Songs of the Soul
Another Starfleet function. More handshaking and polite talk, smiles and laughter, backslaps and congratulations. After circuiting the room, Admiral Kathryn Janeway sank into a chair that was shadowed by a tall leafy plant, her eyes scanning the rest of the ballroom restlessly. Since their illustrious return from the Delta Quadrant, Starfleet had lavished them with several such celebrations. Dressed in white pleated pants and a jade green silk shirt, Janeway cut a striking figure with her flashing auburn hair and cobalt eyes. Her lithe, compact body resonated strength, intelligence, and elegance. At that moment, those eyes automatically sought and found the one person who mesmerized her. Kathryn instinctively felt the woman's pull. As she watched, Janeway's former First Officer, Chakotay, casually encircled the object of her complete attention, Seven of Nine, with an arm around her waist. Janeway blanched, looking away quickly.
Drawn back to the scene unfolding across the room, Janeway's gaze intensified on Seven as she reflected on a few weeks ago when she had last seen her. As promised, Janeway had taken Seven to visit her home in Indiana.
Kathryn, content to share her private life with someone she considered to be very special, sighed happily as they strolled down a dirt path toward a small lake. Seven cocked her head, seemingly intrigued by the expulsion of breath. Watching the former drone's action out of the corner of her eye, Janeway's expression widened into a soft smile.
Stopping, Kathryn turned to face Seven directly and spoke.
"Thank you for spending the day with me. Since we've returned, I' ve been so inundated with Starfleet obligations that I haven't had the opportunity to just relax. I can't think of anyone with whom I'd rather share my childhood home." Janeway blushed lightly, wishing she could share so much more with this captivating woman.
Seven stared at Janeway silently. Finally, she seemed to pull herself together and replied, "It has been my pleasure, Captain. I have missed our time together."
"Kathryn," Janeway gently corrected. After a pregnant pause, Kathryn uttered in a husky voice, "I have, too." Seven stared, as if fascinated by Janeway's face, so open, with luminous, sparkling eyes. Kathryn silently mused that this woman had slipped under her defenses, becoming the focal point of her existence. After severing Seven of Nine from the Borg collective several years prior, Janeway had the pleasure of watching the former drone reclaim her humanity, and in the process steal her heart. Janeway resumed walking, cutting across a grassy knoll that housed a corps of trees overlooking the lake.
Turning away from the object of her affection, Janeway sat underneath a tree, tacitly inviting Seven to join her with a tilt of her head and a teasing half-grin. Kathryn gazed across the water while gathering her thoughts. Having formulated the words to reflect what was in her heart, Janeway opened her mouth to begin her confession.
Kathryn's eyes refocused on the ballroom, the noises reasserting themselves forcefully. A song reached her ears, mirroring her deepest feelings for the riveting woman her eyes continued to caress.
Through the darkness, I can see your light
And you will always shine
And I can feel your heart in mine
Your face I've memorized
I idolize just you
To Janeway, Seven seemed to be enshrouded in light, tugging at the former Starfleet Captain, luring her closer. The shine Seven's glorious spirit emitted was a feast for Janeway's ravenous heart, making it impossible for her to tear her eyes away. Tonight she was wearing a simple, shimmering cocktail dress of midnight blue that left a long expanse of gorgeous muscular legs exposed. Her hair hung in waves of gold, partially obstructing the view of her cleavage. Kathryn had felt her heart stop and then pump double time when she saw Seven enter the room. Of course, the spaghetti straps and V-neck did little to hide the power that exuded from every pore of the former Borg. As if the physical appearance of the six-foot blonde bombshell isn't enough to start the hormones raging every time she's near me, Janeway thought ruefully. If given the choice, Janeway acknowledged, she would gaze upon Seven for the rest of her life.
Well, there, Janeway thought derisively. Now that I can't have her, I'm freely admitting that I want Seven with me for as long as I hold breath in my body. How bold of me. Janeway stifled a sigh.
Yet, Janeway was cognizant of harsh reality. She knew she no longer had Seven's undivided attention. Morosely, Janeway admitted to herself that she took for granted the connection they shared, took for granted that Seven would always be a part of her life, took for granted that Seven would stay with her once they returned to Earth. But, that hadn't happened. Instead, Chakotay had swept the very epitome of femininity off her proverbial feet. Regret now burned deeply within her gut, causing Kathryn's eyelashes to brim with unshed tears. As the former Borg and first officer's romance flourished, Seven withdrew herself from Janeway. She understood. It was only natural that two people in love wished to spend as much time together as possible, to the exclusion of the outside world.
The Admiral's thoughts focused inward once more, recalling more of the day that sucked the happiness out of her existence.
Once Janeway had returned her crew to Earth, she felt the shackles of responsibility unlocked. Released from the burden of command, she felt she was free to pursue Seven.
Turning to the lovely soul beside her, opening her mouth to reveal her innermost desires, she was cut-off by a very nervous former Borg's rushed confession.
"I have begun a romantic liaison with Chakotay."
Startled, if not a little bemused by this turn of events, Janeway searched Seven's eyes—for what, she did not know. With a sinking heart, she knew her feelings would remain unexpressed. How could she squash Seven's first romance?
"How do you feel about this…liaison?" Janeway asked cautiously, pushing aside her own feelings.
"I am uncertain. It is a very different way of interacting with another person," Seven answered honestly.
I'll bet, Janeway thought darkly, her imagination running wild with thoughts of their embraces, embraces robbed from her. But, she had no one to blame but herself. She had chosen to wait, arrogantly believing that no on could take Seven from her. Swallowing her bitter thoughts, she took a calming breath and asked, "Are you happy?"
Confusion flitted across Seven's visage as she softly parroted the word to herself.
"Yes, Seven. Do you like spending time with Chakotay?" Janeway persisted, a small spark of hope igniting within her stomach.
"He has been very attentive," Seven replied uncertainly.
Janeway bit back the retort resting on her lips as that fledgling spark was extinguished. She certainly believed that Chakotay was very focused on the beauty sitting before her. Janeway knew she would have sleepless nights concerning how "attentive" Chakotay was toward Seven. As her mouth clamped into a straight line, Janeway sought to repress not just her verbal responses, but her very soul, which cried out in anguish at this cruel twist of events. Just when she was going to declare her love, Seven's revelation pointed starkly at the truth: it was too late.
Trying to support her friend, even as her heart crumbled, Janeway leaned over to pat Seven's knee. "I am happy for you both. Your happiness is very important to me. If Chakotay can give you that, then I am…happy," Janeway finished inanely.
Her mind race wildly. Why do I keep saying "happy?" Janeway chastised herself severely. Do I have no vocabulary now? Have I become a babbling idiot in front of perhaps the most intelligent, and certainly the most beautiful, woman I have ever met? Great. I'm sure she'll remember this conversation for my erudite vocabulary. You're happy, he's happy, we're all fricken happy. Janeway silenced the inner dialogue by pure force of will, smiling sardonically.
As all these thoughts flitted through her mind, deep feelings revealed themselves on Janeway's classic features. Seven watched closely.
