleading looks Tom's way. Several agonizingly long minutes have passed and finally I think Paris realized that I needed to be rescued, as soon as possible. I'll have to make a note to reprehend him officially for taking his sweet time. He leaves the group and walks towards us, and I have to fight hard to hide the relief I feel from showing too obviously. Tom puts on one of his most charming expressions, and I can't help but mirror his smile.
Ferretti is forced to stop talking by this interruption and I use the opportunity to its fullest. "Tom, hello! It's been a while." Well, actually, it's probably been less than fifteen minutes, but Admiral doesn't really need to know that. Time is such an elusive concept anyway, right? "Have you met Admiral Ferretti yet?"
"Yes, I've had the pleasure. I am sorry to interrupt you, but there is an important matter I need to discuss with you."
I put on my best "disappointed by the interruption" face, and I really hope my words sound at least a trifle sincere. "Well, if it's really important..."
"It's okay Kathryn, I'll catch up with you later." With that Ferretti bows a bit and leaves in search of his next victim.
Note to self, be alert for the rest of the evening. My attention is now fully on Tom, my voice holding a note of disbelief in it. "You knew him and didn't come to rescue me sooner?"
"Admiral, are you suggesting I left you in peril on purpose? I am offended that you would even consider that notion!"
The glint in his eye and a grin firmly plastered on his face are telling me a completely different story, so I vow to myself to get him back for this, and to make sure it hurts.
"Well, now that that is out of the way, can I get you anything to drink?"
"I guess that's the least you can do Tom, for now..." I throw him a look that makes him well aware that the payback is coming, but his smile only widens, marking the acceptance of the challenge in stride. He is back with another glass of champagne in no time, and I take a long drink savoring the taste for a few seconds. I look around and notice B'elanna and Harry at the other corner of the hall. I've already spent some time with the Paris-Torres family, but Harry just made it in so I link my hand through Tom's and motion with my head in their direction. "Lead the way Lieutenant."
* * * * * *
For the past half an hour I've been enjoying hearing about Miral's first days and Harry's welcoming parties thrown by various family members. I am filled with pride once again. My decisions might have caused them to get lost, something that will weigh on my conscience for a long time to come, but somehow I still managed to make it right again... Suddenly there is a murmur among the present, and as I turn towards the entrance I see why. Seven and Chakotay have arrived, and one look at her makes it clear that she is holding the attention of everybody in the room at this moment. She is beautiful tonight, even more than I am used to seeing her. Her long blond hair is framing her face, and the dress she choose... It falls perfectly down her form, but still manages to stick to all the right places. And blue is definitely her color. She is smiling lightly and I can't help but feel how much I have actually missed her. My eyes dance over her form, and I stop at her décolleté. It's revealing just a tantalizing glimpse of the skin between her breasts, and I have to force myself to look away. I take another long drink from my glass, willing myself not to overanalyze what I just did. She is a beautiful woman, and I simply reacted to that, as everybody else in the room did. Nothing more, nothing less...
"Seven looks stunning tonight."
I am brought from my thoughts by Harry's dreamy voice, and I smile fondly. I knew he had a crush on Seven when she just arrived on Voyager, and something tells me tonight is going to stir some old feelings in him. I turn towards the newly arrived couple and I notice that they are walking our way. This time when I meet Seven's eyes she is looking straight at me, and I am surprised by the intensity of her gaze. There is a nervous smile playing on her lips, an uncharacteristic uncertainty in her step, and I immediately feel guilty. Things are not supposed to be like this between us. I should have made sure I had more time to spend with her, help her adjust, or simply just be there for her as a friend. Deciding to start correcting that oversight immediately I start to move towards them, but my view is suddenly blocked by a wide frame of Admiral Cuchenko. Before I know it he is leading the two of them towards one of the tables in the corner, and I am seriously considering hurting that man. It's a party thrown in my honor after all, I could probably get away with it... I bring my glass to lips once again, but it seems it's empty. Just perfect. I guess I'll get to talk to her later, right now I really need another drink.
