At Last ~Part III

by Casta Diva



Kathryn was moving automatically - fast as a young cadet on combat duty.   Head bowed, knees bent, she dashed across the aisle and into the chapel, dragging her bag and veil with her.  She didn't want to talk to Chakotay right now either.

The Chapel was empty, except for a tiny movement behind the red velvet drapes.  In a flicker she slipped behind them and found herself confined within a tiny alcove and face to face with Seven of Nine.  Various points of their bodies were touching.

"He's coming." She whispered into the dark.

Seven nodded then swiftly reached out and clasped Admiral Janeway to her.  Lips touched the admiral's ear, causing a shock of sensation to travel the entire length of her body. The Admiral clung right back. 

God I love the Borg analytical process, she thought, a decision made is put into immediate effect.

"You were distorting the shape of the curtain, Admiral."

Oh.

“Okay."

Oops.

It was no use: the laughter could not be held back.  Kathryn tried to stop a long stream of bubbling air from rudely bursting through her lips, but failed.  The ludicrousness of their situation just overcame her - here was she - famous throughout the known quadrants for fearlessly mixing it with some of the deadliest foes in the universe - up close and personal with a fiercesome Borg - skulking behind a curtain in a cathedral - and hiding from a man so mild mannered he made Naomi Wildman look tough. On top of that, she probably had just sprayed Seven – the least romantic thing she could possibly do and even that seemed ridiculously funny, when what she wanted – oh God - when what she wanted -

Seven again positioned her lips next to her ear causing yet more shivers to run down her spine.

“Shh.”

It was too much.  Kathryn buried her head in Seven’s shoulder and howled into the raincoat. Shoulders shaking, her arms slid further around the Borg, trying desperately to get control of her giggling, trying to find support behind her, but what she found - too late to stop its mechanism from working - was a door handle. 

The door opened with a long moan - flooding their alcove and the pair of them with light.  They both froze, assuming postures of sheer nonchalance. Kathryn could just see a sunken dusty stone room behind Seven.  It was empty.

“Empty - careful!” She whispered,  “Steps!”

Seven nodded again, released her hold on the Admiral and stepped warily backwards down near vertical stone steps, using the iron guide rails on either side.

Kathryn watched her with diligent care.  No ring.  She let out a sigh as the Borg made her way to the centre of the tiny room and assessed it.  The Admiral followed her tactical inspection: diagonally opposite her position was a dark oak door slumbering in its frame.  It was studded with ancient nails.  Jacobean carved chests ran along two walls and psalters were piled chaotically on one in the left hand corner, while high windows above the others let in the remaining dregs of evening light in simple fading stripes across the room. They seemed to accentuate Seven’s loveliness.   Seven indicated the corner to Janeway’s right where a tiny staircase spiralled out of sight and a mini-transporter pad complete with control panel sat beside it.  She completed her turn, looked up at her former Captain and smiled.

If Kathryn had been ejected out of an airlock she would have found it easier to breathe because her lungs just seized up.  She’s smiling at me.  At me. 

The admiral was pinned to the spot by a surge of feelings rushing about her body at will for in the smile Seven of Nine was transformed: there was the frankness; there was the trust and there was something else there too.  A glimmer.  Heart fit to burst, Kathryn Janeway grinned right back.

“Come down.”  Seven spoke quietly.  Kathryn continued to smile, unable to move.  The tiny arched doorway now seemed to be hampering her diaphragm.  Seven moved towards her extending a graceful hand.

“I will assist you.  Come.”

Kathryn slid her fingers over Sevens palm, feeling the strength of the younger woman tensing, allowing her to descend into the room, the door closing behind her.  Seven continued to hold her hand, raising a thumb up to meet Kathryn’s.  They remained bodies apart, circling thumbs in tiny motions, just looking at each other.  Fingers joined in to stroke lightly, hands turning over, but the movement reminded the older woman of a nagging question. 

“Where is your ring?” 

Seven’s middle finger was making an electric journey around her palm.

“Where it belongs.” She slid her fingers in between the Admirals, and pulled them back slowly sending fluid shivers rushing out to enthral her body.  It felt deliciously rude.

“Where’s that?”  Kathryn’s voice was husky, distracted.  Seven smirked, tightening her grip enough to apply gentle pressure.

“With ‘God’.”  She was drawing Kathryn towards her slowly. 

