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With Flowers in her Hair

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Chapter One.

Nevada;Three months

Seated at the table, Seven made minor adjustments to her new solar regeneration unit. The technology statutes on the reservation prohibited her actual alcove... So she had adapted. After all, there was an abundance of natural light, and as readily available resource it would have been wasteful not to capitalize on it. She was proud of the small unit, the size of a wrist watch, that she wore on her bicep over her bio-suit. It was not as effective as her alcove, but it did combine her usual out-door physical activities with resource regeneration, and the ability to do two tasks at once appealed to her.

Chakotay smiled at her indulgently from his seat opposite her “Does it fall within the community guidelines?”

Seven nodded and didn't look up. She believed she understood his drive to belong to his collect- to his community, after all, she had felt the same on Voy- when she had first arrived in Navada. Following community standards would aid him in his goals. This was a challenge, like any other, and she would meet it with her usual head-on manner. Of course it falls within your community's needless and inefficient technological restraints.

 

“I believe so.”
I believe I do not meet your community's guidelines.

 

“That's wonderful Annika,” He leaned forwards, his hand settling across her own-covering her work, her tools- “ Would you like to go dancing with me tonight in the town square? You can wear that red dress we bought.”

 

He was smiling so warmly at her, but Seven could not help feeling a twinge of annoyance, and oddly, she could not place where the feeling originated from.

“What about the blue one?”

“The red one looks stunning, Annika, and you wear blue so often.”
Seven frowned slightly. “I've been told I look 'stunning' in blue.”

“Oh?” Chakotay's tone was playful, but Seven noted the tension in his hand over hers, and the minute twitch of his jaw, “and who said that?”

“Captain Janeway, when we had our last hearing and I was-”
“I think, when we go, you would look wonderful in the red dress.”

 

Several weeks later when Seven retrieved their laundry from the village washerwoman, the laundress explained she'd made a mistake with their clothes, and refunded them in credits to purchase new garments. When she'd informed Chakotay, he'd laughed, said they'd make the best of the situation, and have a fun day shopping to refit themselves. Seven noted that at the end of their day spent shopping together, she no longer had any blue articles of clothing.

 

~*~

 

Nevada; Six Months.

Seven completed her letter and stared at her empty inbox. She could not understand the absence of communication. She had written formal, correct and friendly letters to many acquaintances over the last weeks and had not received responses. She knew that many of her former shipmates must be involved in re-adjusting to their families and life back on earth. She felt she wanted to participate in this, was compelled to share with them in this experience as she would have on Voyager. However, few responses were forthcoming, and none at all from her Captain.


Have I erred? Have I miscalculated my value as a connection once Voyager returned to Earth? With readily available human interactions, perhaps my friendship is no longer need? These thoughts sent an uncomfortable tightness to her throat and a stinging to her eyes. She had written almost weekly to Janeway, asking questions about earth, advice when she had been seeking employment, asking to have philosophical discussions as they had before. She had only received silence. This activity brings This Drone distress. This activity will no longer be repeated. She no longer wrote letters.

 

She had been relieved to see her Captain at her hearings. Just seeing the woman there, confidant and controlled in her command uniform, had steadied Seven. She knew the hearings were not fair, they were meant to be trials, not to judge her on her conduct and deportment on board Voyager- She knew that her record was exemplary- but to condemn her for being Borg. The Captain had been ruthless in her defense. Seven was sure she had called in favors, applied her diplomatic skills and used her considerable influence to clear Seven of all charges. Almost overnight the cases against her had been dismissed, and Seven had been installed at the Daystrom institute, her preferred place of employment to continue her work with the slip stream technology and her gravimetrics array. Seven wanted to express gratitude to Janeway, she could not think of someone else who would go through such effort on her behalf, but at every turn the woman was somehow absent and out of reach.

 

Thinking about the institute caused her a pang of guilt. She was... unhappy there she realized. She had full reign of her lab, her experiments, and minimal interference. She should have been content. However, she was unmotivated, there was no dissent, no discussion and no feeling of urgency. She found, in contradiction to what she had believed were her own desires, that she wanted someone there to challenge her. She felt repulsed by the awe and fear in her coworker's faces when they interacted with her. Not one of them offered her second opinions, or even corrected her work when she left deliberate errors.

Seven leaned into the solid back of the chair at her work terminal. She had been considering resigning from her post, and when she had brought the idea to Chakotay, he had seemed quite pleased, insinuating that this would give them time to focus on their relationship, and becoming a family. This line of discussion had made her uneasy,reticent and... guilty. She did not bring it up again.

There were many things, Seven reflected, that she no longer brought up.

 

~*~

Nevada; 18 Months

“Annie, I'm so glad you decided to take this trip with me.”

The sun was hot,even this early, and Seven could feel the trickle of sweat between her scapula , feel its path down her implants- Implants that should still be protected by a bio-metric suit. The cotton and linen she was wearing was sufficient though- would be sufficient. She had adapted, and would continue to adapt to the community standards. At the very least, the solar regeneration unit would be charged for weeks after this activity.

“You are welcome.”

They sat barefoot in the sand across from each other, as the sun came up over the edge of the mountains, bathing the desert around them in violent pinks and reds. “Places like this have always been spiritual for me. I'm so glad that you chose this place for our honey-moon, Annie, I feel so lucky.”

 

Seven swallowed, and stared straight into the rising sun. Why do I not feel lucky.

 

“Would now be an acceptable time to attempt contacting my animal guide?”

 

She had never put stock in this kind of mysticism. Foolish, wasteful. But she had been without... without structure, or guidance, and the idea he had presented months ago had become more appealing as more of her routines, her familiarity had been removed. After resigning from her position at Daystrom, Chakotay had proposed to her. It had seemed like the logical course of action, the logical progression of events to accept the proposal. She had written B'ELannna, had written her Cap- had written Rear Admiral Janeway, but had received no responses. Seven tried to rationalize why she had done such actions when she knew they would be futile. Her acceptance had made Chakotay so pleased, and joyful. He had begun to construct additional rooms in their domicile, so that their “family had room to grow”. She had hopped that marriage would bring her a feeling of structure, stability and re-affirm her connection to Chakotay. It had not done any of these things, however, they were only newly married, so she concluded that perhaps insufficient time had passed for meaningful data to be collected. And perhaps this goal can be achieved by participation in his beliefs.

 

“R-really Annika, you want to- now? Do you feel up to it?”

 

“Yes.” I want to feel.

 

As Chakotay readied the area in preparation for the ceremony, Seven watched the clouds streaked with violet fade to pale lavender. She caught herself wondering what that colour would taste of. She closed her eyes again. She found without adequate mental stimulation, her thoughts became disordered, illogical and irrational. Part of her however, enjoyed the escape these thoughts provided her, and she chose not dwell on why. Another part of herself concluded that these thoughts stemmed from her inability to regenerate properly due to the fact that her solar regeneration module, no matter how useful and compact, was not a suitable long-term replacement for her alcove. Not without her bio suits to compensate. She inhaled deeply though her nose and opened her eyes only when Chakotay called to her to place her hands on the artifacts so they could begin her vision quest.

 

Nothing happened. I should not have been surprised. Shame flushed her cheeks, but she willed herself not to recoil. She willed herself to be still as Chakotay spoke words that should have meant something to her. She opened her eyes, and trained them on the horizon. The desert was beautiful, she had heard many people describe it to her in this manner, and she tended to agree- but right now it was so vivid so saturated-

Suddenly, an animal cry shattered the dawn stillness. When Chakotay didn't stop his chanting, or even flinch when the cry sounded again at close range, she realized with a rush of pride, that she was experiencing something. As she turned around to face the sound, the hot breath of the cougar against her face confirmed it.

 

The animal was larger than it should have been in real life. Its coat was a pleasing, dusky red-brown that seemed to glow in the rising dawn. Seven raised her left hand to let it sniff her, and to her surprise, it laved her fingers with its rough tongue. She felt, as her eyes connected with the animal's, that she needed to move. To run, to be fast and strong because -You are faster. Stronger. There is no shame in how you were made. Hunt. You are not meant to be still.

 

The animal turned from her and stalked over a thin thread of rock trail. It looked back over its shoulder at her once, holding her gaze and Seven was compelled to follow. She stood, and stepped forward, felt her pulse leap to her throat and was about to run to sprint headlong-

 

“Annie, where are you going? What did you see?”

She looked down to where Chakotay was holding her human right wrist in his hands, her wedding band gleaming in the sunlight. Her left hand was forward in front of her, frozen and outstretched. “I-I was...”

 

He tugged her down into his arms, all grins and warm eyes “So you did see something? I was worried you might not.”

You did not think I would meet your standards.

He ran his hands over her shoulders, and Seven noted absently that his hands unerringly skipped over her implants. “I'm so proud of you ! What did you see? We can talk about it, and discuss what it might mean for you.”

 

Seven allowed him to hold her close as she stared out over the path the cougar had taken in her vision. She discovered did not want to share this information. She did not have possessions that were only hers, they lived with the community, she shared her living space with him, and the limited tools she was allowed were not hers. This will be mine.

 

“I am... unsure. I heard a sound, but there was nothing there.” She was disconcerted with how easily the lie fell from her lips.
“That's perfectly normal Annika, we can practice again.” He was placing small affectionate kisses along the nape of her neck, and then he whispered against her cheek “I can think of other things I'd like practice with you.”

They took more outings to the desert, not far from the settlement, but far enough to warrant caution. Seven noticed that Chakotay had been exuberant that she was showing interest, that she was asking him about the land, the formation and its significance to his people. He delighted in teaching her survival techniques, teaching her about the life that could be found there. Seven noticed that when she expressed the desire to go alone, that he was less pleased with her interest when he himself was not the cause, not involved. He was even less pleased when she was not home when he returned in the evenings from lecturing on archaeology at the academy- but rather out in the scrub lands. He told her repeatedly it was not safe to go alone. This however, did not stop her outings.

It seemed more efficient to schedule her trips instead, to coincide with his absence to minimize confrontation that she did not want. She did not need to lie about her whereabouts, because he did not ask.

 

 

~*~

Nevada, 21 Months


“You do not have permission to be here.”
“Great maker, Annika, you don't have permission to be doing this at all.”

They stood at odds across from each other in the small space, an underground bunker- a workshop Seven had fashioned, filled with various discarded and illicit technology that she had... collected. Seven, my name is Seven of Nine, and I do not need permission from you. Seven gripped the edge of her work table, her metal fingers bending the surface like clay. She did not respond.

“Annika, what were you thinking?”

 

Seven had started building this space not long after they had returned from their honeymoon. She had worked in secret, and it had thrilled her to have something of her own. To work for something that was only for her enjoyment, for a goal that was hers. She did not feel isolated when she was repairing and improving these discarded tools. There was nobody here to smile at her face, and frown at her back, holding their children close as she passed... She had made her own instruments, her own design methods and had improved several air conditioning units, several sprinklers, and what she could only guess was some kind of machine designed to till the earth. She could not understand why these tools had been discarded, many needed only minimal maintenance. She chose not to dwell on why repairing and improving them was important and enjoyable to her, or why she identified so strongly with the mistreated scraps of metal. How many of them, if abraded- polished, would shine brightly.

“I was thinking, 'you do not have permission to be here'.”


“Annie.” His voice was sharp. He looked around at the machines Seven had gathered and shook his head, “This is just junk, where did you even get all this?”

She leveled him a cold, even stare, and watched him back down slightly. She moved her eyes back to the replicator, half finished- half assimilated, patched together from dozens of different machines, in front her on her table. She had lain it out carefully and with great skill, had been about to finish it before Chakotay had barged in,and in her surprise she had crushed part of integral circuitry in her enhanced fingertips. He followed her gaze.

 

“Annika, why are you repairing... a replicator? We have everything you could ever want- you know none of this is allowed.”

 

I wanted to replicate coffee. I wanted to smell hot coffee...I wanted...

 

She cut her eyes up to his. He was usually so kind, and interested in her activities. He encouraged her terraforming around their cabin, had encouraged her to participate in sewing circles and in other traditional female activities of his tribe. It confused and annoyed her that he would not challenge the rules and, traditions in support of her interests, let alone defend her own physical dependence on technology to survive. She was no longer permitted to wear her biosuits on the reserve. She had begun to resent that he was the only person here who she had anything in common with, and that the history itself was something they never discussed. That she would now loose this refuge to him was infuriating. Let him have it. Let him think he's won. This drone will build another station in desert. This drone will control its emotions.

 

“I am going for a walk. You may dismantle this shelter.”

 

She crossed in front of him to the cellar door but his hand on her shoulder, his firm tone , stalled her. “Annika, I know you're having a hard time adjusting to being an expecting mother, but with time, you wont want these,' he gestured around at her salvaged materials and machines “these... You wont want this.”

 

Seven raised an eyebrow at him, and he removed his hand. He raised his shoulders a little in an almost conciliatory gesture “Don't worry, I wont tell the tribe council about your workshop, but we will have to take it apart.”

