At Last ~Part II

by Casta Diva



 

 

Admiral Janeway followed Seven of Nine through a forest of medieval columns, past rows of ossified pews and into the shadow of a great pillar situated opposite the Lady Chapel.  The Admiral proceeded as though she were in charge of this journey, while Kathryn, the longing lover, tried to keep up without appearing to scurry.  It was something of a schizophrenic experience, but then such duality was commonplace for Kathryn Janeway.  It was part of being a good commander after all.

 “Let’s start this again.”

Seven gave the impression of scowling, without actually doing so and did not move.  A gaggle of elderly ladies had to ungroup to walk around her.  She ignored them. They passed by in a posse of dignified pique.

“Please?”  She patted the chair next to her.  “Communication is so much more effective when we try to meet each other half way.”

The young woman raised her eyebrow dismissively.  “Why would I want to do that?”   The colour in her cheeks was still strong as she turned her head rudely away from Janeway to study a statue of the Madonna and Child at the far end of the little chapel.

“Because…you do not have a complete picture of events? You may come to a different conclusion about things if you allow me to supply new information?”  Seven assumed an air of sceptical boredom with just a tiny hint of contempt.  Janeway sighed.  This could go better.

In the distance a high male voice interrupted the choir with impatient instructions. There was a sharp rap of twiggy baton on oak and the piece began anew. Bass profundo, chorus, soprano.

“Please hear me out, even if it changes nothing?”  She knew she was being pushed, challenged and that she must restrain the molten residue from their row that was still running through her veins.  She could feel it looking for a trigger to release a new volley at Seven, but the older woman also knew herself well enough to recognise a diversion in the making and refused the temptation to snap.  I’m so damn good at avoiding myself.  Not this time.

The Borg inclined her head with curt grace though she sat in the pew in front of Janeway, turning her body to face her with delicate precision.  The fight hung in the air between them and Kathryn knew it was imperative that she got to the point quickly or Seven might just simply walk away.

Her mouth was dry - for all the enemies in the Delta Quadrant combined into one were not as hard to overcome as her inclination to keep her secrets safe.  To keep her heart unthreatened.  She cleared her throat and said a little officiously:  "I came here today, because this is the day when I think of you."  Smoothing the fabric of her coat, she glanced up at Seven.

"The only day?"  Seven sat with a straight back.  Hands folded in her lap.  Head to one side.  She looks older and more… relaxed.  She thought irrelevantly.  It irked and distracted her.

"Well, no -” said Kathryn.

“So you think about me on other days?”

"Yes I do, but -" Now her palm was pressing hotly down on the cloth.

"Therefore you are thinking about me differently today?"  Seven was treating this as a scientific investigation. 

"Yes well …I am, but -”

“In what way do your thoughts vary today, Admiral Janeway?  Did you think different thoughts about me yesterday and how will they change tomorrow?   I ask you again - why today?”

Frustration began to chafe at the Admiral.  She raised her hand, trying to cut the stream of questions off with a gesture.  “Seven please let me finish - this is hard enough without playing word games with you."

"I am not playing games, Admiral.”  Seven said with impeccable Borg formality.  “I am attempting to rationalise your behaviour." 

Her coolness sparked Kathryn’s already heated nerves - no matter that her own behaviour had indeed been flawed, the older woman was still ducking and weaving in her personal bout with love. 

"My behaviour?  I see…  That is rich coming from you!"  Kathryn spluttered to her feet, her voice echoing in the little chapel as she strode towards it.

"Elaborate!  How have I been at fault?"  Seven swivelled upright and marched after her, a picture of outraged innocence.

“As if you don’t know.”

“I do not!”

Kathryn laughed bitterly, one hand making its way to her brow, the other positioned firmly on a hip.  She stared down at the marble tiles briefly, pursing her lips in a familiar statement of control and power and hiding her belief that finally in this argument she had won the higher ground - Seven just didn't know it yet. 

On either side of the gold and blue statue of the Madonna were iron-framed candle trees, spluttering smoke and yellowish light to brush the jewelled chapel in animated shadows.  Kathryn bent forward and retrieved a candle from a box on the floor, idly considering where in the pattern of flames she would place it.  She stepped towards the left tree.

