TEMPUS OMNIA REVELAT
Janeway sat in the Captainís chair on the Bridge, fidgeting uncomfortably and read again, for about the fifth time, the padd report in her hand. This was not working! She felt hot and clammy, clearly wasnít concentrating, was damned uncomfortable and she was obviously annoying the hell out of Chakotay sitting next to her.
She turned to him, challenging. "OK, say it!"
He turned and stared at her, concern written all over his handsome face. "Why? You already know what Iím going to say, Captain." Resignation clearly evident in his voice.
She sighed with impatience, and pushed herself fully back into her chair, stretching her arms out against the arm rests and flinched.
Chakotay leaned towards her in an attempt to keep the conversation private.
"Captain, youíre not well, and you donít need me to tell you youíre obviously in discomfort."
She looked beaten and felt like hell. "Itís this damn leg, it wonít stop aching."
Catching his critical eye, she held her hands up in mock surrender, "Alright, alright .. you have the Bridge. Iím off to see the doctor." As she started to leave, "Just donít expect me back too soon, I just know heís going to ground me. He still hasnít forgiven me for cheating on the coffee."
"Now youíre being paranoid, Captain." His eyes emanated humour as he played on words.
"Donít you start!" Janeway wagged a warning finger in his direction, but had enormous affection for this man.
"Seven," Chakotay turned behind him, "escort the Captain to sickbay."
"That wonít be necessary, Commander," Janeway corrected him.
"Thatís an order, Seven." ĎDonít argue with me on this one, Kathryní Chakotayís seated stance boldly and openly challenged his superior officer. She wisely acquiesced.
Once in the turbo lift, Captain Janeway turned to Seven and relieved her of her duty.
"I can make my own way to Sickbay. Return to your duties." Cold. No-nonsense. The voice of authority.
"No." Seven imperiously replied, not deigning to even glance at the smaller woman.
Janeway stared at her, noted the typical militaristic stance with hands clasped behind the back and just knew she wasnít going to win here either. Besides, she was too tired to fight, and she didnít want to fight with Seven, not when they seemed to be tolerating each other a little better. There was hope.
So instead, she rubbed at her temple in a vain attempt to relieve the pressure that was building into the mother of a headache.
"This isnít my day, is it?" Annoyed. Angry. Frustrated. In pain.
"Apparently not, Captain." Seven arched her eyebrow and continued to stare forward.
Captain Janeway sat up on the main diagnostic bed, her legs stretched out in front of her. She rubbed at a bead of moisture trickling down the side of her face, watching the EMH examining his tricorder, developing his diagnosis, the usual professional frown slapped across his face.
Janeway felt completely powerless. Chakotay had clearly briefed the doctor before she arrived, and to make matters worse, she could not get rid of Seven who now stood behind her patiently waiting for the doctorís findings. She hated being vulnerable, weak Ė she had hoped the worst of times were now behind her.
"Well," the doctor said in his most patronising manner, "I suppose I should be grateful that you actually acknowledge that you have a little problem," using her own words on arrival.
"This crew fails to see the logic in Ďnipping something in the budí. You all cavalierly allow your injuries and ailments to go untreated and then when things worsen, you expect me to Ďpull bunnies out of the hatí and make you all better again!" His eyebrow rose as he now examined the tricorder with intensity.
"Fortunately for you all, I am an exceptionally talented doctor who has to make do with little respect or acknowledgement of my immense abilities."
Janeway merely stared at him. Years of experience had taught her to just let him vent, it was quicker!
"Well, thereís good news and thereís bad news, Captain." Theatrical tone again.
"Really," she said flatly. She was so tired of this.
"The good news is you have some bone degradation in the fibula plus an interesting little infection in your tibialis anteriorÖ. all of which I am pleased to say, I am perfectly capable of repairing."
He immediately hyposprayed something into her leg, then turned to the Captain, looking suitably sympathetic.
Janeway felt an escalating chill crawling in a downward motion through her spine.
"But?" she queried.
"To stop that infection before it escalates, .. well, unfortunately you also need a direct infusion of tellicartas V10 serum which is best injected straight into the infected site."
"Injected? What happened to the hypo?" The previous escalating chill that had originally crawled down the Captainís spine, had now done an impressive u-turn and was rock-climbing its way back the way it had come, sending unwelcome tingling sensations through the woman, better recognised as apprehension and fear. Janewayís throat had suddenly gone dry.
The doctor moved uncomfortably, "Not the best implement for this job, Iím afraid. For all of medicines advances, sometimes the old ways are best, .. if not primitive."
He elaborated the injectionís values, "By directly plunging this," he waved an impressive looking needle in front of her, "directly into the wound, it targets the infection directly thus all heals faster, the fever will dissipate quicker, and we donít want to burden your entire biological system with unnecessary drugs again."
Janewayís attention was fixed rigidly on the needle, "Er .. is this method open to negotiation?"
Remembering the last vivid experiences of injections received at the hands of Darítothís henchmen, "Iím really not too fond of injections, Doctor."