While the music reasserted itself onto Janeway's consciousness, she admitted to herself that she had, in a way idolized Seven, had memorized her face—a face that haunted her fantasies. Too many times she had imagined framing that beautiful face with her palms, drawing it in for a soul-searing kiss. But, that was not her privilege. And there it was—the truth reflected in the lovely song washing over her, drawing forth her grief.
I look up to everything you are
In my eyes you do no wrong
I've loved you for so long
Janeway acknowledged that she admired all that Seven had accomplished. Even through her fear and uncertainty, Seven strove to reassert her humanity. That's why she gave the former Borg leeway with her indiscretions. How could she condemn Seven for her actions when Seven was purely following her instincts? How could Seven be criticized for not knowing how to act in situations she had never before encountered? And so, Janeway protected Seven, even as she guided her. In the end, it was true that Janeway felt Seven could do no wrong—this was a source of consternation for Janeway, particularly when she was expected to discipline Seven for honest behavior. Janeway grinned wryly.
But, it was more than admiration that Janeway felt. Oh, yes, she loved this woman. How she thirsted for her. Felt it on a visceral level. Hungered just to be near her, never mind to be Seven's sole focus. And, Janeway now knew that to even think about love, this unfathomable, complex, tumultuous emotion, was to throw herself into a tailspin. Viciously, Janeway threw herself into the feelings, repressing nothing. Her gaze heatedly swept over Seven's curves, her erect stance, her mesmorizing lips and clear eyes. Seven's eyes that looked a bit unfocused at the moment, as if she were a million light years away.
What Kathryn could not know was that Seven was also listening to the song, dealing with her own disorderly feelings.
You walk past me; I can feel your pain
Time changes everything
One Truth always stays the same
You're still you—after all, you're still you
Seven thought of earlier in the evening. As Janeway interacted with dignitaries and Starfleet brass, Seven felt consternation at how chaotic she felt while watching her former Captain. Although Janeway's face reflected a calm, collected persona, it did not match the profound sadness that emanated from the compact redhead. Pain. She was in pain. It was like a few weeks ago when they sat under the tree, but now Seven could feel Janeway's emotions emanating like waves, slamming into Seven. This realization stopped Seven in her tracks. She had an overwhelming urge to scoop this diminutive woman into her arms and comfort her. To crush Kathryn against her body until she felt the pain leave her, until she felt Janeway's true warmth reassert itself. For now, it appeared that Janeway was merely going through the motions. Although most would not recognize that the vitality Janeway seemed to exude was merely a charade, Seven saw clearly that the light no longer sparkled in Janeway's eyes. For that, Seven grieved.
Several times, Seven began to approach her former commanding officer, wanting to reach out to her, but each time she was intercepted by Chakotay. It was as if Chakotay instinctively knew what was in Seven's heart, and sought to stop her. Seven and Chakotay did not discuss this silent dance of wills. Seven was aware that Chakotay was jealous of her time, guarding it closely. He did not want to share her, and certainly not with Janeway. Chakotay balked at any suggestion to interact with the Admiral. Seven had been puzzled by his reaction, but slowly she realized what Chakotay already knew, that Seven would prefer to spend her time with Janeway than with anyone else, including him.
Refocusing her eyes on Janeway, Seven's eyes widened at the view that greeted her. Kathryn looked as if she were tormented, with lips slightly parted to take in shallow breaths, and irises a deep stormy gray surrounded by glittering tears. And, more startling was the focus of her fierce stare: Seven.
Janeway, for her part, has sunk irreversibly into the final words of the melodious, tortuous song.
And I believe in you, although you never
asked me to
I will remember you, and what life put you through
And in this cruel and lonely world
I found one love
You're still you—after all, you're still you
With a jolt that she felt straight to her toes, Kathryn realized that Seven was looking at her, searching her eyes. As the song ran its course, Janeway's heart seemed to unravel. Not caring to repress her feelings any longer, not believing it really mattered anymore, Janeway defiantly let the love, desire and hunger rise onto her face as two lonely tears escaped down her cheeks. Seven felt imprisoned within Janeway's desire. A willing prisoner, she realized. She could not, would not shift her eyes from this gift. With a thudding heart, Seven stepped forward in the direction of where her destiny rested, needing to reach Janeway—now. She was drawn like a moth to a candle.
Only a hand on her arm stopped her. It was Chakotay, inquiring where she was going, what was she thinking, why was she leaving their conversation. As these questions invaded her mind, the music, conversation, and noise of the night crashed over her. Desperately returning her focus to the one person who made her feel alive, she gasped as she realized that Janeway was no longer seated. Jumping her eyes across the room, Seven saw Janeway retreating to a side balcony. Feelings bombarded within Seven. Her memories of the end of her last interaction with Janeway rose to the forefront of her mind.
Seven had felt something stir within her when Kathryn had thanked her for spending the day with her. She did not quite understand why, but her instincts told her the former Captain did not share her personal life with many. Seven tucked this honor deep within her heart.
Seven told Janeway of her relationship with Chakotay, hoping her mentor would see Seven for the woman she had become. But, she had not expected her former Captain's response. While watching the emotions that crossed Kathryn's face, Seven felt a sense of uneasiness overtake her. Seven interpreted the blaze of emotions as best she could. Surprise, chagrin, contempt, grimness, and defeat. She had not expected this reaction to her news.
Seven could feel an undercurrent, thick and dark, between them, but could not interpret the cause. The sun lowered itself below the horizon, seemingly cut in half by the pristine lake. The former Astrometrics officer viewed Janeway through her peripheral vision while trying to grasp the meaning of the mood that had settled over her former Captain. It seemed similar to the feeling that cloaked Janeway while they crossed the Void—yet this feeling was more tangent. Seven felt that if she extended her hand it would encounter—something—in the space between them. These unfathomable emotions were entrenched in Janeway's turbulent eyes. Seven wished to somehow diminish this tension.
"Kathryn, perhaps we can endeavor to schedule another time in the near future to interact," Seven voiced quietly.
Janeway smiled with affection, rendering Seven breathless. "I would like that." The low timbre of Janeway's voice caused Seven to feel a bit lightheaded.
They made plans to meet in San Francisco the following week, plans that Seven cancelled upon Chakotay's insistence that they attend a lecture instead. Although she meant to, Seven neglected to reschedule. Instead, she spent all her free time with Chakotay, who demanded her constant attention—attention she realized she no longer desired to expend upon him.
She now knew that her place was with Janeway, not Chakotay, and turned to tell him so. Upon a moment's reflection, she deemed it a more efficient use of her time to find Kathryn. Seven quietly, but firmly, excused herself and turned toward the balcony.
As Seven moved toward the balcony, she replayed the rest of that fateful afternoon with Janeway in her mind's eye.