She decided that repetition would drive her point home. “I am going for a walk. You may dismantle this shelter.”


“It's nearly dark, I don't feel comfortable with you going out in the bush alone-”

“It is not for your to be comfortable. I am comfortable going alone.”

 

“Don't be stupid, you're carrying our child and-”

“I miscarried yesterday.”

 

Seven reflected that this may not have been the best way to inform him of the fact. He stared open mouthed at her, frozen and reflected in gleam of machinery around them. The words hung in the air like acrid smoke and Seven did not enjoy the look of mixed sorrow, pity and disappointment he gave her. His next words were softer, soothing.

“Oh, honey, I'm so sorry, its not your fault.”

“I know this. The fetus was imperfect. I miscarried. This happens often to human females.”

 

She felt hot, her skin to tight, but it wasn't from grief, or shame. It was from relief. She had not wanted to carry to term, and seeing his greif for the death of a child she had not felt attached to, made panic rise in the back of her throat.

“I am going for a walk. You may dismantle this shelter.”


As Seven ascended the steps, she ignored the sound of breaking glass, of objects she'd laboured over meeting sudden, permanent ends. She felt the wind caress her face, and with no hesitation, she did what she'd been wanting to do for months. She ran.

She ran until her lungs burned, and the weight of her own body became to much. When she stopped, she berated her self for being rash. Unnecessary expenditure of resources. This drone is unprepared for such an excursion ... But she didn't turn back. Instead, she surveyed the area she found herself in. She was not unfamiliar with the region, and was mildly surprised to see that she had been jogging along a narrow path, maybe a sheep trail- and that it had been traveled by many animals recently. She squatted down and examined the tracks. With a foolish pleasure she felt a sense of, of what, connection?, when she detected among the confused tracks those of a mountain lion. Her vision quest felt like a life time ago, but the sharpness of the image, no matter if it had been hallucination, stayed with her... She followed the path.

 

She heard the encounter before she saw it. And when she did see it, it gave her pause. A lion had its belly low to the ground, panting heavily. From its size, and posture in front of an opening in the rocks, Seven concluded that it was a female, defending a den, likely with young inside. Around her ranged a loose grouping of animals, what remained of a pack of.. wolves? Coyotes? Jackles? Seven was unsure of their designation. She was sure that the situation stirred.. something inside her. She watched the canines taking turns darting in, biting and harrying the feline, who was obviously nearing the end of her endurance. Several badly damaged and dead opponents made a tidy ring around the site, but it was apparently no deterrent to the attackers. The lion was struck hard as several of the creatures came in at once, and it screamed, a wailing rally cry that sent shivers down her spine.

For a brief moment she was motionless. The reservation had rigorous and stringent rules about hunting, about game management; and it would not condone interference in the local wild life. She continued to review the rules as she strode into the conflict and neatly pried apart the jaws of one of the dogs as it turned from the big cat and lunged to bite at her. She pulled its mandibles apart until they broke.

 

When all of the dogs were dead, dying, or gone, Seven returned her attention to the Cougar. It's black tipped ears were back flat against its skull and its tail was coiled tight against its side, tip flicking in the dusty earth. Its flanks were heaving, speckled with blood, and drenched in sweat. She decided that it would not pose a significant risk to her, if it did decide to attack. The animal was spent. She knew her next actions were beyond nonsensical, that she did not believe, or subscribe, to superstition was a fact... but... she extended her left hand open palmed and flat to the cougars face.It curled its lip back, began to snarl...then stopped. Seven held her breath as she held perfectly still, held her hand perfectly still, as the rough tongue licked the blood off of her fingers. She smiled, and the action did not feel forced or perfunctory for the first time in long, long while- in 638.751 days.

 

With slow deliberate actions, she cleared the bodies of the canines away from the site and piled them a way off for carrion birds to have. She did not think that the cougar would eat them, or feed them to her young. When she came back, the lion had crawled halfway into the mouth of the crag and was nuzzling several small furry bodies. She came within three yards, sat, and turned her back to them, tilting her head back to watch the stars. She decided based on knowledge she had gathered in the past, that the animals would need time to acclimate to her presence.


She will not attack This Drone, This Drone has made it abundantly clear it is not a prey animal. This drone is not a threat to her, or her cubs. I smell like metal, and blood and my hormone levels must signal to her that I am a- was a breeding female. She will not attack this drone.

 

She was sure of this, but repeated it a few times to herself for comfort. Seven knew that she was not acting appropriately. Whether it was conscious choice, or poor rest from attempting to sleep in a normal human fashion in the bed Chakotay had made them, she was uncertain. Finally, she reviewed her actions, her thoughts and behaviors and allowed herself to say what she was thinking, honestly and out loud.

“This drone misses Kathryn Janeway.”


The way the lion had not given up its defense of its young, even in the face of slow, painful termination had reminded Seven acutely of her captain. The way she had defended Voyager and her crew from every threat the Delta Quadrant had thrown her way. Seven had been unable to stop herself from responding, from helping, much as she had done with Janeway herself.

 

Seven continued to stare up the sky. She was beginning to think she had made a terrible mistake somewhere. Had somehow pursued a function, a formula that was flawed and would be not giving her the desired results. She had no idea how to back track, how to solve the problem, how to locate the error. She closed her eyes and let the night breeze lift the hair around her face that had come loose in the fight. She had desperately wanted to smell coffee. The implications of this seemed to creep in around her and underline every feeling of self-recrimination, and loneliness and longing she felt. I wanted to be reminded of Kathryn, I wanted to smell her breath, her skin. I wanted to hear her voice. I wanted her to touch me, to see her smile at me. I should not want this. Her self-reproach did not lessen the guilt or the feeling she came to realize as desire, and she sighed. But Kathryn has not written, has not communicated with this drone... has abandoned...

She resolved to do better, to renew her attempts at bonding with Chakotay, at forming a family, at being accepted by this community. I will follow their rules... She looked over her shoulder where the mother watched her with one half lidded eye from the entrance of her small cave...  I will comply with all Except for this. I will not keep a bunker to repair broken things in secret. I will tend this den-site. A compromise. She stood and evaluated the feline, deduced it would not be hunting successfully for sometime, and followed a trail down from the den. Her interference would do no good, if the cat- which she would call Captain, she thought with a wry grin- starved to death with her young before she was well enough to bring them food.

Later, after successfully striking a large mountain goat in the head with a well aimed rock, Seven returned to the den-site, to deposit her kill. She felt.. satisfied, proud of her efforts, proud of the body that let her preform superhuman tasks. She did not wait to see if they would feed right away. She would return to the cabin, and attempt to repair her relationship, she owed him that... And when he went to teach the next day, she would come out with a dermal regenerator and a wide spectrum antibiotic to ensure that Captain healed properly.

 

~*~

Nevada, 26 Months.

Laughing, Seven, tousled with the juveniles, rolling in the dirt, stirring up dust and loose gravel. They were fast, strong and so alive it filled her with a profound sense of peace. She knew the survival rate for any given cub was around 60%, and was pleased that all three cubs were strong, healthy and developing well. Three of them, who she had named after former crew mates, were enough to give Seven a good workout, she had to pay attention to their games of 'hide and hunt' as she called it, because she suspected that if she proved to be anything less than what she was they might turn on her. She doubted it, but it was a possibility.

She lay sprawled in the dirt, in a pile of exhausted furry legs and tails. One of them, the female she had named Niaomi was grooming Seven, and the sensation made her wrinkle her nose, but she did not move away from the contact. Instead, she scratched along the animals ears, behind its jaw and stroked its side. Perhaps she would go to shadow their hunting later, if Captain didn't bring them game to share. Their mother had been steadily pushing them into practicing bringing down their own prey and Seven found their attempts entertaining. She watched absently as the other two cubs, Icheb and Harry, separated from the pile and stalked a grasshopper across the mouth of the den. As the shadows slanted in across the mouth of the opening, Seven watched Captain slink in, and was gratified when she laid down heavily beside her and draped her head over Seven's abdomen.

 

It had not taken more than three weeks of consistent food, and company for the animal to accept her presence. And then, only another two for her to be allowed in the den itself. Seven suspected that any other human would have been mauled. She had observed as the cubs grew from nursing, spotted fluffy beasts, to lanky, awkward animals filled with life and energy. She would leave the cabin shortly after Chakotay left for work in the mornings. Her household chores were always completed, her journeys into the village clockwork, her conversations regular, and her meals left in the house were well made and accessible. After her errands, she spent most of each day with the big cats, and found that speaking to them came naturally, came more easily to her than talking to other humans. She stroked the top of Captains head, and spoke, staring out the access point into the growing dusk.

 

“I will have to leave now Captain. I do not want to go back to the stuffy cabin. He has made another mobile for the nursery. I do not wish to tell him I have miscarried again.”

Captain turned her head and rubbed her check hard along sevens scratching fingers, a low sound rumbling in her chest. Seven identified it as one she often made when grooming her cubs. It was comforting. Reluctantly, she disengaged, and began her long walk home. To her surprise, Captain followed her out, walking with her almost half of her way home, before turning, and streaking off into the long shadows.

Seven arrived home, as always, with enough time to change into clean clothes, and set the table for dinner. Chakotay arrived, smiling and holding a bouquet of flowers.
“Annika! How are you today, and how is our-” He stopped noticing her tense posture and he set the flowers down on the table to take her hand in his. “Annie, sweetheart... is everything alright... you didn't.. I mean, did you loose-”

“I did not loose anything. I know where she is. She is buried outside next to her siblings.” She held her head high, her jaw ridged. She did not want to have this conversation again. It was harder each time, because each time, it felt more like it was her fault, as if she did it on purpose to punish him. As if this drone does not feel enough guilt.

 

“What happened, didn't you follow the doctors guidelines, his-”
“All of my activities fell within his guidelines.”
“Are you sure you didn't-”
“This is not my fault.” She wanted to believe her words. She wanted to be back in the desert in a pile of warm bodies that smelt like earth and reminded her of the only family she could remember.

 

Chakotay back pedaled instantly, and pulled her into a tight embrace. “Its alright, hush, I know its not your fault.” He was rocking her gently, but Seven suspected the act was more for him, that it was for her. He stroked her hair, and Seven felt ashamed that she wished it was Naomi grooming her instead.
She pulled away, and smiled at him, nodded and led him into the kitchen.

 

~*~

Nevada; 31 months

 

“I do not want to try again.”


They were standing stiffly, side by side, next to a small pile of dirt. Seven studied the woefully small mound, and the three next to it and felt the sting of failure like a splinter shoved up under her human fingernails.


“I.. I wont make you, Annika, not if you don't wan't to.”
“I do not want to try again.”

 

That night, she stole away to watch Captain hunt. It made her feel exhilirated to watch Captain stalk, silent, and drop down like death from above to latch onto the neck of her target. So long as she was absolutely quiet, Captain didn't seem to mind her shadowing her actions. Seven half imagined that the cat enjoyed showing off, enjoyed having another hunter to praise her skill. Because, Seven admitted to herself, That is really what I am. A Hunter.. at least some kind of predator or my presence would not be tolerated.

She was mildly amused that out of everything she could have incorporated from this culture, out of everything she could have latched onto, it was their spiritual and religious practices; a belief in animal signs and totems. She shook her head and followed after Captain as she dragged her catch up the path to a more secure location. Seven had been in the habit of defending Captain while she ate during her recovery period- warding off other animals until she'd guessed Captain had recovered enough to fend for herself. To her surprise, Captain often came to her now, to lead her back to the fresh kill, as if to invite her to it. While, she never partook, she appreciated the gesture immensely. Seven was sure the cat had no precedence for this kind of relationship and considered her to be some poorly formed cat, an adopted sister, or cub even, that had strange fur, and stranger habits. However this animal thought- if it could think, Seven was grateful for it, more than for anything else.

 

This night was no different, and she followed Captain to the corpse of a mountain goat and sat buy her as she tore almost gracefully into it. At the clatter of stone rolling down hill and rustle of leaves, she sprang to her feet tensed- ready to fight. She had... persuaded, on more than one occasion, wolves, coyotes, and even bears from Captain's kills, and she was not feeling particularly merciful tonight. This drone desires physical conflict as an emotional outlet. She wanted to be able to protect something she loved, and violently. Captain stilled, her ears flicking back.

“Annika, Great fucking Spirits, what are you-”
“Silence!”
Seven dropped down to the ground, crouching next to Captain, and praying that if she did not react to Chakotay as a threat, as a challenge, that the cat would not either. The animal studied her with a pointed calm, and a twitch  of it's whiskers. Seven cast her eyes about, and some distance away she could make out Chakotay outlined against the sky in the arms of scraggly evergreen tree. She tried to steady her breathing.

She adopted the cats poise, tried to make it her own, and spoke calmly, but so the sound could carry, “You should not be here.”
“Annie, what?- why aren't you- why didn't it kill you!?”