"I know," the EMH knew where the Captainís fear was coming from. "but Iím afraid this isnít open to negotiation. I really donít want to put unnecessary drugs back into your entire system, weíve only just cleared it and there might be a complication of side effects. This will be target specific, less evasive and faster acting."
"Oh Joy." The words were just audible as the Captain muttered under her breath and she could now do nothing but sit still, trying to take in the ramifications of what the doctor was telling her. She felt his hand on her leg as he positioned it, causing her to flinch in pain as he then moved forward with the needle.
He looked her in the eye, "Iím afraid this might hurt a little." Pause. "Sit back and relax." Relax? The Captain blanched at his bedside manner.
She instinctively gripped the sides of the bio-bed, not doubting for one minute that she was not going to enjoy this. It was then she felt a hand grip her left shoulder and squeeze it gently in support. An unbidden wave of emotion flooded through her as she recognised and accepted Sevenís quiet support. She then bit her bottom lip to hold back the outburst of pain as the doctor pursued the injury and accompanying infection.
"There we are, all done!" The doctor declared smiling at his completed, successful ministering.
It took her a moment to reply. "Thank you, doctor." Janeway fought down the urge to throw-up there and then but chose to sit very still and hope that the feelings of nausea would pass. They did, but not before the hand on her shoulder had reassuringly extended its area of support, rubbing gentle circles on the middle of the captainís back before eventually returning to grip the shoulder again.
Without thinking, the captain raised her right hand to touch the hand on her shoulder but as it neared its objective, Seven pulled her hand away.
The sense of disappointment that flooded through Janeway was immense, and trying hard not to show the effect that Sevenís withdrawal had had on her, she took a few deep breaths to calm the last tenuous feelings of nausea, and then started to leave the bio-bed but was stopped by the strong, restraining arm of the EMH.
"Not so fast, Captain. Thereís the bad news."
"I thought that was the bad news?" Janeway looked despairingly at the needle still in his hand.
"What, that little injection? After all youíve been through? Certainly not, Captain." The EMH looked her straight in the eye. "No, Captain, Iím afraid I must insist that you stay here for at least a couple of days so I can keep an eye on you. I would normally demand four days but I know I canít expect miracles." Adamantly. "Pick your bio-bed Ö and make yourself at home!"
"Why?" the captain challenged indignantly, "You said a minor infection, so where do these two days come from?"
Grim faced, "That little infection would never have got a grip if you had been looking after yourself better and obeying my sage advice. When was the last time you had a decent nightís sleep?"
The Captain thought back to her imprisonment and her captorsí regime of sleep deprivation. Was he really asking her this? Her face went stone hard and expressionless. "Too many months ago."
The doctor instantly recognised his inadvertent gaffe, "Yes, well Ö I mean .. you need to sleep, Captain, and the only way I can be assured of that is if I have you under my professional eye for a while."
"Okay, Okay. Look, how about cutting me a little slack here." The deep, husky voice carried just a little weary desperation, and the eyes mirrored the sentiments.
"Slack, Captain?" The doctor studied her with an unforgiving professional eye.
"Iíll go to my quarters and stay there .. for a day."
"Absolutely no deal, Captain. I know you. You will totally disregard my medical advice. When I say rest, Captain, it means no work, no padds, no accessing the computer. No wandering the ship in the dead hours!" Heavy emphasis. "For me to let you go back to your quarters right now, unaccompanied and unobserved, would be nothing short of medical negligence. You would have to have someone with you, full time, for at least the next four or five hours Ö and I donít have a long line of nurses at my beck and call. So, absolutely no!" The doctor folded his arms defensively, awaiting the backlash of vitriolic abuse.
But none came from the very dejected, miserable captain who sat in front of him on the bio-bed, totally defeated and with no energy left Ďfor the fightí.
"Doctor, I could escort the captain to her quarters and stay with her for the requisite time if that would be acceptable?" Seven stepped forward from behind Janeway, her hands behind her back in her usual efficient, formal stance. The Captainís features registered Ďtotal stuní at Sevenís suggestion, the two womenís eyes catching each otherís briefly before both looked away quickly, embarrassed.
The doctorís eyes narrowed as he gazed at her, "Ah yes, partners in crime. I should have expected no less from you, Seven. The two of you are thick as proverbial thieves." He was still smarting over his failure to catch the captain breaking his dietary advice in the mess. He was very prepared now to balance things a little and make the woman pay for blatantly disregarding his medical advice, but looking at her now, he felt she had simply Ďhad enoughí and decided to show a measure of mercy.
He wasnít going to admit it but if Seven would just take the Captain to her quarters and stay with her, it would probably be beneficial for both the women. The doctor was only too aware of how much Seven was still desperately trying to regain lost ground with the Captain .. and wasnít appearing to have much success. Captain Janeway, for all of her miraculous recovery, was at best a pale imitation of her former self.
"Well, I suppose, if you were to stay with the Captain and ensure she took things easy, I could allow .."
"That wonít be necessary, Doctor." Janeway interrupted him. "Iíll stay here for a little while, and when youíre content, Iíll return to my quarters."
The doctor looked as if heíd been hit across the face with a Silurian kipper.