“Do you remember when we were working together to neutralise the omega molecules? Of course you do, you have an eidetic memory.  You described all the stories about its existence - from countless cultures - as ‘creation myths?”

 

Seven glared at her, hand in pocket.  The tapestry of flickering light washing over her had the effect of stimulating Kathryn’s own shadowy desires.  She could feel it creeping over her.  Get a grip.  Focus.

“I remember.”

Janeway’s hands moved to indicate the cathedral.

“Then what is this, Seven, if not a creation myth?  What possessed you to… to… join up - to sign along the dotted line?  It is simply not you.”

For the first time the precious vulnerability which so characterised Seven in their Voyager days formed like a veil about her.  She looked away from her ex-Captain, swallowing nervously.  When she finally spoke, her defiant tone belied the picture of fragility that she presented.

“I am not answerable to you for my conscience.”

Janeway made a disbelieving face.  She was watching the Borg pull the fight out from the very depths of her being, but moved to crush it anyway.  “Sorry - I don’t buy it.  You are a scientist, first and foremost.  The most unique individual I have ever met.  Open and questioning – it makes no sense to me, Seven - why would you bury everything that you are - or were - in a way of life that stifles your very nature?  It is nonsensical!”  Her voice nearly cracked.  To cover the very real distress threatening to rise up and expose her, Kathryn turned back to the candle tree giving herself something to do while she schooled her emotions. Heat washed around her hand as she dipped it in among the flames to light the virgin wick.

Seven rallied and hit her target with precision.

“It is not necessary that you understand me, now.  You did not bother before.  I spent all of my human life on Voyager answerable to you, but when we came to Earth, when I needed your assistance, you refused my request.  I have learnt to live without it and without the requirement to explain any part of myself to you, Admiral.”

Kathryn sighed. Three years of professional emotional containment were making this conversation nearly impossible for her.  Just moments ago she had sat longing for this very opportunity and yet now it seemed so hard, so far from any comfortable destination.

She was trying not to think of who now held that intimate part of Seven: of Chakotay making her forget everything but his touch; of that knowledge torturing her through the longest and darkest nights.  Of how, even now, she believed that Seven might be able to love her.  She felt bludgeoned by disappointment, abused by the desire seeping through her body and by the need to be loved by this most impossible of women. Ashamed of the few tears escaping her rigid, practised control and rolling down her face she quickly scraped them away.  Looking at Seven, Kathryn realised that she had never wanted anything or anyone so much.  Never.  She hauled in a breath and clamped down on her feelings, driving the candle firmly onto a spike as she did so.

Seven was watching her with an impenetrable expression.

“Okay, Seven.” She swallowed.  Push the images away, don’t think of his hands on her, don’t let her beauty hurt you.  Smarten up.  “Fair enough.  But I do have something to say - so - can we sit down and I will try to express what has been in my heart and mind for over three years?”  Some of it at least.

Despite herself, she could see intrigue hooking Seven of Nine, so they settled back into the same seats they had occupied before, with Seven sitting swivelled to face her.  A couple wandered into the chapel behind her to light candles.  Begin again, Kathryn.

"I come here, Seven, to think about these very things -" suddenly her mind was filling with speeches clamouring to all get out at once, so that it seemed that her jaw carried on working without its assistance at all,  “to think about... the mistakes that I have made." She finished lamely.

"Have you been here before?  Since my wedding?"

"Yes."

"When?"

"Last year... same day... and the year before.... every anniversary of your wedding, in fact.  This is the third time."

Seven was silent for a few minutes, before she said.  "Continue."  She looked truly perplexed.

Kathryn paused to check her emotional shielding.

"The mistakes I have made."  She repeated and sighed.  Her jaw now had become heavy. "Concerning you.  Concerning me."  They weren’t mistakes!  She looked at the Borg tentatively.  Seven had turned further towards her and was observing the little side chapel with its red velvet drapes.  The couple were framed by candles.  She made no comment turning instead to look towards the main entrance apprehensively.  The movement panicked Kathryn.   She’s thinking about leaving!!!

"Seven, I have to apologize to you.  With all of my heart I am sorry for how I treated you after we returned to Earth."

The eyes swivelled back towards her.

