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The Actions of a Reckless Woman

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Tuvok had once stated that he considered her to be a reckless woman. She had grinned at him at the time, having successfully navigated in a devastating speed through a set of binary pulsar stars. But now she knew her latest reckless action would not be something taken lightly.

She had no idea where she was heading, only that she had to leave Voyager.

 *****

Kathryn Janeway, captain of the Federation starship Voyager, adjusted the shields of the class two shuttle, making sure she would not be traced by Voyagers external sensors. Her modifications were not exactly Starfleet protocol but nothing in this situation was in the regulations. She had had made her call and she was going to stick to it in order to keep her crew safe. She had to set things right, pay the price for what nobody could possibly have predicted would happen, quite simply.

She set the course for the M-class planet they had observed on long range scanners six days ago. With the shuttle travelling at warp four, it would take her about ten to twelve days to get there.

She leaned back against the seat and rubbed her forehead. This was going to be rough, but there was no alternative. She had to leave.

Janeway was confident that her departure had gone unnoticed for now and since she had left during the gamma shift and had the next day off, she doubted that anyone would miss her. They would however find out about the missing shuttle sooner. It would take them a while to figure out what was going on and that would buy her some more time and she needed time to cover her tracks, to get as far away as possible.

She decided to get some rest before she had to adjust her shields again. She lied down on the bench behind the pilot’s chair and closed her eyes. Sleep eluded her but she sank into a blurry state, her mind whirling, trying to make sense of everything. Her heart was breaking for leaving Voyager and most of all for having to leave Seven of Nine.

 *****

Janeway had been working in her ready room and feeling pleased with the fact that Voyager was finally travelling through a peaceful, benevolent part of the Delta quadrant. She read the monthly reports from the thirteen different departments when the door chime rang.

“Come in,” she said out loud.

The door hissed open and the Doctor came in, a grim look on his face.

Janeway’s heart sank.

“Bad new?” she asked huskily.

“Yes, Captain,” he answered. “The dormant virus in your system will activate somewhere between two to four days. Then you will become contagious and … as of yet, I have not managed to find a cure. Once the virus is active, I might be able to, but not yet.”

“And when it is active, I will be highly contagious?”

He nodded. “Yes, the fact that the transport buffer filters didn’t pick up on the virus in its dormant stage is not very reassuring. This virus is very contagious. You will need to stay behind a level ten force field in sickbay.”

“But that is not foolproof, is it?” Janeway asked harshly. “It is still risky, right?”

The Doctor regarded her carefully and then sighed.

“I won’t lie to you, Captain. I am concerned. Ever since you and ensign Bahro was infected and we lost him, I have been more and more apprehensive how to approach this. I have scanned the rest of the crew and there is no virus among them, neither active nor dormant. But I know very little about how this particular viral agent works.”

She knew then. She had decided already, as soon as the Doctor explained the situation, and now she had things to take care of. The captain moved up from her desk chair and walked up the flight of stairs to the elevated part of her ready room and looked out the view port.

“I have two days you say?” she asked dragging a trembling hand through her hair. “Two days before I have to go into quarantine?”

“Yes, Captain. Do you want me to inform the senior crew?”

Janeway’s head snapped up. “No. No, I’ll do it myself when I deem fit. Thank you, Doctor, keep me informed. Dismissed.”

She heard him leave and only then did she let her knees give in and sat down on the couch. This was it. She had to leave Voyager, leave the family she had found in space. Leave the one person she had come to care so much for.

As if reading her mind, her comm badge chirped, making her jump.

Seven of Nine to Janeway.”

She tapped her badge.

“Janeway here. Go ahead.”

“I require your assistance in astrometric’s, Captain.” Seven’s cool voice demanded. This ex-borg had a way of making a request sound like an order, but Janeway was used to it and knew that the tall blonde just aimed for efficiency and perfection. She simply couldn’t be bothered with protocol and niceties sometimes.

“Give me ten minutes, Seven and I’ll be there,” she replied. She needed time to get her bearings before seeing the younger woman. She knew Seven might seem aloof and cold, but she also had a knack for figuring her captain’s mood out and it would be unfortunate if Seven sensed that there was something wrong. Everybody assumed that she had not been infected at that away mission and she wanted to keep that appearance up for as long as possible.

Acceptable, Seven out.”

Janeway sighed and headed for the small bathroom. She splashed cold water on her face and then regarded her image in the mirror with disdain. “This is it, Katie,” she mumbled. “This is the end of the journey for you.”

She then squared her shoulders, pinched her white cheeks and left for the astrometric’s lab.

 *****

Entering astrometric’s her eyes immediately fell on the back of a tall, lanky woman working with small, efficient movements at a console. Seven of Nine, late of the Borg collective, severed from the hive mind a little more than three years ago and now a valuable addition to the Voyager crew.

Janeway had clashed, fought and argued with this woman more times than with the entire crew altogether over these three years, she mused. Seven was not a believer in the command structure, well, at least she didn’t use to be, but a growing respect and admiration for her captain had slowly allowed her to at least accept being ordered around.