"Actually, Captain, I really donít mind if Sev Ö"
"Well I do!" Her tone was sharp and the words implied no nonsense, impatience was creeping in.
Sevenís head dropped. Janeway was doing a wonderful job of keeping her in the margins, despite Chakotay and the doctorís efforts. Even Neelix had acted as her Ďspyí, informing her of when the Captain would turn up for her late night, early morning coffee fixes in the mess hall.
The Captain had been back on board now for several months, and in that time, apart from their mission together on the shuttle, Seven had been unable to get anywhere near this woman, other than the usual routine meetings, briefings and bridge duties. And she missed her company so very, very much. She ached to be back with her, if only to regain ground as a respected colleague, and maybe one day, friend again.
Seven let go of the breathe she didnít realise sheíd been holding in, and allowed her hands to unclasp from around her back and fall to her sides. She hesitatingly, nervously stepped closer to the smaller woman.
"Captain, I understand. If you would like, I could make arrangements for someone else to accompany and stay with you. Iím sure the doctor wouldnít mind."
Janeway turned and looked up at her with a look of total confusion on her face, a frown indenting her forehead, and then came the realisation of how Seven had misinterpreted what she had said.
Kathryn Janeway, without thought, instantly reached out and grabbed Sevenís Borg enhanced hand and held it tightly, her thumb rubbing the back of the metal encased structure.
"Seven, no! I wasnít trying to Ö.. I just feel Iíve put this ship out enough of late without having Chakotay lose two bridge officers during this watch." Kathryn Janeway stared Seven right in the face, desperately wanting the other woman to believe what she said. She threw every ounce of compassion she had into her voice, still holding tightly onto the hand and rubbing the back of it.
The indomitable ex Borg found she couldnít respond, for if she had, she wasnít sure that the relief cascading through her body wouldnít have come out as a sob. So she just stood there and let her commanding officer massage the back of her hand, experiencing the strange tingling sensations emanating there and running all the way up and down, through her body.
Eyes were locked on each otherís and Seven saw again the warmth of a smile she had witnessed at the wedding reception in the viewport, such a gentle, kind smile. How could she ever stop loving this woman? Like it or not, this person before her would be a part of her life, whether in it or not, until the day she died. This woman had done nothing but help and befriend her ever since she had freed her from the Collective, and all she had done in return was hurt her.
"A-hem." The doctor coughed tactfully, instantly causing the two women to drop hands.
"Since youíre obviously playing Ďhouse guestí here for a little while, Captain, I suggest you pick a bio-bed and make yourself comfortable."
Janeway allowed the doctor to assist her off the bed and guide her to another one where she would have a little more privacy, "I hope youíre through sticking needles in me." It wasnít a question.
Deflated, the EMH replied, "Yes."
Then, as an after thought. "And time for you to disappear, Seven. Havenít you got an asteroid to go study or something? Iíve seen enough of you lately to last a lifetime!" Content that the captain was settled, he turned and walked into his office.
Janeway saw Seven actually blush and remembered what Chakotay had told her about the vigil the young woman had kept over her whilst sedated in sickbay. Again, Janeway felt inadequate, not knowing how to deal with the emotional resonance she was suddenly feeling again. But Neelixís words came back to her from the night before last, about just doing and not thinking. So to hell with caution and trying to second guess if Seven did or didnít feel anything for her.
"Seven ÖI," the Captainís voice dropped a tone into that husky attractive level that always sent chills down Sevenís spine, "I want to tell you something, something I should have said a long time ago but I didnít know how to, and perhaps itís too late now but I want to say it anyway."
Alone together in the room, there was a comfortable feeling between the two of them and Kathryn Janeway glanced up at Seven. Sevenís attention was keenly focused on the captain, who paused, mentally formulating her words.
Sat upright but leaning against the headboard, she looked at Seven standing at her side, "It has never ceased to fascinate me, how an individual can say one thing and yet mean another Ö can appear to be in one emotional state and yet exist in completely another. I guess itís what they call the human condition." An interval to draw breath.
"Iím part of that human condition, Seven. What I think and what I say are sometimes so totally diverse. I act and I do things that are so often the complete opposite of what I want to say or do." A pause. "And yet I do it." The voice was raised slightly for the last few words, as if in self mockery.
Staring off as if intensely studying the whiteness of one of the sickbay bulkheads, the Captain continued, "Itís almost as if we humans are all schizophrenic, some wretched individual existing with a double identity. I suppose itís what makes us such an emotionally complex species and, in my opinion, one of the most fascinating, if not mentally fragile of life forms."
Seven viewed a chair at the side of the bio-bed, momentarily thought about sitting but then changed her mind. Even now, years after being separated from the Borg, she still preferred to stand. It made her feel Ö more relaxed. It was strange that humans chose to see it as the opposite.
Seven also feared that if she moved, she might break this magical spell surrounding them. Of course, Seven didnít know how the Captain was feeling but for the first time in a long while, Seven felt perfectly at ease and comfortable with this woman .. as she had once always felt. To describe her current state as happy would be premature but she just knew she didnít want this moment, with its feeling of well-being to cease. She hoped the Captain was experiencing these feelings too.