"You said you would help me adjust.  You said we were-" her face contorted, "-family!"

"I know I did and I meant it, Seven, I really did."  Kathryn's heart started to race, she was close to revealing official secrets.  What do I tell her?  How?

"Oh God."  For a moment Admiral Janeway rested her face in her hands. “I don’t know where to begin.”

“Begin by answering this question: why do you come here on my wedding anniversary?

“Because on that day, three years ago, I realised something.”  She glanced at Seven who continued to intensely scrutinise her.  No help there.  She ploughed on.  “Something which in hindsight I realise I should have long been aware of - and perhaps I was - but you see it was such an exceptional situation in the Delta Quadrant and I had to cast myself into a repeating pattern that was all about staving off the hoards of dangers that lay behind every blessed asteroid.  I became an ideal configuration of a Starfleet Captain - somewhere between a judge, a machine, a parent, a field commander and … well … a  ah ..God.  At least internally.  But the fact is, to do that I had to exist outside of my feelings - oh I acted on them all the time of course - I mean that I did not allow them any consciousness, in case they should undermine my role…  So I remained deliberately unaware.

Janeway stopped confused and saw this feeling perfectly mirrored in Seven’s mystified expression.  Before she could try again, Seven interrupted her, though she still glanced nervously at the exit.

“What did you realise, Admiral Janeway, at my wedding?” 

Nothing like Borg single-mindedness to keep you focused, even if she is thinking of leaving.  Oh God - here we go.  She cleared her throat.  Why does it feel like my heart is going to jump out of my mouth?

“I realised… Seven… that I am in love with you.” 

Her words unexpectedly ran out, all that was left were Seven’s eyes and her own heart beating fragments of much better-expressed explanations imagined on so many different occasions through her veins.  Silence stretched out between them, punctuated by Kathryn’s stilted breath and flexing fingers on the rail between them.  The constriction was back in her chest, but it was joined by threads of desire snaking out to make every part of her stand on end.  She felt like she had run an assault course just to get to this point and now all she could do was wait for the result.

The Borg seemed to be doing numerous calculations of her own.  Head to one side, her gaze focused simultaneously on The Admiral and on her inner thought process.  When she eventually spoke her voice was careful, almost disbelieving.

"You are sexually attracted to me?"  But her eyes were vivid.  Thrills shot through Kathryn.

"Well... ah... yes.  Seven I -"

"You harbour romantic feelings for me?"  Seven's face was incredulous.

"Yes, Seven I do. I am in love with you.  I know it seems sudden -" She started to reach out, to touch the younger woman, but Seven stood abruptly.  She was blushing.

"You will please wait here."  She instructed, straightening her coat.

Kathryn looked up, bemused.  "Alright."

Seven walked away from her former Captain, gaining speed as she headed back towards the altar.

****************************

Kathryn watched her go; the Borg’s familiar poise and grace returning like a dream to taunt her further into a heightened state of arousal.  Sweet heaven she is stunning! Why did I not see this on Voyager? Okay, maybe I did notice, but God I swear I never felt like this.  She craned her neck to see what the young woman was doing and all the while questions bombarded her. How did that go?  What should I tell her about Starfleet?  Why is she here anyway?  Is she offended, interested, angry - what? And where is Chakotay?

Seven became part of the crowds and for the first time in a while, Kathryn was aware again of the vast cathedral around her.  Of its significance to Seven and of her own biting loneliness.   You don’t really think that anything is actually going to change do you?   Yet here was hope making her fidget in her seat.  Nothing could be worse than the recent years of duty and obedience.  “You are the automaton, not I.  “Going through the motions, Seven, that is what I have been doing.  Going through the motions.”

Now, with the object of her longing so close by, with more to be said, carefully explained, and with her ridiculous heart squeezing the very life out of her in anticipation of Seven’s reaction to her confession, the very last thing that Admiral Kathryn Janeway wanted to do was sit still on a bench and simply wait.  It was aberrant to her.  She fiddled with the leather strap of her bag, checked her pockets for the flask and smoothed her ruffled hair, folding her lacy veil to place it pointlessly back on the bench.  It had amused her to dress in the Italian style of Catholicism.  The irony of black lace veiling her frustration and the implication of ritual mourning all neatly tied into one.   She loved the ambiguity of it:  a disguise masking her celebrity and a public statement, which no one could decipher, but herself.  How much of the veil do I let down, Seven?  She snorted.  You just told the woman that you are in with love her!  But there was more.  Much more.