As they said their farewells, Kathryn suddenly stepped into Seven's space. This was not unusual, but what she did next was. Janeway hugged Seven closely, holding her with a fierceness that robbed Seven of breath. Seven felt heat suffuse her as she sank into Janeway's embrace. Sliding her arms around Janeway's waist, Seven breathed deeply of Kathryn's scent—lavender and spice. Her eyes closed involuntarily as sensations bombarded her. Before she could catch up with her body's reaction, Janeway turned her head slightly and kissed Seven's cheek. Softly, Kathryn uttered, "Goodbye, Seven," in such a reverent, bereft voice that Seven felt a profound loss. As if to complement that sentiment, the former Captain released her former Astrometrics officer and stepped away. Seven looked up quickly, searching for the cause of the sharp emotions still reverberating through the air. Janeway shot her a brief smile that didn't quite reach her eyes, then turned away as Seven ascended the transporter pad. As Seven's molecules began to buzz with the impending transfer, she gazed deeply into Janeway's eyes. What she saw reflected from those hooded eyes sent an electrical shock down her spine.
Much as she had felt just a moment ago, although the feeling was much more potent presently since she could now interpret what she saw. Janeway was in love with her.
Crossing onto the balcony, Seven's eyes swept the area, zoning in on her heart's desire. Leaning against the front railing, the Admiral instinctively knew the exact instant that Seven entered her space. Her neck hairs stood at attention and her body trembled. Janeway took a few steadying breaths, knowing that what occurred over the next several minutes would change her life irreversibly. As energy surged through her body at the arrival of the bewitching beauty who had captured her heart, Janeway tried to keep her mind empty. She resolutely determined that she would bare all this time, no matter what, for she knew it would afford her a feeling of freedom from harboring these emotions. Seven saw a change in Kathryn's demeanor and bearing as she reached the railing, a type of fortification in her former Captain's stance.
Seven moved abreast of Janeway. "I feared you had left," Seven said. Slowly, Kathryn tilted her head to look fully into Seven's face.
Smiling tenderly, Kathryn replied, "No. I just came out here to regroup."
"I do not want you to 'regroup.' I am concerned that you will not wish to discuss what I saw in your eyes." Seven said, a bit more forcefully than she would have liked.
Janeway gazed wistfully at Seven as she turned fully toward her. "I have no intention of dodging these feelings any longer. I love you, Seven. I should have told you long ago. Because of my inaction, it seems I no longer have a place in your life…" With a sigh, Janeway directed her gaze toward the night sky, apprehensive to hear Seven's response.
Seven stood quietly next to Janeway, deciding how best to respond. "Kathryn, I have made a mistake, and I must repair the damage. However, I am uncertain how to proceed," Seven said haltingly.
Turning back to her companion, Janeway watched as a war of emotions swiftly chased across Seven's countenance. Janeway felt compassion for her former protégé.
"What mistake, Seven?" Janeway questioned, concern etched in her voice.
"I have hurt someone important to me. I am afraid that the damage is irreparable," Seven answered miserably.
The Admiral ruminated over these words, trying to make sense of what Seven was expressing.
Seven moved so that she was directly in front of Janeway, and then gently enfolded her former Captain's right hand within her Borg-enhanced left one. As Seven grazed her thumb pad across Janeway's knuckles lightly, surprise and pleasure skittered across Janeway's face. She felt a sharp electrical pulse race through her veins, causing her body to quiver involuntarily.
Carefully, with reverence, Seven stepped closer to Janeway so that they could feel each other's body heat. Looking into Janeway's impassioned orbs, Seven spoke. "I did not understand my feelings for you. I did not realize that I was in love with you until I was away from you. Until I felt the loss of you. You are essential to my existence. Please, forgive me. Will you allow me to make amends?"
Of course I forgive you! Janeway's mind screamed. Instead of letting loose with a whoop of victory, Janeway skated her left hand over Seven's arm from wrist to shoulder, her eyes following her fingers' path and continuing to Seven's face with a smoldering look that inflamed the former Borg. Slowly, Janeway leaned into Seven's body, angling her face towards its goal. Seven met her halfway for a scorching, long-denied first kiss.
This kiss did not consist of hesitancy, uncertainty, or shyness. Instead, Janeway's lips clamped onto Seven's full lips while pulling Seven's neck down to lock her in place. Straining to get as close as possible, Kathryn seemed to melt into Seven's every curve. The impact of their mouths converging ripped answering groans of pleasure from them as they felt the friction of lips, tongues, and bodies. Too long deprived, Janeway held her eyes tightly shut, focusing intently on the multitude of sensations bombarding her heart and soul.
With each tongue stroke, Kathryn's mind repeated a mantra. I love you, I love you, I love you. Seven clung to Janeway, irrationally believing that otherwise she would be blown away, off the planet and into the abyss of space by the force of their emotions. The emotions were that fervent. She felt as if her cortical implant were short-circuiting and relished the overload of sensory input. Janeway was her entire collective, and realizing how close she had come to losing her beloved caused her to convulsively clutch at Janeway's body, pulling her as close as possible, as if to climb inside.
Restless fingers itched to wander, but Kathryn had the presence of mind not to give into these urges, instead gliding her hands through the golden tresses. Breaking away, Janeway held Seven close so that this loving maelstrom would not sweep her away. Inhaling deep breaths of air, they fought to calm their bodies.
"I need you," Janeway rasped, no longer embarrassed to admit her deepest desires. "Come back with me, Seven."
Without hesitation, Seven responded. "Agreed." Although a simple response, her eyes were much more expressive. Desire, need, love, devotion—all shone from her eyes, like beacons to Janeway's soul.
Kathryn felt herself smiling unguardedly at her soon-to-be lover. "Let's get out of here, shall we?" Janeway's voice held a provocative tone as her gaze raked Seven's body possessively. Seven's body shuddered with awareness.
Mutely, Seven nodded while swallowing her answering desire. Taking a few more steadying breaths, knowing what lay ahead of them, they presented a united front—stepping into the ballroom with hands clasped firmly between them.
As expected, Chakotay did not take the news well. When he saw Seven move to the balcony, he knew something momentous was occurring. Too much of a coward to go after her, Chakotay bided his time, keeping an eye on the balcony entrance.
As Seven and Janeway crossed the threshold, hand in hand, something in Chakotay snapped. Storming toward them, he began to shout, not caring who heard.
"Seven, what the hell is going on? Why are you holding hands?"
"Chakotay, I must terminate our relationship. I love Kathryn. I am…sorry…if this hurts you, but to remain together would benefit no one."
Shocked and angry, Chakotay's face drained of color before suffusing with heat. He appeared ready to lunge at the new couple. He might have, too, if he could decide which person he wished to throttle first.
Janeway looked on compassionately. She knew exactly how he felt, having dealt with these very emotions so recently.
Flicking his eyes from face to face, he noted how dispassionate Seven's gaze was, as opposed to the Admiral's empathetic eyes. But, he did not want Janeway to understand. He did not want sympathy. He wanted Seven. Taking a deep breath, he turned resolutely to the former Astrometrics officer.
"How can you leave me? We've shared so much. We've made plans for the future," Chakotay voiced stridently.
"I do not love you. And, I do not believe you love me. We are comfortable with each other; that is all. There is no passion between us. In fact, this is the most passionate I have seen you since we began our relationship." Seven listed the reasons in a soft voice, trying to convey the logic of this decision.
Chakotay whirled on Janeway. "What have you told her? What did you do to her? How dare you! I thought we were friends!" With those words, the former Commander quickly stormed out of the building, not heeding Janeway's plea that he remain.
