Title: The Phantom's Doing

Author: Shadower

Email: shadower872@yahoo.com

Disclaimer 1: Star Trek Voyager and its characters are the property of Paramount Pictures. I'm just taking them for a ride because I like things that can go really fast. No bodily harm was inflicted to Chakotay upon the writing of this story. Well, not much...

Disclaimer 2: The Phantom of the Opera along with its characters and lyrics belong to Andrew Lloyd Webber and probably some other people, but sadly, I'm not one of them. If I was, I'd be rich.

Fandom: Star Trek Voyager - Janeway / Seven

Rating: R for the series

Spoilers: Heavy Endgame spoilers

Summary: Partly post endgame. After seven years in the Delta Quadrant, the Phantom brings with him a realization.

Author's Notes 1: I want to take a moment to thank my beta Chandi, who despite various problems with her comp managed to break the warp 10 barrier as she beta'ed this fic.

Author's Notes 2: Blame, and thanks, also goes out to three others (you know who you are!) who not only managed to keep a straight face when I asked the most important questions, like 'what color goes good well with green?' but actually give several answers and visuals to get me writing again.

Archiving: 'Realm of the Shadow', and 'Passion and Perfection'. Otherwise , if you want it – please ask first.

Light blue eyes blinked into the darkness as the woman looked up at the ceiling above her bed. "Computer, time?"

"The time is 0512 hours." Sighing deeply, Captain Kathryn Janeway sat up, throwing the covers off her body and stretching. Tonight was the third consecutive night she had not been able to sleep for more then two hours, and it was starting to take its toll on her. She felt herself becoming more and more short-tempered, irritable, and rash. Maybe I should head to sickbay. I've never suffered from insomnia this badly before. Standing up and rolling her shoulders only to hear a telltale 'pop', she made up her mind – after the shift. It was less then 20 minutes later that she stepped into the mess hall, her command mask firmly in place as she greeted the staff members that looked up to catch her eye with a nod.

They had been in the Delta Quadrant for over half a decade now, and the people knew the character that was their captain well, and in this case she was glad for it: she could get her cup of coffee in peace.

"Good morning, Captain!" Neelix beamed a smile at her from where he stood across the counter. She gave him a pointed stare, the tiredness shining through her eyes taking most of the edge off. "You look like you haven't slept in days."

"Thank you, Neelix; you really know how to flatter a girl." He gave her a small smile.

"How about I whip you up some pancakes? I got a recipe from Ensign Green, and I've been waiting for a reason to try it for days." It was all the Captain could do to keep herself from shuddering.

"Thank you, Neelix, but I think I'll just stick with coffee right now. Maybe tomorrow."

"Are you sure?"

"I am. Thank you." She turned her eyes back to her cup hoping for a little time to let the brew kick in and up the dangerously low levels of caffeine in her system. It took her a couple of minutes to realize that her hopes wouldn't be fulfilled anytime soon. The Captain sighed deeply before placing her empty mug back on the counter and leaving the mess hall to head to the bridge for the beginning of her duty shift. The hallways leading to the bridge were relatively empty for this time of morning, for that Captain Janeway was happy: the less she had to interact with people today, the better. Hopefully there wouldn't be any requests for crew rotations so she could shut herself in the ready room for most of the shift. Unless they encounter an extremely hostile race. That would be just my luck...

"Captain on the bridge!" said a couple of young ensigns, happy to be leaving their shift soon.

"Morning, everyone." She smiled through her mask. "Report."

"All seems to be fine, Captain." Chakotay, her second in command, stood up from his chair and took a few steps so that he could stand closer to the woman. "Engines and Shields are at optimum efficiency, and scanners indicate a small class M plant not too far, though we still can't be sure in regards to the population."

"Can't be sure?" she inquired, slipping into her chair and crossing her arms in front of her as she leaned slightly back and crossed her legs at the knees.

"Yes. The planet seems... empty. There are no masses of civilization, no outgoing transmissions; it's as though the planet has not yet reached the evolutionary levels that earth had reached in 1000AD."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, Captain." The voice answering her inquiry wasn't that of Chakotay, but higher and feminine. If it wasn't for the low levels of energy currently occupied solely by the tasks of keeping her body upright in a sitting position and her eyelids from drooping, she was sure she would have jumped to her feet, startled by the voice coming from her immediate right. Looking up to meet the blue eyes of her Astrometrics Officer, she made a small gesture for the former Borg drone to continue. "I have run scans of the planet's surface on both the short and long range scanners and so far I am unable to locate any masses of population, large or small."

As she looked at the woman, she couldn't help but see the transformation that had occurred since they had severed the statuesque blue-eyed blonde from the Borg collective just a few years ago. In that time, she had seen the younger woman flourish from the Borg drone who wanted noting but to return to the comfort of the collective, the only kind of family she knew, even going so far as to try and take over the ship and hurt its Captain in attempt to free herself. But as the Borg collective was all Seven knew at the time, the attempt wasn't taken all that seriously by the older woman, especially since it failed so miserably.

"There are no signals emitted from the planet, no satellites, nothing?" Chakotay shook his head.

"None, Captain, not even radio signals." She frowned.

"All right. Maintain course and keep scanning. If there is intelligent life down there, I don't want to interfere with them, even if they are in biblical times. The last thing we need is to start a new religion."

"Why not?" her first officer shot her an amused smirk. "Didn't you ever want to play god?" The only response he got was an exasperated look from the sitting woman and a raised eyebrow from the other.

"I was unaware that one could 'play god'. How does one..." She stopped at a small wave of the Captain's hand as the older woman rose to her feet.

"It's a figure of speech, Seven. It means someone who controls and manipulates people's fates on a whim." She could almost see the nanobots scurrying around in the younger woman's head as she filed the information for future use.

"The same way you do on this ship?" All activity in the bridge stopped as heads were turned in direction of the pair, wondering how their captain will answer. For her part, the auburn haired captain was trying not to let her jaw hit the floor in shock and hurt. Why hurt? Is that... This is Seven asking for information. Don't read anymore then there is into this, Kathryn.

"I am the ship’s Captain, I am responsible for what the vessel does as a whole and hence - to the productivity and welfare of its occupants. But I don't decide on matters based on my personal wills and desires alone. I do what is best for the ship and the people in it."

"I see." Kathryn sighed before turning back to Chakotay.

"You have the bridge, Commander; I'll be in my ready room." As she turned on her heel and started to leave, she added quietly, intending her words for the tall woman alone: "When said to someone, the phrase is usually an insult, Seven." The ready room doors closed behind her before she could get a response. Sitting down at her chair, she mentally counted back, expecting the door to chime. But when she had reached zero for the second time and was still left in silence, she smiled sadly and rose to her feet, getting a cup of coffee before sitting down again to work through the PADD's waiting her attention.

The next time she raised her head slightly to ask the computer for the time, it was nearly the end of her shift. And after having been alone in her ready room almost all day and never once hearing from Seven, she decided to head to Astrometrics. Maybe this way she could at least find out if the scans on the planet have revealed anything new. She took the long way to the lab, walking by a couple of hallways which held windows facing the planet and stopping to look at the sight.

They weren't as close as to allow her to see more then a small half-marble painted in blue and white, but the vision was breathtaking. It looked almost like Earth, and for the life of her she wasn't sure if that was a good or a bad thing. On the one hand - it was hope. But on the other hand, that resemblance only served as a reminder of the place they had lost. Of the people left behind, the families parted without knowledge of when and if they would ever return. It was an image representing her failure. She turned away from the windowed halls and headed deeper into the ship, closing her eyes for a moment before once again squaring her shoulders and moving in purpose-filled strides. Her crew could not see her like this. They could not see their captain when she's doubting, hurting, and weak.

It took less then five minutes to find herself in front of the doors that would lead her to Seven, and after running her fingers once through her hair, she moved to a spot where the doors would open for her and she could enter.

The tall woman turned to face her as the doors closed her face and eyes a blank. "Good... afternoon Captain," Seven said after calculating the appropriate phrasing of her greeting. I thought I was getting better at reading her.

"Good afternoon, Seven," she replied as she stepped closer to the work console, leaning against it in what she hoped looked more like nonchalance then fatigue. "Is there anything new in regards to the planet?"

"No, Captain. I have run scans at one hour intervals since the planet was first sighted. At the speed that Voyager is traveling, scanning at shorter intervals would not be as efficient." Kathryn nodded.

"If we maintain course and speed, we should arrive within beaming distance to the planet in about three days. When we do, I plan to set up a few away teams that will go down to the planet and collect any materials that could replenish our supplies. Would you like to join one of the teams?"

"I believe I would."

"Good. In that case..." the Captain gently pushed herself away from the console and to a more upright stance only to have the room spin round her for a moment. She closed her eyes, willing the room to stop before attempting to reopen them, only to find the other woman standing closer to her, her eyes showing her concern.

"Are you... all right Captain?"

"I'm fine Seven." the shorter woman replied quickly, hoping to delay any other questions and suggestions. "I'm just tired. I think I'll call it a night early today." An eyebrow arched. "It means - go to bed."

"I see."


I know this place... this meadow... Those mountains! I'm home! The captain of the U.S.S. Voyager looked around, her joy swelling in her chest as she started up the near by hill, knowing that behind it she will finally be able to see the place she had missed all these long years: her mother’s farmhouse. Her smile and stride grew with each step she took until she was running, 'captain decorum' be damned.

She reached the top of the hill with her eyes closed tightly, wanting to experience the full force of the vision awaiting her. The gentle breeze pushed her hair back behind her shoulders as she stopped to catch her breath. She realized then that that soft wind in the trees was all she heard: there were no voices, no birds, no machinery, nothing. It was just her breath and the wind.

Twin blue eyes shot open and the woman fell to her knees in the grass as the view struck her like a physical blow. There was no farmhouse, no barn, and no trees. Nothing but grassland. Above her, a second yellow sun joined the first in the sky as if taunting her. Laughing at the notion that caught her in its grip, all she could do was scream out her pain. She didn't, she couldn't, stop the tears as she sobbed for the home she lost, the family she missed, a whole planet left behind. Lowering her shoulders, she bent almost painfully low, burying her face in her hands and her shoulder in the tall grass as she wept.

She only rose slightly when she felt a presence behind her. Strong, yet comforting and soft. She wouldn't turn around. She can't let this person see her like this. Not when she could at least maintain some of her dignity. But the presence showed no need for that and just stood behind her, allowing her to absorb the sense of peace and comfort it emitted.

After a few moments, she could feel it moving, and a soft weight was placed against her shoulders and back, the feeling of company and comfort now radiating from there. Raising her head and daring to look, she was that the

stranger? had placed a soft, woolen fabric on her shoulders and let it hang from her back. The color was a mixture of white and light browns and by the shape of the garment she wasn't sure if it was a blanket or a cloak. But it didn't matter, she was no longer alone.


