Seven of Nine entered the quarters to find them bathed in candlelight. She looked around, confused. Captain Kathryn Janeway, the owner of the quarters was standing by the couch two champagne glasses in her hands.
"What is this?" Seven asked.
"Happy anniversary, Seven," Janeway’s voice was warm and rich and it tickled Seven in ways she was unable to process. The captain handed Seven a champagne glass.
"Captain?" confusion and wonder filled her tone. Perhaps this evening was going to progress differently than she had first imagined.
"It was five years ago today that you became part of our family. I know it has been a difficult road, but I just wanted to tell you how proud I am of you. Sometimes I think your humanity surpasses even mine," Janeway smiled as she raised her glass in a toast. "Happy anniversary, Seven. Voyager is richer by your presence."
Tears began to form in Kathryn’s eyes so she quickly took a drink of the champagne. Seven followed suit.
"I know you still dislike being the center of attention, so I kept the celebration small. I hope you don’t mind?" the captain ushered Seven to a seat at the table where a small feast was laid out. Seven was touched yet again when she realized that the captain had gone out of her way to replicate all of her favorite foods.
"This is wonderful, Captain. Thank you very much. I don’t mind celebrating with just you. It has been some time since we have had shared a meal together, just the two of us."
Janeway smiled in relief. She had been a little worried that Seven would be offended at such an intimate display. But Janeway had ignored her fears and gone ahead with her plans. She was glad she had followed her instincts. "It has been awhile, hasn’t it? We should work on that."
The smile that graced Seven’s face at that comment could only be described as radiant. "I concur, Captain."
"Please, we’ve been together for five years now Seven. I think you can call me Kathryn when we are off duty." Janeway instantly regretted the wording of her sentence. ‘Oh god, I hope she doesn’t think I meant anything by saying we’ve been together,’ she fretted internally.
Feeling as if she was dreaming Seven of Nine could barely find her voice. "I would like that, Kathryn," she replied tremulously. This was definitely an evening to remember for the former Borg.
Dinner was spent sharing stories and reminiscing about adventures from the past five years. Janeway couldn’t remember a recent evening where she felt so relaxed and comfortable. If she were honest she would have to admit that she never felt as relaxed and comfortable as she did when she was with Seven. There was something about the young woman that made Janeway feel like she was home. They had retired to the couch after dinner and both women seemed reluctant to end the evening. The topics had shifted from past adventures to planning future ones.
"That sounds like a truly fascinating planet. I would love to visit it with you," Seven smiled shyly at Janeway. She had consumed three glasses of champagne over the course of the evening and she was definitely feeling the effect of the synthehol. Her inhibitions were lowered and she found herself saying things she would normally keep to herself.
Janeway’s heart clenched. The evening had been perfect but it was beginning to get out of hand. After 5 glasses of wine the iron band of control that she normally kept her emotions behind was showing definite signs of wear and tear. It was time for a graceful retreat. Fantasies were nice for an evening, but it was time for reality to supercede.
"I would think that visiting Risa would best be left for you and Chakotay. It is quite a romantic planet. Couples come from across the Alpha Quadrant to visit. I hear it is the number one honeymoon spot for humans looking to get away from Earth," Kathryn was too busy averting her eyes as she spoke to notice the crestfallen look on Seven’s face.
Seven had been avoiding the topic of Chakotay all evening, but since the Captain had brought it up she figured she might as well take the segue offered to her. "Speaking of Commander Chakotay, I have something I wish to tell you."
Janeway felt a burning sensation in her chest and her dinner threatened to come back up. She knew exactly what Seven was going to say and she knew she didn’t want to hear it. Not tonight, not with her control so weak. She took a deep breath and retreated behind her command mask to get through the rest of this conversation. "Yes, Seven?" trying to sound interested she didn’t notice that her voice was as monotone as a Borg.