Once again, the Borg had confounded her.  It has always been like this.  I think I have the measure of Seven of Nine and she leaves me baffled.  And it was thrilling too of course.  A half-smile played on her lips. Something close to excitement was coursing through her veins along with impatience and anxiety.  She craned her neck to see what the younger woman was doing.

Seven was still standing in front of the altar, unmoving.  The cathedral was filling up with worshippers around them in advance of the late afternoon service while monks, nuns, priests and altar children swept along the aisles banging in and out of tiny ancient doors as they prepared to go to work.  Kathryn shifted in her seat considering whether to go down and suggest they continue this conversation elsewhere.  A café, maybe.  With good wine.  It’s about time I got out of this miserable place.  Chakotay can’t object to his old Captain taking his wife out for a -

Kathryn flushed hot red - her heart nearly stopping dead for the second time in the day.

“Holy-!!!”

She sat bolt upright, grappling with her bag, stood up and then sat down again.

Seven hadn’t been wearing a ring!

In all the drama, it had just not registered with her.  Was she wrong?  Admiral Janeway sat embedded to her seat, scouring her immediate memory of their encounter: Seven flying out of the porch at her; Seven with hand in pocket; Seven with her hands folded in her lap – not once had she seen the fat gold band that Chakotay had ostentatiously placed upon her finger. She was sure of it.

Well now…

Speculation barged into her mind and started shouting: had Seven lost the ring at the altar and that was why she had been kneeling, to look for it?  Or had she split up with Chakotay and been placing the ring on the altar steps?  Maybe it was just uncomfortable and she rarely wore it??   I’m wrong.  This is just wishful thinking.  My memory - She jumped -

“Admiral Janeway, you state that you are in love with me.  I find this unlikely.  You have not once tried to communicate this alleged fact to me.   You are in error.”

Seven was standing to one side of the pew. Hands in pockets, damn it! Kathryn hoped she had not noticed her searching look in their direction.  She looked up, feeling something nearer to freedom washing into her heart and smiled.

“I can assure you I am not.  I just didn’t realise until it was too late.  There’s an old saying, Seven, ‘You don’t miss your water till your well runs dry’?  Well I can honestly say that the day you got married my well ran dry.  My existence became arid.  I have missed you so much.  So very much.  Perhaps this is all… irrelevant to you, but I am grateful for this opportunity to at least put the record straight.”

Seven sat back down in front of her - swivelling again to turn and face her.  She appeared tired, achingly beautiful and strangely contained.  Her eyes examined her hands carefully, but her ring finger remained meticulously covered. The organist started the pre-mass warm-up playing sweeping, repetitive patterns on the highest part of the scale.  It seemed to stretch both the vaulting space vertically and Kathryn’s heart reaching out towards Seven along with it. When Seven answered, it was quietly, in acknowledgement of the congregation flooding in.

“It is not irrelevant, Admiral.  Yet there are more important concerns.  Questions I must know the answers to.”

Kathryn leaned forward. “Go on.”

“How can you love me if I am a ‘lobotomised automaton’ to you?”

Damn.  Right between the eyes.

She wanted to touch her, but instead answered almost eagerly, “I shouldn’t have said that, I’m sorry.”

“But you did.”

“Yes, but I didn’t mean it.“

“I think that you did.”

“Okay.” She let out a breath, “In that moment, I expressed the most negative part of me.  It was wrong of me to do so and those words say more about how lost I have been feeling.  How unhappy and how very confused by your choices…. And mine…  I hit out at you with words as weapons… It was… rash of me… but I… it was - look you are - I don’t think that you are -”

Seven interrupted her coolly.  “What were you going to say - ‘it was’ - what?”

Kathryn closed her eyes.  This encounter feels like a crash landing.  She linked her fingers together on the pew in front, letting the force of the descent take her.  Her voice was low.

