Rock me, gently
Chapter I (day one, Night)
Ever so briefly, Kathryn Janeway paused her speech then turned to face her friend and first Officer. “How did we end up here, Chakotay?” He failed to reply, so she moved away from the view port closer to him. “Answer me,” her tone was quiet but insistent. Chakotay took a few moments before responding.
“We were faced with a difficult choice. We had the means to get home, but using it would have put an innocent people at risk, so we decided to stay.”
“No!” Janeway lowered her voice, collecting her emotions instantly, “No, I decided to stay. I made that choice for everyone.” Before she could continue, Chakotay interjected.
“We’re alive and well. And we’ve gathered enough date about this quadrant to keep Starfleet scientists busy for decades. Our mission’s been a success.”
Janeway listened to his words, a voice held captive in a thick walled dungeon screamed agreement. “The very same words I’ve been telling myself for the past four years. But then we hit this void,” her left arm raised momentarily to point to the blackness outside that she felt inside, “and I started to realize how empty those word sound.” Again, Chakotay tried to refute her, but he could say nothing. He couldn’t understand the burden of her decision therefore he couldn’t say a consoling word.
“I made an error in judgment, Chakotay!” She took angry steps toward him, the grief Janeway held inside showed. “It was short-sighted and it was selfish, and now all of us are paying for my mistake.” Not missing a beat, she lowered her voice, “So, if you don’t mind Commander, I’ll have to pass on that little game. And I’ll leave ship-board morale in your capable hands.” Janeway turned back to the view port. Whether Chakotay understood or not, she wanted to be alone. “If the crew asks for me, tell them ‘The captain sends her regards.’”
No sooner did Janeway hear the doors hiss close indicating Chakotay’s exit did she head the chime signaling a hopeful entrant. Heavily exhaling an annoyed sigh, she allowed the intrusion. Another two hisses alerted her the intruder had entered. Janeway knew by each footfall who was at her door.
“You wanted something?” She heard a startled gasp at her tight speech. Raising her hands to her temples, without turning, she rubbed in circular motion hoping to alleviate some of the gathered tension.
“I did not intend to anger you, Captain, I’ll…”
Janeway cut her Astrometrics officer off mid-sentence waving a hand. “It’s not your fault, Seven.”
Seven hesitated, but attempted to answer her captain’s questions. “My reason for intruding is of a personal nature; however, if you wish to talk about your,” she paused for a moment to grasp the correct word, “distress, I am willing to listen.”
Despite the anger rising within, Janeway turned calmly to the ex-Borg drone and took a few chopped steps toward her. “Don’t you people understand,” her voice started softly but escalated fast, “I – want – to - be – a-lone!” As she spoke, Janeway’s slate blue eyes hardened and darkened.
“Very well.” Seven turned on her heels, clenching her jaw. She was halfway through the doors when she heard a quiet plea behind her. Seven only cocked her head to the side in acknowledgement.
Janeway breathed in sharply, “I said I’m sorry.” She watched as Seven’s body turned to match up with her tilted head, then reenter the cabin. The whoosh of the doors closing coincided with Janeway returning her attentions to the darkness. “I didn’t mean I was sorry for snapping at you.”
“Everything. Severing you from the collective; forcing you into Humanity; forcing my humanity on you.” The silence that fell between Seven and herself frightened Janeway. “Just know that I’m sorry, Seven. If you’ve ever taken anything I’ve said to heart, take that. Please.” Feeling tears outlining her eyes, she bit her cheek.
What Janeway felt next made her jump forward and out of her skin. She almost slammed into the port before her before turning around abruptly to face Seven. Her eyes were wide, a trail of a tear slowly making its way down on the right. The unusually soft expression lacing Seven’s face issued apology and the want to help. Something she’d never seen before. Seven’s genuine mien deflated her fortitude and Janeway collapsed forward allowing Seven to catch her before smashing to the floor.
Janeway cried hard on Seven’s chest for only for a few moments, determined not to let the guilt get the best of her. The screams of anguish were easily checked allowing the captain’s tough exterior to return in full force, outwardly strengthened by the sudden and short lapse of personal conduct.
She realized she was sitting on the floor between Seven’s legs, being rocked slowly back and forth; her arms were firmly fastened around the young woman’s torso unwilling to let go. Blinking in the dim light, the remaining tears falling from her eye lashes, Janeway sat back a little moving her hands to Seven’s chest. She felt how wet the material was and looked up to catch Seven’s gaze. The compassion and worry she saw there almost defeated her a second time, but Janeway dipped her head and struggled to her feet, stepping back to the view port without offering a hand up to the ex-drone.