She still spoke her mind very clearly but as her social skills developed, the Borg more and more learned to interact with the crew without stepping on everyone’s toes all the time.

“Captain,” Seven greeted, glancing back over her shoulder. “I have found two nebulas containing several of the substances Voyager require. I recommend we alter course to collect samples.”

Janeway started to speak but had to clear her throat twice before her voice would carry and by doing that, making Seven send her a concerned look.

“Captain?”

“Sounds fine, Seven.” It was more than fine. With everybody busy preparing for an away mission, she would be able to make her final arrangements in piece. “I think you, Harry Kim and B’Elanna should go. When we are within range, use the Delta Flyer.”

Seven nodded but still regarded her carefully.

“Captain, are you all right?” she asked tentatively. “You look … uneasy.”

Janeway straightened.

“I am fine, Seven. Perhaps a little tired.”

Seven nodded. “Yes, you look fatigued. I … “ She broke off, blushing faintly.

This sparked Janeway’s curiosity.

“What were you going to say?” she asked.

“I have wanted to ask you to join me for dinner for some time now, to compensate you for all the times you have replicated nutrition for me in your quarters, Captain,” Seven explained.

The captain smiled.

“You mean, in the mess hall?”

“No, I thought I could use the holodeck hours I have saved up and replicate the meal in there.”

Janeway considered this.

“I would love to spend time with you over dinner.”

Seven didn’t exactly smile but looked very pleased. “1900 hours then? Holodeck two?”

“Agreed,” Janeway smiled. “What is the dress code for this event?”

Seven frowned. “Captain?”

“I mean, is it in uniform or not?”

The blonde blushed a little. “I am sorry, Captain, I was unaware of the fact that an invitation t dinner should also state … the dress code. I think it would be preferable to be out of uniform.”

Good idea, Janeway thought. “Out of uniform it is then. See you then.”

When she walked out the door she glanced back and caught Seven staring after her, looking mildly confused. Perhaps she had no idea what to wear, if you considered her bio suit to be a uniform.

Janeway would have to make the most of this evening and yet not give herself away, not allow Seven to understand that anything was wrong. How she would accomplish that, savouring their last moment alone together, to take with her in her heart, without making the younger woman suspicious was going to be hard, but she had to.

Janeway returned to her ready room, only nodding to the beta shift on the bridge. She sat down at her desk and began to record the logs, dating them to be sent off to the different recipients twelve hours after she was gone. She only saved one for later, she would know more what to tell Seven after tonight.

 *****

Janeway entered holodeck two and looked around. The setting was an ordinary Terran dining room, it even resembled her own in her town house in San Francisco. There was a fire burning at the back wall and the table were set for two, with a white table cloth, crystal and fine silver ware. Seven came through a wooden door carrying two covered plates, using oven mittens which looked very out of place on her long elegant hands.

She was dressed in a narrow, blue dress that sparkled a little in the light of the fire. Janeway could only stare. The other woman’s hair was down, reaching just beneath her shoulders and kept from falling into her face by two ivory combs. She was absolutely exquisite, more beautiful than the captain had ever seen her and the thought of never seeing her again, of having glimpsed this goddess and …

Janeway choked and had to swallow hard several times, to keep the tears from falling. She herself also wore a dress, a thin green one with tiny, tiny buttons all the way down in the front. She wore her hair as usual but had little diamond earrings on that she knew reflected the light and should bring a sparkle to her eyes even if there really weren’t one.

“Captain, you are here,” Seven stated, looking pleased. “Dinner is ready and I hope you will enjoy your meal. Mr Neelix assisted me in choosing a red wine which he says you find acceptable.”

“I’m sure it will be fine, Seven. You look … lovely.”

The younger woman smiled faintly, that wonderfully shy movements of the full lips, almost undetectable if you didn’t know her like Janeway did. Who would notice her smiles now … No, Janeway chastised herself fiercely, straightening her back; don’t even go there. Tonight is … tonight.

Seven regarded her evenly. “You look wonderful, Captain. It is a very … elegant dress.”

Janeway had to smile broadly at Seven’s attempt at complimenting her.

“Thank you, Seven.”

“You are wearing jewellery,” the Borg noticed and came closer to look at them. “They are catching the light in a most intriguing way.”

“They are diamonds.”

Seven returned to the table and poured two glasses of the ruby red whine. Handing one of them to Janeway she carefully watched the older woman sip it.

“According to Mr Neelix, it is a Talaxian wine, moon ripe, although I am unsure of exactly what that means.”

The captain laughed softly. “I think only Neelix knows and he’s never told me.”

They sat down and lifted the covers off their plates. A mouth watering smell of a vegetarian pasta dish made Janeway think she might be able to actually eat although her stomach was tied up in knots. She grabbed her fork and speared a long piece of tagliatelle covered in a delicious sauce. It tasted as good as it smelled and she chewed carefully.

Seven had not taken her eyes off her and Janeway realised she was waiting for her approval.

“It tastes really good, Seven. Where did you get the recipe?”