“It was an expression of how much pain I have been in… When I am near you like this, the world feels soft.  Sweet.  I want to lose myself in that softness.  I want to fly in the intimate spaces between us.”  She was blushing, heat flooding her senses, but she refused the warning in her head to apply the brakes.  “I have thought about you many times.  It’s as if, in your embrace, I would find the perfect counterpoint to all the world’s hardness.  The harshness I feel.  I long for it so much that it hurts me and I let my own misery rise up and attack you.  This is not your fault, Seven, it is mine, and I am sorry for it.  Please believe me.”  She raised a placating hand, “It’s alright.  I do not expect anything from you...  I’m just trying to explain why I said something so hurtful.” I wish I could caress you with more than just my gaze.

“But you did mean those words.  You think that I have been acting mechanically, without thought.  You are critical of that.  Of me”

Kathryn felt the hurt in Seven’s voice as though it were her own, remembering too late how vital her reassurance had been to the young Borg.  Of course she had hurt her and she had known just how to too, for the one thing Captain Janeway had never done was treat Seven as anything less than human.  Even when Lieutenant Torres and Ensign Kim had tried to handle her differently because of her Borg nature.  Seven’s words in the chapel earlier played in her mind.

“I spent all of my human life on Voyager answerable to you.  When we came to Earth, when I needed your assistance, you refused my request.  I learnt to live without it and without the requirement to explain any part of myself to you.”

And what, she wondered, could provoke me to demand an explanation more than converting to Christianity, marrying an old-fashioned man and living a virtually domestic life? Christ!   Perhaps it had been a rebellion of sorts, because nothing else would quite push Kathryn Janeway’s buttons as the abandonment of potential, and of independence and, ordinarily, nothing would have prevented her from demanding an explanation. 

“Can’t we get out of here?  Talk about this somewhere else?”  Kathryn’s longing to escape the intransigent confines of the Cathedral with its cold, hard benches and its pious statues in their dusty alcoves was making her feel twitchy.

“You have a problem with this environment, Admiral?”  Obstinate coolness indicated that Seven wasn’t going anywhere.

“Don’t you?  I mean, history and culture are fine as far as it goes, but this place is just so… so… lifeless.  Spiritual matters aside, what would make anyone want to stay for long?  It is just so… so peculiarly… sexless here.   Even now, the ‘evolved’ church underrates the importance of sex, of bodily expression.  It is all higher-self awareness - out of body consciousness - and you can just feel it in the atmosphere here.  After a while I begin to feel all dried up and lifeless too.”  She shuddered.  “It’s unnatural to live in a state of physical absence for very long.”  I should know too, damn it.

When she looked up Seven was blushing - clearly uncomfortable.  Her ring hand was now rammed firmly in her pocket.  The Borg smartly changed the subject to ease both their discomfort, with an elucidation of her own.  “Human history is long and… cumbersome.  It is obscure because of humanity’s confusion about its identity and purpose.  A building as old as this, which goes back millennia, holds that confusion in its physical composition.”

I’m talking about the act of creation and she responds with construction. Nonetheless, Kathryn discovered a familiar pang of pleasure from being so close to this high-minded, beautiful woman and it comforted her in its own way.  This will do, Seven of Nine, simply talking as we used to.

“Such as?”  Her voice was warm and intimate – she would contend with her unease all night if they would just continue to talk like this.

“This column, for example, does more than secure the roof.  It was the first time in human history that the mathematical problem of squaring the circle was resolved.  As a pillar it is a perfect circle at each end, but unroll it and its dimensions create the perfect square – for medieval scholars this represented bringing heaven down to earth.  A simple equation for the Borg, but a development of sorts in crude spatial geometry for humans.”  She gestured with her hand,  “The architectural footprint of the cathedral is based upon the Vesisca Pisces, two interlinked circles which also symbolise heaven and earth and the concept of spirit and matter merging here by design.  However, then there are the doorways.”

“The doorways?”  Kathryn wondered briefly about trans-dimensional portals and whether she had missed a class in her ancient history lessons.

Seven gestured again, this time towards the main entrance, “They are arched to symbolise reaching towards God and godliness, but they are very narrow.”

“Narrow?”  Bemused, Kathryn scrutinized the doors in question.