Seven was too distracted by her own emotional turmoil to notice Janeway’s shift in mood. She had been meaning to tell Janeway all night but she hadn’t wanted to ruin the wonderful evening. Kathryn had given her a gift with this anniversary and she didn’t want the memories spoiled. It looked like she wasn’t going to get her wish. "Commander Chakotay has asked me to marry him."
Even though she knew this was coming, it still felt like a bomb had exploded in her heart. ‘No, god. Please god. Anything but this,’ Janeway moaned internally.
"That’s wonderful, Seven. I suppose this really was a night to celebrate." Kathryn raised her wine and finished the almost full glass in one draught.
"I haven’t decided if I should accept his offer yet." The silence was deafening. Neither woman looked at the other as both were lost in their thoughts.
‘This is it, Katie. She’s giving you the perfect opening. Tell her not to do it. Tell her he’s no good for her. Tell her they aren’t well suited for each other. Tell her the truth--that you love her and he could never give her what you could,’ Janeway’s inner voice begged.
"Commander Chakotay is a good man. You could do much worse than marrying him," Kathryn offered diplomatically. ‘But she could do better! Tell her Katie! This could be your last hope!’
"Commander Chakotay *is* a good man. And I know that he loves me very much." Kathryn was too busy ignoring her inner voice to notice the glaring omission that this statement revealed.
"You two have been dating for quite awhile now. I’m surprised that he didn’t ask you sooner," Kathryn’s mouth kept talking but her brain was shutting down. All she could think about was Seven marrying someone else. She was losing her hold on her control so she let the captain take over while the woman retreated to lick her wounds.
"We have been dating one year, four months, 2 weeks, and three days. When we began dating I had made it clear to him that I wanted to ‘take it slow.’ I believe this was as long as he could wait. He is quite anxious to hold the ceremony."
"Really? When were you thinking of holding it?" Janeway moved to the replicator and recycled her empty wine glass, then requested a whiskey and soda. She moved back to the couch and sat at the opposite end from Seven, further away than they had been earlier in the evening.
"He would like to have the ceremony next month," Seven found herself answering the captain’s questions automatically. It felt as if her world, so carefully constructed, was falling apart. She realized that she was about to cry, and didn’t want to show so much emotion to Captain Janeway. It was obvious that Janeway wasn’t going to say anything against Chakotay’s proposal like Seven had been secretly wishing for.
It wasn’t that she didn’t like Chakotay. He was a good man, and he did love her. She cared for him in return, but just not as much as she should. Over the course of their relationship she had come to realize that the feelings she felt for him were not as strong as the ones she experienced for her captain. Part of her believed that those feelings were returned and she had hoped that this conversation would bring about confessions. Unfortunately, this looked not to be the case. Either Kathryn did not feel love for Seven, or she was too stubborn to admit it. Seven felt a door close around her heart. She knew that she could tell the captain that she was experiencing doubt because she loved another but somehow she instinctively knew that the only way things would work out between her and the stubborn starship captain would be if Janeway expressed her feelings first.
Abruptly Seven stood up, suddenly unable to be in the same room as Kathryn any longer. "I should be going, Captain. It is late and we both have duty in the morning."
"Good night Seven," Janeway called, having the foreboding sense that Seven was not only walking out of her quarter’s, but out of her life forever. Feeling disgusted with herself and angry at her First Officer she threw the empty glass against the wall that separated her quarters from the man in question. "Die, Chakotay, die," she murmured incoherently.
* * * * * *
It’s funny how quickly time passes when you are dreading something. The month between Seven telling Janeway about Chakotay’s proposal and the actual ceremony passed by in what felt like the blink of an eye. At least to Kathryn. It hadn’t helped that the entire ship had been ecstatic at the news. There had been weddings over the years on Voyager, but most, like Tom and B’Elanna’s, had been small affairs. The crew had decided that a huge wedding was in store for the ship’s First Officer and Astrometrics Officer.