"That went well," Janeway uttered acerbically. Seven's only response was her trademark raised eyebrow. "What a mess," Kathryn continued as she sat down into a nearby chair with a dejected sigh.
"Do you regret what occurred between us, Kathryn?" Seven asked hesitantly.
Jumping to her feet, Janeway took the two steps necessary to reach Seven. Cupping her chin firmly while focusing on Seven's eyes, Janeway said heatedly, "I regret nothing. I love you." The burn of Kathryn's gaze caused a thrill of adrenaline to course through Seven's body. She smiled without reserve, causing Janeway to lose her breath.
Wrapping the diminutive former Captain in her arms, Seven bridged the small gap to Kathryn's lips. It was a brief kiss—enough to let Janeway know that her love was returned. As they parted, the background noises began to penetrate their world.
Releasing Seven's chin, Janeway stepped back and looked around her. Her eyes encountered various personages, many watching the scene play out with great interest.
"Hmmm, I guess the cat's out of the bag, love." Janeway mused. She realized it no longer mattered to her what others thought. Her attention was focused solely on her future with Seven.
"What does a felis catus have to do with us? And, to what bag are you referring?" Seven asked innocently. When Janeway went to explain, she saw the twinkle in Seven's eyes and grinned. Seven had nearly caught her that time.
Hearing a song that seemed to encompass her desires perfectly, Janeway turned to the beautiful blonde and asked in a smoky voice, "Will you share this dance with me?"
As an answer, Seven slid her arms around her love's waist, beginning to sway in time with the music. Janeway slowly skated her hands up Seven's arms to clasp lightly behind her neck. Seven trembled slightly at the contact, causing Janeway's visage to take on a slightly predatory look as her eyes turned a cerulean shade of blue.
The song enveloped them, transporting them away from everything else as their eyes locked.
What are you doing the rest of your life?
North and South and East and West of your life?
I have only one request of your life.
That you spend it all with me.
Kathryn felt these words lodge deep in her heart. She may not know what the future held for her, but she did know that she wanted Seven to be an integral part of it. Seeing the answering desire within Seven's luminescent eyes warmed Kathryn to the core. Janeway was no fool. Finally having Seven in her arms, she understood incontrovertibly that she would never let this woman go. She could not. To do so would surely lead to her own destruction. She needed Seven by her side, always. And Janeway was prepared to take all the necessary steps to make that a reality. Seven, feeling Kathryn's thoughts, pulled Janeway closer as more of the song poured over them, like honey coating their souls.
Those tomorrows waiting deep in your eyes
In the world of love you keep in your eyes
I'll awaken what's asleep in your eyes
It may take a kiss or two…
A full-fledged smile graced the former Captains' classic features as she wholeheartedly agreed with the lyrics. Wickedly, she thought of all the kisses she planned to share with the woman in her arms as her gaze instinctively ravished her partner's lips.
Seven sucked in her breath as she saw Janeway's reaction the song's words. She knew that her destiny lay with this incredible woman. It took all her willpower not to give into her body's libidinous urges. Seven realized that if she did give free rein to these emotions, she would not want to desist. So, she attempted to control these very human desires and lived on Janeway's all-encompassing hot gaze. Distractedly, Seven listened to the last few lines of the song.
Through all of my life
Summer, Winter, Spring, and Fall of my life
All I ever will recall of my life
Is all of my life with you.
Flashbacks of their interactions filled Seven's mind. All of the pivotal events of her life involved Kathryn, of course. Her severance from the Collective. Their first embrace in the brig after she swung at Janeway in fury, anguish, and confusion. Arguments. Velocity. Da Vinci's studio. Meals shared. Away missions. The Delta Flyer when she thought Janeway had betrayed her until Kathryn had passionately, logically forced Seven to recognize their bond. Philosophical discussions. Unimatrix Zero. So many memories—all involving the woman she now held in her arms. She would never allow them to remain apart. She would travel to the end of the universe to be with Janeway. Seven's eyes clouded as she acknowledged the time lost while she was with Chakotay.
Seeing the soft frown on the lovely visage, Janeway spoke soothingly. "Whatever is troubling you, let it go. It belongs in the past. I love you. Whatever the future holds, we will experience it together, if you want." These last few words, Janeway uttered a bit hesitantly, realizing that although she wanted Seven by her side in every sense of the word, she was unsure of the depth of Seven's feelings.
Seven's response put all Janeway's fears to rest. Her face lit up as if she had just received the best present she could ever imagine—and perhaps that was the truth of it all, for Janeway had just served her heart, body, and soul on a silver platter.
"That is acceptable," Seven uttered as she swept her head down to Janeway's for another affirming kiss.
As they danced, oblivious to the rest of the world, another took notice of the couple, an expression of contempt on his face. Dark-haired and wiry, the male slouched against the wall, seemingly indifferent. Nondescript in features, it was only the hard, angry eyes that could make him memorable. Quickly, the man tamped down his emotions, assuming a bored expression. Seeing the object of his attention preparing to depart, he viewed his plan, nodded his head, and followed.
After saying their goodbyes to former and present colleagues, friends, and well-wishers, Janeway and Seven made their escape. Kathryn felt a buzz of excitement course through her as other thoughts once again consumed her concerning the voluptuous and now oh-so-attainable former Borg. She promised herself that she would not squander another moment to insecurity or fear. Janeway's only desire was to reveal all of herself to Seven in the hope that it would be enough to make her happy. But, first things first—she had the love of her life coming home with her, and she intended to love her as completely as she was able. A lascivious smile graced her visage as she realized that perhaps all those fantasies she had indulged in would become reality. And, she had a great imagination.
Seven sucked in her breath as she saw the lustful look on Kathryn's face. Tendrils of heat wrapped themselves around her heart, abdomen, and groin, even while her legs shook, her breath hitched, and her breasts tautened against the fabric of her dress. Shifting her eyes back to Janeway, she saw her former Captain detect Seven's state of arousal with interest.
"Almost home," Janeway pronounced softly, an unspoken promise, nearly palpable, caressed Seven's ears.
Turning the corner, they moved toward a house set back from the curb. Janeway keyed in the code and shooed Seven into the vestibule. Calling for lights at fifty percent strength, Kathryn strode toward the replicator and ordered two glasses of wine. Returning to Seven, who had moved toward the gorgeous view of the San Francisco skyline, she passed one of the glasses to Seven.
Lifting her glass up in front of her, Janeway began a toast. "To the person who completes me. If you'll allow me to, I will spend the rest of our lives showing you how much I love you, how much I need you, and how much I cherish you." Janeway's eyes communicated more than any words could, though. In them, Seven saw not just love, but devotion, hope, and need shining forth—brighter and more beautiful than any supernova.
Overwhelmed by the force of their emotions, Seven felt her eyes close involuntarily with her body's responses. "Yes," she answered. Quickly opening her eyes, she took a sip of the beverage, then placed the crystal onto the coffee table. Moving toward Kathryn, Seven stated urgently, "I cannot wait much longer, Kathryn."
Janeway instinctively understood what drove her young love and hastily managed to place her own glass down just before the impassioned woman swept her into her arms and consumed her with sweet hunger. Lips parted feverously, the length of their bodies touching intimately, as their tongues sought out each other joyfully. Without a second thought, Janeway broke the fiery kiss and led Seven into her bedroom.