3. Broken Misconceptions
Half an hour! It took me full 30 minutes to be able to get away from that group without offending anybody. I will honestly never understand human need to endlessly recap the unimportant details of their days. I move through people, skillfully avoiding anybody who shows even a slightest intent in trying to engage me in conversation. I will not be deterred from my goal twice. My eyes scan every corner of the big hall, but I am not successful in locating my target. While Kathryn Janeway is without a doubt one of the most imposing people I have ever met, her height still makes it a bit difficult to stand out in a room full of very tall individuals. I am about to move to another position, but a husky voice I am well familiar with stops me.
I guess she found me. I turn around, and my body almost involuntarily takes two steps toward her - two steps that bring us very close together. So close in fact, that I am certain we are breathing the same air. The strange thing is I know this is not unusual for us. I wonder how I have never before noticed that we always seem to invade each other’s personal space when talking.
"I'm sure you've heard this many times tonight, but I'll say it anyway: you look absolutely incredible."
Her words surprise me and I have to work hard not to show how much they affect me. She is looking at me with a slight smile on her lips, and I am not sure why formulating a response suddenly seams like the most difficult task I have ever encountered. "Thank you Captain. You look beautiful as well." I hope my voice didn't really sound as it did in my head. Squeaking is really not becoming of a Borg.
She smiles at my response, but the look she has on her face makes me think that she assumes I have just automatically returned the compliment, as is a custom. But I did not, and suddenly I really need her to know that. I am just not sure how to express it. Most of my senses almost overloaded when I first saw her tonight, the fact I have conveniently managed to ignore for most of the evening. She is not dressed in her now usual Admiral attire; she is wearing a simple black dress with thin straps on top and a silk scarf just loosely wrapped around her neck, and the change is astonishing. The official is gone, in her place is a woman oozing sensuality. Before I can decide how to convince her in the sincerity of my words, she continues speaking.
"How have you been Seven?"
It is an easy question. Five words. But what do I tell her? The anticipation on her face makes it clear that she is hoping I will tell her everything is good. And for the most part, everything is more or less fine. I have a good job, my aunt is a wonderful woman, if a bit set in the old ways, and Chakotay is... well, he is adequate. But all of that seems to matter little if I do not get to share it with her, as I am accustom to. Her guidance is one thing that kept me going through the worst times, and I want to be able to share the good times with her as well.
"I have been well. There were some... problems in the beginning, but I have adapted accordingly." I pause before I add, in half a voice "I have missed your counsel during the past two months."
She flinches at my words and I immediately regret saying them. It was not my intention to make her feel guilty. I just want her to know that I miss her, and saying that outright suddenly seems too... intimate. But my choice of words obviously did not have a desired outcome.
"I am so sorry. I shouldn't have let you go through the whole process alone." The regret colors her face as she continues, silencing my protest with a small hand gesture, "When we returned I didn't know where to turn first. It seemed that everybody needed me for something. Starfleet, press, my family... If there is one thing I regret now it's that in all that I neglected one person that really needed me. I have no excuse for that..."
"It is fine Captain. I understand that the duty you felt you had towards me ended when we reached Earth. I was not implying..." My sentence is interrupted by her startled cry.
"No! Seven, you need to understand one thing. I never considered our time spent together as duty. Before anything else I am your friend! I thought we have covered that already... Granted, I haven't been acting like a very good one since we have returned, but I have every intention to make up for that. I guess I simply thought that Chakotay would be enough to help guide you, and that you wouldn't need my advices as much..."
For a moment I think I heard something resembling hurt in her voice, but I am almost sure I have only imagined that. "Commander has been helpful, but Captain, he is not you."
Her features soften at my words, and I feel that I have finally said the right thing.
"How about this, I'll stop assuming you don't need me anymore just because you have some new people in your life if you promise to stop thinking our friendship is in any way a burden to me."
The relief I feel at her words is obvious, and I can't stop the corners of my lips from tugging up. "That is acceptable."
"On that note, I really think it's time you started calling me Kathryn."
"All right..." I hesitate before I let her name cross my lips "Kathryn." I like how the sound easily rolls of my lips. It seems natural. "I think I will enjoy calling you Kathryn."