As she stood at the altar in her dress uniform Kathryn looked on at what seemed to be her entire crew. There was a skeleton crew on the bridge and in engineering, but everyone else was here ready to celebrate the union of Seven and Chakotay. Everyone was smiling and happy, eager to share in the joy of this event. Everyone but Kathryn. It had taken three whiskey and sodas just to get her nerves calm enough to put her uniform on. It was bad enough that Seven was actually going to marry Chakotay. What made it even worse was that she would have to perform the ceremony. Not for the first time she wished she was not captain. Things would be so much easier and perhaps this would be her wedding…
As the music started she felt one more piece of her heart fall away. ‘You can still stop this, Katie,’ her inner voice started but even it seemed lifeless. There was no other way. She was the captain. She would do her duty. She would marry the woman she loved to one of her best friends, sit through as much of the reception as she could handle then go back to her quarters and drown her sorrow in synthehol. If she could just make it through the ceremony she’d be fine. She finally flashed a smile at the groom who had been standing in front of her for the last few minutes. She knew it was her imagination but the smile he returned seemed smug to her.
Naomi Wildman started down the aisle. She had been extremely excited to have been included in the ceremony. B’Elanna and Seven had mended fences and could be considered friends, but the relationship between Naomi and Seven was special and Seven would have no one else as her Maid of Honor. Besides, Chakotay had bucked tradition by asking B’Elanna to be his Best Man.
The music switched to the wedding march. Seven had done copious amounts of research and had insisted on a traditional earth ceremony. Chakotay could deny his bride-to-be nothing, so a traditional earth wedding it was.
Kathryn gasped as she got her first sight of the bride. No one heard the captain; the entire room made similar noises as Seven approached the altar on the arm of the Doctor. Seven was a vision in white. Her dress was a floor length, sleeveless number with a long train. A veil covered her face obscuring the look of horror that was etched on her features.
‘I can not go through with this, this is wrong, I can not go through with this,’ reverberated through Seven’s head while she slowly glided down the aisle to meet her groom. Instead of looking at him, Seven’s eyes were latched on Janeway’s. She could see the attraction Janeway felt for her in the captain’s eyes as she looked at Seven; the look slowly morphed into one of dread as the reality of the situation registered with Janeway. For a moment Seven almost bolted. ‘It wouldn’t be so bad, leaving Chakotay at the altar. Better that, than marrying a man I really don’t love.’ She looked over at the man in question. He smiled at her so gently and with so much love, she knew she couldn’t hurt him. Her life with him would never be filled with passion and intensity, but it would be filled with love and comfort. She turned her gaze back to Kathryn in time to see all her emotions fall behind the command mask as Captain Janeway took over. ‘This is the correct decision. This is the only decision. Kathryn will never admit her feelings. Better a life with Chakotay than one alone.’
Kathryn felt as if she were standing on quicksand. This was too much. How much torture could one woman bear? It took all the command training she had not to burst into tears or throw up. As she had been doing a lot lately, Kathryn allowed the captain to take over. She started the ceremony on auto-pilot, barely paying attention to the words coming out of her mouth. She was staring at a spot just above the couple’s heads so she wouldn’t have to look at either of them.
"If anyone has a reason why these two people should not be wed they should speak now or forever hold their peace." In the silence, Kathryn finally looked at Seven who was looking back at her. What she saw in the younger woman’s eyes took her breath away. Attraction, desire, and love were being radiated, not to Chakotay but to her. The captain took a deep breath as the rest of the holodeck melted away and all that existed were Seven’s eyes. Taking a chance, she let all of her attraction, desire and love for Seven visible in her eyes as well. Seven smiled as the connection between the two women grew tighter. Janeway heard a noise coming from her left, but she ignored it, refusing to look away from Seven’s eyes.