It was like the hard, cold and bitter winter was over and the thaw had set in, heralding the advent of a welcome spring.
Old times also told Seven that the Captain was about to say something important. So she stood and listened, and also chose to study the small framed, auburn haired woman, relishing the opportunity for full, uninterrupted licence to observe her, to savour her - a licence which usual social etiquette forbid.
Seven didnít have to be concerned that her staring would be considered rude since the Captain was talking directly to her, and with no one else in the room, it was rude not to give your fullest attention both mentally and visually. So she chose to attentively focus on the woman before her, feeling the thrill of this subtle intimacy play with her own desires.
It struck her how very thin this woman had become. Earlier in sickbay, an overly warm Janeway had removed her red tunic jacket, and sitting on this bed, with her sleeves pushed up her arms, Seven could see the too-slender arms, wrists and hands. She had felt the bony protrusions of the shoulder under her hand, but for all the problems the Captain had recently faced at the hands of the Sung Ti, she never complained and made little comment about what had happened to her.
The Captainís face was lean and the skin, tight. It was a .. beautiful, expressive face but still a little too thin, the cheeks a little too hollowed and shadowed, a jaw line too sharp.
An instinct almost uncontainable and difficult to ignore, Seven fought the urge, and not for the first time, to just reach out and take this damaged woman in her arms and wrap herself around her. She didnít. Instead she found her own mental sagacity waging war between her increasingly human instincts to protect, to love, to cherish - against the sage advice of the doctor and others, to not push Janeway emotionally. Allow her to heal in her own time.
"Seven, are you listening?"
The Captain continued, "I was saying, if I hadnít joined Star Fleet, I sometimes think I would have made a damn fine actress, playing the part of whatever was demanded, saying words and acting the parts regardless of my opinions."
"And so there is this paradox of the Star Fleet Captain and the woman who plays her. This continuum of existence .." Janewayís right hand drew an imaginary line in the air slowly, ".. at one end, what the person actually says and does, and at the other end, what that same person really thinks, feels and wants to do, but doesnít."
Seven heard the Captainís tone harden, heard the edge of bitterness cut its way through the words. She had never heard Kathryn Janeway speak with the edge of self-denunciation before.
"If you are lucky, Seven, the distance between the two ends isnít too far. Life isnít too difficult to accept when the ends are close." The voice now tailed into the distance, suddenly quiet again and the Captain stared out into some unseen void for what seemed like an eternity to Seven.
ĎWhat if the ends are not close?í the tall, visually flawless woman longed to ask.
"That day, Seven, that day when you told me of your feelings towards me .. that was the day when the lines, my lines, reached their furthest point." Again, a thin hand was raised, sketching the imaginary line in the air.
Janewayís voice actually trembled, something Seven had never heard before. "My head went that way, the Captainís actions," the hand stretched far left, "my heart, my thoughts, the unspoken Ö went that way." The delicate fingers of the same hand arched back to the extreme right." She paused as if to catch breath. Seven noticed the tremor in the right hand, the residue and constant reminder of the Captainís imprisonment.
"The line became too long, Seven .. too apart and too distant between what was said and what was unspoken."
The Captainís hand remained in mid air for a few seconds before slowly returning it to rest on the bed. Her face had lost colour and she closed her eyes, looking entirely drained of energy and emotion.
The silent observer could no longer remain silent, "What would the unspoken words have been if they had found a voice?"
It was a gentle question with no tone of accusation but it was the one question to which Seven so desperately wanted an answer, trusting that it would tell her where their relationship really stood .. if indeed there ever could be a relationship anymore. Sevenís heart pounded in her chest, so afraid of the answer she might hear.
One simple, most beautiful word.
A word said almost flatly, almost bereft of emotion but Seven had come to realise that in the short time the Captain had been back, though emotionally reticent, you took the small signs and magnified them for true feeling. The breath caught in Sevenís throat as she struggled to contain an involuntary gasp.
"They would all have been about love, Seven."
Janeway nervously looked up at Seven, one pointed glance and saw that residing there was the pain she felt as well. One pair of haunted eyes on another. Both of them desperate for some measure of hope.
ĎI mustnít give up nowí, the Captain thought, spurred on by what she saw in the young womanís eyes, something that dared her to be bold and just spit everything out. It was time to clear the air, time to find out where they stood with each other, even if the results mightnít be what the other wanted.
"If I had been less of a coward, my words would have matched your words .. and more. They would have been words that wanted to speak of longing, desire, passion, need .. the need to just be with you, always .. to share .." Searching. ".. share everything with you."
Another pause. The woman looked exhausted. "Words I would have said Ö" ĎStill would say,í she thought.
Seven frowned, "But you didnít say. Why?"
Janeway closed her eyes, breathed in deeply and then focused on the otherís eyes .. beautiful, clear eyes. A wry grin crossed her features.
"I thought I believed what I was saying. The great Captain Janeway can be a very persuasive speaker." But there was no humour in the tone or modulation of her voice. "Though I had all the pieces of the jigsaw, Seven, I hadnít quite put them all together or .. hadnít quite seen the picture and recognised what it was telling me."