After they crossed the threshold, Janeway turned back to her beloved, taking Seven's hands into her own. Bringing both of them to her lips, Kathryn lightly kissed each fingertip with touching devotion. Seven felt as if, with each kiss, her sense of being was grounding itself. For the first time in her life, she felt complete. In Kathryn's arms she knew she was safe.
Janeway reveled in the sweetness of the moment. Filling herself with the sense of completeness that permeated the air, she thought woozily, And this is only from kissing her fingers. How will I survive making love to her? With an internal chuckle, she vowed to do just that, as well as to live to a ripe old age, if only to share these and countless other moments with Seven. Giving herself completely over to Seven, Kathryn kissed the pulse points on Seven's wrists and gently dropped her hands.
Closing in for a more passionate kiss than her well-loved digits had just received, Seven saw Janeway's answering smile and outstretched arms. As their lips met, Seven heard a distracting buzzing in the background, but determined to ignore it as her body responded to Janeway's touch.
A moment later, all hell broke loose.
Through the haze of desire, Janeway felt, more than heard, a shift in the air. Something wasn't right. She felt an intrusion. Snapping her eyes open and pulling abruptly away from Seven, Janeway felt as if the next few moments played out as an eternity of horror. Here she was finally in Seven's arms after declaring her love for the beautiful woman, here she was about to consummate that love with this much-loved creature, here she was about to have all of her dreams come true…only to have everything and the only person worth living for wrenched away from her.
The former Captain found the disturbance immediately. Four men dressed in black, holding lethal power weapons honed in on their position. Ruthless eyes interpreted their broken embrace and mocked them. One of the men, lanky with an angular, mottled face, wheedled, "Oh, did we interrupt something? I'm so sorry! Should we come back another time?"
Seven pushed the Admiral behind her as Janeway demanded in a low, outraged voice, "What do you want?"
"Why Admiral," he continued in a honeyed voice, "I want you." With that said, he slowly advanced as the other three men formed a ring around the two women.
Although the man would never admit it, he was leery of approaching the former Borg. Making a snap decision, he said to Janeway, "Say goodbye to your Borg," as he pulled the trigger.
Blasted by the powerful weapon's discharge, Seven's body was tossed back like a rag doll, crumbling to the floor. Blood flowed freely from a gaping wound in her stomach, and internal organs hung over the sides of the scorched hole. Because Seven had been partially blocking Janeway's body when she was shot, Kathryn was knocked aside as Seven's body was thrown mercilessly.
Janeway hit her head hard on the ground but did not care as rage and fear ripped through her. She sprang up and over to Seven's body, which was now convulsing spasmodically as blood bubbled through Seven's lips. Not knowing how to stem the copious amount of lifeforce pouring through the yawning opening, Janeway tried to futilely cover it with her hands. Attempting to find a pulse, Janeway paled as she could not. A roar of fury erupted as she realized the truth. "You killed her," she uttered in a gravelly voice. Her eyes reflected a deadly light. In the next instant, as her hatred overcame her caution, she launched herself at the killer with the intention of ripping out his throat with her bare hands, or to die trying.
Two of the men converged on her simultaneously, stopping her attack. One of them hit her on the back of the head with the butt of his rifle, rending her unconscious.
When Janeway awoke, she was overwhelmed by fury, helplessness, desolation, and hatred. Seven was dead. She flinched with the mental pronouncement. Sinking into a miasma of despair, her immediate reaction was to give up, to let her hopelessness, the unwillingness to continue to live, envelop and overtake her. In the next instant, her emotions shifted wildly to intense anger, as thoughts of revenge filled her head. She wanted her captives to suffer as she was. She wanted them to hurt so much that they'd wish they were dead, as she did. She wanted to shred them into pieces of pain. Janeway breathed in her hatred, her anger, her inconsolable reality with relish—it gave her strength and focus.
The Admiral took a deep breath and allowed its shuddering release. She knew Seven would not want her to turn into a murderer. Seven had always admired Janeway's moral fiber, her ability to make the tough decisions and to take decisive action. Right now, she had to focus on escape. Janeway could, and would, mourn the ending of Seven's—and by extension her life—later. Locking her emotions away, Janeway rolled to her side and rose to take stock of her situation.
Besides the bump on the back of her skull and a slight headache, she seemed little worse for wear. She smiled wanly. Pacing the space of her confinement, she looked for a way out. Although a window existed, it was several meters above, with no way to reach it. Janeway determined that the only viable escape route would be through the locked door.
While pondering her next course of action, she heard footsteps approaching. Janeway waited patiently for her captors to reveal themselves and their demands. Her goal was to escape and bring these murderers to justice. A deadly calm settled over her features, and she smiled grimly as the door swung open.
Chakotay stood outside of Janeway's house, nervously shifting from foot to foot. Hitting the announcement bell to request entrance for a second time, he wondered if Seven was inside. Of course she is, you idiot! He reprimanded himself. He had seen the way they had entered the ballroom from the balcony—the sense of completion, of oneness. That didn't just come from a moment's indulgence. Those two had been a couple long before he sought Seven out for romance.
Chuckling derisively, Chakotay acknowledged that he never did find romance, not with Seven. She never gave herself completely to him. Now, she realized it was because she had given a part of herself away long ago to Janeway. Chakotay mused that Seven didn't even know it, until recently, perhaps not even until tonight.
He also knew that Kathryn would never intentionally hurt him. He had handled this situation poorly by throwing away two friendships that he valued dearly. And for what? Ego. He had let his pride get in the way. It only took a moment's reflection to know that Seven and Janeway belonged together, but he had ignored all the signs and hurt everyone in the process.
That's what brought him to their door in the middle of the night. He wanted to clear the air and ask for their forgiveness for his part in this messy affair. He was a fool in so many ways. Chakotay could only hope to patch things up and move forward, hopefully with their continued friendships.
Pressing the doorbell one more time, Chakotay became uncomfortable with the thought that he was interrupting. But, he had to talk to them. Putting it off would only further aggravate the situation. He had acted like a petulant child, publicly embarrassing them in front of all their colleagues, subordinates, friends, and Starfleet brass. Chakotay rolled his shoulders to relieve some of the tension he felt. If he were totally honest with himself, he was not surprised that Janeway and Seven had declared their love tonight. Seven had been preoccupied ever since she had visited Janeway at her childhood home in Indiana. She had tried to discuss the visit with Chakotay several times, but he had shifted the conversations, not wanting to know. He had been selfish.
In disgust, Chakotay blew out his breath harshly. Some friend he was—to Seven, to Kathryn.
Realizing that no one had come to the door, Chakotay became concerned. It was unlike Janeway to not answer, no matter what she was doing, especially in the middle of the night with an insistent person requesting entrance. Pressing his ear to the door, he heard nothing. Biting his lower lip, he thought of his options.
Chakotay pressed the buzzer again, this time for a longer period of time, hoping its strident tone would indicate his need to see them. Stepping closer to the door to listen for any indication of the occupants, Chakotay heard a faint moan of pain. A moment later, a wail shattered the air. Hardly recognizing the animalistic howl of despair that pierced the neighborhood, Chakotay's heart turned cold with foreboding. He began to shout while pounding on the door.