“It was in the replicator buffer but I enhanced it with some spices ensign Wildman showed me. She is a very able cook.”

“I am sure she must be, this is going to be a favourite.” The words made her cringe but she was determined not to let her grim thoughts interfere. Seven beamed shyly at her for the praise.

They finished the meal under idle conversation, talking about food, Seven’s work in astrometric’s and Janeway’s academy days in Starfleet. The mood was light and unassuming, both women were relaxed and at ease, at least on the surface. Janeway thought she was handling it well and was beginning to think she was going to pull her charade off when suddenly Seven leaned across the table and a bit awkwardly patted her hand.

“Captain, is something wrong?”

Feeling her cheeks being drained of colour Janeway tried to stall but was momentarily at a loss for words.

Seven cocked her head and studied her anxiously.

“Nothing is wrong,” the captain tried. “Why do you ask?”

“Your eyes are a deep shade of grey, there are new lines around your eyes, you are pale and even paler now and although you complimented the food, you hardly ate anything.”

I had to ask, Janeway thought wryly.

“There is nothing wrong,” she repeated and tried to sound assertive. Her voice trembled a little and of course that did not escape the Borg’s enhanced hearing.

“I do not think you are being truthful, Captain, but I will respect your reluctance to share your troubles with me. If you change your mind, I will still be here to assist you if I can,” Seven said in an impossibly soft tone of voice, so unlike her usual detached way of talking.

Janeway sighed and leaned back in her chair, rubbing her forehead. Seven deserved better than this, this whole dinner was a mistake, a selfish thing of her to do in the first place. She had been so intent on spending time with the blonde, she had not realised that Seven had come to know her very well over the years and was as perceptive about her as she was about the younger woman. She would have to excuse herself and leave before she made a fool of herself or hurt her.

“Seven …” she croaked but was interrupted right away.

“Music, selection Seven gamma four one,” Seven called to the computer. Soft jazz music began to play and Janeway looked astonished.

“May I have this dance, Captain?” Seven asked and stood up. She walked around the table,  pulled out Janeway’s chair and regarded the older woman expectantly.

The temptation was way beyond what the captain could resist and acting completely against her better judgement she nodded stiffly and rose from the chair.

Sliding into Seven’s arms she was surrounded by a soft scent, vanilla with a bit of metal tinge to it and the younger woman’s arms. It made her feel safe and perhaps it would make her forget for a while about what she was going to have to do within twenty-four hours, she thought.

Janeway closed her eyes and they swayed to the music. Seven pulled her a little closer and rested her cheek on the auburn hair of her captain, humming softly the words to the music in her clear alto voice.

This is almost unbearable, Janeway thought, feeling tears forming, threatening to spill over. She had such faith in this young woman and sorrowfully knew that she would not be around to watch her reach her full potential. She would not be there to keep Seven safe if and when Voyager reached the Alpha quadrant. She had in her logs left that particular responsibility in the hands of three very trusted people, Chakotay, B’Elanna and Tuvok. They would speak on Seven’s behalf and she knew Tuvok would take her under his wings, they understood each other, the Borg and the Vulcan.

But she herself would never know what happened to this wonderful creature, this blonde, beautiful being she had severed from the Borg collective. The sorrow hit her square in the chest and she buried her head into the long alabaster neck in front of her. The tears she had tried to conceal trickled down the soft skin and she knew Seven could feel it. She didn’t sob, she made hardly any sound but still the strong arms surrounding her tightened their grip and she thought she could feel soft lips kissing her hair.

The music continued, seamlessly switching from one song to another without anyone of them withdrawing from the swaying embrace, which was really all it was.

Seven kept singing very quietly, sometimes only humming the tune, and the sound soothed Janeway’s fried nerves. This was heaven before hell, she knew that and still she would not trade places with anyone. She was in the arms of the person most important to her on Voyager, truth be told, the most important person to her – period. If this was her second last evening on her beloved ship, right here was the best place to be.

“Captain? Are you tired? Do you wish to sit down?”

“What time is it?” Janeway asked. “When are our holodeck hours over?”

Seven stroked the captain’s back soothingly. “I had a lot of accumulated time, there is still two more hours,” she reassured the older woman.

“Then I would love to rest a little on the couch in front of the fire.”

“Do you require some more wine?”

“No, I’m fine.”

Janeway went over to the couch and sat down in the middle of it, folding her legs beneath her. Seven came and sat on her left, not in her usual neat posture but slumping back a little.

“Are you tired too, Seven?” Janeway asked, tipping her head back a bit to look at her. The flames cast a golden glow over the blonde and she was achingly, deliciously beautiful.

“No, not tired, Captain. I am feeling somewhat concerned regarding your mental state, however. I wish there was something I could do or say to make you want to confide in me.”

Janeway flinched and regarded the Borg with apprehension. There you go, she chided herself, that’s what happens when you shed tears in the arms of a Borg. They don’t let you get a way with a thing, at least this particular Borg didn’t.