A smile of immense affection lit the Captainís face as she looked at Seven in earnest, "I was a little slow, Seven, a little dense. I was also confused." Startling honesty.
But Seven wanted further explanation, clarification, almost as if she no longer trusted what this woman was saying. It was after all, a startling turn around on the feelings that the Captain had declared she didnít have all those months ago. Seven could not help the feelings that she didnít want to be played for a fool. "And now?"
"What has changed? Why now?"
Janeway sensed the edge of reservation in Sevenís questions, saw the cautiousness creep into the blue eyes and she began to experience a feeling that the opportunity to put things right was falling out of her tenuous grasp. She could almost taste failure.
Janeway glanced up at the sickbay ceiling, her face suddenly quite blank and devoid of all expression. She felt so very tired, to the point of exhaustion and those words sheíd wanted to say, to get across to Seven that she really did love her .. well, they didnít seem to be flowing right and Seven was becoming retrospective, less approachable again as she was clearly thinking back to when Janeway had denied her.
"I donít know whatís changed, Seven, and I know thatís not a good enough answer but itís the only one Iíve got right now. Maybe itís time. Iíve had a lot of time to think recently, to make sense of the pieces of the jigsaw, to put them all together and realise what has been in front of me for a long, long time. Time to recognise that .. I .. I like that picture and would like to try and Ö."
The EMH suddenly reappeared, returning from his office. "You still here, Seven?"
"Evidently." Sevenís exasperated and irritated response. Janeway just mumbled something incoherent.
"Iím afraid I must insist that you leave now, Seven. The captain needs her rest and she isnít going to get any with you here all day."
The Captain narrowed her eyes for the benefit of the EMH, "You really pick your moments, doctor. Weíre in the middle of something important, if you donít mind."
"Iím afraid I do mind, Captain." There was obstinacy about the statement, "Your health is my top priority right now as Iím sure Seven appreciates. Unless this conversation is of life threatening importance, which Iím sure it isnít, it will stop right now .. unless you wish me to have you escorted out of here?" His attention was firmly set on the ex Borg who merely raised an eyebrow.
Seven looked at the Captain who suddenly seemed very small. There were dark rims around her eyes that had not been there when they had first entered sickbay. There was also a strange and new air about the senior officer that exuded resignation, hopelessness .. of expectations that had not borne fruit. Had Seven been the cause of these? Her questions had been blunt, to the point and unexpectedly, she had experienced some measure of personal pain as sheíd remembered her rejection by the Captain, but she had never meant to hurt the woman.
As much as Seven wanted to continue the discussion, she knew the doctor was right and that Captain Janeway desperately needed to rest, regardless of the importance of the conversation left hanging.
"Captain, I .. I have found the discussion .. of relevance and interest. I would like to continue where we left off at another time. If this is acceptable to you?"
A calm, measured response, "If you wish."
"I do." Simple words loaded with subtext. Seven left.
As the doctor checked over his patient one more time, he queried, "Is it me or are the two of you getting along better?"
Much later that evening, Seven, having finished her duties, stood nervously outside Captain Janewayís quarters, having been informed by the doctor that the Captain had been allowed to return there after a period of rest in sickbay.
She hesitated as she went to touch the entry sensor, remembering all the repercussions that had occurred after she had last been in these rooms. How she had so foolishly poured out her feelings of love, and how she had been rejected. She considered also the after-effects, culminating in the termination of a wonderful friendship.
But strangely, after todayís astonishing admission by the Captain that she too shared feelings for Seven, the young woman found herself shying away from the door. Now she was suddenly wracked with feelings of inadequacy, inability, and inexperience. Had Janeway been right in the first place? Was Seven ready for this type of commitment, did she really understand what it meant. Was she good enough for Kathryn Janeway?
The flashes of pain sheíd experienced in the sickbay earlier had dissipated almost as quickly as they had risen, but she knew her questions had been blunt, sharp and had pushed Janeway back into those shadows she was fighting so desperately to leave.
Seven seemed to have a knack for bringing nothing but misery to this woman, this woman who mattered to her so much. Seven only knew that she needed her back in her life, and more than just a captain / crewman relationship. She wanted the friendship back but she also dared for something more but should she? Perhaps friendship ought to be what she should settle for. Oh, the illogic of these stupid human emotions!
She requested entry.
Half expecting a Ďnot to be disturbedí response, Seven got nothing. Good, she thought, the captain must still be awake. She requested entry again.
"Computer, locate Captain Janeway."
ĎCaptain Janeway is in her quarters,í the computerised female voice droned in response.
Seven experienced unease as she requested access a third time. For a third time, she met with no response. Her unease now turned to controlled panic. The Captain had looked decidedly sick earlier in sickbay. What if she had collapsed? Or worse? This time she flagrantly disobeyed orders and used the security access code to gain entrance into the Captainís quarters.
The door hissed open.
Once inside, Seven had to adjust her vision to the low lighting but she immediately focused on the Captain who was sat on the couch beneath the viewport, her body leaning slightly to the left with her head slumped to her chest.