"Seven! Seven! Let me in! It's Chakotay! What's wrong?!" Nearly out of his mind with worry, he kept up the barrage of noise, hoping Seven would answer.
Suddenly the door swung open. Retaining his balance after the removal of focus of his urgent pounding, Chakotay's eyes grew wide as the color drained from his face. "Seven," he whispered in distress.
What he saw was straight out of a 20th century horror flick. Seven was holding her right arm across her abdomen, as blood leaked through onto the carpet. How she had managed to stand was incomprehensible to him.
Closing the door quickly, he spun back to Seven and took hold of her elbow. "Where's Kathryn?" he asked urgently.
"They took her. She believes I am dead." And with those words, she promptly passed out from the pain.
When Seven revived, several hours had passed. She found herself prostrate across a sterile bed in a medical facility. Opening her eyes, Seven saw the back of a familiar friend. "Kathryn," Seven whispered hoarsely.
Turning around, the former doctor of Voyager came to stand next to her. "How are you feeling?" he asked kindly.
"Like I have had my internal organs pulled through my nose," Seven replied acerbically.
"Well, close," the Doctor replied with a slight smile. "You are very lucky to be alive. If Chakotay hadn't found you…"
As memory flooded back, Seven tried to sit up. "I must leave! They have Kathryn!" she said in an agitated voice. The Doctor placed a gentle hand on her shoulder, stopping her action.
"You need to rest, at least long enough for your injuries to heal. If it weren't for your Borg physiology, you'd be dead. Give yourself at least another hour."
"But I need to find Kathryn! She believes I am dead. I must…" Struggling against his grip, Seven sought to get up.
"No!" the Doctor said forcefully. "Do I need to sedate you? Listen to me," he continued as Seven froze in place. "Chakotay is meeting with Tuvok, Tom, B'Elanna, and Harry as we speak to determine how to find the Admiral. Your job is to rest so you can join them in the search. If you don't allow your body to recover, how do you expect to help her?"
Suddenly, all of Seven's resistance vanished, and her body relaxed. The Doctor was being logical. She needed to be as strong as possible if she were to help.
Wary of Seven's sudden acquiescence, the Doctor studied Seven's face. Her body had been severely taxed, and it showed. Her skin was transparent with dark circles under her eyes and a haunted look about her features.
Compassionately the Doctor said, "Seven, we'll find her," patting her shoulder affectionately. He then walked away to allow Seven to sleep.
As her eyes drifted shut, Seven sent a mental plea to Kathryn not to give up.
Three men strutted into the room where Janeway stood, coming to a halt a few meters away. Janeway viewed them with a critical eye, assessing their strengths and weaknesses with a practiced ease. Her jaw twitched as she recognized Seven's killer. Checking the sudden flood of outrage she felt, the Admiral balled her fists tightly at her sides—the only indication of her contained feelings. Knowing that attacking him would lead to her death, she restrained her very real desire to kill this man.
The lead captor viewed Janeway's warring emotions impassively, impressed with her ability to control herself, if not a bit intimidated. It was a necessary evil that had forced him to terminate the Borg drone. It would have been simpler if Janeway had been alone when they executed the abduction. However, they certainly could not leave Seven alive to help others retrieve the Admiral, nor were they equipped to bring the Borg with them. Thus, his decision.
Expecting Janeway to be a formidable opponent, he would not have flinched had Janeway's stormy eyes reflected a deep abiding hatred. But, what did make him twitch was the inscrutable look she displayed as she stood at ease. Her face was the epitome of rigid control, calculated indifference. Although he felt suddenly apprehensive, he shook it off, sternly reminding himself what was at stake.
"My name is Carleez," he began. "I am the leader of the Crusaders, an underground group of individuals who seek to place the government back into the hands of the people. We are intent on recovering the unity our world once possessed, but lost, during the Dominion War. Now, instead of a peaceful civilization, we live in a world where the military controls us. I am sure you are wondering why we brought you here, particularly since you were in the Delta Quadrant while the War unfolded," he continued.
"It did cross my mind," Janeway confirmed drolly with a quirk of her left eyebrow.
"Are you aware that you are quite the living legend? The epitome of the perfect officer! Representing fortitude, strength, character, intelligence, and morality, to name but a few of your admirable traits," Carleez, with hands clasped loosely behind his back, slowly circled Janeway as he listed her attributes, a fevered glow lighting his eyes.
"You have become the Federation's number one poster child—their North star that everyone follows. The Federation knew a good thing when they saw it. They kept you in the public eye and showered you with deserved accolades for your ability to overcome monstrous odds and return home with your crew in tow." Here Carleez paused, now positioned directly in front of the former Captain, and assessed her closely.
"While in the Delta Quadrant, you attempted to contact new worlds, render aid to those in need, and to avoid confrontation whenever possible during your journey back to the Alpha Quadrant. Your unwavering commitment to upkeep the ideals of the Federation, I believe, is why you were able to return home."
Janeway snorted at the irony of his words. She had thrown away every tenet of the Federation by breaking time continuum laws, by manipulating the future for her own benefit. She got her crew home because she could not allow Seven to die in the future. And, when her future self revealed that timeline, Janeway knew she had no choice but to turn her back on all she held dear. In that one decision, she was no longer the Captain.
She was all Kathryn. A woman in love. A woman who would do anything, anything to keep Seven safe.
Of course, the public knew nothing of those events. It was top secret, in fact. Although the bare bones of how they were able to return to Earth had been strategically leaked, Starfleet chose to emphasize the ideals which Janeway and her crew had followed while on their journey, minimizing the various transgressions and hard choices that still plagued her with remorse.
"So, what do you hope to accomplish by bringing me here?" Janeway asked point blank in a deceptively mild tone of voice.
"Simple. You will endorse our views to bring our government back to a peaceful, non-militaristic organization where we strive once again to create lasting relationships with other worlds. Surely that is not too much to ask since it is a reflection of your own beliefs?" Carleez spoke confidently, as if he knew the Admiral intimately.
Janeway felt the bile rise in her throat. This maniac who just used violence, killing the one person who meant more to her than the ideals of Starfleet or even her very life, believed she would willingly endorse his terrorist cell. Temporarily unable to suppress the fury building in her, Janeway's body trembled with the desire to strike out at this warped individual. Her face reflected outrage, condescension, and contempt so strongly that Carleez automatically took a step back from her.
In a controlled, low voice Janeway responded. "How can you possibly imagine I would endorse your so-called peaceful, non-militaristic organization when you have forcefully abducted me and killed another officer in cold blood, with no provocation or warning?" her voice dripped malevolence. "If you think I will do anything to aid you, after the inexcusable actions you committed, you are highly deluded." Stepping up to Carleez, Janeway stared forcefully into his eyes, annunciating the next words carefully, "You have broken every ideal, every rule, every belief that the Federation represents. You are a hypocrite of the worst kind, breaking the principles that you espouse so eagerly to justify your own ends. You have betrayed these tenets. You are worse than any militaristic organization simply because, for right or wrong, they act to protect us, while you act only to satisfy your own selfish desires."