“That’s not Chakotay, then?”  The hand squeezed hers before continuing its sensual work.  There was that smile again, coming down to meet hers and she was raising her lips up to receive its blessing.

“No.”  Open lips touched hers in a feather light caress, which became incrementally stronger.  Time ceased its relentless extended progress and generously settled all of its power on this one kiss.  On the sensations of this kiss: softness; saltiness; silk.  Trembling, languid pleasures.  Tremors overrunning her body with sweet weakness.  Seven’s breath dragging the sensuality from her with one stroke and returning it reinforced with another.  Kathryn was filled with heat racing to the empty, lonely expanses within her and flooding them with warmth, with hope, and with more and more passion.  Sweet heaven.

Seven pulled away, her fingers still arousing and soothing Kathryn’s hand. She raised an eyebrow, eyes sparkling.  Kathryn could still taste her through the ragged beats of her breath.

“Oh my.”  Looking at Seven was like meeting a missing part of herself.

“Where did you go to, Admiral Janeway?” 

It wasn’t the innocuous question it seemed and Kathryn’s heart thumped.   I have to tell her the truth and when I do she will never kiss me like that again. There was no question of deferring to hide behind protocol because the affect already on Seven of Nine of decisions she had made was unacceptable.  She had to put that right.

She released the grip reluctantly, letting her hand drop to her side.  Outside, the congregation were chanting the Credo in a low voice.  Like bees swarming on the horizon.  Depression began its lonely trail around her heart, but Seven was owed this and nothing of any worth between them could be built on a lie.

“You mean when we first returned to Earth?” 

Seven said nothing.  They both knew what she meant.

Kathryn paced towards the window.  She had never really expected this moment to happen.  Alone in her ambassadorial quarters on The Valiant or The Sceptre or The Enterprise - they were all the same - she had rehearsed her explanations to herself but then the memory of Seven at the altar hand in hand with her former first officer would just choke her.  Choke the life out of her private reasoning and she would fix instead on the relief that Starfleet security would not be compromised and now here was Seven, patiently waiting with that trusting look and all she wanted was to get her out of the cathedral and find a hotel somewhere, anywhere. To show her how much she was loved.

More prevarication, Jean-Luc?

Time to come clean.   She leaned against one of the blackened chests and let go.  Let go of hope. Let go of the kiss.   Let go of the story that Starfleet had ordered shut, closed, and above all, secret.  This is my story too. Her eyes took on the blue-grey hue of the Atlantic in winter as she raised them to watch Seven react to her words. Her voice was the practised voice of command.  Low. Precise. Clear.  Admiral Janeway spoke disregarding the clamour of her body and heart to make it work out somehow.  To not quite tell the truth.  Seven was owed this.  She hugged her arms to herself.

“Voyager’s return was miraculous, a surprise to everybody, not least the Federation.  The Alpha Quadrant, as you know, had been beset by wars and the Federation had come close to losing too.  The Maquis were wiped out, but the shock of such violent ideological conflict from within the Federation had soured the atmosphere of trust.   The powers that be were edgy and here was a great ship, populated by rebels and ex-criminals and led by - to some - a half-baked Captain, returning with all the power and glamour of mythical heroes.  We could have been a political disaster - a beacon to rebels and enemies alike.  And then… there was you.”

Seven inclined her head, her beauty shaving away Kathryn’s desire to finish this explanation, leaving her raw and filling her with the need to touch her again.  To kiss her again.  The Admiral’s face remained strong and composed.

“A Borg.”   Supplied the younger woman.

“Yes, a Borg.  More Borg than Jean-Luc Picard had ever been.  Alien and unknowable to them.   Capable of acting independently based upon your own ethical code and full of technology and capabilities which made you both a threat and ... an object of desire.  What use you could be to them, if you could only be harnessed to serve them.”

She could see anger rising in the young woman.  Paradoxically the coldness was returning to settle about her, washing into the room from Seven herself and not even the ambient lighting which had activated automatically adding a soft glow to the room could counteract it.  Somewhere, at a distance within herself, it made Kathryn ache.  Out in the Nave, she was vaguely aware of the priests chanting tone interspersed with the congregation’s monotonous response.

“You knew this, Admiral Janeway?”  The tone was sharp.  Seven stepped towards her.