Sevenís controlled panic broke apart as she rushed over to the woman, calling out "Kathryn!" In her rush, she hit the small coffee table before the couch, knocking a heavy solid metal ornament over which noisily clattered to the floor.
Janeway awoke, her senses springing into action and sitting upright, she saw the young woman before her come to a grinding halt, abject terror written across her unblemished, classical features.
"Seven! Whatís wrong?" the professional command mode voice.
"Captain Ö Iím sorry. I requested entry .. you didnít answer .. three times Ö I thought you were .. I.." Seven was breathless and agitated. Realising her error and forcing herself to reinstate a sense of calm, "I .. have woken you. I am sorry. I will leave." Embarrassment. Mistake.
Janeway immediately analysed the event and picked up all of Sevenís fears, as she saw Seven about to turn to leave.
"No. Wait Ö Seven." She stood to move towards the woman, inadvertently treading on the fallen metal object, which caused her to stumble slightly, pitching her forward and down.
The Astrometrics Officer reacted with speed, grace and strength, easily capturing the senior officer in her outstretched arms and quickly, effortlessly, depositing her back on her feet. The final manoeuvre left them both standing within a foot of the other, each with their hands firmly resting on the others forearms for support. The pervading silence was deafening as forget-me-not light blue eyes met deep summer blue ones. The connection hummed with electricity.
Janeway swallowed nervously. They seemed to stand there for ages, neither of them willing to move or say anything for fear of breaking that connection. Each could hear the other breathe. Each could see and acknowledged the desperate fear and pain in the otherís eyes.
Eventually, Seven whispered, "Please, please do not ask me to leave." It was a gentle request said with humility, a memory reminding her that the last time she had been there, this woman had asked her to go.
Seven felt the ever-present tremor in the womanís right arm.
Silence. Then a simple, "I wonít."
Still they stood as if both frozen in time. Janewayís inner voice was screaming at her, ĎSay something!í Almost a whisper, the smaller woman spoke.
"Donít let go."
"I wonít." A whisper back as Sevenís face relaxed, the earlier panic leaving her graceful, flawless features.
The Captain smiled very slightly, never once taking her eyes off Seven.
The silence became comfortable as it wrapped itself around them like a warm blanket.
"Seven." The name wasnít spoken as a question, more as a statement, some form of confirmation to an unknowing test. And Seven just accepted its terms, did not pursue its meaning or intention. Her increasingly innate instinct told her to remain silent, to wait.
"I .. I want to Ö" The Captainís words went unfinished and trailed off into silence.
Seven watched the Captain studying her face. "Are you going to talk to me again about lines of continuum and multi personality disorders?"
Sevenís eyes twinkled. When Janeway didnít respond, "Humour, Captain. The subtle art of relieving tension."
A ghost of a smile cut across the Captainís face and then was gone.
"Have I left it too late, Seven?"
A familiar eyebrow arched.
"Have I left it too late, too late to be in love with you and have that love returned?"
Seven let go of the Captainís one forearm and with a hand, reached up and ran it caressingly down the side of Janewayís face who closed her eyes and allowed herself to lean into the warm touch, her face devoid of emotion.
"Can you forgive me?" Sevenís voice was a whisper.
"Nothing to forgive, Seven Ö nothing to forgive." The words were spoken with such love and gentleness, and when the Captain opened her eyes, she saw the unshed tears like pools in Seven eyes.
Seven drew in a breathe and as if trying to deflect the Captainís scrutiny of her, "You should sit Ö your leg".
Janeway just shook her head.
The smaller woman longed to reach out and pull Seven into her arms, to hold her close but something blocked her actions, something dark and heavy stood in her way. And it was at that moment, that very instant that she came to accept and realise the full implications and after-effects of her incarceration. Something inside her, couldnít let her follow through her emotions. It was like that first time you went to dive off the high board in the swimming pool, you wanted to do it but some inbuilt safety mechanism made you hesitate and question what you were about to do.
Now all her emotions, those feelings that she had forced down, stopped herself from experiencing when held captive - they were still inaccessible except on the most surface level. The safety mode was still on and she didnít know how to turn it off!
In frustration, she lowered her head, closed her eyes and cursed silently.
"Kathryn?" A gentle, concerned voice. "What is wrong?"
Janeway couldnít answer, neither could she look at the beautiful woman before her, her eyes still closed.
"Please Ö donít doubt me, Seven. Donít ever doubt my love for you, not now." The tension around the older woman emanated despair, inconsolable despair.
"I do not." Seven believed Kathryn Janeway entirely but could not place the problem.
"What is wrong, Kathryn?" the concern evident in her voice.
"Do you doubt my intentions?" Was that it? Seven had not told Kathryn Janeway that she still loved her. Error. To be corrected.
Seven slipped her hand from the Captainís face and again found the other womanís lonely hand.
"I love you, Kathryn Janeway. My feelings for you can never change, no matter what happens. I will love you until my last breath." She slowly and gently tugged on the other womanís hands, pulling her into a caress. Her long arms wrapping round the smaller, fragile bundle in front of her.