Seven struggled to find words,  and as if in response to Chakotay's stumbling questions, Captain nudged her with her muzzle, smearing a streak of hot blood along her thigh. Seven noted that it was an efficient gesture, used both to affirm group bonds, and to scent mark. She felt pleased to be marked as part of the cat's pride, but recognized that now was not the time to indulge this. This Drone will defuse this situation. Quickly.

“I have been visiting her den-site for nearly ten months, I am known to her, you are not. You are in danger. Leave.” I regret giving this information. This drone will be unable to return.


Ten. Months.

 

This drone will be unable to return. The sudden angry shout made Seven flinch, and she felt her lip rise in what was most assuredly a learned snarl. Captain rose, stretched languidly and then huddled down in position that indicated to Seven, she had found something new she wished to stalk.

“We will discuss this later.” Seven stood slowly and hoped that by leaving, by walking back to the den where only Niaomi now stayed, would distract Captain. Would draw her away. For extra assurance, Seven hefted the remains of the goat over her shoulder before she turned. “ I will spend the night out here. You will leave when you can no longer see us. You will move as fast, and as quietly as you can.”


She started away, and was relieved, as she heard, then saw Captain trotting along next to her rubbing her still bloody chin along Seven's hip as they moved.


“Annie?”

 

Seven did not want to risk his safety by responding, so she kept moving, leaving him, and his tremulous questions in the tree. Seven, my designation is Seven of Nine. She looked down at Captain, who was staring back up at her with huge luminous eyes.

“Will you miss me, Captain?”

~*~

Nevada; 37 Months.




Seven was laying in bed, staring up at the ceiling. She could never get enough sleep. She still felt awkward in their shared bed, and often woke in the middle of the night. She felt stupid, inadequet and inieffecent for breaking promises to herself. Again. She had written to B'ELanna about her miscarages, about the pressure she felt and had received no response. She had sent Janeway several communications, voice messages and letters, about the big cats, how much she missed them and how she had purchased herself a house cat, but had not felt the same connection to the small animal that slept all day on the porch and watched fat rats scurry by. And she had gotten no response. She wrote how much she missed her, how she would enjoy a quick visit, or even a short letter, and had received no answer. She should have known not to hope. To expect a different result was illogical. Was irrational and a waste of energy.
Restlessly she stirred and rolled to her side, and tried to find sleep.

Hands brushed gentle through her hair, down her shoulders and she felt a soft brush of breath against her ear. She reached forward -smooth skin under her fingertips and tangled her fingers in softer hair as that mouth trailed down her throat, to latch onto her nipple. She groaned and threw her leg over narrow hips to pull her lover close to pull her close and say her name Kathryn-

“Kathryn”

Startled by Chakotay's voice, Seven opened her eyes, and up stared into his flushed, and embarrassed face.


“That is not my designation.”

 

He rolled off of her to the side, and stared up at the ceiling, unmoving. Seven felt as if several missing variables had been slotted into to the equation she had been trying to puzzle out for four years.

 

“Annie”

 

“Seven. My name is Seven of Nine.”


Unbidden, a smile stole across her features, and she felt an incredib lightness in her chest. He did not call my name. He does not love me. She could not remember feeling this light, this free from her terrbile burden of failure- failure to integrate into his tribe, failure to love him, failure to bear his children. So she said her name again, hearing it outloud for the first time in years and loving it. “Seven of Nine, Tertiary adjunct to Unimatrix One.”

 

“Annika-” he tried to speak but Seven didn't enjoy being mislabeled.

“That. Is not.My.Designation.”

He sighed, exasperated and defensive. “I've been calling you that for years and you never had a problem with it before.”

 

“You never asked me my preferences. I'm stating them now.” She felt giddy, and relieved. “My name is Se-”

“I know your name, ancestors help me, can you let me apologize for what just happened without interrupting?”

 

Seven knew she should not be smiling. It was an inappropriate response, she was sure if the Doctor coould see her now he would frown at her, and shake his head. Thinking of him, reminded her of Voyager, and for the first time she could think about her memories there, on board, with family- with Kathryn, and not feel guilt.

 

He peered over at her, and Seven made eye contact and watched his face twist into a snear, “Seven, if I'd known just mentioning her name in bed would make you this happy, I wouldn't have had Lt. Roles screen your communications. We could have just role played....”

Seven wasn't listening. It occurred to her that she should be furious- but she was focused on reviewing her isolation. She should have investigated, should have followed the electronic signatures, should have done something because if what he was saying was true, than... Than This drone could be wanted. This drone may have negelced its collective. This drone may have four years worth of communication withheld. This drone's marriage contact has been violated  by both parties, and is no longer required to remain in Nevada. I do not have to stay in Nevada. I am not obligated to stay. She inhaled and even though the room was small and stiflingly hot, she thought the air tasted sweet.

 

“You had my communications screened?” She fought to keep the excitement out of her vioce.

 

Chakotay blanched, and his voice stumbled obviously taken aback. “Anni-Seven, let me explain. I- when we moved here, every other word from your mouth was 'Captain' this or 'Janeway' that. I didn't want to know what you thought of Kathryn, or what she might think of you- I wanted you to think of me. I wanted you to rely on me and focus on building a home here, with me. Lt. Roles had owed me a favor, and I.. I asked him to screen your messages, calls letters- just until the hearings were over, I didn't want you to feel harassed by those 'Fleet vultures-”

“You wanted to remove Kathryn's influence and establish your own.”

Chakotay draped an arm over his eyes and his voice came out muffled and strained “Yes, I'm sorry, I did.”

“You were ineffective.”
When he did not respond, Seven studied him. She felt... sorry. Sorry she had wasted his time, sorry she had not loved him, and could not give him what he was looking for... and she felt she was no longer compelled to stay by his side. She weighed her next words, and hoped their honesty would be enough to move the situation forward. To move her forward and out the door to the nearest transport pad.

“How long have you loved her?”

Seven listened as he finally, finally talked to her honestly about his feelings. No half-truthes and passive aggressive suggestion. She listened as he told her how he had loved Janeway for years before Seven had showed up, before her interest switched from him, to her, and how jealous, bitter and ashamed he felt that the two women he had come to love and admire most on the ship would rather be together, than with him. Her attention faltered then- distracted by the idea that he thought Kathryn might love her, and that he had used her to cause harm to Janeway. She needed to hear it from his mouth, that he did not care for her as he should, and it would be the last vindication, her last reason to leave with absolute immunity.

“You married me to harm Kathryn? You do not love me?”

He sighed, and rolled over to face her, and Seven could see how difficult the conversation was for him.

 

“Jealousy- jealousy is a really ugly emotion. I do love you, Annika-”

 

“Seven.” She said with emphasis. Then in an exhale she finished, as she sat up and swung her legs over the edge of the bed, “Your emotions are insufficient. I am leaving.”

 

“Oh, whoa, wait,” Chakotay struggled over the tangle of sheets and to her side, “You don't have to leave, stay, I can change we can work on this-”

 

“You do not love me. I do not love you. We called the same woman's name.”

She had not shouted, but Chakotay recoiled as if she had slapped him.


“Where will you go Seven. I want to make sure you are-”
“Isolated?”


Chakotay winced and got to his feet, pulling on his discarded night wear. “No, I mean great spirit, I am so sorry Seven-”


“Apology accepted. Relationship terminated. I shall gather my possessions.”

 

Seven didn't even bother dressing. She only wanted her biosuit, and a few small objects, stashed away in a stasis crate under the back porch. She grabbed her solar unit, and a canteen of water and headed to deck. She would dress, take the crate and and she would make her way to the nearest public computer bank to retrieve what belonged to her.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

At first in his dreams, his guide had been silent. The snake regarded him with a coldness he could never recall seeing before. In his dreams he was chased by wolves, pecked and gored by ravens, but the snake only watched him from her flat rock. She did not speak to him the way she once had. Then, not long after he had been married, he dreamt only of lions. They stalked him on the edges, on his peripheries, not necessarily hunting him, but watching- always watching. His snake would wind long lines in the dirt as if to paint him a picture, trying to spell something out, but he couldn't concentrate. He felt crowded in and trapped by their lashing tales and twitching ears. He could not stop watching them though, and his guide grew impatient, drawing back to strike. She did speak then, and her voice was hard and brittle as the sound of her rattle, This is not for you. You know this. He used to wake from those dreams, sweating, and scared and angry. He thought he understood them now.

Chakotay sat on the front porch and stared after Anni- Seven, she wants me to call her Seven- Seven's retreating form long after he could no longer make her out as a blue smudge against red rock. He did not feel scared or even angry now though.  He felt as if he had finally surface from deep water.He leaned back into the sturdy frame of the rocking chair he had made, and let the subtle gliding motion take him into the sunlight then, back into the shadow of the overhanging roof. He had called in at the academy and listed himself as unavailable. There was no where he needed to be, and nothing he could think of worth doing... other than finally taking the time to think, to go over things he wished he could just leave buried out in the wastes of space where they had happened. He looked over his well kept property, and his eyes seemed to snag on the small out cropping where the four pitifully small mounds sat quietly in the afternoon sun.

 

He hadn't wanted to be reminded of anything for so long, that trying to find the roots of his unhappiness was hard, ugly, and painful. He had wanted a new life for himself, and Seven in Nevada. He wanted to be the man his father had hopped he would be when he had first resigned from star fleet, and got his tattoo. He'd resigned a second time, joined the Maquis and had been a warrior, a protector- connected fiercely to his tribe and now...I am none of the things I was, and not the father I wanted to be. Not to anything living anyway. He continued to rock, and watch the shadows crawl over the earth.

 

When they had arrived on Earth, it felt like the only feeling he had left was anger. He was furious about everything Star Fleet. He blamed them for hunting his crew down and separating them from the people they had sworn to protect. He hadn't wanted to be, or asked to be stranded in space for almost a decade while friends, family members, died for a cause he was sworn to. He didn't want to be in space, he didn't want to be around technology, and he had been trapped on a Star Fleet ship and sacrificed much for those who had been content to let his people die. He had hated the endless parade of hearings, and debriefings. He did not want to talk. He had not want to be reminded of Voyager, he had not wanted to think of space. As quickly and as gracefully as he could manage, he had resigned his active commission and took up a teaching position; Archaeology, Paleontology Anthropology. Anything that rooted him, made him solid again.

 

He remembered how his father had died in 2368, defending their home, and how he had been at Star Fleet Headquarters, safe and eating lunch- embracing their technology. He had placed much of the blame, of what he now saw as human failing, on technology, and he wished bitterly he hadn't.

He had not wanted anything to do with Star Fleet, their doctors or their machines. He just wanted to be left alone,to be on earth. On the ground, and with his people. When he had heard that a portion of his people had returned as refugee's from the demilitarized zone along the Cardassian border and settled in Nevada, and Arizona... Well, he picked the reserve with the most stringent technology restrictions and had placed both himself and Seven in its community. He had been embraced by them, and had thrown himself whole hardheartedly into being part of villiage, of a town and a community rooted in one single space, where the stars were still each night.

 

He had flat out refused Star Fleet medical care on religious reasons, and had not shown for follow up or counseling appointments. He waned to be healed by his tribe, his traditions, by the land and by the love of a good woman. He hadn't wanted to spend hours each week going over a decade of toil, danger death and heartache. He had wanted to move on and leave the past alone, far away. But that didn't work well for you, did it? You brought a woman home to love, a woman who was made in the stars- she was metal and stardust and you tried to pull all of that out of her so you could feel safe.

 

Chakotay paused his steady rocking as the cat, who he'd named Kolo, after his father, Kolopka, jumped up into his lap, purring and kneading his thighs with its wide yellow paws. He'd known since they got the cat, a gift for Seven, that it had preferred him to her. Kolo, was forever following him about the house, nudging his head beneath his hand for scratches and curling up in his lap to sleep. The cat hadn't disliked Seven, jut hadn't particularly cared for the woman. He had found over the past weeks with the creature that while Seven disliked the cat's lazy and friendly demeanor, that it suited him. Kolo slept in the sun most of the day, and purred as often as he drew breath, and didn't hunt or chase rats- didn't kill anything. Chakotay had not been surprised or disappointed that when she'd left early this morning- late last night?- she had left the animal in his care.

 

He could confess now, with the fat animal sleeping peacfully in his lap, that he had loved them both, loved both Kathryn, and Annika as much as he had been able to. He was sure that at one point, Janeway had been in love with each of them. He had been so hurt by the way she had wielded her captaincy as a shield from intimacy that he felt no shame in taking someone to love, who could, he had thought, love him back. That he would leave Janeway alone, as he had been, while the two people she loved most were together, had been an added bonus. As he stroked Kolos stripped head, he regretted feeling pride over this. I was so angry. So filled with shame and loneliness. I felt unlovable. Seska, Kellin, Janeway, and then Seven. All women of power, skill, intelligence, an none of them loved me the way I wanted them to. I thought I was calm, generous, but I had been coiled and viscous.