“Seven, I won’t insult your intelligence by saying that I’m fine again, but understand that this is not something I can share with you … yet. I have probably been lousy company for you this evening and I am sorry about that. You went through so much trouble and this is what you get … a weepy captain, sobbing all over you.” She made a face and closed her eyes briefly.

Seven regarded her with wide eyes.

“I will not inquire further about your … personal matter. I am however very pleased that you did join me this evening. You have not been ‘lousy company’ and I would never regard you as ‘weepy’. I find it … an honour, that you are able to let go a little of your role as captain in my presence and just be … Kathryn? I see no disgrace in your tears; I can only hope that you found some comfort in shedding them.”

The softness in that magical voice, the kindness in the blue eyes watching her so steadily made Janeway’s throat choke up again. This was more than she would ever bargain for, showed more of Seven’s feelings than she had ever hoped to know about.

“I … I never realised …” she stammered and suddenly she found herself back in Seven’s arms, being pulled close to that ample chest and gently rocked.

“I will hold you, Kathryn,” Seven whispered. “I will not let you go until you feel better. Trust me.”

And she did. Kathryn Janeway trusted this young woman with her life and she relished in the embrace and although she knew she would probably walk out of this holodeck with a heart shattered in a million pieces, she had no strength left to pull back. She had her ear pressed to Seven’s chest and the heart in there beat a steady, slow rhythm, almost hypnotising her.

A soft sound reached her and she knew Seven was humming again, the same song that she had ordered the computer to play when she asked her captain to dance.

“ … and if somebody loves you, it’s no good unless she loves you, all the way – through the good or lean years and for all those in between years, come what may  …”

Not really knowing why and how she did it, Janeway tipped her head back and regarded the blonde for a couple of seconds and then looked so intent on those full lips that the song they sang faded away. The captain leaned forward a little and brushed her own trembling lips along Seven’s. The blonde inhaled audibly and held the older woman closer.

“Kathryn?”

“It was something I had to do. Can you forgive me?” Janeway whispered huskily.

“Only if you allow me to reciprocate,” Seven replied and pressed her lips softly against Janeway’s. The kiss was gentle and almost innocent. Their lips merely pressed together in the sweetest of caresses, making them both sink into the other, arms all weak but still holing on tightly.

Janeway pulled back a little.

“I think I have to go now,” she breathed against those full, yielding lips.

“I do not want you to.”

“But I have to, you know that, Seven.”

The blonde closed her eyes hard and then hugged the smaller woman hard for a brief moment before releasing her.

“I know.”

Janeway got up and stood watching her astrometric’s officer for a while, maybe half a minute, and then left.

 *****

Janeway shifted in her seat. The shuttle was now several light years away from Voyager. The starship was travelling at warp six towards the Alpha quadrant and she was heading in the opposite direction at warp four. She had masked the warp signature and kept modulating her shields to avoid even the sharpest long range scanners.

When they noticed she was gone and that would hopefully take at least another twelve hours, she would be long gone. She was pretty confident that they would not be able to trace her.

Still, the eerie feeling of having forgotten about something was there. She knew it would come to her and all she could do was pray it was nothing important.

How frantic they all were going to be when they realised she was gone. They would backtrack and keep searching for her and once the Doctor heard about it all, he would realise why she had done it and inform the senior crew. She could only hope that they would all recognise the futility in pursuing her, that she would be dying then, if not already dead. It had taken ensign Bahro ten gruesome days to die after the virus had become active. Janeway had about twelve to forty-eight hours until that would happen to her, according to the Doctor’s calculations.

She had packed several hypo sprays containing painkillers and sedatives. She knew she would suffer but was determined to see it through to the end. She had thought about suicide, but she felt that would be the ultimate defeat.

She looked back at the small bench again. It was not very comfortable but she was exhausted from lack of sleep during the last two nights. She would try and rest again.

Lying there, unable to sleep but trying to relax, she thought about Seven.

How precious the memories was of their … well, date, she supposed. She could almost feel those luscious lips on hers, taste the sweetness of the young woman. How long had she loved her beautiful Borg? From the beginning, it seemed. She had so many memories she could pull out from the corners of her mind. All their initial fights and discussions that had upset the tall blonde so much.

Janeway smiled a little thinking of all the times Seven had entered her ready room almost startling the uniform off her captain on several occasions by just suddenly standing there, hands clasped behind her back. And then of course, she had on equally many occasions left without waiting to be dismissed, oblivious of the regulations and protocol of Starfleet. Or well aware and simply ignoring them, Janeway mused.

They had battled each other in front of the crew, in private and by fiercely playing velocity.

Then there were the breathtaking, heart wrenching moments. Like when the Borg queen had black mailed Seven to rejoin the collective. Or when the young woman had malfunctioned and suffered from multiple personality disorder. One moment that had stuck in Janeway’s mind was the time Seven had downloaded too much information into her cortical array and become paranoid. She had taken a shuttle and tried to commit suicide, convinced that her mentor, her friend had betrayed her all along. Only Janeway’s soft and determined persuasion had made the distraught young woman turn the Delta Flyer around and come back to Voyager. Perhaps that was the time when Janeway had realised just how frighteningly lonely she would have become without Seven?