Captain Kathryn Janeway sat at her ready room desk, a cup of hot coffee at hand as she ran the events of last night's dream through her mind for a second time that morning. These dreams had started two days ago and were now a reoccurring fixture in her sleepless nights. It was the same every night for nearly a week now - she would go to bed, sleep for less then two hours and wake up with a new dream fresh in her mind. In her dreams, she was as alone as she felt in her waking hours, but then that presence would come and she would be safe and warm. They never spoke in her dreams, nor did she ever see the figure which stood so close to her. But the presence alone was enough to calm her.

After the first night, she woke up feeling rested. But the feeling fled her body as soon as she sat up. It has been so for three nights now, and by the end of today - they would reach the planet, and maybe a night on the surface with an away team would be the cure for her insomnia.

The chime to her door sounded, startling her out of her reverie and she straightened as she called the person on the outside of her door to enter. The doors swished open and she smiled to see Chakotay motioning for Seven to enter before him, and immediately had to suppress a frown as she watched him look at the woman walk.


"We have reached orbit, Captain, and are ready to begin site to site transport of the away teams," stated her second. She nodded.

"Do you have anything to add, Seven?"

"No, Captain. However I wish to inquire as to the possibility of..." she paused, "exploring the planet’s surface with one of the away teams leaving today." Janeway sighed as she placed her mug down on the table, then stood up and headed to the windows, looking out at the azure orb dotted with white. When they were in viewing distance of the planet, people rushed to available windows, hoping to see a semblance to the planet they left behind. She was glad that they didn't. The geography of the orb made that distinction very prominent, very soon, as the two masses of land that covered about a sixth of the surface looked too different and shape and color than they ere supposed to. The red soil served as a reminder that they were still strangers here, that they still had a way to go. Not that I could ever forget.

"I would rather you didn't go this early in the exploration Seven. There are still matters that need your attention on deck. But you will be on surface tomorrow."


"No, Seven." Her voice was cold and firm, much more than she thought it would be, and the Captain tried not to wince at its harshness as she cut the woman off. "You are needed here. You will leave tomorrow. Dismissed, both of you."

"Yes, Captain."

"Understood." Unlike Seven, who turned on her heel and left, Chakotay took a moment to look at her before he left, and for the life of her she didn't know which had hurt more, or why she was so hard on the young woman. There was no reason. I will go after her and apologize.

Raising herself from the couch, the woman was able to take two steps before collapsing on the floor.

After the second time he chimed and got no permission to enter, Tom Paris decided he would wait no longer and enter anyway, knowing that there was no way that the Captain hadn't heard the chime. He wasn't completely through the door when he dropped the PADD he was carrying and ran to his captain, turning her over so that he had easier access to her pulse point. "Computer, site to site transport, two to beam directly to sickbay."

"Please state the nature of the medical emergency." The doctor appeared stating the old customary greeting before grinning to himself and looking about to see Tom in the same position he had taken in the ready room: kneeling with the captain in his arms. "Oh my goodness! Quickly Tom, get her on the biobed."

Word was quickly out to Chakotay, and from him to all the senior staff regarding the captain’s incapacitation, and it was not long before Tom, B'Elanna, Tuvok, Harry Kim and Seven joined him in an out of the way conference room.

"Tom, since you were with the Doctor, you give the update." Five sets of eyes turned to the man and he leaned forward in his seat, entwining his fingers as he placed his elbows on the table top.

"Captain Janeway is in sickbay. I found her lying on the floor of her ready room and took her the Doctor almost an hour ago. He says this is exhaustion, so we have nothing to fear, but he injected her with enough drugs go get a horse to sleep for a week." Chakotay took lead of the conversation from there.

"This means I will be taking command of Voyager, which will leave me unable to lead the Alpha team. I know that all of you have a lot of work that needs to be done, but I would greatly appreciate it if one of you took my place. I would rather a senior officer lead them." He turned to the blonde woman staring at the tabletop, "Seven, how about you?" Blue eyes slowly rose to meet his own.

"I don't that's wise, Chakotay," a second female voice interjected. "No offense, Seven, but the Alpha team needs to be led by someone who knows how to command, and Seven is more of a loner than a leader."

"Well, there isn't an abundance of commanders on this ship."

"No, but there are department heads."

"I concur. While we can not question the capability of Seven, we can not let the de-facto leader of all the teams be an inexperienced one." B'Elanna nodded.

"I say let Tuvok do it. He has the experience, and the people will take him replacing you better than..." She cringed slightly. "I'm sorry, Seven, I didn't mean for it to sound like that. What I meant was..."

"Lieutenant Torres," the cool voice cut her off. "I have comprehended your meaning and do not find it hurtful. You may continue."

"That was my whole point actually. What do you think Tuvok?"

"That would be the most logical course of action," he agreed.

"All right, in that case: Tuvok, come with me and we'll let the other team leaders know of the change. The reason for it does not, however, leave this room. Dismissed." Seven only noticed her surroundings again when she stepped through the doors to sickbay. She hadn't noticed walking this way, or telling the turbo lift to take her where she needed to go, but she was here nonetheless and the Doctor was headed her way.

"Good morning Seven!" he beamed at her. "What can I do for you this morning?"

"I am here to see the Captain."

"The Captain?" he looked perplexed. "She isn't here Seven." Her brow furrowed in confusion.

"The Commander had stated that..."

"Shh!" He took her by the arm to his office and stood facing the doorway. "The Commander and I have agreed to keep the matter of the Captain’s... condition on a need to know basis so that it doesn't affect moral. People on ships tend to be a superstitious lot at times." He chuckled softly. Seven's pointed stare made sure he soon picked up this line of thought. "Anyway, since there was no danger, and what the Captain needed most is rest, then I have moved her to her quarters." When the woman looked as though she was ready to protest, he raised his hand indicating that he was not yet finished. "I was, however, hoping that I could be allowed to share this "secret" with another individual that will be willing to look after her: watch her to see that her condition is not deteriorating, that my diagnostic was indeed correct. Not that I doubt that in the least, but it never hurts to make sure."

"I will do it."

"Seven, you don't have to do this. I'm sure I can find some crew member that will be..."

"Your protests are futile. You have stated that the Captain's condition will be divulged only to those who need to know it. I already know and it will hence be more efficient to let me look after her instead of informing another crewmember and hoping that this person will not speak of the matter, even after we break orbit and continue our journey home."

After a short moment to think over her words, the Doctor agreed and handed her a tricorder. "I would suggest you take several PADDs with you. It will probably be hours before she wakes."

Chapter 2

She was standing in her quarters, a cup of hot coffee held tightly in her hands. In the background, soft jazz music was playing, and in front of her was the vastness of space. Black silk and diamonds. Tightening the robe, she looked out into the cold view and could barely suppress a shudder.

The hairs on the back of her head told her when she wasn't alone anymore, and she smiled. "I've been expecting you." Her visitor was quiet. "I've been starting to wonder if I'll ever get a chance to hear your voice." She admitted to the figure standing next to her as she continued to look out at the stars.

"All you needed to do was ask." It replied in a familiar voice.

"Then I guess I'm asking." She could feel the being smile. "Why are you here?"

"Would you rather I left?"

"No, I... didn't say that. But I was wondering..." she let the sentence die, not sure how she wanted to end it.

"I am here because you need me." Kathryn took another sip of her coffee.

"You gave me a blanket once."

"Affirmative." She laughed, still not turning to face the being at her side.

"I never understood why people prefer that word to a simple 'yes'."

"Perhaps it is conviction that makes one take the longer route."

"I beg your pardon?"

"Why settle for something short when you can have something everlasting?"

"Was that supposed to be and explanation?" the being smiled again.

"Yes. And you will ask the question that leads to it in time." Kathryn blinked at the stars in confusion.

"What do you mean?"

"Captain?" The voice was near her, and if she could just open her eyes... "Captain," she heard the soft voice again. It was as though it was trying not to wake her while inquiring if she was still, in fact asleep. "Are you awake?" It took but a moment for realization to dawn on her as to the person's identity.

"I'm awake, Seven." Opening her eyes slowly to take in the dimly lit room she was, for a moment, disoriented until objects came to better focus and she recognized her quarters. "What am I doing here?"

"You had... collapsed, Captain. The Doctor says you suffer from severe exhaustion, and that you must rest." Tentatively, she raised a hand to her forehead, winching at the headache setting in.

"How long have I been out?"


"Unconscious, asleep."

"23.39 hours." Closing her eyes, Kathryn huffed. "Do you require anything, Captain?"

"A glass of water please."

"I will comply." The Captain leaned deeper into her pillows to stretch away the remains of sleep before sitting up, feeling better than she had in days. And this time the feeling wasn't fleeting, she couldn't help but smile.

"Don't tell me the senior staff has been taking turns watching over me," she half-stated, half-asked the woman returning with the requested beverage.

"No, they were not," came the reply as the former drone handed her the glass.

"Then what were you...?"

"The Doctor has asked me to monitor your condition and report any change to him."

"And you were here all along?" The blonde woman nodded and Kathryn couldn't help but press on. "So why not just keep me in sickbay?"

"The Commander and the Doctor have decided that seeing you in sickbay might result in inefficiency among the crew." The older woman mouthed 'oh' and sipped her water, at a loss for words to phrase the question running through her mind. "I should inform the Doctor that you are awake." Nodding her accent, she watched as Seven contacted the Doctor who promised to be there shortly.

True to his words, he was stepping through her bedroom door in minutes. Seven stepped over to the other side of the bed to allow him to work. A short examination revealed that she was now a bit dehydrated, but all right. "I want you to rest Captain, and drink a lot."

"What if I go planet side, Doctor? I promise not to any heavy lifting and I know the fresh air will do me good."

"Why do always I feel a need to worry whenever you promise me something concerning your health?" She shrugged, her face purely innocent. The man sighed and shook his head. "You are making life hard for this hologram... I would agree on one condition - that someone goes with you on shore leave to make sure you follow my instructions." The Captain laughed as she threw her legs over the side of the bed and got to her feet.

"Fine Doctor, I will join one of the teams, and..."

"No, no," he cut her short with a raised hand. "You and another person will be going to the shore leave site. I have no problem with you spending the night on site, but you are not joining a team. I know you Captain - if you do, you're going to want to show them that you can pull your own weight, literally. And I can not allow that. I'm allowing you to take a crewman, not a team."

"You're serious about this, aren't you?"

"Of course. You collapsed due to severe exhaustion, I have half a mind to look though my matrix and find an hour long reprimand about not coming to me sooner." Her shoulders slumped.

"You're right." He brightened, a smug smile settling on his face.

"Of course I am." Sitting back on her bed, the Captain frowned up at him.

"Do you have anyone in particular in mind or should I ask for someone over the ships comm system?"

"That will be unnecessary." The two turned their attention to the woman standing at the other side of the bed, her posture ramrod straight, her hands clasped behind her back. "I shall endeavor to the surface of the planet with you." The look of confusion melted from Captain Janeway's face, replaced with a soft smile.