He gathered Kolo in his arms, and when the cat did not object, he paced slowly, walking the length of the deck. He decided that perhaps in the stillness, he should talk. He had avoided doing so for four years, and for the first time- even though it resulted in the end of his marriage- talking about Voyager had felt good. He had felt something loosen inside his chest. He imagined that he should continue. Should start at the beginning.

 

“You don't mind, do you Kolo?”
The cat just purred.

 

So he began.

He paced and told the purring cat about his childhood, about his trip to the rain forest of Central America, about how he had wanted to break free from his traditional upbringing- embrace sciences technology the future- and had joined star-fleet. He said how much he felt his father's death was his fault- he hadn't been there. He said how much he regretted taking life during combat. How hated even more than combat, combat in space, because you could not see the faces that belonged to the lives you took. He told Kolo about how haunted, how afraid he was that he had let his father down, that he was a disappointment and a disgrace. He whispered about how the sight of a tricorder made his palms sweat, and the idea of touching a phaser again made him feel his heartbeat in his teeth.He told him how he still had nightmares about dogfights in the badlands, aboard the Val Jean.

 

He fell silent after a while, just holding the cat to his chest as he came to a halt by the stairs. He sat down on the bottom step and let the sun bake down on him. He watched a grass hopper jump off a swaying bleached blade of grass. He looked down at Kolo, and the animal opened a sleepy green eye up at him and rubbed its cheek along the arm that Chakotay held him in. So, he kept talking.

He told Kolo how it wasn't just Seven's comms he had black listed, he had blocked all communications to both of them. He had wanted to give them room to breathe. A few weeks of silence to be together, and safe at home- Away from Star Fleet garbage and prying eyes, and people who would use them as status symbols or bargaining chips. He had hoped the quiet would give them time to bond would allow them to open up more fully to each other... but instead of making Seven more willing to share with him, to confide- she became even more reclusive. He told Kolo that as time had gone by, it became harder to justify continuing to have them black listed..but the idea of telling Seven, of knowing how much she would disprove, how much she would hate him for it made him put it off. And the longer he waited the worse it made everything. It made his nightmares worse, it made the anxiety, and the isolation so much worse. He confessed to the cat how much he thought he deserved to feel those things.

 

He spoke to Kolo about Every time he had been about to tell her. How something always came up; there would be a some other fight, or pregnancy or miscarriage, or she would be making progress with the village women, at integrating into his community, relieving her dependence on Borg technology- and the moment would not be right. Every time he felt they had come back to each other, had some miraculous moment of closeness-he would discover her doing something that broke his trust.

 

He told Kolo about how hurt and scared he'd been when he found her repairing broken machines in a secret bunker on the outskirts of their settlement. How seeing her with her hair pulled back, surrounded by gleaming machines made fear rise like bile in the back of his throat. How it made him remember Voyager, made him remember every time he had picked technology and advancement over his people. Made him remember the smell of burnt flesh and the cold of space breathing down his neck.

 

He told Kolo, that he felt that they both had not deserved the privilege of reaching outside of the world of the reservation, or the life they were trying to build for themselves. He could not understand why the spirits, his gods, his ancestors- whoever, did not want him to be happy. He told Kolo how he had kept trying harder to follow the rules, to obey, to serve the tribe to be a good husband. How he had pushed and pushed Seven to become less reliant on her Borg heritage, had not said what he knew she considered to be her name for four years because it reminded him of how long he had spent on Voyager.

 

Chakotay set the Kolo beside him on the stoop. He felt dizzy and when he looked back down at the animal and thought it might be thirsty, remembered that he had not drank or ate yet either. I will make us both food. I can take care of a cat. I can take care of me. I can take care of a cat. He went to the kitchen, filled a pitcher with water, and pulled a plate of fish from yesterday's dinner from the ice box.

His cat was still there. He wanted to cry when after they had both eaten, the animal chose to sleep in his lap again. He looked out over the horizon and thought about what he should do next. The sun had made its full pass, and he was not shocked to find he had talked all day- he hadn't talked about his feelings in so long, he wasn't sure he knew how to stop now. He knew the stupid, cheerful, sunny cat had no idea what he was saying... but t it didn't judge him- it chose to sleep on him, it made him feel so trusted and worthy. He hadn't felt that way in a long time.

He told Kolo about when he had followed Seven out of the cabin the night after they had burred their last child. He had been torn apart, and concerned Seven would be hurt out there alone. He should not have worried. Watching Seven move, quiet and swift and with more animation than he had seen in years was marvelous, captivating and the embodiment of his nightmares- the animal she was crouched beside-had been hunting with- was the largest cougar he'd ever seen in his life. He had been struck then, feeling a sinking, sickening dread with what his dreams had been about. That his guide had been telling him all along that this was not what he needed, this would not bring him happiness- would not bring the people he loved happiness. He'd called out to her alarmed, and she had been calm, composed and brimming with confidence, self-assurance and power. He confided to Kolo how small and broken that had made him feel in comparison. She had put herself back together alone, and he was still scattered on the wind.

 

He told Kolo how he had known then that she had never been his Annie, his Annika. How he had watched with a certain detachment, as the mountain lion smeared blood along her thighs, her hip, and arms. How he had known as he watched her lift the corpse of the goat as if it were lighter than air- that she had seen her spirit guide that day on their honey-moon and kept it from him. That it must be a cougar and that she had been healing, and seeking spiritual guidance more successfully as an outsider than he had with all of his knowledge, his customs, training and history. He told Kolo how much this made him wish he had been a better man, a better friend.

After a while, he ran out of words, and just watched the wind blow through the scrub. His eyes caught a flicker of movement, and he strained to focus. He saw a Western Rattlesnake unravel like a ribbon and sun it's coils on a hot rock in the fading light.

 

“Hello.” He called out softy. “I think I'm ready now. I'm sorry I wasn't before.”

He closed his eyes, and with his hands buried in the soft fur of the cat on his lap, he knew that tomorrow would finally be better, if he let it.

“I'll contact Star Fleet Medical. Tomorrow.” He watched the snake rise, its body liquid muscle as it whipped itself up.Three feet of power. “I will seek help. I promise.”

He smiled as the snake curled in on itself, and apparently satisfied, ducked back under its rock.

“I will have to get you a carrier Kolo.” Chakotay said, scratching the lanky yellow body, “I wont go without you.”


 

Chapter Text

Seven clutched the pack that held the data padd as if it were the most valuable substance she had ever in encountered. She fixed her eyes ahead of her, and continued onward.


~

 

When She had arrived in Las Vegas she had been pleased that no one spared her a wayward glance. It had not taken her long to locate a shop which was happy to sell her the latest and most compact personal computer, for an inflated price. Seven did not care. She knew she was still collecting royalties from many of her contributions to Voyager, and from work she had done at Daystrom. She thumbed the bill, and made her way to a quiet location where she could address her most pressing issue.

 

She was appalled by how easily she had bypassed the clumsy attempt to black list her communications. She very neatly separated the communiques, out going from incoming, and in moments was overwhelmed with what she saw. Her messages had not been sent, but held in a poorly constructed 'drafts' folder. Her inbox had not been tampered with, just her access to it, and what she did access was... Terabytes of information.

 

There were letters, voice mails and recorded videos. Hundreds of them. This drone was not abandoned. She sorted them quickly into folders by sender, each folder by date. There were missives from several civilian and Federation groups asking her to resume her research, outlandish offers and promises of what Seven assumed were obscene sums of credit to purchase her findings. he was mildly surprised at the collection of contacts from varous Star Fleet officers, Crusher, Picard, Data- with subject lines that seemed kind and inviting. She skimmed down the folders and took a closer look at the senders names, searching for those she had reached out to, hoping they had reached for her too. She knew that the margin was small she should not expect many letters after years of silence, but she wanted to know if – Oh.... She felt tears prick at her eyes.

 

Wildman,Naiomi; 100 Unread messages.

Wildman, Samantha; 13 Unread messages.

Torres, B'Elanna; 74 Unread Messages.

Paris, Thom; 25 Unread Messages.

Kim, Harry; 18 Unread Messages.

Doctor, Various; 24 Unread Messages

Icheb; 46 Unread Messages.

Tuvok; 9 Unread Messages.

Admiral, Janeway, Kathryn-

Seven closed her eyes at the last moment, drawing in a quick breath. She both feared and anticipated that there would be letters from Janeway. With a steadying breath, she berated herself ; This drone has snapped the necks of grizzly bears with only her hands. It is capable of 'checking her mail'. She opened her eyes.

 

Admiral Janeway, Kathryn; 489 Unread Messages.

Oh, Kathryn.

 

Seven blinked a few times, and steadfastly did not admit she was about to cry, and in public. That is a letter, at least every third day, from the moment we separated. She had stood up quickly then, and determined that she would not read these messages in her current location. She wanted somewhere were she felt safe to be... vulnerable. She would spend her foreseeable future reading, watching, listening to her family trying to reach her, and then, she would respond to each one of their messages. That is illogical, one response per person, though lengthy will suffice. First, this drone will locate a... Seven struggled with the word, with the kind of place she was looking for... A den site.


~

 

That was how she had ended up back in Nevada, deftly evading the reservations' perimeter patrol, and cresting to the rise to the familiar rocks, and scrub. She knew that her actions were unorthodox, that maybe she should have rented a room in the city, contacted someone right way... but this felt correct. If this drone left Nevada without a formal farewell to Captain, it would be remiss. Yes, this was 'formality' not... 'sentimentality'.

 

She lifted her eyes to scan the outcropping, aware of the sensation of being watched. She could hear the soft pad of paws on earth shelf above her and turned her head slowly. Captain's deep-set solemn yellow eyes were closer than she would have guessed by the sound, and the animal was dropping down with alarming speed- then, she was rolling across stone the large body, 71 kilograms of Puma Concolo, pinning her to the ground. She twisted with the momentum,catching the animal around its neck, and pulling it back hard against her. Its tail lashed, striking her behind the knees, and as her grip loosened, she found her self staring up into its face. She closed her eyes, and sighed as the animal began to lick her forehead, her neck, her hairline, as it made small chirruping sounds.

Animal rituals are easier to understand than human ones. If you miscalculate, you do not need to worry about future outcomes, there can be only result.

She took the cats head in her hands, and shook it back in forth before pressing her face against the broad space between its ears. I am known to this animal. I can be safe here. We could terminate any interference.She cast about for her bag, saw it only a meter to her left, and made to retrieve it. Captain sniffed it experimentally, but lost interest as they moved on wards, covering the kilometers towards where Seven remembered the cave to be. She thought that by now Naomi would have moved into her own range, away from her mother's territory, but was filled with joy to be met by the sleek, well developed two year old as it bounded up to her. She did not mind being wrestled to the ground for a second time, and enjoyed roughhousing with the animal as much as she had when it had been small enough to fit in the backpack she carried. Captain joined them. Seven gradually eased their play, and lay on her side, content, now wedged between the two large creatures.

 

“I do no know how often I will come to see you, after this visit. I regret that I have been away for so long.”

Seven felt unaccountably soothed by the deep, consistent breathing on either side of her, and the pleasant warmth of their smooth fur against her hands and cheek. She had not slept, or regenerated for sometime. She considered, as her eyelids closed, that this was as accommodating a place as she was likely to find. The letters will still be there, This Drone will be better equipped to deal with emotional turmoil when sufficiently rested. With Naomi's head draped over her shoulder, and her legs firmly anchored by Captains' bulk, she drifted into sleep.

Later, after waking and finding herself alone- the animals sensibly hidden in their den, sheltered from the noon sun- Seven gathered her bag to her side, and then crawled in to join them. She did not like to admit that she was frightened by what she might read. Her collective could have- should have moved on from her in her absence. She was worried that knowing they had moved on might be worse than never knowing they had attempted to communicate at all. Is this what the crew of Voyager experienced when they came back to Earth- the fear of their... loved ones moving away from them, of having no collective to return to?

She rifled around in the sack she'd brought, and pulled out some water, which she drank, and a dry ration bar which she set aside, and then at last her fingers gripped the coveted sleek edges of the pad. She pulled it out and settled it in her lap. It's faint glow didn't bother the sleeping animals, and their presence seemed to ground her in away that reaffirmed her decision to steal back onto the reservation- if only for this bit of comfort. Her shoulders supported by the solid wall of Captain's flank behind her, she began to read. She started with Naomi, absorbing the information with eagerness and speed-

-“Seven! I saw you in the news! And then on the T.V, they said that Borg people had never had 'hon-or-rarry' degrees 'Con-fered' to them, and that you have eight! I think you should be proud....”


-“...I miss you. The children at school are fun, but there's no one who's as.. serious as you? I do not like the teacher much- she talks to me like I- like I was never a bridge assistant. You never talked to me like that.”


-“...Mum says you're busy, and that's okay, but I thought you might like to know...”