“Yes - oh not immediately - but within the first five days of debriefing - you remember how impatient the crew were to go down to the planet and how unnecessarily long the medical protocols were which prevented them?  It was a ploy.  I was summoned to Starfleet Headquarters on Earth, painfully aware of the crew hanging in space.  I was walking in the gardens at the Academy while a new psychological profile was deemed necessary to keep them up there on board Voyager.  It was done to pressurise me and as a demonstration of power - to show me that after all we had been through and after leading my ship home - I was no longer in charge of the destiny of my crew.  Starfleet was.” 

Kathryn paused.  The next bit most likely would destroy them.  She hesitated fighting the fear of loss and forcing the trembling inside to stop as the officer in her once again commandeered her own emotions and put them to one side.  Right action carries personal sacrifice.

“And Starfleet and the Federation wanted you.  During the time I was away from the ship, they had scores of personnel examining all Voyager’s logs pertaining to you and you alone.  Every scrap of information, from mission reports to private logs was analysed and formed into a new file. Into a threat assessment. You were deemed a risk, but a viable one as long as you could be steered by them.  As long as you could be moulded into their Borg and that meant getting rid of me.  Taking me out of your picture, out of your life.  You trusted me, they knew that and they decided that you must learn to trust someone else - one of them - and they thought you would never do that if…” Kathryn stumbled, “if you still had me.”

“And you accepted this?”

“I had to -”

“You did not think to ask me?  You once told me that I had earned the right to make my own decisions!”

“I couldn’t ask you, Seven, we were separated by distance and by security and I was only given the time on Earth to make my choice.  I had to cons-“

“You made a deal behind my back!”  Seven began to pace in agitation. 

“Yes. I made a deal.”

“What was this deal?  You - you betrayed me!” 

“Please let me finish.”  But Seven wasn’t listening.  Janeway moved closer, reaching out a hand to touch her arm, only for it to be flung off violently as Seven circled behind her gasping in pain, hunching over with one arm outstretched on the carved chest.

“Don’t touch me!  You brought me back here and you betrayed me!”

“I was trying to protect you – “

“By throwing me to the enemy?  What protection is that?  I was expendable to you!” Seven made an animal sound of pain.

“Starfleet is not the enemy.  You have to understand that the alternatives were much, much worse.”

“I do not believe you.  You were home, you no longer needed my assistance.  I was nothing to you but a… a… a bargain!”

“No.  NO!” She tried unsuccessfully to get Seven to face her, “ Starfleet made it clear that you were to be processed by them one way or another.  If I refused their contract a charge would have been brought against me - although not in open court - I could have handled that. No - they were going to undermine me through medical channels: the loony Captain, unstable and depressive.   Hero and all that but not to be taken seriously and needing a long spell of rehabilitation somewhere quiet and while that was going on, you would have been spirited off to a top secret facility and forcibly re-integrated where no-one cared about your rights as an individual, let alone your feelings as a human being.  Your Borg technology would be tested.  Your mind probed. They were going to treat you as enemy collateral and even if I had managed to eventually escape, I would have had no credibility left and therefore no power to help you. I know it sounds like I was looking after myself, but this is the only way I felt I could protect you.  Seven you have to believe me.  Seven?”

Seven, still leaning on the chest, remained resolutely with her back to her.  She made no sound, though tears glinting in the twilight fell unhindered to spot the dark wood beneath her hands.  Kathryn moved to touch her, but hesitated – perhaps she didn’t have the right anymore: the right of comfort and there was no worse punishment then that.  Instead, feeling wretched and numb, she carried on with her explanation mechanically as though it were a report.

 “The rest of the crew would be treated just as severely to prevent complications.  Tom Paris returned to jail, Chakotay and Belanna tainted by their Maquis past, Commander Kim forever to remain an ensign . Tuvok was sick anyway. Voyager: the disgrace, to be quickly glossed over.”

“And this is the organisation you are so proud of?”

“They didn’t do those things, Seven - in the name of defence, they broke our friendship –“

“A weak contention!  Base - unworthy of your conceited value system.” 

“Seven…”

“What was the deal, Admiral Janeway?  What did they offer you for.. for me?” The words spewed out in a sob of hurt and rage.