"You have given me much of your time already, Seven. I can't ask you to do this, not when you can be more productive if you go down with the team you are supposed to go with."

"I am not scheduled for an excursion." The confused look returned to the older woman's face. "I asked Commander Chakotay to remove me from that mission so that I could be..." the woman paused as she tried to find the correct word "here."


"I will leave you to get ready, Captain. I am sure you are anxious to depart." The older woman blinked in confusion as the blonde apparently dismissed herself and left. A few moments later the Doctor cleared his throat and she turned back to face him.

"I'm sorry, Doctor," she apologized as she got to her feet "she just... confuses me so much sometimes."

"You are her friend, Captain, she cares for you." She waved a hand in dismissal of his statement.

"I'm aware of that. That wasn't my point: it feels like every time I've adjusted to a change, another one pops up. I enjoy her development immensely, but sometimes it just happens so fast..."

"You sound like a parent, Captain." He looked at her with a gentle smile. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll return to sickbay." Nodding her head, she dismissed him.

Less then an hour later, the two women were in the transporter room heading to where the crew decided to erect a campsite for all who didn't want to stay alone in the wilderness. The encampment was made up of several circles of tents in various sizes around the remains of a bonfire circled with rocks.

"Captain!" A surprised Lieutenant Russom jumped to her feet as the two materialized a few feet away from her. "I mean," she blushed, "Hi Captain, Seven." Captain Janeway smiled at the woman and inclined her head.

"Alex. Nice place you set up here." The woman's blush deepened.

"Thank you Captain, but I wasn't here during the set-up. I was with the second beta team at the time."

"I see." She looked around. "Who took charge of the sleeping arrangements?"

"Skon" The Captain's smile almost turned to a smirk.

"Of course he did. I'll go find him then." The young lieutenant pointed the way where the Vulcan was last seen and the Captain walked off to find him, leaving the two younger women alone.

It was less then an hour later that they had claimed a three person's tent in the third circle. It was the one furthest from the fire pit, and seeing as most of the tents around were still unoccupied - the Captain knew that the privacy she'd crave at the end of the day could easily be found there. She took the rest of the day to relax and get to know the immediate area around the site with Seven never straying from her side and Lieutenant Russom playing the role of their tour guide. She occasionally tried to prompt Seven into smiling or playing a game with the other crew members, with little luck. Kathryn was glad she didn't try the same tactic with her as she had no idea how to explain Seven forbidding her to do anything strenuous, as she knew the blonde would if she would show interest in any of the games that involved running, jumping, or any other form of activity that would cause her to sweat. So she kept her expression schooled and opted for a short hike to get to know their surroundings, sending Seven a force three glare when the third woman in their party wasn't paying attention. The glare hit its mark and Seven was mostly silent during their walk.

"Alex." It was getting dark and the trio were retuning to the campsite when something dawned on the older woman "What do you do here at night?" The lieutenant laughed.

"Most people don't like to stay the night and prefer to return to their quarters, but those of us who stay find ways to entertain ourselves." At the Captain's raised eyebrow, the raven haired woman threw her hands level with her shoulders her eyes wide "I didn't mean that!" The surprise on her face turned to contemplation as she added "I wouldn't be surprised though... But to answer your question - some of us looked up the old Terran and Bajoran ways of having a bonfire, and we adapted them both. So we're cooking potatoes in it, and barbecuing some meat that we managed to get from Neelix, though he was appalled that we wanted it raw until we explained. After dinner, there will probably be singing if Tom Paris found the music to some of the songs found in the databases, or we'll improvise. Then head to sleep," she shrugged. "Do you sing Captain?" She asked with a gleam in her eye. Seven raised her eyebrow at the woman's tone of voice. The Captain chose a short laugh as an answer and shook her head.

"I don't sing." She couldn't help but laugh again at the younger woman's proposition of twisting her arm once the gathering started to pick up. Not long after that, they were back at the camp and parted ways so that the lieutenant could help set up dinner. The other two women made their way to their shred tent.

"You were very quiet today, Seven."

"I was enjoying the view."

"It is beautiful here, isn't it? But you are still a terrible liar, dear." The woman looked at her captain in surprise.

"I am Borg, I do not..." she was stopped with when the woman beside her shook her head sadly.

"Seven, you don't need to tell me anything, and if you don't want to talk about something just say so. But please don't insult my intelligence."

"I... I'm sorry, Captain."

"It's alright, Seven, just don't do it again." She motioned at the tent. "I'm going in to get my knife. Do you need something from inside?" After replying she didn't, the older woman went inside. Pulling out the two sleeping bags they replicated before leaving, as well as her fathers old hunting knife, she quickly set up the sleeping bags, placed the knife in her pocket and left. "I set up the sleeping bags," she explained when stepping out.

Dinner was a loud affair, making Captain Janeway and Seven both step back slightly and observe more them participate, each due to reasons of her own. As the boisterous affair of dividing the food began to die down, the two found a seat on a log across from most and ate quietly. Seven, trying to understand the purpose of the behavior of the people around her but knowing what she did about what was considered polite, chose to file some of her questions away for a more appropriate time. Kathryn, on the other hand, was enjoying herself and trying not to show it too much. And they said they found a coffee plant not far away. Thank heaven for technology, she could enjoy it today.

When the 15 crewmembers that remained on site had had their fill, the plates were taken away and they settled back down with either cups of coffee or hot cocoa. Taking a long sip of her brew, she nudged Seven, "Try it. It tastes much different than coffee, I think you'll like it." She watched as the woman tasted the beverage carefully and smiled as ice blue eyes, turned almost purple in the firelight, widened as the taste registered. They fluttered close as the woman indulged herself by taking another long sip. "Just don't moan, Seven, people might take it the wrong way." With that, Kathryn sat beside her, burying her smirk in her mug as conversation started around them turning Captain Janeway's focus to the others.

"Alex!" an ensign called from the other end of the fire pit as the raven haired lieutenant managed to bring herself to sit with the Captain and the Borg, pulling her attention from the auburn haired woman who was explaining the purpose of marshmallows to the former drone. "You said you wanted us to sing around the fire. Why don't you start?" His tone was one of playful challenge, and the woman raised her head slightly as she thought for a moment.

"Alright. When I was little, my parents took me camping once." Conversation stopped as the woman told her story. "My mother taught me this old Terran song then. I know most of you know it, and if you don't join in I'll stop after the first verse." She threatened, her smile taking away the potency of her words. When she opened her mouth again, a clear and strong soprano started the words to 'Where Are All Those Girls'.

A quiet gasp from the woman beside her caused Seven to turn her head in direction of her captain and saw her openly staring at the Lieutenant, her mouth slightly open in amazement. It wasn't long before nearly all the people sitting joined the in song, but true to her word - the older woman stayed silent throughout the evening, reverting attention away from her when someone asked her to sing with grace and ease in a way that most didn't even notice what she was doing.

The happiness around her was infectious, but Kathryn couldn't help but pull herself slightly back. One of the guidelines she was taught when learning command was not to fraternize with her crew. In her wish to be on solid ground, with fresh air and trees around her she had forgotten that staying the night meant she would have to do just that, especially with the atmosphere around the fire. Taking a moment to thank heaven for keeping the people in the campsite from drinking alcohol, she turned her attention once again to the woman at her side as she called up another song from memory, leading the crowd until they were comfortable enough in each others company to suggest songs themselves.

But it was that voice, the beautiful clear soprano that struck a cord in her heart and wound itself around her mind and sent it reeling. It was almost as though the woman had operatic training, and if she did then Neelix's upcoming talent night was going to be all the more interesting if the woman entered it. As a thought took shape in her head, she couldn't help but smirk. I will just have to find out if it's doable. Her thoughts let her from their grasp well after a plan formed in her head, and Captain Janeway noticed that she hadn't noticed when the song they were singing now had started, or what were the previous few songs. Deciding this was as good a time as any, she rose to her feet, bid her people goodnight and headed to the tent for the night.


She was standing on a hill, gentle wind blowing around her, making the grass bow down in waves that rolled into the distance towards the setting sun. Feeling calmer than she had expected, she turned too look at her surroundings, the evergreens, grass and sky soothing away any remains of the burden she always seemed to carry these days. At the edge of the forest, partially hidden in the shade, stood a lone figure, her long hair and the hem of her dress, ‘or is it a skirt,’ swaying gently in the wind. Smiling gently to herself, Kathryn made her way to the woman who kept herself shaded enough so that she couldn't see the woman's face. Standing in front of her, Kathryn smiled. "It's been a while."

"It has." The woman agreed and turned, gesturing for Kathryn to follow. Smiling gently, she did, and the woman she trusted so took her through well lit paths, while keeping to the shadows, her face never in view.

"Wait..." the other woman stopped, and Kathryn did her best to try and see her face. It was a blur "I..." huffing in her frustration she tried again "Why can't I see you?" The woman seemed saddened

"I suppose it is because you are not ready."

"But..." The sentence died on her lips.

"Tell me what it is you desire Kathryn." the name coming from the woman's mouth felt like a caress against her skin. She closed her eyes, savoring the feeling of it before remembering that the woman had made a request. Opening her eyes to answer, she was surprised to see that the other woman was no longer in front of her. "Kathryn..." The name was whispered from behind her by the familiar velvet-soft voice. "You enjoy it when I say your name..."The woman's tone was nearly one of wonder. Closing her eyes again, she could only nod her assent. She felt the comforting presence come closer, stepping so close that the front of her body molded into Kathryn's back. She could hear the wind in the trees as it passed through branches. In the distance there were birds, but as the contact between their bodies increased she could sense those sounds less and less, her body focusing on the one behind it. The soft swell of breasts pressed against her upper back made her shiver and the woman encircled her with her hands. "Better?" Warm breath blew by her ear and she sank back into the embrace not trusting her voice. Feeling warm, protected, and loved, she let her head rest against a nearby shoulder and inhaled the woman's sent as she breathed. It was familiar, and right at the edge of her consciousness, but for some reason it kept evading her.

It was seconds or hours later that the woman behind her moved slightly, making the smaller woman open her eyes at the sudden loss. "You are tired Kathryn, you must rest." Picking her up ever so gently, she took the few steps from where they stood to Kathryn's bed and gently placed her cargo in it, covering the woman with her blanket.

"Stay with me?"

Ice blue eyes locked onto hers with a tender smile. "As you wish."

Waking up seconds, or hours, later she turned in her bed, almost surprised to find it empty. Sighing sadly she got out of bed and got ready for her shift.


When the alpha shift began, the Captain was already sitting in her chair, her second sitting to her right as she gave the command to break orbit two days after having woken up on the surface of the planet. Talent night was scheduled for three days from now and she hoped that conflicting schedules wouldn't cause her plan to backfire.

"Is everything all right, Captain?" Chakotay turned to her and asked in low tones, knowing how she preferred to keep some distance from the rest of her crew.