‘Why have I been fighting this?’ she asked herself as she slowly drowned in the love Seven’s eyes contained. The noise to her left grew louder and she finally looked away to see what it was. The rest of the holodeck came racing back to her perception and she realized that the noise was Chakotay clearing his throat to get her attention. She was in the middle of performing a wedding. Seven’s wedding. How long she and Seven had been staring into each other’s eyes, she wasn’t sure. But it was enough for people to have noticed that something was amiss. The crew were shifting in their seats unsure what the hold up was.
‘It’s now or never Katie, and after seeing what you just saw you’d better make the right decision,’ Janeway’s little voice demanded. Captain Kathryn Janeway cleared her throat, then opened her mouth to speak.
"Red Alert. All crew, please report to battle stations," the business-like tone of Commander Tuvok’s voice came over the communications system. For a moment the room held its breath, confused by the interruption. Then controlled chaos broke out as everyone rushed off to man their posts.
Janeway, Chakotay and Seven ended up sharing a turbolift on their way to the bridge. "It wouldn’t be a Delta Quadrant wedding without a red alert," the First Officer joked. "I suppose I should be happy it wasn’t the honeymoon that got interrupted," he continued. "Well, my darling wife, are you ready to take on the bad guys?" he smiled at Seven affectionately.
"Technically, she isn’t your wife yet," Kathryn tried to keep the tone light and humorous, but there was a hint of something darker there.
"What?" he asked, confused.
"I never did declare you husband and wife. The ceremony was interrupted," she really wasn’t sure why she was saying these things but for some reason she wanted to make it clear to her First Officer that he hadn’t won yet. It might be late in the game, but Kathryn Janeway wasn’t going down without a fight.
"Oh, come on Kathryn. That’s just a formality," he chuckled a bit and saw that she wasn’t laughing. "You’re serious!" he was incredulous.
Kathryn realized that she was coming on a bit harsh. Things needed to get sorted out, but in the turbolift on the way to battle was neither the time nor the place. "I just think that it would be wise to have all the legalities in place for when we get back to the Alpha Quadrant. We wouldn’t want there to be any problems with your marriage to a Borg."
"Ex-Borg," he replied automatically. Something was going on here, something he didn’t understand or like. First there had been the weird pause in the ceremony and now Kathryn was being a strange stickler for details.
"The captain is correct, Chakotay. We don’t want any surprises when we return to the Alpha Quadrant," Seven refused to look at the commander as she sided with Janeway.
"Fine. Pronounce us husband and wife."
The turbolift doors slid open, but for a moment no one aboard it moved. Janeway felt the challenge in his tone. She looked over at Seven. The other woman was giving away nothing. It was up to Janeway to make a decision. She took a deep breath and exited the turbolift. "Report!" she barked at Tuvok as she took her seat back from him. Chakotay plopped down in his seat, anger emanating from him in waves. She ignored him and got lost in the situation at hand.
* * * * * *
Janeway stared at the glass in her hand confused. It was empty, that was what the problem was. She weaved to the replicator and requested another drink. Taking a sip, a small part of her recognized that somewhere along the line the soda in her whiskey and soda had been done away with. She had lost count of how many drinks she had consumed. What did it matter. She could still feel… way too much for her comfort.
This was the first night in weeks that Janeway felt she was able to let herself get drunk. There had been too much to do before. Voyager had barely managed to escape destruction in their battle with the Mordians, the aliens that had interrupted Seven and Chakotay’s wedding. Limping away from the battle they had been lucky to escape as well off as they had. Only fifteen people had been killed.
Sitting on her couch, Kathryn allowed herself to remember the last few weeks. The Mordians had swooped in out of nowhere and attacked Voyager with little to no reason. They weren’t even in their area of space. Tuvok said that they just started attacking. No warning, nothing. Voyager had managed to repel the first battle ship with little problem. However, they had retreated only to return with four of their friends in tow, with lethal results: Voyager had seen its first casualties in months. Ten of the casualties were immediate. The other five had died in sickbay, three of them never waking up from the comas they had fallen into. Kathryn took each death as a personal affront.