-“...Hey Seven, its me again, I know that you haven't written me, but maybe we could talk sometime?”

 
-“ I saw you in the news again, they said you 'resigned to focus on building your personal life'. Does that mean you'll call us, me, mom, Miral,-aunt 'Lanna? I miss you Seven.'


-“...Merry Christmas Seven. I wanted you to know I decided to enter the school science competition, and I made a modle of your gravimetrix array- the one you invented on Voyager? I won! Icheb helped me build it, came over special from the acadamy and everything! At the competition, he brought over one of his teachers and everyone was really impressed. He said I reminded him of you- and, ugh, I-I blushed. It wasn't efficient. The model wasn't as good as yours though, Seven, but I want to show you it.. do you think you'd like to come to the awards night? I want to be as good as you.”


-“... Is everything okay Seven? You are not someone you neglects their family- I'm part of your collective Seven.”

 

 

Seven hadn't planned on the visceral strength of the sensations- the emotions that the child would pull from her, and she was glad to be somewhere private. She decided she would reply immediately... after she had dried her eyes. She recorded a brief message, apologizing for her failure to communicate, and proposed a date for kadiskot, if she still enjoyed the game. She projected the date further in the future. This drone will need time to become re-acquainted. This drone should not become overwhelmed. There are more to contact- to connect. B'Elanna next.

 

-“...Hows Nevada, princess, is it an 'acceptable' environment? I bet Chak is sweating bullets while you're still strutting about in those climate controlled cat-suits...”


-“..Oi, Borg, we're- that is, the old alpha rotation-we're going out to hustle pool- nights at Sandrien's have really put as a cut a above the Utopia crowd- come on out...”


-“...Seven, if there's anything I.. Seven, Khaless,I'm not good at feelings.... Listen, Cube Trash, if you need anything- If anything's wrong, just let me know, yeah? You haven't said anything condescending to me in years...”

 

“...I ran into Chak today when I took Miral to an appointment, he seemed, well 'off'. He was having an argument with the doctor about- well, you know I'm a gossip, but I really didn't mean to pry this time, oh- but Seven, it was about your miscarriages- It's not your fault. Call me...”

 

She did. She recorded another video message. She felt like they deserved to see her, that words might not be enough- and though she was aware she had never been the most expressive- she would try. She did the same for Harry. He had called for holidays, to invite her to reunions, and recitals and- it made her throat tighten- to a few school nights where Naomi and Icheb had received accolades. She answered him.

She opened Thom's file and was surprised to see that he had communicated without his usual cocky swagger. He was definitely still the same prankster- racketeer- but he was softer, a bit kinder and he had genuine sentiment behind his words. She found her self almost moved to laugh at few of his antics that he described during a Voyager reunion. She answered him.

 

Tuvok's letters were calm, poised and infused with a reserved concern for her well being. He'd provided a letter for each Christmas and mid-summer; general information about his life, and those of their mutual friends. Each time he extended the same open availability of his resources and council. She answered.

 

The Doctors messages, his first name changing with each contact, were long winded, but well intended; Descriptions of his newest intrigue, his latest discovery, or disappointment. He asked after her, how she was adapting. He was attentive to what needs she might have with her Borg technology, and if he could be of any help. She answered.

 

Icheb's letters made her ache that she had missed him growing into himself, even more than he had on voyager. He described his clashes with schoolmates, peers, and academy officials. His closest friendships were with the Vulcans in his social circle. He asked advice- “ When they see whats left of an implant, of circuitry and plating, I watch them shiver. Do you regret leaving the hive, on days when you feel... weak- alone?” - And later, Seven couldn't help but grin, he wrote about feeling frustrated with his responses to Naomi “The Wildman girl appeals to me. I wish to... make her happy. It is illogical.” She answered him.

 

She paused. She had not anticipated the energy that this exercise had expended. She drank more water, nibbled at her ration bar, and stretched out along Captain's side. The animal had slept soundly while she had read and recorded the afternoon away. The time is 6:30pm. She guessed that Captain would go, Naomi too, to hunt and roam when twilight fell, being crepuscular. Seven did not want them to go. This Drone wants... fortification to finish its task. She shook her head, and decided she would do it now, while she could still have their companionship. Seven took a few deep breaths, matching her exhalations to Captain's and reached for the largest file, the one she had kept for last.

 

There letters started just after they had landed, asking her if she needed anything, if there was anything she could do to help. Making sure she was alright when Star Fleet started investigating her - “I'll be there Seven. I wont let them crucify you for Wolf,”. There were letters that gave her names, numbers and address, contact information for anyone that could be useful as seven adjusted- resources, in case she was in trouble and Janeway was unavailable- or stripped of her rank.

There were letters a bit later, asking her why she wasn't writing, asking her if she was alright- “I know I haven't been as attentive as I should be, the debriefings have me strung out, and I'm.. Coping with some other problems now but...”-. Short notes saying that she was busy but thought of Seven often, missed their discussions. Invitations for dinners, lunches, coffee, to visit her in San Francisco in her office, or in Indiana on her family farm, like she had promised. Cautious and kind inquires into her settling into Nevada, into her role at Daystrom- asking her if she was well, if she was happy. Seven could see hints of how awful the hearings and debriefings had been for the woman.

Then, around the date Seven and Chakotay had been married, the tone and frequency of the letters and voice mails shifted.

 

-“ I shouldn't have gone to your wedding, but I couldn't not see you , not after you hadn't written- and fuck, Seven, you were so radiant and beautiful- I couldn't ruin your day with my problems- I sat in the back and drank.”

 

-“ I shouldn't have made you wait, either of you. I don't know what I could have done differently- Christ - but I do, I could have told you that I wanted you to stay with me, that I wanted to see you with me- to live with me- I could have kissed you, told you that I loved you. I don't know if it would have changed anything.”

 

-“Couldn't you see? I was trying to tell you as clearly as I was able, I didn't want to make it an order. I wanted you to come to me, god help me Seven, I still want you to come to me, I want you to come for me.”

 

The frequency trailed off for a few moths,a few apologies, then a short line here or there, a formal inquiry into both her and Chakotay's well being. Always offering help, asking if she was doing alright, psychically- emotionally- how her job was, and then why she had resigned. In several voice mails, Seven was surprised to her Janeway admit that she did not believe that Seven was ever going to respond to her messages, but that writing her gave her some comfort- That her counselor had encouraged her to move on; find 'closure'.

Then, there were a few that were obviously written- recorded while intoxicated

 

-“...Seven, darling- why wont you write me. I cant stand the silence, you were never quiet, we never stopped arguing. Why are you quiet-Did I do something wrong?...”

 

- “Are you busy, is that it? Not enough time for the person who risked everything- over and over to make sure you were safe, who took the time to teach you, who was patient, who loved you- who still loves you? Is your mouth busy on him, to much to dictate, your hands on him- can't write your old captain? I.. god I'm sorry.. I'm so sorry, I'm not thinking right, I'm drunk. I haven't drank in so long I've been trying not to anymore I... shouldn't have called. I- just wanted to hear your voice- that's all Seven, I was going to hang up when you answered, if you answered...”

A few were angry;


-“...If I insult you, call you names, will you be angry? Does nothing I say matter? I'm sure you wont read these, but I want to to try. I would trade so much to have one of our arguments. For you to say anything, even to tell me to stop trying to reach you, would be gratifying.”

 

-“...Are you so cold-hearted, so mechanical that you cant be appealed to? Gods, Seven, what do I have to say to get a response? 'I love you' doesn't seem to work, no matter how wildly inappropriate that admission is now. I'm so frustrated with myself for still writing to you, for leaving you voice mails and videos, but I cant bring myself to stop. I hate that I cant move on-I can't move on- just one word, even seeing that the messages have been read would- oh just dammit all - I'm too tired. I haven't been sleeping, I can't, not with the night mares but... Good night, Darling. I'm sure I'll write an apology that you wont read in the morning.”

 

There were even a few that made Seven feel like her heart was being crushed in vice;

-“...Seven, I 've been working with my counselor for nearly two years now, about moving forward in my life, leaving the head space I was in while Captain of Voyager. I've been doing work- its difficult... But, I am making progress, professionally, socially, emotionally. I still have those panic attacks, and don't sleep well... Seven.. Sometimes I don't want to move on....”

 


-“...I dreamed about you again Darling, I couldn't help it. I dreamed you came home, to our home. You were there when I showed up from work. Just standing there in the kitchen-and then you scolded me for not doing the shopping. Isn't that sad? You are the most desirable person I've ever known- and It wasn't an erotic dream, it wasn't explicit- obscene- Just you scolding me for not taking care of myself. I woke up... and I was half expecting you to be there... I cried myself back to sleep....”

As time elapsed, Seven noted that the tone shifted, became calmer, more reflective. The hurt and anger were diminished, almost like journal entries- ship logs;

 

-“...Remember when I wrote about wanting to start biking again? I finally strung enough parts together to get my dad's old motorcycle to work. It's always falling apart, but I like working on it, I really do. Peeling off down the dirt road is so close to flying...” “

 

-“...That new woman at the office is behaving like an open sore again. Sometimes Seven, I wish you'd show up an assimilate her, she'd be ever so much more efficient then”

 

-“...Phoebe's last show was wonderful, you'd have liked it-at the very least you could have enjoyed mocking some of the stuffed-shirt pretntious critics...”

 

-“...I finished the last addition to the house I've been building on my mothers land ( she keeps insisting she deeded it to me, but its such a grand gesture I'm having a hard time accepting it) and it looks pretty good- Well, at least I'm satisfied with it. I'd love you to visit. There... there's a room for you.- I er, I-I mean, a guest room...”

 

-“...I 'm relieved I made the decision to get my dogs. They help me feel less alone, help me get up on days when I don't think I can anymore, and wake me up when the nightmares comeback. They're wonderful animals- sometimes I don't think I deserve the affection they give me, but I try not dwell on it.”

 

-“...Harvest was even better than last year.  You would have enjoyed it. Phoebe lost the pumpkin carving contest for the first time in years and was a total brat about it, I think you'd have egged her on. They'd love you Seven, if you decide to come next time, they'd be happy to see you...”

 

 

There were more; messages about Thom, B'ELana, Miral, Naomi- details and reflections on the lives her former crew were living- and how they were doing...Seven couldn't make sense of the words though, through her blurred vision, or hear Kathryn's voice over some horrible choking noise- Crying. I'm crying. I'm sobbing. This Drone is malfunctioning.

 

Naomi stirred, and pressed Sevens back into the dirt, a wide paw splayed across her chest and began to groom her- the rough back half off her tongue rasping against the hot tears on Sevens cheek. Captain stretched, -butted her head against seven's shoulders. For a few seconds Seven forgot the awful tightness in her chest. The action didn't last long, and in a few breaths, Seven was left in the cave as both Captain and Naomi streaked off into the dusk to hunt.

Seven stared after them for a long while, constructing a plan. She rubbed her palms along her dusty shins, and then as an after thought, pulled the pins from her hair, and left a few loose strands on the floor of the cave. I will return, and they will remember me.

 

I will return and they will remember me. That was not an ineffective plan. She stowed the pad, pins, water and the wrapper of her nutritional supplement in her pack. She shouldered it and exited the cave. Seven leaned against the rock wall and closed her eyes. She could not bring herself to write Kathryn, could not find the words to say what she wanted. I want to hold her, I want to tell her that I am sorry. I want to tell her that I am... I am... proud of her-That she is exemplary. I want to see her. Now.

It was Tuesday, her internal chronometer told her, at 8:30 pm. Seven knew from Kathryn's letters that on this day of the week, in the evening, she engaged in “game night” with her sister, and her mother in the kitchen of her family home. This drone has been invited, on numerous occasions... She made up her mind before she could fixate on the finer points- before she could persuade herself that she was not being reasonable, logical... This drone requires Kathryn's presence- requires 'closure'. It will proceed to Indiana.

 

Chapter Text

Kathryn leaned her elbows on the worn walnut surface. She cut her eyes over her cards to opponents before pushing a large pile of brightly wrapped chocolates into the center of the table.

Phoebe sighed in exasperation. “Ugh, fold. Again.”


Gretchen narrowed her eyes, “Ah, raise and call. I've got you this time Katie-girl. Let go, show 'em.”

More than a little smug, Kathryn fanned her cards out so her mother could see, and relished the slight thinning of lips. A straight flush beat her four pair.

“Sweetie.. if you could try to count cards a bit less, it will make us not want to murder you.. oh, at least half as often.” Gretchen's voice was as sugary as the candies she pushed towards Kathryn's outstretched hands.

“As if.” Phoebe muttered under her breath.

 

Trying not to gloat, Kathryn rolled her eyes and smiled. “Phee, your deal.”