"I am Chakotay. Why do you ask?"

"You just seem a bit distracted in the past couple of days." She smiled to him and patted his hand.

"I'm fine Chakotay. I just have some things on my mind. I'll get answers to them today though."

"Okay..." He fumbled for a moment before taking a deep breath and adding, "Captain, will you be going to the talent night?" She quirked an eyebrow at the man

"I might make an appearance. Why do you ask?"

"Well," he shifted slightly under her gaze and turned a glance at Seven who was busy at her console before looking back, "B'Elanna, Tom, Seven, and I will be going together and we thought that maybe you might want to come with us?" Over at her console Seven's fingers stopped moving momentarily as her eyes locked on the two commanding officers of Voyager speaking in quiet tones. Knowing it was improbable that anyone other then herself heard the two, she resumed her work, not sure whether she wished the woman would accept or decline.

"I can't give you a definite answer just yet, Chakotay." Captain Janeway replied with a small smile that she knew would drive her second mad as he would undoubtedly try to figure out why.

"A date, Captain?" he asked, trying to keep the surprise out of his voice. Her response was a hearty laugh as she got to her feet.

"Not hardly. Just something I want to look into." Nodding her head at him, the command mask once again fully in place, she turned the bridge over to his command. "I'll be in my ready room." Just as the woman turned to the doors to her ready room, the doors leading to the bridge swished open and Lieutenant Russom walked in, stopping abruptly when seeing the captain. "You're early," the auburn haired captain said casually and motioned to her ready room leading the way in.

"Anyone know what that's all about?" Tom asked from his station. "I don't think I've ever seen Russom here."

"Indeed," came the reply from Tuvok, and Seven fought hard against the urge to stop working or enhance her hearing to the best of her capabilities in hopes of hearing the conversation. Deeming the act inefficient as the room was soundproof, she returned to her tasks. The raven haired lieutenant stepped out twenty minutes later, trying to hide the added spring in her step. Two members aboard the bridge noticed, and said nothing.

Inside the ready room, an elated Kathryn took a long hard look at the stack of PADDs awaiting her in order to summon back the Starfleet Captain that had left the room along with the other woman, leaving her alone to celebrate. Celebrate what exactly? What do I hope to achieve in this? Not sure she knew or wanted an answer yet, she rolled her shoulders and set to work. There were still quite a few hours before she could send the rest of her plan to motion and she just hoped that the younger woman was game. Time will tell Katie, only time will tell.

When the end of duty shift came and the Captain left almost immediately heads turned. It was easy to tell she was hiding something, that she knew, but there was a big difference between knowing she was hiding something and knowing what it was, and Kathryn hoped she could keep the second part of that equation unknown for as long as she possibly could. The question was how. They were confined to the ship and she and the lieutenant would have to meet and rehearse if they were going to sing together. Hopefully she'll agree to my suggestion. This way we can log in the characters names instead of ours. I would really rather people wouldn't know I sing, this could end up all over the ship! Entering the holodeck, she nodded at the woman already waiting for her. Starting the program, she showed the other woman her plan and was happy to see the woman accept. Ordering the computer to send a copy of the sheet music to the song to both their personal PADDs, she moved the program forward to give the other woman more insight into the workings of this old story.

When it ended the younger woman was near tears. "That was beautiful..." she smiled up at her captain who was still looking at the tombstone. "But the ending was... creepy." The other woman turned to face her.

"I thought the same the first time I saw it."

"And now?"

"I'm not sure. In a way, it's sweet that he had kept loving her all this time. But then again, I'm not sure if this was love or an obsession. But our time here is almost up, we should head out, we can continue this conversation later."

"Another minute, Captain? I was thinking about clothes, and I think I found something that would be... uh..." she tried her best not to blush "fitting." Her response was a raised eyebrow, but instead of explaining the younger woman asked the computer to show them two characters from the vid. "I was thinking about this for me, without the cape, though. And this one for you. But maybe in different colors..." she mused. "Forest green and mustard might work in this setting and with the blonde hair, but... it's ugly." The Captain nodded her assent with a smile.

"Any ideas?"

"Well, there's always the classic black with red trim, unless you're getting tired of the combination." she added with a small smile. "Blue or green trims can work out well, too, as long as the trim stands out. Alexis blue and white can work too, but maybe not with your hair..."

"Alexis blue? Not named after you I presume..." the Lieutenant had the grace to blush.

"After an old friend of my mother's, actually. She'd wear that color so often that the name just caught on in my family... Most know it as royal blue."

"I see." she pondered the thought. "I'll think about it and we'll work it out. Same time tomorrow?" Alex nodded and they shut down the program, each making her way to her own quarters.

Chapter 3

"Thank you, B'Elanna, for assisting me in choosing appropriate attire for this evening."

"You're welcome Seven," answered the smaller woman as she looked up from the replicator. "Would you come closer, I don't need to choose your outfit, your input is important too." The broad smile took the edge off her words and Seven stepped closer to the smaller woman and looked as expert fingers displayed the different clothes that could be replicated. After Seven chose a white dress for herself and as she watched the replicator produced a navy blue dress of a very different cut, then the former drone's low in the front and even lower in the back attire, B'Elanna could hold herself no longer and aimed for indifference as she reached for the silky fabric. "So, is this your first date with Chakotay?" Seven's eyebrow rose at the question.

"Are you insinuating that the Commander is attempting to court me?"

"I'm not insinuating anything," was the defensive reply. "But you two are coming with Tom and me, I figured this was a double date."

"Double date?" The blonde tilted her head slightly as she ran the words through her head, trying to match a meaning to the term. "Explain." B'Elanna sighed

"A double date is when two couples go out together. It usually happens when each of the two couple are secure enough, or if one of them isn't and wants..."

"Backup?" Seven tried to supply when the other woman quieted for a moment. A snort escaped B'Elanna's lips.

"I've never heard it being referred as that before, but yes. It really depends on the couple and whether they need the," she smiled, "backup or just want an evening out with other friends. I take it this is your first date?"

"I have already engaged in a 'first date'."

"I meant with Chakotay. Leave your hair down Seven, you look more beautiful this way."

"I will comply." She paused. "I was unaware that this was a date with the Commander, so I am unsure as to the correct response to your question."

"Then forget about it. For all we know - this is just a night with friends."

"I think I would like that." Exchanging smiles, the two headed out of Cargo Bay Two and towards Holodeck one where Neelix was hosting the night. When they entered, they saw Tom and Chakotay already waiting for them and headed over to the table nearest to the stage where Tom stood to greet his wife and Chakotay followed his lead in greeting Seven.

"You look beautiful tonight, Seven."

"The outfit does look rather becoming on you Seven," greeted Neelix, seemingly emerging out of thin air and making the half-Klingon woman swear in her surprise. "I'm glad you all made it!"

"Thank you." He beamed a smile at the group and left to help others coming in to take their seats.

"What am I, chopped liver?"

"You're the most beautiful woman here, no offense, Seven." Tom reassured his wife who smiled at him as he pulled out a chair for her.

"Flatterer." He beamed her a smile, and they were all soon sitting and talking comfortably.

"Did the Captain actually tell you if she was going to come?" Tom asked when the stream of people entering seemed to lessen and Neelix started making his way to the stage to start the evening.

"She said she might make an appearance, but she was rather vague."

"That's not like her."

"I know. I just hope she is alright, she doesn't usually keep things from me." Tom shrugged.

"You're probably reading too much into this, tomorrow we'll find out that she just didn't want to tell you that she was curling up in bed with a book." That earned him a slap on the arm from his wife and a glare from Seven "What? I happen to know she likes to read!"

"Just watch it fly-boy, this is the Captain you're talking about."

"I concur." All conversation stopped as Neelix took the stage and welcomed the crew, saying a few words before welcoming the first performer of the night. A few performers later, Harry Kim left the stage with a replicated clarinet, to an enthusiastic ovation and Neelix took his place.

"Our next performer,” he looked down to his PADD, “is actually two! Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome Christine Da'ae, and the Viscount Raoul de Chagny."

"Viscount?" B'Elanna echoed quietly as the table joined in the tentative clapping. Tom and Chakotay merely shrugged.

"I didn't know we had a 'Da'ae' on-board either," Chakotay whispered back.

Rising to the stage in small measured steps was a woman wearing a white dress. A few black ringlets were pulled back from her face while keeping the bulk of the curly strands free to cascade down her neck, shoulders and back. As the woman turned slightly to stand alone on center stage, the rest of the room openly stared at the beautiful woman wearing the full-length white dress. It was a simple cut, held up by wide straps that leaved the woman's arms bare. The dress clung to the woman's chest and part of her stomach before falling down in pleats. The design stunningly simple, and with it Lieutenant Alexandra Russom took people's breath away before she even opened her mouth.

"Why did Neelix introduce this woman as Christine Da'ae? That is not her name." Seven voiced her question quietly to Chakotay who moved his chair closer to hers before responding that she and her partner would probably be acting. Blaring music stopped her next question, and the woman on stage responded to the sound by stepping back, fright written clearly across her face as she declared in a high-note: "The Phantom of the Opera!" The music swelled for several more notes before a second, lower voice was heard, this time from behind them. The room turned as one to see the newcomer who changed the music using tone of voice alone.

In the very back of the room, standing in a replica of an early 19th century soldier's dress uniform was the Captain. The black pants, pressed so tightly that the crease was clearly visible even in the darkened room, held a trim of red silk running up their side from just over black leather boots to the woman's waist. The shirt was also black, with a trim made of the same silk as the one on her pants, the design of ovals receding in size starting at the woman's shoulder blades and ending where the shirt did. Out of the top five ovals, three ended in a small fleur de lis. Completing the look were a couple of red epaulets, one covered by a cape colored a deeper hue then the rest of the red trimmings as it hung from her shoulder and covered her left arm.

Seven felt the air in her lungs leave her body in a rush.

Raising twin blue eyes to the stage, willing love and devotion show thought them, Kathryn took a deep breath, pushed her doubts away and sang as she came closer to the stage with each step

"No more talk of darkness,
Forget these wide-eyed fears
I'm here, nothing can harm you
My words will warm and calm you
Let me be your freedom,
Let daylight dry your tears.
I'm here with you, beside you,
To guard you and to guide you..."

As the woman stepped closer and closer to the stage, Seven discovered she couldn't look away. Ice blue eyes took in the woman, from the auburn hair bulled back in a French braid and tied with a ribbon, down to the costume that fit the woman like a glove, and all the way down to her boots.

"Say you love me every waking moment,
Turn my head with talk of summertime...
Say you need me with you now and always...
Promise me that all you say is true,
That's all I ask of you"

Kathryn stepped on the stage and reached out to the other woman, turning to face both her and the crowd as the Lieutenant took her hand. Looking at the green eyes before her, she was almost surprised to see the features change slightly - green eyes turned to blue and her hair seemed lighter, almost blonde. In her mind's eye, Kathryn finally began to see the woman from her dreams, her rock and anchor.