Turning her mind away from this path she tried to think of more pleasant things. She couldn’t find any. Kathryn took another long swig of whiskey. She knew she was avoiding the subject she both needed to think about, and needed to avoid. She had buried her best friend today. She snorted at this thought. Her best friend. Her last memory of him was her betraying him. How hard would it have been to just go ahead and say what he wanted to hear that day?
No. She wasn’t going to go over this again. It was in the past. No one but Seven knew about it. The rest of the ship just assumed that Chakotay and Seven were husband and wife. They treated Seven as the grieving widow. No one needed to know the truth. It didn’t matter now anyway.
But it ate at her. Chakotay had died…not married, and it was all her fault. She had done that to him, his Captain, his friend…full of spite, and for reasons that she could barely remember now. All she could remember was that she had betrayed the man who had helped hold this crew together for eight long years. She finished the drink in a gulp and tossed the glass. It bounced impotently against the wall.
A ringing sound echoed loudly in the room. Janeway blinked, unsure what the noise was. It rang again sounding more urgent to Janeway’s ears. Realizing it was her door chime and who must be on the other side of the door she ignored it. Finally the person gave up. Janeway sighed in relief.
Her relief was not long lasting. The door opened admitting Seven of Nine to the Captain’s Quarters. Neither spoke immediately. Janeway was surprised that Seven had the gall to override the security seal on her door. She realized that she shouldn’t be; Seven had been trying to speak with her for days now.
"You have been avoiding me," Seven’s tone was accusatory.
Janeway refused to look at the former Borg. She had consumed too much synthehol, she was not in control of her emotions. She could not have this conversation.
"You certainly have a way of stating the obvious."
Seven was taken aback. She had been expecting an argument, but the captain had conceded without a fight. For a moment, Seven was unsure how to continue.
Janeway snorted. Perhaps this conversation wouldn’t be as bad as she thought. She might just get out of it unscathed. Trying to pull as many of her wits together as she could find she sat up straighter on the couch.
"It’s late. I’m tired. I really don’t think we need to have this conversation right now."
This was more like it. This is what Seven had been expecting. She would not allow Janeway to get the upper hand. She decided to skip ahead. "Why did you not pronounce Chakotay and I husband and wife?"
Janeway was not expecting this question. She finally looked at Seven, her mouth hanging slightly open in shock. The shock gave way to anger. Who did this woman think she was; violating her privacy, demanding answers to questions that should never be asked? Especially now.
"How dare you! How dare you barge in here, today of all days and ask me that question," Kathryn seethed with anger.
Seven took a deep breath, her chest heaving. "I will leave you alone," she watched as Janeway visibly relaxed at this statement, "as soon as you answer my question."
Kathryn realized that her anger was misplaced; she wasn’t upset with Seven, but herself. It was perfectly reasonable for Seven to question her motivation. Janeway’s shoulders slumped in defeat. "I can’t answer you, Seven. Not now. Especially not today," for once she allowed her emotions to show through as she spoke.
Seven came over to the couch and kneeled in front of Kathryn. "Kathryn, please. If not today then when? You will always find an excuse why you can’t discuss this. Your reasons are no longer relevant. Please, I must know," she knew she was begging but she no longer cared. This conversation should have been held years ago.
Kathryn continued to avoid looking at Seven. It was obvious Seven wasn’t going to go anywhere until Janeway confessed her sins. And that was something she simply could not do. There was a time she might have been able to; now, it was impossible. Seven should realize that. After five years of arguing, Kathryn knew the patterns the two of them usually fell into. Seven was expecting Kathryn to get angry, while she would remain cool and collected arguing from a point of logic. Kathryn wasn’t going to fall into that trap tonight. She decided to turn the tables on the Borg.
"Why did you agree to marry Chakotay?"