With rather poor grace, Phoebe distributed the cards, and Kathryn stole a quick glance at her new hand. A full house; three tens, and two queens. She studied the face cards, hearts and spades. It made her think of odd pairs, things that rasp against each other but work as a unit. Hearts and Spades. Kirk and Spock, The brothers Wright, Lewis and Clark- Bonnie and Clyde. She kept her card players' face though a smile tugged at her as she remembered how she had come by her dogs, and named them after that duo. In one day, both her counselor and Phoebe had suggested that she try to date, only Phoebe had phrased it.. rather more suggestively. The very next day, she'd acted on their suggestion, but in her usual roundabout- obstinate fashion. She remembered the pained expression on Pheobe's face and felt a returning smugness.

“I did it Phee, I got a bitch.”
“I—eerm, holy, what? Excuse me?”
“Two actually, partners in crime really. Stole my heart.”
Pheobe had stared wide eyed and sputtering. “-W-What?”
“Bitches Phoebe, I got myself some Bitches. Dogs, a setter and wolfhound. Bonnie and Clyde, they'll most likely stay at the farm though.”

That had been a good day. At first though, she hadn't had many. When she had first arrived, it had been hell. The organization she had remembered was in tatters after fighting the Dominion war. It had been agony, making sure she survived her own tribunal, and keeping her people safe and together. Half the crew were claimed for ships going out within weeks of their arrival. She had called in favors and campaigned, threw her weight around to make sure that even though her people were in high demand for their invaluable skills and experience, that they had the choices and opportunities they deserved without Star Fleet jerking them around.

 

Bonnie's red furred head nosed her thigh, seeking the treats she knew were kept in the pocket. Kathryn smiled down at the setter, motioned for it to sit, and when sit did so, she fished out the treat. Not to be out done, Clyde sat down beside her, dwarfing her completely, but making a better show at obedience. Kathryn gave her a treat too, and the animals settled themselves at her feet once more.

She watched her mother and her sister size each other up, consider their hands and make their wagers. She slid more candy towards the pot and toyed with the discolored edges of her cards. Kathryn considered them again, Hearts and spades. Data and La forge, Picard and Crusher... me and Seven? Get a grip... Kathryn hated it when she fell into this trap. This mood, where she felt like the only good thing out of her whole odyssey- she had lost at the last second by being selfish and being unable to choose between duty and the people she loved. She tried to make up for it when they landed... but, well. Look how far that got you. Neither of them had written. Not once.

She let her mind wander, let it touch briefly on Chakotay. Skimming over her disbelief, she went over what she could have done to save that friendship. The friendship kept me alive and sane for years. Where did it go, when we got home- or was it dead before then? She resented that she still ground through this line of thought, its path a worn groove in her mind. She thinks about when she stopped loving him, when her interest tipped- at what point when she came undone to her own touch had she begun to imagine that it was Seven, and not him. Well Katie, it might have been when the kindness and warmth were gone. Something went wrong, and you pulled away. She had written him letters too of course, trying to find friendship again and she could almost accept his silence because of the gulf that had sprung up open and ragged between them- but Seven- that she couldn't understand at all.

Her counselor had playfully called it a hero-complex. That Kathryn had wanted to save Seven, take her home like a Knight Errant, a Champion who'd won a princess- a Queen. Kathryn privately agreed. She knew that it wasn't necessarily right, or healthy, but she didn't dislike the narrative- well right up until the end where somehow everything when to shit on the express rout to hell at warp 9.9.

 

“Okay Kathryn, you look distracted.” her sister teased in a sing-song voice honed over years of practice to annoy her sister, “ I'm in this to win.”


Kathryn snorted, raised an eyebrow and matched Phoebe's bet.


, “This is foolishness. Honestly, next Tuesday, we'll play Scrabble. I'll have the pair of you in tears.” Then with an exaggerated sigh Gretchen concluded, “I fold.”

 

Glancing down at her cards again Kathryn tried to guess what ones Phoebe might have... but her interest flagged and like rain down a gutter her mind wandered back to its familiar trough. She traced the painted border around the queen of hearts and tried to stem her disappoint. No matter how hard I work, everything still feels a little bit empty. Kathryn knew that when she thought like this, she needed to nip it in the bud. My life is coming back together in good order. I'm at the top of my profession, I'm socially, and physically fit, and I always try. Trying is important. She knew out loud it would sound foolish, but she also knew how deep the depression ruts she could fall into were, if she didn't keep a step ahead of it...Ruts where she didn't like herself, her body, her job. Where she believed that the only reason people spoke to her were for status, for money or celebrity. Where she thought about going for a ride and not coming back. But you have done so well Katie, so what if you have a drink at a party with 'Lanna, or a cigarette every now and again. You work hard. And those dogs of yours love you to pieces. Getting the dogs had helped. She'd stopped drinking alone, and sopped the late and dangerous rides she used to take on the poorly maintained roads far outside the agricultural park. Her resolve to keep the dogs exclusively in Indiana had crumbled quickly, and she found that being a leader to her little pack, gave her just the push more she needed to get back on her feet.

So she had talked, been her best diplomatic self and busted her ass to be more than a desk jockey at Star Fleet HQ:as an Admiral, she worked as military strategist, but she also worked for the academy, frequently lecturing in the science departments. She also convinced her higher ups that she was ready, and able enough, to run drills with graduating cadets. Small inner solar cutters that had intense simulations. The trips were to practice unusual strategies, to give them a test- a taste of what could happen out there... and scare them silly while I enjoy myself. More importantly though, it got her back in space- in a capacity where she was in control, and could practice being a good captain again without her fear clawing at her. She was never, never far enough away to be lost. Never like that,never again.


Kathryn lifted her head as Phoebe called, her demanding she lay her cards down. She did so. Kathryn kept her face stoic as a well aimed chocolate hit her between the eyes and landed in her coffee with a splash.

“Hnn, how'd you like that, miss- miss winner.

Kathryn smiled crookedly and took a long pull from her mug. “Its Delicious. The chocolate really highlights how you've grown as a person.”

Kathryn listened to her mother laugh at their antics and they played a few more rounds, her family trying to win back some of the candies, and meeting predictable results. When ten rolled around, they cleared their plates and their cards, as was their habit. They continued to banter until, yawning, Phobe made her exit.

 

Kathryn leaned across the kitchen counter from her mother, towel in hand, and accepted the plate Gretchen handed her to dry.

“Kathryn,.. You didn't mention it, and I didn't want to bring it up with Pheobe around.. But I know you had a review today- to screen you for longer missions... How'd it go?”

Kathryn had left her boots and admiral's bar by the door when she'd came in, but it only took a second for her to slide back into the excitement she'd felt earlier that day. 

“I'm sorry, mum. I should have told you right off- I'm cleared. I can go anywhere. Apparently, they think I'm sane enough to give me my own ship again, and the demotion that will likely come with it, when I want it.”

Her mother took the plate from her, set it aside and folded her into a hug. “I'm so proud of you. Do you know when you'll leave again?” Gretchen pushed her away by her shoulders to stare down into her eyes, and Kathryn was reminded from where she got her no-nonsense looks.


“Oh, not for a bit a suspect. I want to wait and see what all this noise is about with the new class of ship that's been bouncing around the rumor mill. I'm certain that B'Elanna is working on it, and she's holding out on me...” Kathryn shrugged and met her mothers appraising look, “I want to be the first one to have a go at her, mum. If there's a new ship in the docks, I want her.”

“You're so much like your father.” She kissed the top of Kathryn's head, and tucked a strand of red hair behind her ear, a gesture she'd missed doing immensely while her daughter had been stranded, “Now, take your dogs, and get out.”

 

~*~

Gretchen finished tiding her kitchen, waiting for the rumble of Kathryn's bike- the whistle to call her dogs and their exited barking. With some backfiring the old thing started and, She listened to the bike and the dogs make their way into the night. Kathryn will be alright. She walked into the kitchen, straightened the place mats on the table, and found a few errant chocolates scattered underneath. It reminded her of all the time she must have spent over the years picking up fleet insignia and pips and she smiled to herself.

Taking her tea in hand, and finding the tablet where she did her 'recreation punishment' as Phoebe called it, she settled into her favorite chair. Her admiral had bought it for her, not long into their marriage, and it always made her feel comfortable safe. It reminds me of being loved. She shook her head. Never mind that- lets untangle this theoretical improbability. She went to work.

She hadn't been working long when she heard the front porch creak, and a solid knock on the front door. Setting aside her tea, and padd, she stood- more curious than annoyed by the interruption. No one I know would bother knocking. She padded in her carpet slippers to the door and opened it.

A tall woman in a dusty and well worn jump suit was standing at attention on her front step. Her hair was loose, white blond and streaked with what Gretchen could only guess was iron saturated dirt. She could see metal shining in the light from the house behind her- on the woman's face, her neck, through a rip in the suit on her calf and almost the whole of her left hand. Gretchen could also detect a faint animal musk and not the antiseptic smell that she thought would have matched her clothing and.. implants. Implants. Oh. OH. Thousands of conversations with Kathryn, holo-images and television footage seemed to crash around her as the woman spoke.

 

“Good evening. You are Ms. Janeway?”

Oh. Oh. This is good. This is so good. I should call Kathryn, I should drag her back here this second I- She cast her eyes up and down the woman- No. I should take care of my guest.

 

“Seven? Seven of Nine?” Gretchen couldn't help the excitement, the anticipation that snuck into her tone.

Evidently Seven- it was Seven!-misread her, and took it for agitation, because she stepped back quickly, face growing pale. “ I apologize for the inconvenience. I will-”

 

Gretchen couldn't help herself, she gripped the other woman by the hands and whisked her across the foyer and into her home. “You will come in. Please, Seven, Come in.”

 

Chapter Text

Gretchen installed Seven on a stool near the kitchen counter, and busied herself finding a wash cloth. She wasn't sure what to expect from this interaction, but she had listened to Kathryn speak about the woman and had an rough idea of her past, and how she would react to different stimulus. However... the travel worn individual in front of her did not quite meet the description of the fastidious and reserved specialist that her daughter had painted.

Seven was staring out the large windows into the night and Gretchen took a gamble. She slowly came into Sevens space, tilted her chin to the side and ran the warm wet cloth gingerly along Seven's face, wiping a bit of blood and dirt. Blood that did not belong to her, hmm. Gretchen wanted to know,-wanted to know Seven, and wanted to know a decade of her daughter's history from this stranger, but held her peace. This is an elaborate and delicate puzzle, an equation I will have to balance.

Seven held still, and Gretchen watched a small smile flicker at the corner of her mouth. “The texture of this cloth reminds me of Captain's tongue.”

Gretchen did her best not to scream.Captain? Kathryn? What. What.What. “How do you mean, Seven?”

“The texture of a feline's tongue is rough- designed to abrade flesh from bone. The texture of this cloth reminds me when Captain would engage in grooming rituals with me and her cubs.” Seven suddenly flinched away from the fabric, her face blossoming an aggressive shade of red. She spoke quickly “Captain is the designation I assigned to a large individual, Puma concolor, with whom I have spent a fair portion of the last two years. I did not-”

Gretchen turned back to the sink to allow herself a second for her face to go through a myriad of emotions before she found her composure. She re-wet the cloth, and and carefully repeated the action, then set it aside when Seven did not relax into the touch as before.

“Tell me about Captain? How did you come to be in such company?” Tell me about the things Kathryn wakes up screaming in the night about- tell me why you didn't write her.

 

“I fought a pack of wild dogs.”

 

“No kidding.” Gretchen couldn't help but smile. This was going to be a delicate puzzle indeed. She was however, not without patience. She was about to speak when Seven looked around the room again, and fixed her with a piercing stare.

“Ms. Janeway, you are not forced to live here without modern tools- 'convinces'. I have recently. If you are in need of assistance in removing yourself from this location, I can be of service.”

Gretchen was a touched by the sincerity of the appeal, and about what it implied in regards to the position Seven must have been in recently . She smiled warmly, and sat on the stool opposite her.

“ No seven, I'm not forced to stay here. There are no real restrictions here, not in my home. I live like this because I choose to. The people here choose to do tasks manually because they enjoy doing so- not because they are forbidden to do things any other way.” She motioned down the hall behind her, “In fact, I have a fairly modern office, just there, with a workstation some colleges of yours at Daystrom would envy. I have replicators, medical equipment- the works, I just choose not to use them. Most of the time.”

Seven nodded, and studied her hands, toying with the cloth in front of her on the table.
“A board Voyager...” Seven looked up under her brows as if asking permission to continue and Gretchen had to restrain her self from encouraging too emphatically.

“Yes, Seven?”


That small smile edged into the corner of her mouth and the blond continued, “A bord Voyager, Kathryn and I engaged in several philosophical discussions regarding choice. At the time, I did not come to the same conclusions she did. However, I have since accumulated experiences that suggest to me she was correct about the relevance of choice to an individual's happiness.”

Gretchen watched the light catch off the thin gold band Seven was rolling around her right ring-finger.
Abruptly- everything this woman seems to is abrupt- Seven asked her, “Would this item appeal to you?”