And now Seven would be as lonely. That thought broke some of her control and she clamped a shivering hand over her mouth to stop the violent sobs trying to escape. I am not going to break, I am not, she thought fiercely.

She could however not stop the tears and eventually it was exhaustion from trying to keep calm that lulled her into a restless sleep.

 *****

A soft, cooing voice broke through her dreams and she had to smile. She was dreaming about Seven and she didn’t want to wake up. She tried to sink deeper into her sleep, wanted to hear the voice, to make out the words.

“I am here now, Captain. I will not leave you.”

Oh, it was so real, it was making her cry again. That cool, detached voice that could in an instant convey rage, hurt and tenderness if you just knew what to listen for. She could have sworn it was for real and relished in the sound of it.

“Wake up, Captain. I need to administer this hypo spray now.”

That was a bit technical for even her dreams, Janeway thought foggily. What hypo spray?

She opened her eyes and found herself staring up into those familiar blue eyes.

“Seven!” Her voice was a harsh cry, like a wounded animal. “What are you doing here? What have you done? It isn’t safe … you … I could infect you … What time is it?” She frantically tried to sit up but was gently held down by strong arms.

“Do not worry, Captain, my shuttle is docked with yours and I have come with the medication the Doctor have been experimenting with. And the time is 1230 hours.”

Seven sounded very calm but her face was pale and her hair tousled, not it in its usual austere bun. She really looked like she had not regenerated for days.

“But you don’t understand,” Janeway moaned. “The virus could be active and I might be infecting you right now. Oh, why did you come … why …” She broke down into the sobs she had valiantly fought hours ago. “I was trying to save you, all of you. Why did you come?”

Seven put a hypo spray to the captain’s neck and an instant blackness surrounded her, engulfed her into oblivion.

 *****

She was shivering. Cold and thirsty, she tried to rise from her bed only to realise she wasn’t in her quarters but on a not very comfortable bench in a shuttle.

The shuttle, leaving Voyager … Seven!

Janeway made a new attempt and blinked at the light coming from the consoles around her. Nobody was there and she sighed, both in relief and regret. She had dreamed about Seven, she remembered as much, but now she was glad the young woman wasn’t there. She was ill now, the virus was no doubt active and she felt like she had a serious case of the T’Sari Pneumonia or something.

Coughing she got on her right elbow, trying to sit up. It was probably way overdue to adjust the shields and also tamper some more with the warp signature.

“Captain, do not get up. You are running a high fever,” she heard Seven’s voice.

Janeway’s head snapped up so quickly, her headache worsening by a tenfold. That voice almost sounded real, was she still asleep, was she still dreaming?

But the woman entering through the shuttle door looked very real. She was dressed in her plum bio suit and looked as immaculate as always.

“Oh, no … Seven, you can’t be here. I have the virus, you have to …” The coughing started again and she almost fell headlong from the bench. Seven rushed to her and caught her just in time, pulling her up in her arms, cradling her.

“Captain, do not worry about me. The doctor managed to program my nano probes to fight the virus and I am the only person onboard Voyager who can not get this disease. He also worked on a highly experimental medicine which, I am sorry to say, he had no way of testing since the only patient was not longer present.”

Janeway had tried to pull back but Seven’s words slowly reached her feverish mind and she slumped back into the embrace, still shivering.

“You mean, you can’t get it?” she whispered throatily.

“Yes, Kathryn, that is exactly what I mean. I can not get it nor can I become a carrier and pass it on to anybody on Voyager when we return.”

Return. The tears fell again, ran in glistening, hot trails down the captains flushed cheeks.

“But, there is still a risk that I won’t …”

“But you have to comply, Kathryn. I will stay with you until you are well. I will make sure you are given the right amount of nutrition and administer the hypo sprays. I promised the commander, in fact I was required to promise every single crewmember, that I would not return without you.”

Janeway tried to smile, tried to answer but all she could do was cry before falling asleep again.

 

The next time she woke up, her body was on fire and Seven had undressed her and was stroking her with a cold, wet sponge. Slowly she dragged it over her captain’s naked body, cooling it off and by doing so relieving some of the pain.

When she noticed that Janeway was awake she reached for a cup with a straw.

“Here, Kathryn, it is important that you drink.”

Janeway tried but it hurt her throat so bad to swallow, she pulled back and accidentally  knocked the cup out of Seven’s hand.

The Borg patiently filled up a new cup and this time she pulled Janeway up close in her arms, gently restraining her arms as she held the cup, now without the straw, against the captain’s pale lips.

A few sips of water was forced down Janeway’s throat before the coughing began again and she was frantically gasping for air.

She was only semi-conscious about her surroundings, had no idea where she was. She only knew that the sole comfort right now was that cool, soothing voice of the woman holding her.

“Kathryn, you will get better. I have administered six doses of the medicine and they should take effect soon. Please, do not give up,” the voice urged her.