As she stared at the darkness again, Janeway heard Seven move to her feet, across the deck and to the door, stopping there for a few moments. She figured Seven was looking back to see if she’d say anything along the ‘thank you’ line. The doors hissed closed when Janeway’s words came, though lost in the same darkness she was settling back into. Sighing, Janeway turned from the view port heading for the chair she so often sought out for reading and contemplation.
Janeway remained seated pondering how her defenses were broken with a single glance of compassion until she heard the power drain from her ship.
Chakotay left Astrometrics in haste. Janeway made her way off the platform, around the console and up next to Seven, who gave her a glance as she spoke.
“Let’s turn our sensors on that vortex. I want to know exactly how it works. Just in case diplomacy fails.” Her fingers were working the console as quick as her lips were moving. She stopped her motions only when Seven spoke.
“Do you intend to destroy it?”
Janeway offered Seven a wry glare of contempt before returning to the console before them.
Seven spoke after a minutes of uninterrupted beeps coming from the computer, “Captain…”
“Hmmm?” Janeway wasn’t about to look up at the tone of Seven’s voice. She didn’t trust her own voice in reply to it either. When Seven didn’t answer, she forced herself to stop and look over at the Borg. Her expression was undeterminable. She steeled her voice, “Seven, what is it?” The young woman kept still, just staring at her, her pupils slightly dilated. Janeway waved her right hand in front of Seven’s face, “Seven?” Finally, Seven shook her head lightly edging her way out of the trance. “Seven, are you all right?” As she dropped her hand, Seven grabbed it easily holding on with a gentle force. Janeway’s brow furrowed slightly as her hand was brought up to Seven’s face. Before more of her skin touched Seven, she pulled her hand back and stepped away.
Seven shot her captain a confused, questioning glance now fully disengaged from the trance. “I… Captain, I’m sorry. I don’t know what…”
Janeway shook her off, quieting her with a shake of her hand. “I have to speak with Chakotay. Route all information about the vortex to my quarters,” Janeway backed away as she spoke.
Seven nodded her acknowledgement. “Captain?” she asked just as Janeway turned away. She quickly turned back.
“Seven, don’t. Please, not now.” She followed suit and rushed from the room breathing as deeply as possible to prevent the bout of hyperventilation coming on. Calming her voice enough by the time she’d reached the turbo lift, Janeway called for Chakotay to meet her in her quarters. Whatever it was that came over Seven, she hoped that it would be gone the next time they met.
With things calmed after traveling through the vortex and repair crews scattered where needed, the captain decided to call it a night. More so than sleep, she wanted to stare from the view ports into the stars and nebulas until alpha shift began again. As Janeway vacated the captain’s chair, Chakotay called her for a nightcap, but she declined. She figured he knew all she was going to do was sit, have a cup of coffee and reflect among the stars. They’d do the same thing together; he just didn’t want to be alone while she did.
Seven joined her in the turbo lift, the doors closing on her heels. As she called for deck three, Seven halted the lift. Janeway stared straight ahead at the gray walls surrounding them waiting for Seven to say something, daring her to speak about her action in Astrometrics earlier.
“Seven, if you’re going to gawk at me, at least say something. Computer, resume.” The lift lurched onward.
“I cannot explain it.”
“It?” Janeway spoke as she exited the lift onto deck three, heading toward her quarters. She stopped not hearing Seven behind her. She knew there would be no viewing the new stars that night as she motioned Seven to follow her. When Seven caught up to her, she glanced up shortly, “Whatever it is, I’ll try to help,” her mind continued where her voice left off, ‘but if it’s what I’m thinking, there’s no way in hell I can.’
As the doors to her quarters opened, Seven rushed past and inside. Janeway watched as she sat in the chair she’d so recently occupied. “Seven?” She looked up at the questions drifting across her eyes. “Whatever it is, just ask me.” It seemed strange that the tables had turned between them. Instead of her being in distress and Seven wanting to help, now it was Seven who needed the help. Moreover, Janeway wanted to give it as much as possible.
The young woman’s face seemed pained, wanting to say the words but not quite being able to formulate the right questions or explanations. “This is about what happened in Astrometrics earlier, correct?” Seven nodded. Janeway sighed and settled on the deck directly in front of the chair, bringing her knees to her chin. “You caught me off guard, Seven. That’s why I ran out the way I did.” Only an understanding nod from Seven this time. “Why did you do it?”
Seven shrugged, “I do not know.” Her gaze was straightforward, avoiding contact with Janeway. “I… I felt… It felt right to do at the time,” she hesitated allowing Janeway to think for a moment, “but now I regret it.”
“You regret it?”
The breath Janeway was about to exhale caught in her throat and her eyes bulged slightly. “Seven,” she coughed, “what are you getting at here?” Janeway’s mind reeled for an explanation. When one came to mind, she took it off the line and tossed it back in the pond.