Kathryn sighed. There was no hope here and in truth she did not really think she deserved any, but worse than that, with every word falling from her own lips she was losing a dream that she had held quietly and preciously to herself for years.  A dream of love and companionship balancing the years of loneliness.  Of bodies in the night sharing exquisite pleasure.  A dream by which she thought her life would make sense.  Her dream emptying away from her and leaving such a huge raw wound, that numbness mercifully swept in to fill it.  Her voice sounded like tin ringing in her ears.

“In return for a hero’s welcome and a guaranteed future for all the crew of Voyager, including and especially you, I was to serve the Federation as an Ambassador and I was to minimise my connection to you, so that you could not rely on me. So I could not influence your choices.  I would guide you to the Institute and then be posted on interminable diplomatic missions far from Earth, far from you.  I should also add that everything I have just told you is secret.”

“So why tell me now?”  The disappointment in Seven’s face hurt.

“Because I think enough time has gone by that my people are safe, especially you.  My own profile – as you pointed out earlier - is very high.  Too high to pull the mental breakdown card now and anyway I have allies who recognise my usefulness to Starfleet.  Mostly because I think you deserve to know the truth.  To know what happened.”

“To ease your conscience!”  Seven stood, turning to challenge her former Captain one last time.  There were no winners in this fight now, but justice – her justice.  Her tears, falling unnoticed by her, were scalding Kathryn just by the fact of their descent.  Seven was turning the anguish into a motivation, a driving force to exact punishment.  Termination.  End the pain, end the cause of pain.

“No, Seven.”

“I was a transaction to you.”

“No, I had your best interests at heart, I promise.”

“You lie.  I was just the inferior Borg who bought the rest of the crew’s freedom!  You did not care about me - you cared about them!  Your Borg bartered like a Hirogen trophy!!!”

“No.  Have you been hindered in doing anything you wanted?  Have you felt any of your freedoms curtailed?  Starfleet tried to cultivate you, to win you over and failed.  Admittedly you surprised us all by what you chose to do with your life, but no one tried to prevent you did they?  No one tried to force you to do otherwise?  You were guided, but you have been free to do what you want.”

“Irrelevant!  You sold our friendship.”

“I suppose I did yes, although, I would say that I deferred it until a safer time and I will always regret that I hurt you, but I bought your freedom Seven.  I bought you the right to make your own choices, because if they had reneged on their word, I would have flown in with all the power of my fame and my media worthy status and I would have stopped them.”

“How would you have known?  Since you ignored 99 per cent of my communications to you?”  

“ There were only eight.  I have had key people reporting back to me, unofficially.  You seemed to be doing OK.  I thought you were happy.”

So bloody happy I couldn’t bear to think about it. That was the truth too and guilt was beginning to berate Kathryn with acid voices driven by Seven’s tears.  You’ll never know, how I feel about this.  You’ll never understand how I would do anything not to hurt you.  I will never tell you about my own agony those first few nights when you were with him.  These things you will never know.  But Seven was still talking and she turned her focus back to the woman she loved.

“That is an emotional convenience, Admiral Janeway!  You led me to believe that the qualities of humanity - loyalty, kindness, friendship, love - were more dear to you than power, but when it came to it, it was easy for you to trade the lobotomised automaton for self-advancement.”  Seven choked.  “Don’t touch me!”

“Listen to me.’  She placed her hand gently over Seven’s heart, refusing the rejection, speaking with careful accuracy, “I do love you and if I had had any other choice I would have taken it. But I didn’t and under the same set of circumstances, I would make the same decision again. I was protecting you, Seven of Nine, hard as that is for you to believe right now, but I want you to know that what I did, I did out of love for you as your Captain.”  She was soothing Seven’s heart as she spoke, wishing that the young woman could feel her truth and her love through her hand.  There’s something to be said for the Borg unified mind after all.

“Your Borg protégé!”  Seven picked Kathryn’s hand up off her chest holding it between thumb and forefingers and dropped it into space with a gesture of disdain, stepping back away from Admiral Janeway as she did so.

“My beloved student and friend. When you stepped out of that alcove and became a member of my crew, it was a two-way process, Seven.  You were on a terrifying journey of transformation, almost an alchemical process, but you weren’t in isolation - we stepped into the crucible together. It changed both of us.”

“I do not believe, Admiral that you defeated the Borg Queen three times, but you could not overcome Starfleet.”  She was drawing herself together, no longer crying.

“I tried to persuade them otherwise, but ultimately, I am answerable to them.  So… no I could not go against Starfleet.”  It was lost and she knew it.  Seven was withdrawing too far away from her.