"Let me be your shelter
Let me be your light
You're safe, No one will find you<
Your fears are far behind you..."

The love, the utter devotion reflected in Kathryn's voice, eyes, and stance caused a pain in her chest. Around her, she could see couples drawing closer together, heads resting against shoulders, or heads resting against heads, but all she felt was an acute sting she identified as loneliness.

"All I want is freedom,
A world with no more night
And you, always beside me,
To hold me and to hide me..."

As the raven haired woman sang, Chakotay moved even closer to her, putting an arm around her waist and motioning with a gentle touch that she can behave in the manner other couples in their vicinity did. But she stiffened at his touch. Despite feeling so small, so alone, she couldn't bare to let him touch her now. It was like being severed from the collective all over again, but the dominant emotion this time wasn't fear.

"Then say you'll share with me
One love, one lifetime
Let me lead you from your solitude.
Say you need me with you here, beside you,
Anywhere you go, let me go too –
Christine, that's all I ask of you..."

Glancing down from the stage and onto the barely lit audience she noticed a pair of eyes looking at her. They were the very same eyes she saw each night since she dreamt she was in the forest, the same eyes she was singing to. She saw the woman sitting ramrod straight and with those two signs, she finally knew. I'm saying the wrong name...

"Say you'll share with me one love, one lifetime...
Say the word and I will follow you...
Share each day with me,
Each night, each morning...
Say you love me..."

"You know I do..." By heaven, I do... The women’s voices crescendoed as they sang together.

"Love me - that's all I ask of you"

As the music took over, the two women came closer, but instead of the kiss the script demanded, Captain Janeway took the other woman in her arms and hugged her. The realization that the figure, the woman, who frequented her dreams almost daily for weeks now was sitting at a nearby table and watching her sing this song was almost too much to bear. Daring to look, she saw Chakotay's arm around the woman and her anger flared. There were two more lines in the song, and she knew she would sing them to the woman who held her heart.

"Anywhere you go let me go too
Love me - that's all I ask of you..."

Most of the audience rose to their feet giving the two women a standing ovation, and Captain Janeway was happy to note that the only ones who didn't rise to their feet were Neelix, who was standing just off stage during their whole performance, Alex and herself. Mother would be proud. She smiled gently as she bowed along with her partner in song, wanting nothing more but to get off the stage, the revelation being almost too much to handle when facing her crew.

"Captain, Alex, come join us!" They were barely off the stage when Tom Paris called to get their attention. In front of her, the raven haired Lieutenant turned to catch her eye, asking her permission with her eyes. She nodded, and they headed to the table where most of her senior staff was still standing. After a quick round of introductions, Tom pulled Chakotay with him to get a couple of extra chairs so that they could all sit comfortably, and the four women were left alone sitting closely together in the semicircle, the existing chairs were already in, facing the stage.

"You have been dishonest, Captain." Seven accused after a short moment of silence. Turning her head to look at the young blonde sitting beside her, Kathryn raised her eyebrow in question, and B'Elanna leaned forward to try and hear better.

"How so?"

"You said you can not sing." The raised eyebrow was replaced by a shy smile

"I never said I can't, Seven. I said I don't. At least I haven't, not for a very long time."

"Why not Captain?" B'Elanna interjected. "Your voice isn't bad."

"Thank you, B'Elanna, you're very good at masking complements." The half Klingon grinned. "But to answer your question - I don't know. Something just..." she looked behind her to see the men return, "felt right about singing that song." Until you realized you're singing to the wrong woman? the small voice in her head supplied.

"We heard people talking, Captain," remarked Tom as he put the chair he was holding down next to his wife. "I think the holovid from tonight is going to be circulating about the ship for a while."

"I bet..." She grumbled good naturally, until she caught movement in the corner of her eye: Chakotay placing his chair by Seven, and leaning in close to whisper something to her. "I think I'll go get something to drink. Anyone want anything while I'm up?" Jade green eyes turned her way to ask for water, and she could almost feel the body next to her stiffen. You figure out you're attracted to her and think automatically that she feels the same way? That she's jealous? The little voice almost laughed at her. Ever hear of wishful thinking? "Seven?"

"I... thank you, Captain." Her eye brow inched up her head as she got to her feet.

"Is that a yes, a no, a hot, or a cold?" She asked with a smirk.

"A... cold, Captain," replied the slightly confused woman, and Kathryn smiled at her one more time before leaving for the counter where pitchers of drinks stood next to a portable replicator. Pull yourself together Kathryn. Right now. Making her way back to the table, she faltered slightly when seeing her first officer still with his hand around the back of Seven's chair. Pulling her command mask back on her face, she crossed the final few feet to the table and handed the women their drinks, noticing the almost violent shiver that ran down Seven's spine as she bent to place the drink in front of her.

"Are you cold, Seven?" Chakotay asked, concerned.

"I am..." was the response, the woman's voice unsure. The Captain and the Commander exchanged glances, and frowned.

"Put this around your shoulders, Seven," the auburn haired woman explained as she carefully took off her cape and handed it to the woman. "It should keep you a bit warmer." The blonde looked at her in confusion for a brief moment, but complied. Kathryn tried her best to contain her smile behind the rim of her glass. Ready to enjoy the rest of the show, she settled back against the back rest, crossed her legs, and looked up at the stage.

Lucky for her, just as the performer on stage ended his show, her comm badge chirped and Tuvok asked her to come to the bridge. It's one thing to have the people around you commenting on how badly the poor man did his act. But when you're the Captain you need to bite back some of your remarks about some people's hand-eye coordination. Sighing, she got to her feet and excused herself. Seven stood up instantly, ready to remove the red garment and return it to its owner. Biting her lip to keep from gasping at the vision of the woman dressed in white, her hair flowing freely and the added touch of romance produced by the cape, Captain Janeway declined. "You're cold, Seven, keep it. You can bring it back to me tomorrow. Just..." she felt foolish saying this, "please don't recycle it. I've had this silly thing for many years now and I would hate for faulty programming to get the better of it."

Nodding her assent, Seven watched the older woman walk out, as she caressed the fabric. If it was indeed as old as the Captain implied, then it was treated with great care, as it looked and felt as though it was completely new. The only statement as to the truthfulness of the shorter woman's words was the scent that clung to the fabric and wavered up and into her olfactory glands. The quantity and subtle variation of the lavender and a different scent something... biological... unique... caused her to draw only one conclusion: this garment was indeed older then it appeared to be. Drawing the red fabric closer around her shoulders, she settled back to watch her rest of the show as her mind raced.

It was an hour later that the four senior staff members made their way out of the holoprogram, Lieutenant Russom making an excuse to leave not long after the Captain's departure. "What I don't understand is why she chose to sing that song with that woman." stated Chakotay for the second time that evening.

"She couldn't very well sing it with a male member of the crew," B'Elanna countered. "Her voice is too low for that." He rolled his eyes at her.

"I mean - if she wanted to sing, there are many other songs that she could have done. I mean, think about it - they were two women singing a song of their everlasting love and devotion." Tom shot him a questioning glance, "It's wrong."


"I'm serious. She should have thought this through. True, it was a beautiful performance, but that doesn't make it any less wrong. After all, she is the Captain."

"So you're saying she can't...?"

"No! It's just not right." If someone were to ask Seven of Nine who was the one to ask the last question, she wouldn't be able to tell, not even after tapping the full power of her eidetic memory. Two women singing a song of their everlasting love and devotion... It's wrong... She is the Captain... It's wrong... She was aware of reaching Cargo Bay Two, and bidding the Commander good night, but as the thoughts ran through her head in an everlasting loop, two women... everlasting love... she is the Captain... it's wrong... the former Borg drone couldn't help but wonder what was the point of this humanity, if she could feel such pain, it's wrong... and decided that if it remained after an eight hour regeneration cycle, then she would go see the Doctor. She is the Captain... everlasting love...

Keying in the command that would start the cycle, she stepped into the alcove, not bothering to exchange the evening-wear for her bio suit. Her only thought - this pain must stop.

Chapter 4

In the month that followed her performance, Kathryn saw Seven pull further and further away from her, and her heart cried out in pain. Physically, the other woman was as present as she has ever been, as efficient and useful as ever, but the amount of time they spent together off duty has lessened immeasurably. They were spending less time playing velocity, even less time talking, and judging from the look on Chakotay's face whenever the statuesque blonde was around, be it on bridge duty or in senior staff meetings - their relationship was progressing, and nicely so.

Kathryn started to vanish that month, and Captain Janeway made herself more and more prominent. She was appearing less and less, only when alone with her books or in conversation with Master DaVinci leaving in her place only the mask, the rank to shield her from the woman who would take her hand, or hold her close, but only in her dreams. They were coming more frequently now and would usually appear more often then not. Always the same: comforting, warm, caring, even loving. and she would wake up feeling refreshed. But in her waking hour the tall blonde was far less accessible. She had tried talking to her for the first couple of weeks, while fending off the advances of Lieutenant Russom who seemed to take the meaning of the song they sang to heart in a way that made the Captain want to bang her head against the nearest hard surface.

After two weeks spent trying to talk with her head of Astrometrics she gave up, and left the woman to her silence. The Captain had been blossoming ever since, at the same time Kathryn felt herself wilt a little each day. This week there was a change though, as the lack of communication between her and the head of Astrometrics started to affect the work produced from the lab. Drawing her legs up on the couch where she was currently sitting, the Captain took stock of her options. She knew she was going to have to talk with the other woman, but will it be as her captain or also as her friend? I want my friend back... She almost chuckled at the last thought, remembering a time when she had said the same words to her mother after a childhood friend had moved away, and her mother's reply that if she really wanted to keep that friendship, then she would have to try harder than usual, because distance was difficult on friendships. Boy, was she right... "Computer, locate Seven of Nine." she said, getting to her feet and reaching for her uniform jacket

"Seven of Nine is in Cargo Bay Two." answered the feminine voice. Closing the jacket, she exited her quarters and headed for the Cargo Bay, knowing that the longer she put this off, the more difficult it was going to be.

Stepping off the turbolift, Captain Janeway took a deep breath and set her shoulders. Starting this conversation as the superior officer was easy since the reason she came here was professional, but after the past few weeks, it was also easier because there seemed to be so little of Kathryn left. If all goes well, she might be able to lower the command mask. As she entered the Bay, all traces of the emotions held by the woman named Kathryn left her, and the Captain took her place behind her officer, clearing her throat gently to get her attention. "I need to speak with you, Seven," she added before the woman completed the turn to face her.

"Yes, Captain?" The taller woman turned to face her, and she felt her heart almost skip a beat.

"I have been going over your Astrometrics reports, Seven." The blonde quirked an eyebrow.

"I am aware of that, Captain. Was there anything you wished to discuss?" Captain Janeway knew that anyone who would listen to this conversation wouldn't find it different from any other official conversation the former Borg drone would have with any of the other members of Voyager's staff. But you don't want to be any other member of the staff do you? The little voice in her head questioned. If she would only tell me what was wrong...