Janeway tried to focus her eyes on the voice’s origin, but all she could make out was the glistening, blonde hair and that the person was wearing a plum suit of some sort. She knew she ought to be able to understand who it was but the name eluded her, no matter how she tried.

“Is that … you?” she asked huskily. “Please, tell me it’s you.”

There was a silence.

“It is I, Seven of Nine, Captain,” the voice answered.

Of course, Janeway thought, relieved. Of course it is Seven. Who else would be here, who else would be holding me so close when I am naked and everything. Her hands are so cool against my skin, it almost hurts. But I don’t ever want her to let go.

“Don’t let me go.”

“I will not.”

“I don’t … want to die, Seven. I really don’t …”

“I will not allow you to die.”

That arrogant tone of voice was very familiar and made her lips stretch into a tremulous smile.

“I trust in you, Seven … don’t let me fall.”

“I promise. I will not leave you.”

There were movements that really hurt when Seven shifted and then the captain dazedly heard the hiss of a hypo spray and everything went black again.

 *****

A fever raged in her body. It tore at her, dragged her over ragged rocks, over icy paths and sometimes squeezed hard at her chest, making her gasp and cough. The pain rampaging within her mad her whimper and claw at what ever was restraining her.

“Daddy, help me …” she moaned and tried to free herself. She was caught in this awful ache and surely this was a Cardassian prison? Or was she out on the ice, back on Tau Ceti Prime … shouldn’t she ignore the pain and get up on her knees to try to save her father and Justin?

She wrestled weakly against the restraints, even tried to use her teeth, but to no avail.

“I have to go … let me go …” her throaty, almost delirious voice desperately tried to explain.

“Please, lie still, Kathryn,” a soft, clear voice reached her through the haze. “Do not fight me, you need to preserve your strength. I do not want to hurt you, but I can not allow you get up either.”

That voice was so familiar, wasn’t it. She trusted that voice. Perhaps it was right, she was safe and should not fight. But what about Daddy and Justin? Where were they?

She opened her eyes, trying harder to focus this time. A shuttle. She was in a Starfleet shuttle. She turned her head. A tall, blonde woman was sitting beside her and was holding her naked body very close. This was too much to grasp. What was going on?

Suddenly Janeway’s mind cleared up so quickly it was almost painful. Seven, it was Seven and she was not only holding her, she was restraining her, pinning the captain’s arms along her body.

“Seven? I think you can … put me down now. I won’t try to get up,” she said quietly, her throat ached but it was endurable.

“Captain?” Seven carefully placed the smaller woman on the bench and pulled the blanket over her.

“Obviously I am still here. How long??”

“Three days since you were coherent last time.”

“Three days …” Janeway sighed.

Seven nodded. “I believe the medicine is effective against the virus, you vital signs are improving even though you are still very uncomfortable. I have been in constant contact with Voyager. They are pleased that you are recovering, Captain.”

Janeway closed her eyes briefly, trying to stay calm.

“Voyager, how far away from the ship are we?” she asked.

“We are close, within half an hour at warp four with the shuttles and as soon as there is no trace of virus in your system, we will return.”

The captain could only stare in disbelief at he astrometric’s officer.

“You must be exhausted. Being stuck here so long with me and not be able to regenerate.”

Seven shook her head.

“I am functioning within acceptable parameters. The Doctor sent several ampoules of newly replicated nano probes. I am only required to take one hypo spray per day to keep my systems going. For a shorter period of time, like this, it is perfectly safe and will sustain me. I also have been ingesting emergency ration bars.”

Janeway made a face.

“I am sorry …”

“Do not be. I have also administered full nutrition to you intravenously. We will both be …fine.” She looked down at the captain. “You are much more coherent now and you look like you are not in as much pain.”

The captain nodded.

“I am better, Seven. I can feel that now. I ache, though, like I am full of bruises.”

To her surprise Seven blushed faintly and looked away.

“Seven?”

“I am sorry, Captain. I have not had the opportunity to use the dermal regenerator today. You have been very agitated and I have had to dedicate my time to keep you from hurting yourself. The Doctor was reluctant to allow more sedatives, I had to … restrain you with considerable force. You are a strong woman, Captain.”

Janeway rolled her eyes and regretted it immediately since a sharp pain shot through her head. A sudden  thought made her carefully raise an arm for inspection. Sure enough there were large bruises on several places.

“I will get the dermal regenerator instantly,” Seven said and was about to rise when Janeway put a trembling hand on her arm.

“Don’t go Seven. I … I don’t want to be alone, not yet. Sit here, the bruises are nothing. Just sit here, okay?”

Seven nodded and without asking she pulled the stunned captain up in her arms, tucking the Starfleet issued blanket around the smaller woman at the same time.

Janeway had not counted on being cradled like a child but found it soothed her and brought on a very familiar feeling. Seven must have held her on several occasions when she was at her worst with this virus.

The blonde softly stroked her back under the blanket, over and over.

It was amazing and she was using her left hand, Janeway thought. It wasn’t cold at all, the metal mesh was warm and almost yielding. Unaware of her actions the captain automatically hid her face against the Borg’s long white neck , feeling infinitely safer doing so.