“Its very pretty, but no.”
A pause.
“Where is your recycling unit?”
“There is one in the hall closet. I'll show you to it.”

When they had returned, Seven sat her a little stiffly, and a few minuets of awkward silence settled between them. Was that a wedding band? Why on her right hand... Gretchen decided that more directness would both comfort Seven, and be the best approach. She gathered both of Seven's hands in hers over the counter and waited for Seven to make eye contact with her.

“You're in love with her, Kathryn.”

Seven didn't falter and looked relived that she'd brought it up.
“This Drone is- Yes. I hope the prospect doesn't trouble you; her letters indicated that you would enjoy my presence.”


She felt her eyes widen, but remained calm. “You read them? I thought-”

“My communications were... withheld from me. I read them shortly before making... arrangements to arrive here.” She returned to obseving their joined hands on the table.

“I see,” I don't see. Were you living under a rock with cougars? What am I going to tell Kathryn... She made a contentious effort to have a gentle tone, one she had often used when her children were small, and disappointed. “What did you hope to do when you got here?”

 

Seven frowned slightly. “I did not have a goal other than seeing Kathryn. From her letters, she indicated this was where she spent Tuesday nights... I hoped... I wanted to apologize.” Her words seemed poised to stop, to roll back into her mouth, and then the came out in a flood “ I think I wanted her to yell at me. I wanted her to be angry and confront me, I think I deserve that. I believed if I contacted her first she would not have allowed me here so-”

“Allowed?”
Gretchen tried not to show her disbelief, so she gripped Seven's fingers with an even comforting pressure.

“Seven dont you know that..” No thats not quite right.. She measured her words and tried again, and hoped this would unravel a few knots in whatever mess of story had happened.

“ Kathryn turned up here after your wedding. She didn't say a word, just went int the cellar- grabbed two decanters of Bourbon and sat by the lake until dawn. I dont think she could even cry Seven. The next morning she wouldn't look at me. She stayed here a few days- up in her old room, and then I didn't hear from her for a month- she acted like nothing had happened.”

She took a steadying breath and observed a subtle and muted flux of emotions over Seven's face. 


“She started building a house off on the lot I gave her, and I know for a fact that she's built a room for you. She'll say it's the guest room, but its the best room in that house. Allow you to see her? She wont even deny it when I ask her anymore; she will take from you anything you care to give.”

Seven pulled her hands out from Gretchen's and stared at her with regret. “I hope I have not damaged a relationship between us Gretchen. I did not mean to damage your daughter. If you require reparations, please state so.”

What the hell happened to all of you up there, that you're all so sorry for. Gretchen crossed around the center island and surprising both of them, took her in for a hug. When Seven setteled into the embrace, a hand tentatively placed on her back, Gretchen spoke.


“Seven, sweetheart, no. The first thing you did when you got those letters was to come straight here? You just got up and left without a clear plan- that was very brave.” She released Seven and held her at arms length. She could feel the subtle bunching of fabric between her shoulders where seven hadn't quite let go yet. Raised by wolves, she thought- no- lions. You need a mother.

 

“No” She said again for emphasis. “You did not damage a relationship between us. Lets get your things up stairs-”
Both women looked down at the battered bag on the counter and Seven made a sound that was suspiciously like a snort.

“We can talk if you'd like, or you can take a shower, or go to bed- you can do whatever you like. You're my guest. You don't even have to stay. But you are right, I enjoy your presence. I'm so glad you're here Seven.”

 

Seven watched her as if she really was some lion, and the expression her features settled into was pleased, but confused.

“You are not mad at me?”

“From what I can see” she made a show of looking Seven over, “I have no reason to be. Lets get you some clean clothes, and I'll make up a bed for you. You can stay here, and maybe talk to Kathryn in the morning if you want. Or not.”

This new option seemed to throw her guest for a loop.

“You. Want me to stay in your home. I am Borg. You are not afraid I'll assimilate you?”

 

Gretchen chuckled, waiving her hand. “Goodness, no. You're the one who should be worried. I'm going to fuss over you until I'm sure you're happy. And probably after that too. It's just what mothers do.”

Seven smiled tentatively, before standing to tower over her, “ I believe I will choose to stay here tonight. I shall take a shower, recycle my clothes and then.. we could... We could have a discussion regarding several of your mathematical dissertations? I have not been able to discuss such things...”

She took Seven's pack, and motioned for her to follow her down the hall and up the stairs. “That sounds lovely- here's the washroom, I'll just grab you a towel and set you up with some pajamas, is that alright?”

“Acceptable.”

Seven showered, and then joined her in the living room a short while later, dressed in the over sized nightshirt and pants she'd dug out of a linen closet. Kathryn's linen closet she thought with a grin.

“Would you like some tea?”

“I do not requ-... Yes, I would like something warm to hold.”


Gretchen brought her some tea, having refiled her own mug, and sunk into her armchair. She grinned wolfishly at Seven, “I have heard about you- I am prepared to defend my thesis against the knowledge of the collective.”

 

When Seven actually laughed outloud- something she got the feeling didn't happen often, Gretchen decided that no matter of what kind of relationship Seven and Kathryn might share, that she would care for Seven regardless.

~*~


Seven awoke by degrees with the morning sun slanting in across her face. She stirred and pressed her face against the pillow which smelled like- This pillow smells like Kathryn. Her eyes snapped open, and yesterday rushed back in on her. She felt overwhelmed, but satisfied with her actions. She could tell from the smell, buy various sparse decorations that she was in Kathryn's childhood room. I'm in Kathryn's family home. I have contacted my collectve. I am not in Nevada.

She closed her eyes again and stretched out. She could not remember sleeping so soundly, or for so long, and hoped that she had not been rude by sleeping late. She rolled out of bed and padded to to where last night Gretchen had showed her the replicator was hidden behind a cupboard door. She programmed another bio-metric suit, the silver blue one she liked best, and some pins to pull back her hair with. When she had strapped her solar regenerator over her arm, and was satisfied with her appearance, she made her way downstairs to the kitchen.

She could hear the porch swing rocking, and the smell of Coffee and surmised where Gretchen would be. She could hardly believe the conversations she'd been able to have with her last night, how easily she had been able to communicate. She spoke to me like I was her student- challenged and corrected me- not at all like those at Daystrom. Seven had been surprised to find herself talking about her experience at the the institute, and pleased when Gretchen told her she had been right to be unsatisfied there. They had even discussed some of Seven's future ambitions and Gretchen had suggested that Seven apply for positions where ever, and in whatever she was interested in. She was not afraid of me... I wonder if this is a family trait.

There was a fruit plate, and a mug of tea on the sideboard and Seven ate before taking the mug with her to stand on the porch.

“Good morning Seven, did you sleep well?” Gretchen was swallowed in a house coat, mug in hand, and glasses perched on her nose as she played what looked like to Seven, a difficult version of spatial chess. Seven had never seen the program before, but it reminded her of something Tuvok would enjoy. Seven observed the set of jaw in concentration, and decided that while the similarities between Kathryn and Gretchen had been unnerving at first she found them comforting now. This drone will make time for the feeling of comfort.

 

“I did. Will you explain to me this game?”

They passed the morning playing the game on the porch, and Seven could not remember feeling so at ease in company, not unless she included the lions. Perhaps, it is because I am with another mother who is concerned for her young, and tolerates my company. The way Gretchen's eyes focused and flashed before she made a decisive and winning move in their play convinced Seven otherwise. It is because I am with another hunter. I can be... myself.

After awhile, Gretchen wanted more coffee, and when Seven followed her into the kitchen, Gretchen remarked that if she wanted to make use of the office while she tended the garden for a bit, Seven was more than welcome. Gretchen went to change into work clothes and left Seven standing by the door to the office.

She had no experience with being so nervous, so unsure of herself... but she wanted to know how her responses had been received. She should not have worried. Each response had been very well received and each contained a long list of questions about her whereabouts, her plans for the future, and when she would visit them again- not if, when, and how soon.

After reading, and re-reading her preferred responses, Seven drafted, and then sent several applications to various Civilian and Star Fleet run science departments. In a few places, she utilized contacts that Kathryn had provided- to apply directly to department heads, chairs and representatives. It seemed foolish to waste those resources. After that, she took into consideration that she would need a residence of her own and was interested in securing property in... San Francisco. She was not without the credit to do so, but she was apprehensive because...Because this drone has not completed its primary objective. It will cease this activity, and pursue the correct course.

 

She found Gretchen weeding in the garden, but was unsure how to bring up the subject without seeming ungrateful for the woman's extraordinary hospitality. Gretchen spoke before she could.

“You know, Kathryn has taken up gardening- she grows herbs and spices- some of my heirloom tomatoes. Not in San Fransisco, but at her house, down the way oh six miles off?... I know that she likes to garden Wednesday afternoons..."


Gretchen looked up from under her wide brimmed hat and caught Seven's eyes, holding them. “If someone wanted to go find her, that's where they should look.” She ducked her head back down, humming, to carry on with her weeding.

 

Seven was already walking.

 

Chapter Text

Kathryn turned her dogs out on the property,and strode purposefully towards the replicator.

“Whiskey, neat. Double.”

She downed it.
“Again.”

 

“Again.”
She reached for the cup a third time, then disgusted with herself- she sloshed it into the sink,listening to it shatter.

She'd lectured this morning at the academy, then returned to her office to check her mail before going home, like she normally did on her half days. She'd opened a letter from B'Elanna, the subject 'you wont believe this' and hoped that her friend was finally going to give her details about the rumored ship- but...


“Goddamn it, Janeway! How long were you going to keep this a secret? Seven wrote me! Actually apologized. Her Borgness herself said she was 'sorry' and would I 'forgive' her! You've got to tell me whats going on- her message was recorded in a cave. A cave with fucking pumas in it. I know she'd have written you first though- cant believe you were holding out on me. Call me.”

 

She'd just stared at the message as dread crept down her spine. She decided to double check , and found that not only B'Elanna had tried to get in touch; she had several other messages from old crew members, asking her follow up questions from communications they'd got from Seven. All of them assuming that she was in contact with her. All of them assuming that the first person Seven had reached out to was her. Kathryn had tried to collect herself, tried to force back the walls of panic that were slowly closing in on her. She opened her sent folder, scrolled to the subfolder she kept for Seven... and sure enough each 'unread' flag next to, oh god an embarrassingly long- long list of files- had been unchecked. She jumped back to the previous screen where several more messages from Star Fleet officials had only just arrived, asking her to confirm that she still recommended Seven for advanced placements, dangerous away missions, or classified projects. So, as calmly, as composed as she could, she'd shut down her station. She had called her dogs and gotten out of Head Quarters as fast as she could.

 

Now, clutching the counter in a white knuckled grip, Kathryn preformed a series of breathing exercises. She berated herself for her knee-jerk response to reach for liquor. She looked at the broken glass and the amber liquid beaded along the sharp edges. You're better than that. She pinched the bridge of her nose. You will carry on with your day- you'll garden like you do every Wednesday afternoon. Routine is good for you.

 

“Coffee, hot. Black.”


She changed into a pair of linen work pants, discarded her uniform- but kept tank on -and grabbing her coffee exited the side door to the backyard. She tried to focus on weeding. She tried to focus on the health of her Basil, the Rosemary, her mints and tomatoes. The sun felt hot on her shoulders, her neck and arms. She thought she should go put sunscreen on, or have some water.. but she didn't move. She tried to focus on the feel of rich dirt under her fingers. The smell of growing things. She sat in her garden, between a row of herbs, and cherry tomatoes and finally gave up the pretense.

 

They all think I know what's going on. All of them are so excited to hear from Seven, to know what's been happening. She didn't know how to tell them she didn't know. That she hadn't the first clue. From the kinds of questions they were asking her though, she could piece together that she'd failed Seven, Chakotay too; had somehow left them in the desert to face her demons alone. I should have just gone out there and got her as soon as I felt something wasn't right. Ha, Some Knight I am- what a Hero. She wiped an angry track of tears away from her eyes and smeared a wide path of dirt over her cheek. She didn't care. What would you have done though-You could barely take care of yourself, what could you have done for her.

 

She felt the hot rush of shame creep up her throat and then drop her stomach into the ground. She thought about all of the letters she'd sent- letters where she'd admitted things in writing and out loud that she was embarrassed to admit even to herself. She'd thought she'd been safe, that even though she'd truly wanted Seven to know those things about her... she thought she'd been confiding to someone she was sure was unreachable. Oh gods, all of the things I said to her. No wonder she didn't respond. Christ, Katie. You're a fool. Her world started to spin, so she lay back, down between the rows, and watched the sunlight filter through the leaves of her little garden.