"Yes. Ever since you have begun to work on Voyager, I have seen, and begun to expect, a certain level of performance." She placed her left hand knuckles on the fabric covering her hip, leaving her right hand free to gesture with her next statement. "Lately you are not up to those levels, Seven, to these standards that you have set for yourself." Letting go of the mask for a moment, she added, "I have never seen anything that could affect your concentration, like this or at all." Her hand slid from her hip as she took a step closer, placing a hand on the woman's upper arm. "I'm worried about you." Cold blue eyes looked at the point of contact before turning to meet her own and it was only with the return of her command mask that she could keep the chill from making her shudder. She removed her hand.

"I apologize, Captain. I was experiencing a slight... malfunction, but I have been alerted to its existence - I have begun making repairs. You will not see anymore flawed reports."

"You were malfunctioning?" The force of will that it took to keep her voice from trembling and her eyes from growing in fear rolled through her in a wave of almost physical energy. "What happened? Did you go see the Doctor or B'Elanna? Why wasn't I informed?"

"That was not necessary. I have located the malfunction with the aid of Commander Chakotay, and have since commenced the process of eliminating it. I shall return to optimum efficiency in time to hand you the next report." A decisive nod concluded the statement. Chakotay?

"Are you sure?"

"I am Borg." Captain Janeway sighed, knowing that this was the best answer she was going to get from the other woman, she felt her shoulders slump for the briefest of instances before she pulled herself back into her role of the Captain. After she was the Captain, she could try being the younger woman's friend again. Even if she doesn't want your friendship? The small voice asked, but the usual 'I told you so' air was gone, replaced by a dull ache.

"You realize that if you want to talk, about anything, I'm here for you, right?" Blue eyes turned to hers again for the briefest of moments before turning away.

"There is nothing to discuss, Captain." Then the woman looked into her eyes again. The Captain could see no emotion in the younger woman's eyes, or hear it in her tone. "I value our friendship as well. But I have plans, Captain, and must prepare."

"I will leave you then. But please think about what I've said."

"Yes Captain." Knowing she was now too keyed up to return to her quarters, the Captain made her way to the bridge, only to have her jaw practically hit the floor less then 30 minutes later as she looked up into the eyes of her future self while the woman pulled rank on her.

It wasn't long after that she had decided that watching that woman was very unsettling. Not to mention the woman's first reaction upon seeing Seven: the pain and longing were painfully obvious on the woman's face and the Captain could barely restrain the urge to slap herself. Or her future self. God, I hate temporal mechanics... Pinching the bridge of her nose, she looked out of her ready room windows and huffed. The Admiral was infuriating, giving orders as if this was her ship! The speech the Admiral had made in Astrometrics finally made the Captain snap. With a short command, almost a growl, she demanded they took a walk. It's one thing to berate your self, but this is preposterous! Fuming as they walked down a deserted hallway in the brisk pace, the Captain finally let out that growl

"I wanna know why you didn't tell me about this."

"Because I remember how stubborn and self-righteous I used to be. I figured you might try to do something stupid," came the answer, smug enough to remind the younger woman of the first few months Seven spent with them.

"We have an opportunity to deal a crippling blow to the Borg. It could save millions of lives."

"I didn't spend the last 10 years looking for a way to get this crew home earlier so you can throw it away on some intergalactic good will mission!" Her years of dealing with assorted diplomatic missions asserted themselves full force when the Captain managed a much gentler version of what went through her head.

"Maybe we should go back to sickbay."

"Why, so you can have me sedated?" There's a thought.

"No, so that I can have the Doctor reconfirm your identity. I refuse to believe I'll ever become as cynical as you!"

"Am I the only one experiencing Déjà vu here?"

"What are you talking about?"

"Seven years ago, you had the chance to use the Caretaker’s Array to get voyager home. Instead, you destroyed it."

"I did what I knew was right."

"You chose to put the lives of strangers ahead of the lives of your crew. You can't make the same mistake again." How dare she!

"You got Voyager home. This means I will, too. If it takes a few more years, then that's..." She didn't get to finish the sentence as the Admiral cut into her words.

"Seven of Nine is going to die." Captain Janeway paled, feeling the ground drop from beneath her feet at the Admiral's words.

"What?" She knew the woman was drawing her ace from her sleeve, but those seven words were too powerful. They nearly sent her crashing into the nearest wall.

"Three years from now. She'll be injured on an away mission. She'll make it back to Voyager, and die in the arms of her husband." The pain in her chest robbed her of breath, and she barely managed to choke out the word that was crammed into her throat.


"Chakotay." I've lost her... The Admiral's story didn't get better after this point, and the Captain finally understood why she had gone through the ordeal she had of late - if it wasn't for the distance, if she didn't lose nearly all of Kathryn Janeway, she would crumble to the ground as they spoke and break down. But as Kathryn was now such a small part of her, she could push the woman aside and let the Captain do what needed to be done.


They were home. They were finally home. Bidding her crew farewell was harder then she thought it would be, but when she set foot into the last hovercraft to leave the ship and slid into a comfortable chair, she couldn't help but sigh contently. They were six crew members sitting in the craft: the Doctor, B'Elanna, who was holding onto Miral, Tom, Seven and herself. An empty seat by the blonde woman looking at the throng of people had been reserved for Chakotay, but he appeared to have left the ship earlier without a word to any of them. If it wasn't for the fluttering at the pit of her stomach every time she looked at the woman, and out the window at the throng wondering if her family were amongst them, the auburn-haired woman knew that she would more then probably be a lot angrier than she was at the man.

Tom was busy speculating on where they would go once they landed until B'Elanna pointedly told him to be quiet, and the focus of the conversation turned to the Doctor and Seven. "I will be heading to headquarters. I'm sure they can spare me a room." He said with a slightly nervous smile. "How about you, Seven? Where will you be heading?"

"I was supposed to be staying with Commander Chakotay, but seeing as he has removed himself from the presence of any form of communication, then I shall have to resort to my original option and stay at Starfleet headquarters as well."

"You are welcome to stay with me, Seven." the Captain offered. "Even if my mother or sister sold my house and I end up checking into a hotel, I'm sure it would be far more comfortable to be there than at headquarters."

"Or you can stay with us," Tom jumped in, earning a surprised glance from his wife and an amused one from the Captain.

"I thank you for your offers, but I think..." She was cut off when the hovercraft's pilot announced that they will be docking in two minutes. Three people smiled broadly at that.

"You were saying, Seven?" the Captain prompted.

"I think I will request a room in headquarters as well." She turned to look at the older woman. "I do not wish to intrude on your time with your families."

"You won't be intruding Seven," the woman assured her, petting her knee before pulling back again. Tom and B'Elanna nodded their accent. "Think of it as an open invitation: if you change your mind, for whatever reason, just say the word and I'll come for you."

"I was unaware that there was a word one could use to make another come for them." Tom coughed out a chuckle and after a moment of thought, Kathryn could feel her ears redden.

Any further comments were stopped by the pilot's announcement that they had landed. "Seven," the Captain was once again present as she asked the other woman to stop, "walk out of here with me. I don't want any of the Admirals to get the idea that since you were once a Borg drone, they can now study or dissect you to gain knowledge."

"And you think that by walking the planet's surface with you that thought will not occur to them?"

"No, I do think that if you walk out of here with me they will see that as me putting you under my wing." After a moment's thought, the monotone reply she was expecting came to the other woman's lips and she couldn't help but smile.


"Good. Then let's go." Running a hand through her hair to pull a few stray strands back into place, Captain Kathryn Janeway squared her shoulders and stepped out into the sun, feeling more than seeing the beautiful woman moving to stand at her side. Taking a deep breath in hopes to quell the urge to take the other woman's hand in her own, knowing how ill advised that would be for so many reasons, she began her walk down the ramp.

When she reached the bottom of the ramp, she saw a young girl about three years old break from the crowd and run to them at top speed, her light brown hair catching the wind generated by her speed. She couldn't help but notice something so very familiar about that run. Bending down, she picked the girl up, the momentum causing them to slightly spin in place. "Hello," she smiled at the child. "Who might you be, running up here like that?"

"My name is Mowgan Wichad... Wichadson," she stated proudly, then turned a curious look at the Captain and the woman beside her. "Are you really my Aunt Katie?" Kathryn felt as though she was about to drop the child for a moment and risked a look at Seven who was regarding them with an unintelligible expression.

"That depends..." Looking at the little face before her, she could note similarities, but there's only one way to be sure. "What's your mother's name?"

"Phoebe." She could almost feel herself pale as she turned to scan the crowds before them. I'm an aunt...

"Then I guess I am." The girl beamed, and for the first time in weeks, Kathryn smiled back. "I want you to meet my friend Seven." The girl giggled. Finally seeing the people of her family, the older woman began to walk.

"That's a funny name. Why did your Mommy and Daddy name you after a number?"

"We'll explain that when we introduce Seven to everyone. In the meantime – Seven, this is my niece – Morgan." Seven nodded at the girl who took the introduction as a cue to regard the woman closely.

"She's dressed funny. Why is she wearing a leotard?" Laughing, she put the child down, explaining that the suit was made to protect Seven's skin, an explanation that received a raised eyebrow from the Borg woman, and mouthing 'I'll explain later'. When she turned away from the woman, the sight in front of her made her heart swell. There, coming out from the crowd were her mother, her sister and a man who could only be Morgan's father. She was aware of nothing until she felt her mother's arms around her neck and hugged her back fiercely, both women needing the physical closeness to know that this was real – she was finally home. They pulled back only when the older woman started to shake in her arms and Kathryn looked at the silent tears flowing down her mother's face freely.

"Sure took you long enough to get home, Sis." Her sister attempted casual banter as she too came in for a hug.

"It wasn't by choice Pheebs, trust me..." She replied into fiery red hair, several shades darker then her own. "You're married now?"

"Yes," her sister pulled back and smiled as she reached her hand for her husband. "Katie, this is Adam Richardson, Adam, my long lost sister: Kathryn." Fixing the man with a pointed look as she shook his hand, the Captain said one thing in greeting.

"I hope you're a good man, Adam."

"He is,” her mother interjected with a smile before turning to face Seven. "And who might you be?" Kathryn blushed.

"I'm sorry; this is Seven of Nine, former Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero-One." She wasn't sure what had caused her to use the full Borg designation, but for some reason, in this first meeting, she wanted to be precise in her introduction of the woman. She turned slightly to face the former Borg drone. "And these are my family: my mother Gretchen Janeway, my sister Phoebe, her husband Adam, who I plan on interrogating later. And Morgan," she smiled at the little girl, "who you've already met."

"Seven of Nine," her mother said contemplatingly, "that's... cumbersome." The blonde turned her head to look at her.