“Then you are no better than the Borg.  You behaved like an Alpha Quadrant drone.  I am glad I know this about you now.  You lied. You manipulated me.  You are not my friend.”  Seven straightened her coat.

Kathryn watched her, further argument dying in her heart.  She didn’t really feel like thrashing this out any more, it was too painful and anyway she knew that she had caused too much hardship to think that her own happiness was worth saving.  Goes with the territory, after all.  She let the moment play out; trying to etch Seven into her memory, to absorb what she could of her before they parted.  You can’t win ‘em all.  The jocular voice was her way of transferring bridge controls back to the Admiral.

Admiral Janeway would take this pain with all the others.  She would enter it into the particular personal datafile in her conscience never to be erased and she would occasionally allow it its moment to remind her that some consequences cannot be fixed or forgiven, but mostly, she would keep it securely under lock and key because that is what good command requires.  Cadets dreaming of the big chair on the bridge of a starship imagine that responsibility begins and ends with composure and courage under fire and with cool decisions made in the heat of battle, but Janeway knew better - they were just the beginning.  The easy part, in fact.  A good leader knows when she is making an unholy alliance for the greater good, but never lets herself be fooled by such platitudes.  A good leader never turns away from the human cost of choices made in the field and refuses to allow her crew to shoulder the blame when things go wrong.  Good leaders file their personal tragedies away to examine in private and never ever let the bitterness seep out of the file to influence the job in hand.

She sighed.  “Very well then.  I want you to know that as far as I am concerned, the part of the deal with Starfleet concerning our friendship is rescinded and I will inform them of this fact.  You may not want to be in touch with me for a very long time - if at all - but if you should ever need me or if you would like just to talk, I promise you that I will not let you down again.  No matter where I am, I will make time for you and please remember that I -” she cleared her throat  “I care… for you very, very much.”  She moved back towards the door, numb and controlled. 

Seven’s voice interrupted her. “Not love anymore?”

She didn’t turn round. “Love is irrelevant, Seven.”  Her hand was on the cold rail beside the steps.

“Was our kiss irrelevant, Admiral Kathryn Janeway?”

She couldn’t turn round.  “No, kissing you was everything.”  Her voice dropped into a gravely choke, “but loving you is my problem, not yours.”  She would not cry.

There was a movement behind her, making the hairs on the back of her neck stand up.

“I find I am not ready to see you go.”  

Seven was close, really close.  “And I am not innocent of making hurtful choices either, Admiral - I have made many. ”  The Borg hand reached out to take her cheek, fingers moving to her jaw line, which she used to turn Kathryn around to face her.

“If you had punished me for some of my decisions on Voyager by denying me permanent access to your guidance and companionship, I would have been irreparably damaged.  When I was confined to the Cargo Bay, alone and angry, it was your presence that I required.  I wanted to inform you that you were wrong, imperfect, arrogant, small, inefficient and weak.  Therefore, it was an effective punishment, because I did not wish to lose such a privilege again.”

Kathryn’s voice was rough.  “I benefited from your opinion a lot.” She tried to smile.

Seven didn’t smile back.  “And I benefited from your presence.  I have felt your loss, Admiral Janeway.  I have not functioned well because your absence made me weak.  I made contingency plans to compensate, but it was a reactive procedure that could never fully fix the problem.  I find that I do not wish to experience that again.”

“Oh Seven, I am sorry.”  Seven’s continued caress, now just under her ear seemed to be directly touching her heart.  She wanted to cry but couldn’t, to reclaim her right to Seven, but daren’t, to put every blessed other thing on hold for as long as it took to heal them both and she would do that too, if she could just think straight.  Her vision was blurring, her voice fraying with warring emotions. 

“Was kissing me irrelevant to you Seven?”

“It was not”

Kathryn felt the implant on Seven’s thumb brush her chin.  It electrified her.  The young woman was looking down at her lips though she made no move to kiss her.

“I have to inform you that I am being sought by Starfleet.  I am a criminal.”  She said, still examining Kathryn’s lips.

“What???” Now she tells me!  “Why - what have you done?” Kathryn forced her to look at her properly with a touch.

“I hit my husband, rendering him unconscious and sabotaged his shuttlecraft.”

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

 

 

Continue to Part IV

Back to Casta Diva's page or Home