Janeway quietly judged the effect of her words. Carleez had paled under the weight of her words, a frown miring his face. Disquieted, he abruptly pivoted and left the room without another word.
Well, Janeway thought with a derogatory smirk, it looks like we are at a stalemate. Although she had considered going along with his demands, she had quickly discarded the unsavory thought. She could not allow herself to endorse actions that were so anathema to her very existence. It didn't matter what ideals he espoused if he did not act accordingly. No, she would have to find another way to escape.
Seven awoke slowly, grasping at the remnants of her dream. They had been in the holodeck while the Sandrine's program ran. Seven recognized it as a recent outing most of the Alpha shift officers had shared, including Kathryn. Several of the tables were pushed together, and Seven, while idly listening to the establishment's piped in music, sat watching her former Captain beat Paris handily at pool. Some of the song's words slipped through her mind as she woozily opened her eyes.
Hang on to the world as it spins around
Just don't let the spin get you down
Seven contemplated her reaction to Janeway's death and felt her breath leave abruptly. It was unthinkable, she quickly concluded and dismissed those thoughts forcefully. She would know if Kathryn were dead. Something within her would have died at that instant. Instead of giving into fearful speculation, Seven steadied her resolve and slowly sat up as she ran her mind over more of the lyrics.
Keep on walking tall; hold your head up high
Lift your dreams right up to the sky.
Sing your greatest song, and you'll keep growing, growing on.
Take it from me; someday we will all be free.
Seven released into the sky her heartfelt dream of living the rest of her days in the company of the most extraordinary person she had ever known. Love flowed through her, strengthening her resolve to find Kathryn. It shamed her that she was unable to prevent what happened. That she was unable to adequately protect the most important person in her life. First on her list of duties after reclaiming her love would be to install a very capable security system in their home. Yes, their home. Seven knew that Kathryn wanted to be with her forever. She had told her as much right before they had been so rudely interrupted from...Seven stalled her thoughts. Perhaps the security system would be the second action she would take upon their return home. They had unfinished business to attend to. Seven smirked as she got off the biobed and strode toward the Doctor's office for a clean bill of health.
Once declared able to leave the medical facility, the Doctor and Seven returned to Janeway's house to join their comrades in devising a way to find their former Captain.
After inquiries to Seven's health, they settled down to review what had occurred to Seven and Kathryn, Chakotay's role in finding Seven, and what the others had found while Seven was recovering.
Seven described Kathryn's abductors to the others with as much detail as her eidetic memory could provide, as well as the circumstances surrounding the attack, although she did leave out the exact activity she and her beloved were engaging in at that moment. Still, considering where they were when the attack occurred, it didn't take a genius to put together that they were about to become very intimate. The others sympathized, having seen them with eyes only for each other at the Starfleet function.
"We have linked the transporter signature to a warehouse off the San Franciscan coast. By researching the governmental logs and cross-checking them with the Federation databases, we were able to track the occupants. It is a group called the Crusaders. From what we can gather, this group is an offshoot of a terrorist cell seeking to oppose the Federation's mandates. This group claims to want a peaceful coexistence with other races. They have accused the Federation of losing sight of their main ideals, turning into a militaristic organization bent on attacking other worlds under the guise of protecting their own." Tuvok became silent after relating the research they had gathered. "No doubt, the Admiral is in great danger, particularly since they have used force to abduct her while arguing that violence is not acceptable for our government. It seems clear that they will do whatever they please to obtain their objectives." After looking at each person, Tuvok ceded the floor to them.
"I believe we can zone in on the Admiral's bio-signature to locate her within the warehouse. Once we find her, we can transport her to safety and raid the warehouse to capture the Crusaders." As B'Elanna said the name of the group, her lips turned into a sneer. "If they have a dampening field on the warehouse, we won't be able to transport in or out."
"If that occurs, I will lead the infiltration," Seven announced forcefully.
After a loaded silence, Chakotay tried to reason with Seven. "That may not be the best choice, Seven. Think about it. Kathryn thinks you are dead. The shock of seeing you might distract her from trying to escape."
"No, Chakotay. That is why I must be the first person she sees, either after she is transported to safety, or in the rescue attempt. If I believed her dead, I…could not function. And if I were to find that she were indeed alive after losing that hope, it would become the impetus of my escaping as efficiently as possible."
All present shivered at the implied meaning of the word efficiently. After staring at Seven for a few moments, Chakotay made his decision. "All right. If we have to go into the warehouse, it will be me, Tuvok, Seven, and the Doctor. B'Elanna, you're job will be to disengage any shields and alarms that may be activated on the property. Harry you will monitor bio-signs to let us know where to enter and who to avoid. Tom, your job is to get us to and from the warehouse. It does no good to get her out if we can't get away quickly enough. Any questions?" After pausing for a moment, Chakotay concluded, "Let's go, then. The sooner we do this, the sooner she'll be safe."
As they rounded up the necessary supplies to start the operation, Chakotay approached Seven. "Are you sure you're all right?" he asked quietly.
"I am functioning within acceptable parameters. Do not worry. And, thank you, Chakotay, for helping me."
Putting a hand on her shoulder, Chakotay answered from the heart, "I screwed up, Seven. I don't want to lose your friendship, or Kathryn's. You are both very dear to me. I want you to be happy, and I know you will be with her. So, let's get her back." Squeezing her shoulder before releasing it, he gave her a determined look and walked away.
Seven looked after him, a small smile gracing her visage. Taking a steadying breath, Seven squared her shoulders and moved to join the others to save her destiny, her Kathryn, her life.
Janeway wondered how long she had been held hostage. Time got lost so quickly. She tried to conserve her energy by sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall. "I could use a drink," she thought dourly. Laughing at her internal complaints, Janeway decided to take stock in her situation. She was in a locked room, with no way to escape, and nothing in the room which she might use as a weapon to attack her captors. Due to the lack of light source, the room was shadowy in the corners and near the door. No chair, no bed, not one object could be found here. The ceiling was high, and the floor…hard. Janeway grinned mirthlessly. "Well, then, we'll wait," the former Captain determined. Carleez would be back, she knew. His demented passion would not allow him to give up his quest or his plans to use her to further his cause.
Janeway's thoughts moved toward more happy moments, like the last time she and her fellow officers had relaxed in Sandrine's bar. Seven had watched her all night. She could feel Seven's attraction, could feel her body's response. In frustration, Janeway had knocked the cue ball forcefully while wishing yet again that she could explore these feelings with the beautiful woman. But, duty forbid it. And, even if it didn't, Janeway did not want to start a relationship that would be compromised by her promise to return her wayward ship to the Alpha Quadrant.
Janeway remembered part of the lyrics for one of the songs playing that night.
Things are moving so fast
Hold on tight and you will last
Keep your self respect, your womanly pride
Get yourself in gear, keep your stride
Never mind your fears
Brighter days will soon be here
Take it from me; someday we will all be free
Taking solace from the words, Kathryn reaffirmed her promise to escape. She would not give in to her captors demands, she would not plea for her life, and she would not give up. Pushing aside any undermining thoughts, Janeway felt in her bones that she would be free. Free to live, free to mourn, free to be. On her terms. Now, she just needed the opportunity. Hopefully, Carleez would see fit to visit her again, soon, so she could gather information on his future plans for her.