"The Captain has expressed her opinion in the same manner you have, and has shortened my full Borg designation - Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero-One, to Seven. Although imprecise, I find it acceptable. You may call me by that designation if you wish."

"She speaks funny Mommy." Four adults burst into laughter and slowly, Seven broke into a smile, realizing the reason for the others laughter, leaving one confused child trying to ask her mother for answers.

"Let's go. The earlier we get into headquarters, the earlier we can get out." When they reached the stairs leading up to Starfleet headquarters building, Captain Janeway asked her family to stop as she walked up a few steps and turned to face the families and friends of the returning crew members, along with the press that mingled in. The Captain thanked them all for coming and added that once Starfleet finished their debriefings, she and her crew would be happy to share the stories of their travels. She spoke in a tone that made sure her crew knew this to be an order, while the rest of the assembled crowd who did not know her as well thought it to merely be a statement that a captain must make. Looking down at her family, she couldn't help but smile and hold out her arm for her mother as they turned to walk up the rest of the steps and enter headquarters.

Later that day, she was surprised to discover that her mother had kept her city apartment, leaving it practically unchanged save for a few new paintings, obviously her sister's work. Gretchen Janeway's response to the silent look of wonder was a dismissive one, claiming that since she knew Kathryn would be coming back, so there had been no other option but to keep it.

The next two weeks flew by in a rush of meetings and debriefings that had her out her door by 0700 hours and home not before 1800. But it was during the evenings spent with her mother that Captain Janeway began to recede and Kathryn began to reemerge. Her mother's choice to stay in the city rather than return to Indiana gave the two a chance to talk. They exchanged stories for days, Gretchen telling of life on the farm, improvements and adjustments, her personal life and the story of how Phoebe came to meet and marry Adam all in one short year. Her mother never asked about the travels themselves, knowing from the tone Kathryn used on the day of her arrival that she would not tell and might even close down if asked. So instead, she asked about the day to day life of the ship, shore leaves, anything that would let her daughter speak of the people she had been with for so long without breaking the secrecy.

"So we were sitting around a campfire, and this woman named Lieutenant Alexandra Rossum starts to sing, and my jaw dropped: she sounded just like..." she scratched her head trying to remember the elusive name "Sarah Brightman, from Phantom." She laughed as her mother's eyes sparkled with interest "And that of course made me think of you: the musical buff. I asked her to sing with me on a talent night that took place a few years later and she agreed to sing the part of Christine. I felt a bit closer to home then." The older Janeway smiled.

"What did you sing?"

"All I Ask of You." Kathryn's smile turned into a frown.

"That's when you realized it, wasn't it?" Gretchen asked softly, causing her daughter's eyebrows to rise in surprise. "You didn't think I was dumb, did you dear? When you talk of her your voice softens, your eyes light up and you smile brighter. Not to mention the amount of stories she was in."


"Does she know?" Shaking her head Kathryn told of Seven's withdrawal from her company and of the woman's relationship with Chakotay. "You should still tell her that you care, dear."

"I have, mom."

"In those words?"

"No, but nearly in every other."

"You need to talk to her, you haven't seen each other for a couple of weeks. Maybe..."

"Mom, please." Kathryn cut her off and the older woman took a deep breath.

"You can't blame me, dear. I haven't seen you react like this to anyone since Justin." When the blue eyes looked at her, Gretchen could clearly see the surprise on her daughter’s face and she smiled. "You clearly think I'm blind, Kathryn..." she said with a shake of her head. "I knew you loved Mark, but you weren't in love with him. I was watching you settle for a man who couldn't hurt you while hoping that you wouldn't."

"Why didn't you say anything?"

"Do you remember your reaction to Phoebe when she did?" Kathryn huffed. "I wanted you to have someone who you would feel free to come and talk to if you needed it, and after the fight you two had, I didn't think you'd come to her if only to avoid being told 'I told you so'." The older Janeway took a deep breath before continuing. "Call me a hopeless romantic, but I always hoped that you'd have love everlasting, not something just short."

"Why settle for something short when you can have something everlasting?" She mumbled remembering the dream where she had first heard Seven's voice.

"What was that?" Kathryn turned her eyes to the window just off her mother's right shoulder and turned the mug she was holding in her hands.

"I started dreaming of her a while ago. At first, she was just a presence, making me feel safe, protected. Being with that ethereal form felt as though the yoke I was carrying as 'the Captain' was gone. The first time I heard her voice in my dreams she said - Why settle for something short when you can have something everlasting?" She paused, taking a small sip from her drink. "It took me weeks to realize it was her. Should have realized it sooner though: making me feel calmer was a dead giveaway."

"I believe your father once said that in the Starfleet Commander’s Manual there was a chapter dedicated to 'hindsight 20/20'." Her daughter returned her eyes to her to see her check the time. "It's late, dear, and they're starting to debrief you tomorrow. I think we should head to bed. Oh, and do think of growing your hair back, you look so much prettier with your hair long." Nodding her agreement with a smile, Kathryn reached for her mother's cup offering wordlessly to take it to the sink. When she turned away, her mother called out after her. "Kathryn, do you think they have a holovid of your performance?" Kathryn threw her head back and releasing a throaty laugh.

"I was wondering when you'll get around to asking." With a glance back, she noticed her mother's slight blush before the woman headed to the other bedroom. Chucking softly, she quickly rinsed the mugs, knowing how displeased her mother will be if they were altered by the replicator, and headed to her bedroom.

Knocking wove into her consciousness and Kathryn sighed before she got out of bed and pulled on her robe. She drew it closed around her body as she headed for the source: her front door. A final tug on a piece of silk and the robe was firmly in place; stretching to her full height, she opened the door. "Seven?" In her surprise to see the other woman at her door at this time of night, she didn't even register stepping aside and motioning for the blonde to enter. "It's the middle of the night, what are you doing here? Are you alright?" The Borg woman nodded at her once.

"I am fine."

"Then what..."

"I needed to see you." The reply came before she could even finish her question. "I have missed you, Kathryn." The older woman could barely suppress a shiver as her name was all but purred from the full lips before her. Stepping forward, Seven was now well in her personal space.

"I..." she gulped "I've missed you too."

"You have?" The slow, soft tones in which the question was asked made her knees feel weak. She managed to nod. "Then why have you not visited me Kathryn?" The woman before her asked, moving even closer "Or sent word. You are one of the only three people who know when I regenerate."

One of three... The words felt like a rush of cold water against her skin. Sidestepping the blonde, she tried to will up her captain's mask, but she didn't take two steps before being abruptly stopped and turned, leaving her enveloped in soft arms, her face centimeters away from the other woman's full lips. Noticing the smile on her captor's face, she froze. "I wanted you there, Kathryn. I would dream that when I wake up, I would see you standing close. I would dream that you would do this..." With the words dying on her lips, Seven lowered her head and kissed the smaller woman, robbing her of breath in seconds.

"Seven... I... we need..." She panted when she was finally able to move again, to remove the delicious press of lips from her own. "We need to stop... my mother..." Seven merely smiled, pulling her closer.

"Then we shall have to relocate." The sentence ended with soft lips pressing against her own, this time accompanied by the insistent press of a tongue tracing her bottom lip. She was oblivious as one of her hands reached up to tangle in blonde strands, messing up the neat bun, while another reached behind the woman's back to grab hold of the nearest shoulder as the tongue demanded entry more firmly with each passing moment. Opening her mouth to the woman was nearly mind-blowing as electrical currants ran from her mouth to every organ in her body, making her knees buckle. Moaning into the kiss, she tightened her hold and felt the arms about her waist do the same as they started moving in what Kathryn vaguely registered was the direction of her bedroom.

When Seven pulled her back, her head was reeling. They were in her bedroom, her door had clicked shut behind them seconds ago, and she was in Seven's arms, holding on for dear life as the taller woman lowered her lips to the pulse point at her neck, lavishing it with kisses, licks and gentle nips. Head rolling to the side, she fought to keep her eyes open, to be able to see the blonde as her hands worked to free the pins that kept silky soft hair from her fingertips. When she removed the final pin, she couldn't suppress the gasp as teeth gently bit at her throat, not hard enough to mark, but hard enough to make her close her eyes and gasp for breath. "Seven..."

"Let me, Captain. Please, let me..." The blonde didn't need to finish her whispered sentence as her hands traced Kathryn's hips, reaching between them to finger the silk belt holding her robe closed. Swallowing hard, she nodded, mesmerized as the tender touch undid the knot within seconds, and then again as soft hands were at her shoulders, pushing the fabric away to pool at her feet. The look in Seven's eyes as the thin fabric was removed conveyed only one thing: fierce hunger.

When soft lips pressed onto hers again, she couldn't help but moan as her hands reached to pull the taller woman closer to her, to feel the curves and muscle press against her own. She could feel the heat rising within her as their tongues danced together, each millisecond raising the need to touch, to be touched, and to see the body pressed up against her own. "Seven..." Her voice, a husky whisper, was deeper then she had ever heard it. "I want to see you..." Seven's lips quirked in a slow smile.

"I will comply." Gentle hands roamed up her sides, making her shiver before stopping at the base of Seven's neck, and the woman reached back to undo a small clasp that held her bio-suit together. The material seemed to melt from her body and when they pressed together again the smaller woman couldn't help but arch into the contact, trying to touch as much of the pale skin as she could. Shifting her head slightly she pressed her lips to the neck so tantalizingly close, kissing the expanse of skin before her. "I want you, Captain." As the familiar designation left the Borg woman's lips, Kathryn could feel a feral grin spread on her face before she gently bit down on the skin under her lips, just enough to draw a ragged breath.

The sound sent her mind spinning and she pushed them forward, her shorter frame covering Seven's as they fell on the bed. She felt hands on her back pulling her close even as she relinquished her hold to brace for impact with the mattress, wanting to keep the weight of her fall off the younger woman. But once she felt the weight below her, she could control her self no longer and her hands started running, as if of their own accord over the lithe flame, memorizing sides, stomach and impossibly long legs with her touch.

"Kathryn..." The woman beneath her shifted slightly, causing one of her legs to come between the older woman's while the other was raised to fold itself around her hips, pushing their bodies so close together that there was no space left between them. The auburn haired woman gasped as the sensitive skin between her legs came to contact with the expanse of pale skin covering deceptively strong thighs, but her next sound, a deep guttural moan, was swallowed an instant later when Seven raised her head to kiss her again.

Stars swam before her eyes as the kiss continued, their speed and energy intensifying until the woman noticed that their hips were moving in time with one another. Each rock from her hips was answered by one of equal force from the other woman, and as they moved together, time seemed to slow down, each move becoming long, almost teasing. She rolled her head back when she felt warm fluids against her thigh, and Seven seized the opportunity to claim her neck, and all the way up to her earlobe marking her with kisses and gentle nips.