“I do not know. T-that is why I wished to speak with you.”
“When you felt that you wanted to do,” Janeway struggled to get her words out, “that before, what were you thinking?” She watched Seven as she thought about the question. A muscle in the woman’s jaw twitched repeatedly.
Seven blinked forcibly a few times before pinning Janeway down with a confirmed stare. “I wanted you to need me like you did earlier,” she whispered. “I cannot explain why, but that is what I wanted at the time.” Her head dipped to the right a little, “I am unsure if it was your touch that I wanted or someone’s touch in general, but I know that’s what I wanted.” She changed her mind, “What I want.”
Her mind had been right. “Seven, I cannot help you with that. I can’t be that for you for many reasons. Before I,” she sighed again not liking where the conversation had gone. “Anyone who’s my friend could have been subject to that. I admit our relationship is advanced enough that I allowed you to help me.” Janeway knew she was only making excuses. She didn’t understand why or for what.
“You consider me a friend, Captain?” Seven was optimistic on the outside even though her insides were still hurting.
Janeway smiled, hoping they’d gotten off the romantic beat, “Seven, we wouldn’t be having this conversation otherwise.” Seven smiled back at her. “Rough day, huh?” She glanced from the corner of her eye out at the stars.
“Indeed.” Seven allowed a silence to come over them for a short while. “Captain,” Janeway muttered ‘hmmm’, her attentions fully on the stars now, “if we are friends, may I call you Kathryn?”
At Seven’s question, Janeway turned her head toward the Borg, a smirk playing tricks on her lips. “Only if I can call you Annika.”
Seven considered the request for a moment, “Very well.” Kathryn smiled at her again, the approval showing in her eyes, before turning to look through the view port again. “Do you wish to be alone?”
“Not entirely.” She thought about it for a moment more. “I’m not keeping you here am I? Do you have other plans tonight?”
“No, but you seem to be more interested in the view than me.”
“Oh, Seven,” she finally turned her back on the stars, “you have no idea what that void did to me. Looking at those stars now, after all that blackness is bliss. I don’t mean to ignore you.”
“I realize it was not done intentionally; however, I overheard your short conversation with Commander Chakotay before we exited the Bridge.” She paused, “You wished to be alone.”
“Can’t a lady change her mind?” Janeway laughed. “I just didn’t want to be with him tonight, Annika. Sometimes, we’ll have dinner or have a round of Velocity on the holodeck,” she sucked in her breath, “but, he wants more than I’m willing to give him.” Seven looked as if she was about to speak so she held her hand up to quiet her. “I’ve told him more than once. He just keeps pushing. What he doesn’t understand is that he’s making it harder for me to be around him at all.”
“I was not going to ask that.” Kathryn looked puzzled. “You and the Commander have a good relationship, yes?” Janeway nodded. “He is attractive?” She smiled and nodded. “Then why do you not enter into a romantic relationship with him?”
Seven’s final question stopped her mind in its tracks. “It’s not as simple as just saying ‘yes.’ Yes, Chakotay is a good friend; I trust him with my life. I just don’t feel that way toward him,” Kathryn stopped there, wanting and not to add another phrase. Seven arched her eyebrow sensing it encouraging her to speak more. “…As I don’t feel that way toward you. I don’t want to lose what I’ve gained with him and especially you.” Some of the darkness in Seven’s eyes disappeared and she perked up. “Honestly, I’ve never had such a good relationship with a woman as I do with you.”
“B’Elanna,” she shook her head no. “B’Elanna’s more like a daughter to me; though, she is still my friend. Beyond the two of you, I’m not very close with any other women on board. I know their names in passing, but I don’t spend time with them off duty. I hardly spend time with B’Elanna off duty for that matter,” Kathryn looked down and away for a moment thinking about that then looked back up at Seven. “We’ve had a lot of good times together, Seven, but we’ve been through some rough patches here and there, too. Getting through all that made our relationship grow strong, and I’d never change any moment of it for what we have now. Especially to be sitting here talking with you now. It’s been ages since I’ve done anything like this with anyone.”
“Perhaps we should do it more often then,” Seven offered a smile before standing. “But, I believe I’ll leave you to view the stars, Kathryn,” as the name slipped off her tongue, she smiled again liking the way it tasted.
“Sounds fantastic to me.” Kathryn stood and stretched for the ceiling. “Oh that felt good.” She could see it in Seven’s expression she was ready to laugh. They turned for the door at the same time and stopped as they opened. Kathryn stepped closer to Seven and wrapped her arms around her neck, tip toeing to make it possible. “Thank you for helping me earlier, Annika.” She squeezed tight for a moment before letting go. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Seven only nodded before exiting the room, the doors closing easily behind her.