Her smile is blinding, and I am shocked to realize that the feeling I identified in my stomach is that of a "thousand butterflies". I have felt like this only several times before, mostly at the very beginning stages of my relationship with the Commander during our kissing. And even then it was not even as close in intensity as it is now. A hand lands on my shoulder and I almost flinch before I realize it is Chakotay. I am grateful for his presence since it is diverting my mind from analyzing what has just happened. With his arrival the three of us settle in casual conversation, my years with Borg serving me perfectly once again in helping me give out a cool and composed front. Because inside, I feel anything but...
* * * * * *
It has been two hours since Kathryn has been dragged away from us by one of the many people wanting to be seen spending time with the famous woman. Finally, as she bids her latest evening companion goodbye, I use the opportunity to get her attention once again. When I approach her I can notice the tiredness on her features, but her face lights up as soon as she notices me. It feels good. Really good, if I am being completely honest with myself. I had some insecurities about our relationship, but her previous words and now her reaction finally completely alleviate all my fears. I was not her duty, I have been and I am her friend.
As we settle in our conversation, a woman passes by us and I notice her and the Captain exchange smiles and nods. I am not sure why, but I wonder where she knows her from. I let a few seconds pass, but my curiosity gets the better of me, and I ask her.
"Actually, I just met her tonight... I find her interesting."
Her answer surprises me, and I have to ponder further. "Why?"
"Well, first of all, apart from our crew I think she is a breath of fresh air among all these… dignitaries... Plus, I find her aesthetically pleasing, to put it in your terms Seven."
Since I was severed from the Borg collective, few things surprised me like this statement. Did Captain Janeway just express romantic interest in that woman?
"Clarify" I say, realizing that for some strange reason, my Borg personality reasserted itself in full mode.
She looks at me, obviously put off by the tone of my query, but the censure is there only for a second, before it is replaced with something much softer. She swirls the drink in her hand for a few moments before answering me, her tone almost shy. "I guess I am attracted to her... I think..."
"Attracted to her? Do you consider her to be a potential mate?"
The first response I get is a throaty laugh, and a few seconds pass before she is able to answer my question. "God no Seven! That would be fast. No, I simply found her interesting, and agreed to have a date with her this Sunday."
"Yes, a date. It’s been a while since I’ve actually dated... But I guess mom is right, it’s time to try and get something of a personal life, now that I am actually allowed to have one."
I have no response to that. The entire exchange has left me feeling things I have never felt before, and none of them are pleasant. I really do not enjoy being this out of control of my emotions! A few seconds pass and for the first time I can perfectly understand the term "uncomfortable silence". I am searching for something to say, but Kathryn is faster than me.
"Tell me, how are you and Chakotay doing?"
I am not sure if she intentionally changed the subject, but I am grateful to her non the less. "Our relationship is progressing at adequate pace."
I can see she is expecting me to say more, but when I make no intention to continue talking she just smiles and shakes her head. I wonder what was so amusing abut my answer...
"Maybe we can get together after the weekend for a drink? I want us to start catching up on lost time immediately."
The idea of spending time with her alone is always appealing, so I answer without hesitation. "I would like that."
We see Chakotay approaching us, and it is obvious he is ready to leave. I have planned on staying longer, but now I am not sure I would enjoy spending more time at this reception. There are too many things I need to process, and staying close to the Captain is not going to make that possible.
"Ready to go?"
"Yes, we should leave."
Chakotay offers me his arm before turning to the Captain. "Bye Kathryn. And don't do anything I wouldn't do..."
"Come on Chakotay, I need to have some fun!"
"Ouch! She hits and she scores..."
I watch their exchange with interest. They are... teasing each other, I guess. I have noticed this behavior between them on several occasions before, but it had never bothered me. Until now. I shake my head, angry at myself and the irrational way I have been processing everything tonight. I really need to leave, now.
"Goodbye Kathryn. I will see you next week."
"Goodnight Seven. I'll be looking forward to it."
As we make our way towards the door, I turn around once more, and I find Kathryn looking at me. She lifts her glass at me and smiles, and I find myself enjoying the fact that I had her attention for a few additional moments. But then I notice the woman we talked about approach Kathryn, and as I finally loose sight of them I am very sorry I indulged in my impulse to look back.
To be continued...