At the first touch of the warm moist tongue against her earlobe, time came crashing around her, and their bodies began to pick up the speed they had missed before. What had been a soft, gentle, touch intensified both in speed and intensity. Her hands reached for the other woman, one burying in soft hair while the other reclaimed its place on her shoulder as waves began to ripple through her body, making her shake from the inside out. "Seven!" she cried, knowing she was not far from her peak. She had wanted this too much, had waited too long for this woman to be able to hold herself in check for long.

"Let go Kathryn." The husky whisper along with the rise of hips sent her over the edge, and she closed her eyes as the orgasm washed through her body, leaving every muscle taut, and every nerve ending singing.

Opening her eyes only caused her to close them tightly again a moment later as a strangled groan escaped her lips. Pushing her head deeper into the pillow, she tried to will the images away. This can not be happening. Not when tonight is the official ‘welcome home’ party Starfleet is throwing... Untangling her body from the blanket and sheets that tied themselves around her, she took a moment to sit at the edge of her bed, running her fingers through her hair before a sensation caused by her movement registered in her head. I have to stop thinking like this... She’s with Chakotay. She is going to marry him. I need to stop thinking like this... Getting up and purposefully ignoring the wetness between her legs she made her way to her shower, shedding her nightgown and underwear as she went.

Chapter 5

The past 5.852 months since Voyager’s landing on earth had been most disconcerting. Seven discovered that she still felt uncomfortable and uneasy surrounded by a large amount of people, even if her fears about being shunned or feared because of her past did not come true. In the months that passed, she hardly spent time alone. When not at debriefings or various other meetings, her time was mostly divided between her Aunt Irene and Chakotay, but something was amiss. She realized what it was at one on the monthly get-togethers that Tom and Chakotay seemed so fond of, when the Captain had canceled at the last minute due to last minute orders sending her to Vulcan. She missed the older woman. Even now, after all this time, she looked forward to seeing her for more than the small gatherings and occasional calls, but it seemed that it was all her Captain was able to give. With each passing week the woman seemed to be more and more tired, even slightly depressed, and Seven realized she wanted to see her alone, to help her as she faced the demons, and to give her comfort. It was that last thought that troubled her most and she tried to ignore it, along with the feeling that would often crop up along with it; it had no room in her quest for perfection.

At the moment, her focus was on the "soiree" as her aunt had called the event thrown by Starfleet at the headquarters to mark the end of the debriefings, as well as the final conclusions in regards to Voyager’s crew. They were told that this event was a formal one, but that the men and women of Voyager should not wear their uniforms, a directive that left her puzzled but seemed to please her aunt greatly. The woman had insisted they head to a shopping center to get Seven prepared for the occasion. Frowning slightly to herself, she noted that if Chakotay did not arrive within the next 2.7 minutes, they would be late.

The Commander arrived 1.75 minutes later and seemed pleased to see her in the impractical dress that her aunt had insisted she acquire and wear for the night. After handing her foliage, which was to be put in a vase before they left, the two headed off to the transport sight.

"You look radiant tonight, Seven."

"Thank you Commander, but you have remarked this before."

"Seven," the man sounded almost exasperated. "I handed in my resignation nearly a week ago. I’m nobody's commander, just Chakotay."

She smiled at him as they stepped up to the transporter pad. "As you have told me once yourself: old habits die hard." He smiled back before asking them man on shift to energize.

Upon walking into the hall where Starfleet chose to conduct the party, Seven couldn’t help but open her eyes a little wider as she took in the sight before her. It was a large room, her trained eyes quickly supplying its measurements as twin blue eyes ran across the room and its occupants. It was slightly difficult to recognize people in their fancy attire, so different from how they usually dressed. But for one person this was not the case. The rich auburn color of her hair stood out, even more so due to her choice of attire. The Captain was talking with a group of admirals, her back mostly turned in their direction, but her identity was unmistakable. The emerald gown sent her hair aflame, and the way she had styled it, pulling it in a French twist with several strands loose framing her face, made her look more feminine then the blonde had ever seen her. Her eyes continued their inspection of the older woman’s dress, noting how it hugged her figure and accentuated her curves in a way that her civilian clothes never quite managed. Pulling her out of her reverie with a gentle touch to her forearm, Chakotay used his head to gesture at the other side of the hall, opposite to the vision she was looking at. She frowned. "I see Tom and B’Elanna, let’s go say hello."

One hour, 26.35 minutes later, after five admirals, three captains and 15 commanders stopped by to engage in pointless conversation, the four senior officers found themselves standing together again, and Seven noticed another individual approaching from the corner of her eye. She took a breath, wanting to brace herself, but when the two approaching finally stopped in front of their little group, she felt that breath almost leave her in a rush. The woman before her was so beautiful it caused a physical reaction in her. The emerald of Captain Janeway’s dress was even more pronounced when standing close and Seven took a moment to take in the dress, so different in style from her own. Its décolletage demurely cut in what she was told was referred to as a cowl neck, showing only the very top of the other woman’s breasts, while the fabric hung in loose folds and whispers of fabric that drew closer together from the shoulders until fitting snugly against hips and stomach. The lower part of the dress was loose and hid the legs beneath it while swaying gently as the woman walked. But the color… She couldn’t seem to stop thinking of that color, or rather at the way the color of the dress contrasted with that of her hair. She had never thought that two battling elements could look so beautiful.

"Hello, Seven." The older woman smiled warmly at her and she had to tear her eyes away to smile back.

"Hello, Gretchen, Captain."

"Kathryn." The younger Janeway corrected with a smile. "I told you this before: we are no longer on Voyager, so you can call me by my name." Gray-blue eyes looked at her in silent appreciation and she fought to suppress a shiver. "You look beautiful. The dress suites you well."

"Thank you, Kathryn."

"Ah, Mrs. And Captain Janeway, finally." A feminine British accent said behind them, causing the two women in question to turn "How are you?"

"Tesler!" Seven noticed how, once seeing the newcomer, Kathryn’s surprise and happiness grew. Next to her, Chakotay tensed.

"That’s Admiral Tesler to you, oh disappearing one." The other woman corrected, all traces of her accent gone as she opened her arms to hug each of the Janeway women. The following introductions were informal and brief. "I wonder where Ellane turned to... I know she'd love to see you again."

"Ellane?" Kathryn's voice took on a thoughtful note. "Kai Ellane?" The Admiral beamed and nodded. "You two got together?" She turned to glance at her mother who sighed.

"They married about five years ago. I could hear your voice saying 'I told you so' throughout the entire ceremony."

"Wait, you knew all the way back then?" The response to the Admiral's surprised question was a shrug.

"There was something in the way you two would look at each other."

"There we go. Excuse me, don't you dare disappear before we come back."

When Admiral Tesler returned 84.36 seconds later, she was accompanied by a short brunette wearing a pale pink dress. "Ellane, you remember Kathryn Janeway, right?" A woman? As the others around her conversed, Seven couldn't stop her mind from racing. Everybody in their group seemed to react well to the couple, showing genuine warmth. All except Chakotay, who seemed apprehensive, even uncomfortable. He is the only one. No one else seems to find the presence of the two women unsettling. Could it be that... A hand on her forearm snapped her from her thoughts.

"Seven," she looked into Gretchen's concerned gray eyes, noting the same expression on Kathryn's face. "Are you alright?" Before she could answer, a bald man in a captain's dress uniform stepped close and tapped Kathryn on her shoulder.

"Pardon me for interrupting." The man spoke with impeccable manners, making eye contact with the entire group before turning his attention to the auburn haired woman to ask her the question. "Hello Kathryn, I was wondering if I may have a moment of your time." His eyes and face were kind, but when Kathryn nodded before taking his hand and following him to the dance floor and put her arms around him for the dance, Seven decided she did not like the man. Whoever he may be.

"I think we've lost her," said a smirking B'Elanna, causing her focus to return to the group.

"Explain." Tom smiled at her.

"That was Jean-Luc Picard." He inclined his head in the direction of the dance floor where Kathryn was laughing in the famous captain's arms as they danced. "He's known as quite the charmer, though I don't recall him being serious about anyone."

"He was always too much of a Starfleet Captain for that," remarked Admiral Tesler.

"Nonsense. Being a Starfleet Captain doesn't mean you can't love anything other than your ship. The other person just needs to be special enough." She was slightly surprised to see Gretchen's eyes land on her as she spoke. She managed a tight smile at the older woman. This is too much... With this thought, Seven suddenly realized that if they had still been on Voyager, she would most likely head to the Captain's quarters to ask for aid in clarification of this matter. How could she do that now? She wasn't sure why she was even thinking is as thoughts of, "Seven, would you mind accompanying me to the restrooms? That is, if you don't mind this old woman stealing your date, Chakotay." She asked with a smile. "I would really rather not navigate through here alone." Seven nodded her consent, and then lifted her ocular implant as the woman reached from inside her arm to place her hand just above the inside of Seven's elbow before turning them away.

Only when they were out of earshot from the group did the older woman speak again. "You seemed just about ready to bolt back there. I hope you don't mind that it was me who took you away."

"Not at all. Thank you."

"You're welcome." Along with the reassuring smile came a quick intake of breath that Seven recognized as 'steeling one's self'. "I hope you don't mind me asking, but what happened? You turned so pale for a moment that I was afraid you might faint." Turning slightly, she regarded the older woman carefully. On the one hand, the woman in from of her was Kathryn's mother. While as on the other hand... She took a deep breath, realizing that even though the color was different, the two Janeway women shared the same eyes, and she was just as unable to deny Gretchen's concern-filled look as she was Kathryn's.

"When I was learning about dating on Voyager, the Doctor had informed me that a couple consists of a male and a female. So I had evaluated potential... mates, from the male portion of the crew. But when Tom Paris, B'Elanna, the Commander, and I attended Neelix's last talent night..." Her voice died down as she thought of the best way to phrase herself.

"Where Katie sang?"

"Indeed." She nodded, partly surprised that her companion had known about that evening, as well as at the quirked eyebrow that caused an expression that didn't match the older woman's tone. "After the performances were over, the four of us were returning to our respected quarters and the topic of the Captain's song was brought up by Tom Paris. While we had all agreed that it has been a beautiful performance, the Commander also remarked that a romantic affiliation between two members of the same sex was wrong."

"He did?" Surprise was evident in Gretchen's voice.

"Yes. I have also conducted research on the matter and discovered that this belief was common." Gretchen's brew furrowed in confusion, and she opened her mouth to speak only to close it again before attempting to try again.

"Which database did you search, dear? As far as I know homophobia had been all but extinct by the late 21st, early 22nd century. There are exceptions, of course, but the general society doesn't care one way or another." Releasing the blonde's arm, she turned to lean against the nearby balcony rail, her eyes never leaving Seven.

"I..." Blue eyes grew in wonder. "I am not sure..."

"Then I believe it's time to conduct more research," came the response from the now smiling woman.

"I concur."

"Good. Now let's go find that restroom." As she replaced her hand on the blonde's arm, Gretchen Janeway couldn't shake the feeling that they were being watched.


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