“An effective defensive feature to prevent armed invaders from riding on horses into the ‘House of God’ in order to attack the worshippers.  A consideration which is both practical and spiritual yet inconsistent with the mystical power accredited to God or the to the tenements of a peaceful religion.”

Janeway laughed.  Well it doesn’t sound like you’re stuck on it.

“I see, so even while blindly following the precepts of a contradictory religion, human beings were advancing both mathematically and defensively, albeit with muddled ideology.”  Janeway smiled, her eyes warm.  Philosophical talk always turned her on, especially with Seven of Nine.

“Precisely, Admiral, and the contradictions between belief and behaviour demonstrate human nature perfectly.”  Seven arched an eyebrow imperiously at Janeway.  It was loaded with meaning.

‘Behaviour.’  That word again.  Never one to walk away from a challenge, Kathryn picked up the semantic gauntlet Seven had flung at her feet.  Besides it also offered her an opportunity.

“Ah…  But what, Seven, of the behaviour of a Borg with the knowledge of thousands of species in her head and the experience not just of different galaxies and quadrants, but even different types of space, who then casts all of that aside to instead observe the archaic tenements of such an illogical religion?”  She leaned forward, her hands balanced on the prayer rail, her head tilted affectionately to look up at that very Borg.

“Perhaps my humanity re-asserted itself.”  Seven was suddenly doing a good impression of the rebellious young Borg who had first questioned her authority on Voyager.  Irritation flashed through Kathryn.  She narrowed her eyes and a hint of danger coloured her voice.

“Well I’m human, Seven, and it doesn’t make sense to me.”  Three years of doubt and guilt were welling up inside her again.

Seven faced her down.  “Perhaps the consistency of your human upbringing meant you did not have a reason to experiment with this lifestyle, Admiral?”

‘Consistency’.  The word snagged Kathryn’s attention.  She hadn’t really considered her Traditional background in terms of Seven of Nine’s extraordinary decisions.  All her of life she had been too busy trying to get into space and follow in her father’s footsteps.  Winded by the new picture unfolding in her mind, Kathryn sat absolutely still allowing her thoughts free rein.  Borg uniformity versus human inconsistency.  Borg certainty versus human irrational and hurtful behaviour – my hurtful behaviour to be precise.   This hasn’t been about teenage rebellion at all, but depression – Borg depression.  What do you do when all the questions are metaphysical and unanswerable?  Why do you reject me?  Why abandon me?  Better not to feel at all, better to stop asking ‘why?’ and focus with all your power on denying your body, denying your heart and instead consider the journey of the soul.  I abandoned her.  Oh hell and so I abandoned myself.  And she ‘found’ God.  I was wrong: this is the perfect place for us.

Kathryn stared at Seven, her heart aching.  She had never even considered this.  Not this.  Seven had been happy hadn’t she?  Married to a devoted man and exploring a simple life.  She had been so angry and jealous and so trapped by duty that anything else hadn’t really occurred to her, except in fantasy and that she had quickly shut down.

“Oh Seven.”   Her voice was laced with pain.  There was apprehension in the young woman’s demeanour, but she could only continue with her train of thought.  Stop thinking; give up scientific pursuits because nothing could explain the abandonment of her friend and mentor?  Was that it?  What good would thinking do except rub that wound raw?  Her new collective dissolved to be absorbed back into their families and Starfleet hovering over her like an indulgent parasite and I long gone, posted off-planet without a word.   Oh I did my job well, but it backfired - on all of us.

“What are you thinking Admiral Janeway?”  She could tell by the slightly tremulous tone that her silence was disturbing the young Borg.

Kathryn sat examining her hands.  She couldn’t bring herself to look at Seven and face the intense beauty which made her feel so defenceless.  Just the scent of her and the warmth of her body nearby seemed to pierce her, but Seven was waiting for an answer so she chose her words with great care.

“Will you tell me what lead to your conversion?  To your refusal to work for any scientific institution?”

She noticed that the benches were filling up around them, but the flow of communication was too powerful to suggest moving elsewhere.  The choir were quietly singing a piece by Taverner.

“I was unhappy.”  The soft voice interrupted her thought.

“Yes?”  She rested on the handrail.