As if on cue, the door opened, admitting Carleez and two guards. "Come with me," he commanded briskly.
Following him down the hall, Janeway took note of their route. The hallway consisted of several small recesses before opening up into a large warehouse. Carleez let her to a monitor set-up on one side of the cavernous room.
"I have written a script which you will follow precisely. You will read it all when I tell you. Once we are done, you will be brought back to your quarters and fed. This need not take long, and if you cooperate, you will find me quite generous."
"Generous enough to release me?" Janeway questioned.
"No, unfortunately. I will have need of you for a bit longer. However, if you do everything I ask, you will remain unharmed." Carleez answered with insincere regret dripping from his voice.
"No," the Admiral stated while crossing her arms. "I will not read anything for you. I will not represent your cause."
Carleez's fury erupted suddenly. Punching Janeway in the solar plexus, then knocking her down to the ground forcefully, he yelled at her, "You will do what I say!"
Kathryn fought to bring air into her bruised lungs while remaining on the ground. After a few moments, she lifted her head, her eyes blazing contempt at the lead Crusader. "You can do what you want to me, but I will not present myself to the public as your supporter."
At another time, Carleez might have been impressed by Janeway's resolve. However, since it flew in the face of all his carefully crafted plans, he could not indulge that emotion. With a menacing growl, Carleez roughly grabbed Janeway's arm and hauled her up onto her feet. Dragging her to a chair before the monitor, he pulled her arms behind her body and secured them tightly.
"We have ways of manipulating technology so that it will sound as if you said these words. We will use a video of you with a voiceover. It may not be as forceful, but it will do. I can assure you that you will not be treated well for your disrespect." Kneeling in front of Janeway, Carleez softened his voice to a plea. "Reconsider. You will be insuring your survival. I'd rather not kill you, but I will if you do not change your mind."
Janeway stubbornly looked over his head, not deigning to acknowledge his words.
After sighing, Carleez arose and proceeded to the monitor. Keying in the necessary commands, he recorded Janeway for several minutes before calling some guards over to him. "Take her back," was all he said and turned away.
Borgs do not fidget. Ex-Borgs do not fidget. Seven fidgeted. Stifling a sigh, she shifted yet again in her seat. They would reach their destination in five minutes. Running the various possible scenarios in her mind, she tried to prepare for the mission. They would find her. She would be well. They would live happily ever after. This time Seven was unable to hold the sigh in check. Torres glanced at her sympathetically. "She's okay, Seven. We'll be there soon."
Seven nodded absently.
"We are coming up on the coordinates," Paris announced. Seven clenched her teeth in response.
"Harry, start scanning for the Admiral. B'Elanna, see if they have shields erected around the perimeter, and if so, how we can deactivate them long enough to beam her out. Tuvok, try to scramble our signal so they won't see us coming." Everyone bent to their work like a well-oiled machine, each knowing what had to be done.
"I found her!" Harry announced into the silence. "She is in a room at the northwest side of the building. I don't see any force-fields activated, but there are several life signatures surrounding what seems to be the entrance of her room."
"B'Elanna?" Chakotay questioned urgently.
"I'm locking on now." Seven, frozen in her seat, watched as molecules coalesced and connected into her beloved. Not knowing she had moved, she was reaching for Kathryn as the Admiral stumbled forward.
"Get us out of here. Tuvok, alert the authorities to apprehend these Crusaders." Chakotay ordered. After looking toward the two women on the transporter pad, his eyes quickly skittered away from the scene out of a sense of intruding. Watching from the corner of his eye, he saw the tender scene unfold and something within him fell into place. They were meant to be together. He could live with that. Smiling slightly, he turned away to provide them with some privacy. Glancing over at Torres, he caught her approving smile.
"Kathryn, oh, Kathryn, are you adequate?" Seven spoke brokenly, searching her love's eyes, body, everywhere, to determine the truth.
"I am more than adequate now," Janeway answered wryly. Not caring who was present, Janeway pulled Seven to her for a firm hug. "I thought they killed you," she whispered huskily. Not able to say more, she pulled Seven into her body even more, reveling in the feeling. After several minutes, Kathryn pulled back from the embrace to view Seven's face. "I won't contemplate not having you near me every day. When I thought that I'd lost you, something in me died. Marry me, Seven."
"Agreed," was Seven's reply. Janeway grinned, knowing Seven used that term purposely as an echo of her earlier answer while at the Starfleet function.
"Well, I'm glad that's settled, then." Kathryn replied. Stepping off the dais, she thanked her former comrades for their help in rescuing her. All were quick to ask for her welfare, shrugging off their actions as natural, which they were. To every person's mind, this was their family. They would always help each other, regardless of the danger.
Janeway settled into a seat, Seven to her right, as the Doctor stepped up to determine what her injuries were.
Several hours later, Kathryn sat down on her couch with a satisfied sigh. All the Crusaders had been apprehended. They were linked with several other heinous acts, ensuring that they would not be released from custody in her lifetime. Seven was resting in the bedroom. It took all of Janeway's self-control to not wake the woman. But, she knew that they would have plenty of time to indulge their feelings. Still…Kathryn walked silently to the bedroom door and gazed at Seven's sleeping form. Staring intently, Janeway could easily see the rise and fall of Seven's glorious form. Thankfully, the remnants of their earlier struggle, and of Seven's near-death experience, were absent from the room. She wanted to erase those memories as soon as possible and replace them with better—much better—experiences.
Marshalling in her thoughts before she betrayed her best-laid intentions to let Seven rest, Kathryn returned to the living room. Moving toward the bay windows, Janeway indulged in fantasies of how she intended to share her life with Seven—all the places they would explore, acts they would enjoy, and love they would exchange. Life seemed so much richer, now. She could hardly wait to start living it.
Reclining on the couch with one of her favorite books, the former Captain became engrossed in the plotline. As time passed, the last few days' events began to take their toll, and her eyes began to droop. Soon, the good Admiral slept peacefully.
Janeway felt herself return to consciousness as warmth enveloped her. Moaning huskily, Kathryn felt strong arms lift her from the couch. Kathryn felt weightless, protected, cherished, and terribly aroused. As she was transported, soft kisses rained over her face fleetingly. Softly, she was deposited on the bed, and she felt the lovely solidness of her love lying down beside her.
"Hello, darling," Janeway purred in a low trill, directing half-lidded eyes toward Seven.
Seven smiled seductively as her gaze surveyed Janeway's arousal with interest. "Good evening, Kathryn," Seven replied with a slight smile.
Kathryn lifted her hand to touch Seven's golden tresses, sliding her fingers through the luxurious locks before tenderly guiding Seven toward her for a kiss. What started out as a gentle exploration quickly spiraled into a passionate exchange. Clothes were removed without hesitation to feed their common hunger to become closer, to give and receive pleasure, to merge into one. As they came together, vows were exchanged with their hands clasped, and eyes locked. Never would they part again—they were each other's collective.