Now Seven could feel the entire body of the Captain starting to tremble but she didnít cry or speak. Something was very wrong but Seven intuitively sensed it was not to do with them, with their re-connection.
When she had released Janewayís hands to wrap her own around the womanís body, the Captain had simply let her arms fall to her side, to be supported by Seven. Sometime, maybe only a few minutes later, Seven felt the Captain lift those hands to place them tenderly, loosely on Sevenís waist.
Then there was a deep sigh from the older woman who, with a quiet but steady voice, spoke.
"On Krasus, I thought I was going to lose my mind .. the pain never stopped and at some time, it seemed like my own mind, my own emotions were turning against me. So I had to close down my emotions, I had to drive them away, hide them somewhere inside my head. I had to stop feeling, Seven. It was the only way I thought I could survive."
This was the first time that Janeway had spoken about what had happened to her on the planet and Seven recognised its importance in the recovery process of the Captain. Wanting to encourage the conversation and yet afraid to say anything, she chose only, and instinctively, to hold the smaller woman closer to her in support.
"My thoughts, my emotions .. my mental state .. these were the ways they could get to me. In the beginning Ö I held out but I couldnít continue .. what they did, they never stopped, Seven. The pain never stopped .. and I learned the hard way that courage is will power and itís not an unlimited stock."
The quietness of the room had thickened to claustrophobic levels.
"I started to ..experience fear, real fear .. fear that I was going to die there, that I would never return to Voyager, never see my family again, that no one would ever know how I died .. that I would never see you again and be able to tell you the truth, that I loved you. What I was feeling was worse than any pain they inflicted on me, so I stopped feeling. I put everything that I am, into a box and bound it up tight and became inhuman."
Sevenís hand moved up Janewayís back and caressed the back of her head, her fingers meshed in with the soft, silk-like auburn hair. Seven experienced something she could only term as both humbling and an honour, that this woman should open up to her Ė her Ė after everything they had been through. This was trust. This was surely love.
"The trouble is, Seven, .. I canít untie the box Ö I canít seem to access my emotions any more. I know .. I feel things somewhere because I know I love you .. but I canít seem to express anything. Itís like Iím not capable anymore, like I donít have the energy." The tone was even and flat.
More silence. Seven waited patiently.
"And I donít want to lose you, .. not now."
Seven gently pushed the Captain back from the embrace so that she could look directly into her eyes. "You will not lose me, Kathryn. I promise you."
She moved both hands to cup the older womanís face, her thumbs resting on the otherís cheekbones.
"The feelings will return, Kathryn. They will surface but you must be patient." Sevenís voice was empathic in its reassurance.
"Will they? I think they broke me, Seven." There was an increased trembling in the voice. The eyes which had now turned a strange mixture of blue and grey, looked away from Seven but the ex Borg moved the captive face to regain attention.
With confident insistence, "They damaged you, Kathryn. They did not break you. The damage can be repaired. Together, we will repair you."
A fleeting ghost of a smile from the fragile form.
Janeway then just seemed to fall towards Seven, wanting ..needing to be held close in the warm embrace of someone who would, one day, spirits willing, become her lover.
She heard her name ĎKathryní sweetly whispered in her ear as she nuzzled into the neck of the taller woman who had again raised a hand up into her hair and held her head close to her.
"Just hold me, Seven .. please."
Seven felt the fragile woman shaking in her arms and wanted to hold her so tightly, she feared she would squeeze the very life out of her. And somewhere in that moment, realisation dawned that this was what it was like to love someone and to have them love you back. To care more for their well-being than your own. This was humanity. Experiencing this, Seven recognised that what the Borg had once claimed of her as theirs, she had finally taken back and they would never possess again. Her journey home was complete Ė complete because of this woman in her arms.
How could you explain this physical connection, the power it encompassed? Seven felt as if her heart was going to expand and burst, the joy of it being almost painful. If her life stopped now, holding Kathryn Janeway in her arms, she would die happy. Happy? Suddenly she understood the concept of that word too. Being human suddenly made complete sense. It was belonging; it was both being an individual but also being part of a collective, a collective of two.
"I love you, Kathryn, with all that I am, I am yours." An epiphany of truth.
She felt Janeway tighten her grip around her waist and in response, she rocked the woman in her arms.
"You are safe now, Kathryn. You are safe."
And Janeway knew she was.
They stood there in the Captainís quarters for a long time, holding each other, content to feel the others breath, to feel the warmth of each otherís body.
And Seven of Nine continued to rock the beloved woman in her arms. It surprised her that her own actions had been so automatic, without analytical thought, and second nature. She recalled a conversation with the Captain many years ago regarding the striking up of relationships. Seven had questioned how she would know that she was indeed entering a relationship and how to proceed. The Captain had merely smiled sagely and said that Seven Ďwould knowí and that the heart Ďkinda took over, no planning necessaryí.
Yes. This was all instinct and it made her feel good to think that the Borg had not crushed the essence of who she was, who she would have truly been if not assimilated.
Seven felt the woman sag a little in her arms.
"The doctor is right, you need more sleep."