Seven was certainly not expecting this question. She swallowed convulsively. The room was dark and smelled of alcohol. Her throat constricted and it felt like she couldn’t breathe. She didn’t know what to say. After five years of playing cat and mouse with Kathryn Janeway she was finally the mouse. It was not a pleasant feeling. She had promised herself that she would not open herself up to this woman, not until Janeway opened up first. That seemed pointless now. She took another deep breath and decided to do what she had been avoiding for years. Tell the truth.
"Because he loved me. Because I was afraid of being alone. Because I knew that you would never admit how you felt. That you loved me just as much," she paused as her voice broke, "just as much as I love you."
Kathryn finally looked at Seven; tears were coursing down the younger woman’s face. Janeway felt as if she were drowning as her own sobs overcame her.
"Oh Seven," she grabbed for the Borg, holding on to her as if she were the only thing keeping Kathryn afloat. She sobbed for what felt like hours and Seven continued to just hold her. Finally, her sobs receded. "Everything is such a mess," Kathryn muttered into Seven’s hair.
"Now who has a way of stating the obvious?" Seven whispered.
Janeway drew back in surprise and couldn’t suppress the giggle that emerged at Seven’s comment. "Was that… was that a joke?"
Seven smiled sadly. "As you said, it is very late and you are tired. I will tuck you into bed and we will talk about it all tomorrow, okay?"
Now that a tentative understanding had been reached, Janeway was reluctant to let Seven go. "Only if you come to bed with me." Seven raised her eyebrow in surprise and Kathryn felt the need to clarify. "Just to sleep. Please, I … I don’t want to be alone. Not anymore."
"As you wish, Kathryn." With that statement Seven scooped up Janeway and carried her into the captain’s bedroom carefully tucking her into bed. The blonde removed her footwear and climbed next to the captain who was already half asleep. She curled her body around the older woman.
As she was drifting off to sleep, Kathryn could hear Seven whisper in her ear, "Believe me, you will never be alone again."
* * * * * *
Kathryn Janeway woke up, unsure of what exactly had awakened her. She reached a hand over to the other pillow and found it empty. She called out to the darkened room, "Seven?" The sound of her voice combined with her increasing ability to see in the dimness of the room helped her realize where she was.
Admiral Janeway sat up and sighed. It was just a dream. Again.
She got out of bed and walked softly to the kitchen to make herself some tea. She knew from experience that she would be unable to get back to sleep tonight.
Moving over to her computer console she checked her messages. There was one from Ensign Paris. According to Miral, the mission was proceeding as planned. She had a meeting with Korath tomorrow and would contact Janeway then. Kathryn smiled. "Things will be different soon," she spoke to herself. Grabbing her tea she went to the living room and curled up on the couch to reflect upon her dream. Staring out the window overlooking the San Francisco bay she called back images of the dream. The anniversary dinner. Seven’s wedding. Chakotay’s death. A mixture of reality and fantasy.
She wasn’t surprised where her mind had taken her. It had been a difficult day. She had buried one of her oldest and dearest friends today. Chakotay had been a broken man for so many years, his death was almost a blessing. He had never been the same since Seven’s death.
Seven’s death. It was so long ago, almost twenty-three years. Despite the fact that Seven had been out of her life almost four times as long as she had been in it, she still managed to affect Janeway. All Kathryn had to do was close her eyes and she was immediately transported back to sickbay on that fateful day. Seven was lying on a biobed, blood everywhere. The Doctor was unable to do anything and Chakotay was holding Seven in his arms, silent tears running down his face. Kathryn had felt like she was intruding and had wanted to leave but couldn’t. As Seven was taking her dying breaths she turned her head and gazed directly at Kathryn their eyes locking. In Seven’s eyes Kathryn saw regret and longing. Longing for her.
It was a vision that haunted Janeway. Not a day went by that Kathryn didn’t think of Seven, and her nights were filled with dreams of the other woman. But every morning she awoke—alone.
But Kathryn was about to fix that. She had a plan that would change everything. And if she was lucky, she’d never be alone again.