“Would you like me to sing to you?” Seven asked.

“Would you?”

“Yes.”

Janeway nodded and weakly raised one hand to Seven’s biceps, to hold on to this extraordinary young woman who had risked everything to join her.

Seven began to sing a soft, beautiful lullaby. The words, ancient and reassuring, floated from her luscious mouth to Janeway’s ears, sending her to a safe and warm place, making her relax.

When the song was finished, the captain shifted a little and glanced up at Seven.

“You have a lovely voice. I adore listening to it.”

“Your voice is also remarkable.”

“Yes? I thought I once promised you not to sing.” Janeway smiled.

Seven considered this.

“I was not referring to your non-existent singing voice,” she clarified and frowned. “I mean the way your voice is husky in a most pleasant way and how it always betrays you emotional state.”

Janeway cocked an eyebrow.

“I am that transparent?” she said dryly.

“No, not to everybody. But I have spent enough time with you that I have learned to distinguish between your different ways of talking. I also feel strange sensations when you talk in a certain way, like when we are alone.”

The captain stiffened.

“What do you mean, Seven?”

“Your voice takes on a special throaty, trembling tone when we are alone. I am do not know if that is the case when you are alone with other crewmembers as well. I only know that it makes me experience a increase in heart rate and respiration.”

Oh, that Borg directness and efficiency, Janeway groaned inwardly. Her head was whirling with this piece of information she had asked for but was far from ready to accept of deal with. She was still very ill and she was also very apprehensive towards her feelings for this woman in who’s arms she was cradled.

She cleared her throat.

“Seven, I assure you, first of all that I do not address my crewmembers in a ‘throaty, trembling’ tone of voice. And if I have done that when talking to you, and I think I might have, I wasn’t aware that it made you uncomfortable.

Seven’s arms held her closer. “It is not uncomfortable for me, Kathryn,” she said, using her captain’s name absentmindedly. “It is a most wonderful feeling, to hear you say my name and making it sound like a caress even when it is meant as an order.”

Now Janeway groaned out loud. Katie, my dear, do you have any self-restraint regarding this woman what so ever, she asked her self exasperatedly.

Seven seemed to understand that the older woman’s small amount of strength was giving in. She lowered her onto the bench and tucked the blanket in.

“Go back to sleep, Kathryn,” she said. “I will be here when you wake up and perhaps you will be able to take a sonic shower?”

That sounded perfect and Janeway only had time to nod her approval before falling asleep.

 *****

The pain was gone. Janeway opened her eyes and looked around her. She was on the bench and there were no trace of the pain that had surged through her body like burning spears. She examined her right arm but saw only white, slightly freckled skin. No bruises left.

“Seven?” she called out and got up on one elbow.

Immediately Seven appeared from the other shuttle, still docked to Janeway’s.

“You are awake,” the Borg stated. “How are you feeling?”

“I am still very tired but there is no pain. How long now?”

Seven pulled out a medical kit and grabbed a tricorder. “Another eighteen hours,” she said while scanning her captain carefully. Suddenly there was a small, but distinct, smile on her full lips. “Captain, there is no virus left in your system.”

“What? Are you sure?” Janeway sat up, completely oblivious of the blanket falling down around her. Taking the tricorder from Seven she scanned herself and when the reading was the same, huge tears formed and fell from her eyes.

She turned the tricorder on Seven and scanned her. “And you are alright too,” she whispered. “The Doctor’s plan worked.”

The tricorder fell and she hid her face in her hands.

Gentle hands pulled her close, rubbed her back in little circles, over and over.

“There, Kathryn, it is over now. You will be well again. I can take us back to Voyager now,” she said flatly. “Let me only help you take a sonic shower first.”

Janeway felt the other woman try to get up but held on to her.

“Wait a minute,” she whispered. “I know I need a shower, badly. But just hold me for a little while, please.”

“Of course.”

Seven did just that. Held on to her captain, protected her by gently pulling her onto her own lap.

Janeway was just sitting there, slumped back against the Borg’s shoulder when Seven rose and carried her small burden into a tiny shower stall. The sonic shower hummed and days and days of grime and sweat was extinguished from Janeway’s body.

Rosy and almost glistening the captain allowed the younger woman to help her put her recycled underwear and uniform on. Sitting on the bench with both hands firmly planted on either side of her, she regarded Seven with even blue grey eyes. The uniform seemed larger than usual, but of course, she had lost some weight during this ordeal.

“I will hail Voyager now,” Seven said and turned around.

“No, wait,” Janeway said. “Come here.” She held a hand out to the blonde.

Seven took it hesitantly and let herself be pulled back.

“I need to know something,” Janeway explained.

Sven nodded.

“Go ahead.”

Janeway smiled and rolled her eyes.

“It wasn’t an order, Seven. Just a question.”

“Very well,” Seven said and looked at her expectantly.

“Are you … do you have feelings for me, Seven?” the captain asked in a low voice.

Seven considered this.

“Yes, I have strong feelings about you.”