“All of my conscious existence has been ordered, rational.  Based on knowledge and certainty and then we came to Earth and I could not make those skills work for me.  I wanted to talk to you about it.  Everyone else’s opinion just seemed to reflect their agenda.  What use I could be to them.”

She paused.  Even Chakotay.  Thought Janeway. Even me. A nun was making her way down the central aisle handing out service leaflets. I really, really want to get out of here.

“Starfleet had a variety of experts organised to ‘help’ me, but they were no different.  I have spent my life in scientific pursuit, in asking questions and in researching solutions, but I found myself the object of subtle examination and I found that my needs were denied.  I attended 341 appointments regarding social integration, psychology, physical threat assessments, tactical seminars, cybernetics, neurology, family reconciliation, astronomy, and spiritual discourse.  All the time, they were examining me, I was asking different questions of myself.  During the 342nd appointment, Monsignor James Chung said something that I found illogical yet intriguing.  He said, ‘The state of being without answers should be seen for what it is: a liberation.   In that space we learn to trust something greater than ourselves and that is where we find God.  It is the converse of Borg reality so I decided to experiment with this approach.   That is all.”  She looked at Janeway defiantly.

“I see.”  And Kathryn did see.  As if spiritual painting-by-numbers can fill in the pain and uncertainty of our messy human lives.  Oh Seven - if hands upon the soul were possible we would all be angels.   There would be no need for doctors.   Churches and temples would find suddenly that worshippers celebrated life in all its stages, including death, including sex.   They would be rule-free places with no articles of faith because lovers embody the very knowledge of the universe.  Of creation indeed.  Kathryn sighed.   Yet here I sit, certain that you cannot love me, knowing my dreams are impossible and aching for your touch.   Hopelessly.   Stupidly.  Wanting the laying on of hands, as a sexual act, as a sacred act.  One that glorifies life.   My life – and yours.  Janeway wanted desperately to ask about Chakotay, but she knew that she had to make this safe for Seven.  She pulled herself away from her thoughts and back to the subject at hand.  She would not dwell on the touch she craved - for it was the touch of the loveless lover.  She ran her hand along the cool rail.

“And what conclusions have you drawn?”  Part of her didn’t want to know the answer.

 “It is… unsatisfactory to my nature.  I have completed a three-year trial in Traditionalism: in investigating the premises of James Chung; in a life based purely on the simplicity of living and engaged only in the building blocks of human life.”  She paused.  There was a tinge of the serious innocent who first stepped on Voyagers decks seven years ago about her. 

Oh, thought Janeway, if only it were so simple.  Stop thinking, deny your past and hope that life finds you. A new thought occurred to her.  Well I found you and I’ll keep finding you.  That I swear.

Seven, having regained her composure, carried on.

 “I established that accepting the state of being without answers was imprecisely comforting for only arbitrary periods of time.  It was problematical because it was not controllable and therefore extremely inefficient.  Accepting, however, that the state of being without answers does not correspond at all to having many questions, was more challenging.  I have failed to accomplish this task, Admiral.”  Seven looked at her rebelliously.

Despite herself, Kathryn found laughter rising to the surface.  She tried not to give in to it, but the image of Seven of Nine attempting to let questions float around in her amazing mind without hunting down and nailing the solutions made her sides hurt.  She could just see the Borg solemnly and deliberately ignoring her own innate curiosity, her own marvellous mind.  The admiral found herself giggling like a teenager, eyes watering with the agonising effort to stop laughing.  It was a battle she was losing.

“My failure amuses you?”  Seven deadpanned, surprised by this response.

“Noo… No… The attempt…  It’s so funny!  Oh!  Ah…  Sorry…” Tears of mirth were threatening to follow the tears of pain from earlier.  She rocked forwards again putting her hand out to cover Seven’s wrist reassuringly.

Seven's eyes widened, alarm making her whole body stiffen like a wild animal and then she was gone: hunkered down low beneath the level of the pew to scuttle towards the Lady Chapel.  Kathryn watched her astounded.  The Borg appeared to be hiding.  From who?  From me?  Kathryn turned to search the direction Seven had been looking in - towards the main entrance - and froze.

Her heart stopped again.

Oh my God!!!  Chakotay!!! 

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Continue to Part III

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