The woman Ďhummedí into her neck. "Resting makes me restless." Avoidance.
"You must regenerate, Kathryn, your body needs sleep to assist you in recovery."
"I donít want to sleep, Seven. I donít sleep well."
"Have you tried?" Seven questioned with gentle humour, her face comfortable, resting against the Captainís hair.
"Sometimes, I dream I am back there." Seven knew the doctor was not aware of this fact.
Seven leaned back to look Janeway in the eye. "You have nightmares?"
Janeway looked embarrassed, "Yes."
"Nightmares usually are."
Seven evaluated the response and with great compassion, brought her hands up to the other womanís face, possibly too quickly this time, for Janeway momentarily flinched, remembering Darítoth who had done this too many times. Seven recognised this for what it was, a Ďbad memoryí, but her hands remained on the otherís face.
"These hands will never harm you. Let new memories replace the bad ones." She applied gentle pressure to the face and studied the weary Captainís features lovingly.
"You will sleep tonight, Kathryn. I will assist you. You will not have nightmares."
Janewayís eyes looked into hers, disbelieving ones filled with doubt and pain.
"Come." And Seven guided the Captain by the hand to the latterís double bed, and invited her to lie down. "Trust me. You will not dream bad dreams tonight."
Kathryn Janeway momentarily hesitated and looked at Seven, trepidation written across her features, clearly wondering what Seven had in mind and keenly aware that there were some things she wasnít up to just yet. But Seven, pre-empting the Captainís genuine reservations, shook her head. "Do not be concerned, Kathryn, you need time to Ďrepairí. First, you must learn to sleep again."
Seven gently pushed the other woman down onto the bed and then removed her boots.
Janeway just watched her in fascination. She then instructed the Captain to remove her grey jumper, leaving only the grey tank top. Seven, having slipped her own shoes off, lay down on the bed and positioned herself behind Janewayís back, nestling up and holding her close.
She could feel the tenseness in the Captainís body but chose to ignore it, "Close your eyes, and sleep. Trust me."
Janeway said nothing and closed her eyes, no longer able to stay awake, her resistance entirely gone.
And she slept for 12 continuous hours, with Seven at her side. Every time her body flinched, indicating an approaching nightmare, Seven would gently wake her and then immediately rock her back to sleep again. This repeated itself many times.
Captain Kathryn Janeway drew a deep breath and opened her eyes. She felt at peace and rested for the first in a long time. She had slept, and slept well. There was a light weight on her chest and looking down, she saw Sevenís head resting there and found herself wrapped in the lean, warm arms of the long, slender, ex Borg. A cascade of honey blonde hair was strewn across the younger womanís face.
Janeway inhaled the scent of the other woman, smiling to herself. The mantra, ĎResistance is futile, you will be assimilatedí went through her head. Who would resist?
She had no idea where this relationship was going but this felt so right. Why had she ever fought it? Why did she have to make things so difficult for herself?
She brushed some of the errant hair away from Sevenís face and in doing so, the other woman stirred and moved her head to look up at the other.
"Hello you." Tones of deep affection purred from the Captain, who continued to stroke the womanís face.
"Kathryn." Pause. "You have slept well." It wasnít a question, and Janeway nodded.
"Yes," Janeway stretched a little, "Perhaps the Ďrepair processí is starting." She smiled again.
Seven frowned a little and then quoted, "We can become stronger Ė at the broken places."
Janeway identified the quote, "Hemingway." She looked puzzled, "Since when did you become a reader of Hemingway?"
Seven looked away, her hold on Janeway tightening. "I thought you were dead. I used to come here and just sit. Somehow it eased the pain. I read your books .. they made me feel closer to you. I could tell by the worn pages, those that you favoured .. the pages you frequently looked at and I read them. I donít understand all of them Kathryn, but some are beautiful. I enjoy Hemingway."
She glanced back at the Captain whose eyes had brimmed with tears, "Who else do you like?" The voice was thick with emotion.
Seven moved off Janeway and settled herself at the womanís side, her head resting against a pillow, turned to face the diminutive woman. She quoted something,
"Give sorrow words; the grief that does
"Macbeth." Janeway felt her stomach clench and reached out to hold Seven closely.
Several minutes passed in companionable silence.
"Donít you have duty, Seven?" Not an accusation, merely a simple question.
"No. I am .. on vacation."
"This is hardly a vacation!" Janeway eased back and stared at the blonde, incredulously.
The blonde gave the statement some thought. "I am Ö relaxed. I do not work. I am with the one I love, in a different surrounding. Is that not the purpose of a vacation?"
"Seven, remind me to develop your understanding of vacation later." Janeway said softly in mocked scepticism.
The two women smiled at each other, content to merely rest side by side, intoxicated by the others presence.
"Seven, donít ever let me lose you again .. I love you too much."
Seven just held the Captain closer.
"And I, you." Sevenís instant response.
The foundations of their future relationship were now in place and together they could both move forward. Seven knew that time and love would heal this woman she cherished, of that she was sure.
This time, time would be kinder to Captain Kathryn Janeway and Seven of Nine, and both of them could look forward to new beginnings.