Janeway sighed inwardly.

“I need to know how you interpret those strong feelings,” she stated, letting go of Seven’s hand and then lacing her own fingers together in her lap.

Seven regarded her uncertainly for a second and then sat down next to the captain, forcing her to shift in order to keep eye contact.

“I am not sure what you mean, Kathryn,” the blonde began quietly. “I am experience a strange loneliness when I am not in your presence, it is almost like a physical pain. I am exhilarated and content when I am with you, it is a considerable warm feeling. That is why I had to come after you, to bring you back. Voyager and its crew need you, but also I, need you. Our last evening together, on the holodeck suggested to me that you are not indifferent to me, that you care for me.”

She paused and surprised Janeway by softly and very quickly stroking an auburn lock from the captain’s face.

“I must confess that I went against protocol and regulations by using Borg encryption codes to enter your personal log. I did not read more than a couple of days back, to where your strange behaviour had its origin. I found the information about the virus and about your plan to leave the ship and condemn yourself to a lonely death. I was prepared to stop you, to tell the commander of your plans but fortunately I contacted the Doctor first. After some persuasion he informed me about the seriousness of this virus, of how you might inadvertently infect other crewmembers. We decided to let you go, no matter how much that pained me, to let you go on thinking you were all alone in this. I equipped this shuttle with a silent homing beacon, set only to send and register at a certain frequency. When you left … I was hiding in shuttle bay … I … I …”

One tear fell and was quickly caught by Janeway who wiped it off the smooth, alabaster cheek with her thumb. How dreadful it must have been for Seven, she thought wearily. How perfectly awful to stand back and let someone she cared about go on a fatal mission of solitude like that.

Seven swallowed.

“I informed the commander at that point and at first he was appalled, wanted to go after you himself, but I managed to prevent that. I knew I was the only one that could be inoculated against the virus and you needed somebody with my physical strength to survive. When I found you, I was relieved but also I feared I was too late.”

“But you weren’t.”

“No.”

Janeway resisted for about ten seconds but then pulled the blonde close. “Oh, darling, I can never thank you enough for doing this. When we were together in the holodeck, I knew I was giving myself away by behaving so out of character, but it was simply just shattering my heart, knowing I had to leave you, leave Voyager. I am so sorry that I put you through that, that I made you so worried and afraid.” She hugged the tall, lanky form hard.

“I was indeed upset and if I had failed at this mission, I would not have want to go on. I can not imagine my life without you, Kathryn. I need you.”

“Oh, and I need you as well. I … I love you, Seven.”

Seven pulled back a little and gazed at Janeway in a positively beaming way. Her lips trembled but the smile that emerged was glowing and went straight for her captains heart.

“I love you as well, Kathryn. When you kissed me on the holodeck, I realised that all this time … this particular emotion had been love.”

Janeway smiled and traced Seven’s lower lip with her index finger.

“I take it, you wouldn’t mind if I kissed you again?”

“No, I would not mind.”

They softly brushed their lips against each others, an exquisite feather like touch that sent shivers down their spines and made them breath more rapidly. When Janeway felt the younger woman shiver in her arms, she tightened the hold and let her tongue gently explore that sweet mouth, making the young woman shiver even more.

Voyager to Seven of Nine.”

Commander Chakotay’s voice was heard over the comm system.

Janeway broke free and gasped from the loss of that precious sensation. With a twinkle in her eyes she put her finger to her lips, indicating that Seven should not speak and then tapped her own comm badge.

“This is the captain, go ahead, commander,” she replied in her usual crisp voice.

There was a stunned silence.

“Captain!” Chakotay exclaimed and there were definitely some cheering going on in the background. “How are you feeling, Kathryn?”

“I’m fine, Chakotay. We’ll be home soon.”

There was a silence and then his voice was back again.

“Sorry, we had some static, could you repeat that, Captain?”

Janeway sighed a little but smilingly did so.

“This is Janeway,” she articulated, “I repeat that Seven of Nine and I will be returning to Voyager within half an hour.”

She was completely taken aback when a countless number of voices roared happily over the comm system.

Damn, Chakotay had set her up on a ship wide comm link, she thought, stunned. She cleared her throat.

They all know? She mouthed the question silently to Seven who nodded uncertainly.

“Since I seem to be addressing the entire crew – I am glad to report that there is no sign of the virus and thanks to the attendance of my crewmate, I am doing quite well. I’ll look forward to seeing you all. Janeway out.”

She shook her head.

“I’ll get Chakotay for that,” she stated grimly but a small smile played at the corner of her mouth, indicating that the commander’s penalty for tricking her was not going to be too harsh.

The captain looked at Seven.

“Now, my dear, we have thirty minutes to kill. Any suggestions?” she smiled innocently.

Seven quirked her eye piece.

“I fail to see how one could possibly terminate time itself, but I do have a suggestion how we could make the most of the … twenty-six point four minutes remaining until we rendezvous with Voyager.”

“And that is?”

“Kiss me again, Kathryn?”

“My pleasure.”

*****

The End