 

She hated that she was crying, but she couldn't quite make herself stop. After a while the tears did stop coming though, and she looked up through wet lashes to watch a ladybird crawl along a shoot of lavender. She counted its spots, watched its little legs crawl up the stem. She steadied her breathing. She counted the spots again. The sun was high, peaking out through the canopy of a huge oak that cast flickering shadows over her back yard. Its warmth licked at her face. She counted the spots again. Good job Katie, she said to herself, hardly noon and look at you, drunk and doing grounding exercises in the dirt. Peak self care that is. That thought made her laugh twhich was what she needed, and she closed her eyes. Kathryn sighed. She would get up, would respond to all of them and tell them the truth. You're not in charge of everything anymore, you're not responsible, you don't have to know. She would tell them truthfully that she did not know any more than they did. She would admit that, and offer her help as she always would... Just not right yet. She would lie still, and smell the warm earth, and feel the sun. Just for a moment longer...

 

Kathryn woke to a pounding headache. She groaned, but decided not to move to much. Just to take it one step at a time. Just damage control. She blinked and was startled to find that the sun had slid a few hands down the sky, making it around three or four in the afternoon. She wondered if she'd remembered to fill the dogs' water dish, and was going to get up to check, but she felt dizzy and nauseated. I didn't drink enough for this- whats wrong with me?. She was trying to work up enough spit to swallow and take proper inventory of her situation when she heard the latch of her front gate open then shut.

She wasn't worried about intruders, Bonnie and Clyde had run off unwelcome guests in the past and she was sure they'd continue to do so. No, it was probably her mother, or Phoebe, or even one of her dogs leaning on the gate as they sometimes did. She listened half-heartedly, incase they barked- and what she did hear made her heart clench. Maybe I did drink that much. It wasn't the first time she'd imagined hearing that confidant step or fantasied about hearing those heels click across the stone path to her garden. She closed her eyes.

“Kathryn?”


This isn't the first time you've heard her voice calling for you either. She felt a shadow fall across her face, giving her relief from the bite of the sun.

“Kathryn. You should not have been consuming intoxicants- you informed me of your goals in this area.”

She blinked again, and found herself staring up into Seven's clear blue eyes. She was looking down, concern written across her features, with a bit of surprise thrown in too. What- Am I dreaming? Let this be a dream- a good dream.

 

“You have been damaged by low level radiation... You should have applied cream. Come inside Kathryn.”

Seven's face swam before her and Janeway wasn't sure if it was because she was going to cry or if it was because she was losing her mind.

“Seven? Seven of Nine.”

When Seven smiled, Kathryn didn't care if she had lost her mind. She couldn't remember Seven ever smiling so broadly, or openly aboard Voyager. “Yes, that is my designation. Kathryn Janeway, come inside; you are dehydrated.” Here she looked Kathryn up and down, “And covered in organic matter.”

Kathryn didn't move though. She felt surreal and detached. Seven's here, she's scolding me, this cant be real. But as the woman crouched down beside her, Kathryn could hear her breathing, smell her perfume. She reigned herself in and tried to be the consummate professional she knew she could be. She didn't write you, she came here in person to tell you off, or to ask you to help her get something- Thats it,she just needs something, she's not here for you. She took a deep breath, and tried to sound detached, as if she wasn't a castle made of cards.

 

“What can I help you with Seven?” she managed to croak, her voice halting and alarmingly slurred “I received... notifications earlier that you had a-applied for several ambitious science postings- would you... do you require more formal references?”

She wasn't prepared for the tenderness of the gaze that ducked to meet hers, or the gentleness -gentleness she had longed to hear- in the words that followed. “What I require is my collective. Come inside, show me your home.”

If this is a dream, I'm not going to waste it. She sat up, unsteadily and clumsily rose to her feet. She belatedly thought that Seven was right, that she must be dehydrated, drinking and falling asleep in the sun at noon, like an idiot. She made her way to the back door, all the while listening to Seven's foot fall, just a step behind hers.

 

She could almost see every fantasy playing out. Dreams of Seven coming to see her, coming to share her bed in the middle of the night, showing up and asking to stay... She desperately wanted to know why Seven was here, to know what she wanted, but she could not make herself ask. She was afraid that as soon as she did, Seven would leave, and she would be sick, alone and worse off than before.

 

When they had made their way into the house, down the hall and to the kitchen, Kathryn rested against the counter and took a good look at Seven. She was still as beautiful, as confidant and as poised as she remembered her to be. She couldn't help but think Seven looked a little older though. More experienced, and she moved with a kind of fluid grace that hadn't been there before. She couldn't help but think Seven belonged in her home- how right she made the space feel. Kathryn was startled from her revelry when the object of her thoughts pressed a glass of water into her hands.


“Drink.”

She did, and when Seven refilled it from the tap, and asked her to drink again, she did.
“Where is your washroom?”
“It's. Uh, upstairs.”
“Show me.”

 

Kathryn felt dizzy again when she went to move, and felt bile creep up the back of her throat. “Seven, I'm sorry you have to see me like this- I think I drank to much and-”


“You blood alcohol content is negligible- I suspect you are experiencing sunstroke. Proceed to the washroom.”


Kathryn didn't know what else she was supposed to do. She couldn't wrap her mind around the situation as she stumbled her way up the stairs with the help of the railing, and on a few occasions the lightest of steadying touches on her back. This had not been how she imagined them meeting. She'd imagined shouting, she'd imagined a cold dismissal, she'd imagined kissing Seven senseless and begging her to come home with her. She had not imagined being sick, and cared for like a child.

 

When she entered the bathroom Kathryn's foot caught on the edge of the upturned bathmat and she would have fallen, if Seven hadn't scooped her up. Kathryn didn't breathe of a moment. She was trying to remember being in Seven's arms, held by her for as long as possible- before Seven deposited her on the bathroom counter top.

 

“You must take better care of yourself in the future. You are badly burned.”

She nodded numbly, as she watched Seven take off her dirty shoes and place them neatly by the door. Seven pulled back the frosted shower door, turned the nob and let the water run before she returned to Kathryn.
“Shower, and I shall prepare a salve for your skin, and some medication for you to take when you are finished.”

 

“Seven... no.” She looked anywhere but at the gorgeous woman so intent on taking care of her, it made her so very uncomfortable. She settled staring at the polished toes of Seven's boots. “ This isn't necessary.”

Kathryn closed her eyes as she felt Seven fingers ghost over her cheeks, tilting her head back. Then Seven pressed a kiss against her forehead, and spoke into her hair.

“I will care for you, and you will comply.”

 

That just about does it. Kathryn started to cry again. She was sick, her head spinning, and her personal savior just happened to be here, in her home, pulling her into an embrace. She cried into Seven's shoulder and found herself babbling about the letters, apologizing over and over, saying she wouldn't send anymore. She started asking about Seven's time in Nevada, telling her how bitterly she wished she had just faced her fear and shown up on their ranch. She knew she wasn't making much sense, and she felt feverish and her joints were stiff. After a few breaths, she felt Seven's fingers raking through her hair in a soothing motion. She breathed in deeply, and hoped that this was real. That seven's strong warm arms would still be there when she did get out of the shower. She voiced her concern.


“You.. you wont leave while I shower, you wont disappear?”

Seven leaned back down and pressed her cheek against Kathryn's, “I will leave the door open, and as I prepare your treatment I will 'make a racket' to confirm to you my presence. Acceptable?”

Kathryn laughed a watery little chuckle, as she pulled away from Seven, and slid off the counter. “A-acceptable.”

She waited until she heard Sevens footsteps retreat down the hall before she shucked her clothes off her sweat soaked body and sat on the shower floor. The cool water did provide a measure of relief. She drew her legs up, and rested her head on her knees. This is not how I planned my day to go. She felt to cold and to hot and too confused by far. The water was helping though and she shook her head to clear it- she had to do it twice. Twice, because for the love of god, was that Seven singing? The noise she was making in the hall closet with the med-kit was minimal, she would have thought it was Clyde nosing about for treats. But, no that was Seven, the colour and timbre were right. Her range was wide and rich, and Kathryn pressed her face back down against her knees.

 

...I'm talking to the shadows
1 o'clock to 4
And oh Lord, how slow the moments go
When all I do is pour
Black Coffee
Since the blues caught my eye...”

 

Oh Lord indeed... She listened, feeling a bit like a voyeur, but after all, Sven had promised to 'make a racket' for her comfort. So why shouldn't she listen?

 

...I'm moody all the morning
Mourning all the night
And in between it's nicotine
And not much hard to fight
Black Coffee
Feelin' low as the ground
It's driving me crazy just waiting for my baby
To maybe come around

My nerves have gone to pieces
My hair is turning gray
All I do is drink black coffee
Since my lady's gone away”

 

Kathryn felt like the song had been pulled out from inside of her, like someone peeling a scab of a freshly healed wound, just a bit too soon. Raw and exposed. She wondered at how Seven could put such depth of feeling into the sparse words, could make her ache with a simple modulation of her voice. She sighed, and was startled when Seven knocked on the opaque door. She didn't protest when Seven opened the door, or when she reached in to turn off the water. In for a penny, in for a pound I suppose. She held still as Seven pressed a hypo-spray against the side of her neck.

“This should mitigate any lasting effects.”
Kathryn felt her head clear marginally, and her embarrassment blossomed full force.
“I'm sorry. I am not good company right now, Seven.”
She didn't look up yet, couldn't bare to, but she could hear the smile in Seven's voice when she replied.
“I have had worse company. I brought you clean garments. I will await you downstairs where we will have a philosophical discussion.”

~

Kathryn dressed in the clothes layed out for her, an old 'fleet issue tank and soft light pants. She felt a little bit less like a microwave dinner, and more like a grade a failure. She felt annoyed and embarrassed by her behavior. She shouldn't have cried all over her, been weak and helpless because she was- was pining after her like a fool. Moreover though, she was bewildered by Seven's assumed intimacy- her disregard for Kathryn's well polished facade of capability. She dried her hair as best she could, and made her way back down to the Kitchen, and when Seven wasn't there, followed a joyful bark to the living room. She didn't enter, just peeked in.

Well. Fuck. Seven was playing with her dogs, animated and carefree on the rug before the empty fireplace. The sun was streaming in, and god help me if this doesn't look like a fucking painting of perfection. The room was all warm wood, and comfort, and her dogs frisking around the woman of her dreams like love struck pups completed the picture in a way that surpassed any of her imaginings. Memorize this Katie, because you'll not see it again. Because... Because as far as she Seven was married, was married to someone she still had great respect and admiration for. She could be professional. She took a deep breath, and assumed the posture she used when teaching cadets. Approachable, but just barely. It was a lot harder to do barefoot, in her pajamas and sunburnt into next week, but she would try.


She cleared her throat and called her dogs to her side for moral support. They looked up at her, and sat prettily, but didn't come over. Traitors. No matter. She had their attention, and Seven's too.

“Well, Seven. What do you want from me?”


 

Chapter Text

Seven looked up from her position crouching on the floor. The dogs had been remarkably accepting of her company. She'd enjoyed the pair of them immensely- specifically when she'd told them her name and they'd sat at attention with tails wagging. They were different beasts altogether from her lions-but they still made her feel secure.

“Well, Seven, what do you want from me.”

Seven let her eyes roam over Katheryn's wiry build, over her bare feet and freckled sun burnt face. I want everything. She had been alarmed by seeing Kathryn so sick and distressed, but caring for her had been instinctual and correct. She considered how to achieve her goal,-Everything, I want Everything- …fighting back the implications of that strain of thought, She reached to the hearth stone where she had set aside a small bowl. Straightforward. Minimal artifice.

“I want to care for you. Sit-” She gestured to the cushion in front of her, “I will apply this to your burns while we have a discussion.”

As Kathryn approached her warily, Seven was pleased she had given the woman's namesake to a lion. Kathryn held herself with the same kind of easy poise that made Seven long to get under her skin. Seven knew that she needed to be delicate though, careful. At this juncture, their meeting was not dissimilar to meeting Captain for the first time. She remembered how the cat had hissed, growled and postured aggressively when she had first approached to administer treatment. She assumed that Kathryn would behave no differently. She assumed that Kathryn would test her too, to take her measure the way wild things did with their opponents. When Kathryn sank down onto the pillow facing her, Seven dipped her fingers into the medication she'd prepared. No sudden motions, nothing threatening until my intent is established. She smiled with a sense of victory when Kathryn's lashes fluttered closed and she relaxed into the touch Seven provided.

Deftly, Seven smeared the salve over the burnt skin of her jaw, across the bridge of her nose, her forehead. She was not surprised to find herself becoming aroused, but firmly pushed the feelings away. It did not matter that she found this woman's bone structure pleasing, or her breathing against her hand to be suggestive. With Kathryn's eyes closed she was at liberty to study her face as she smoothed more of the cream down behind her ear, and along her throat and across her clavicle. Those freckles should not be so attractive- they reminded her of the stars, of travel,of the feeling of a ship humming along at warp beneath her- the possibility of Kathryn humming along at warp beneath me. Exhaling to clear her thoughts, she recalled how Captain had calmed under her attentions when Seven had spoken to her, so she opened her mouth to do the same- but Kathryn was already speaking.

 

“That's enough, it feels better. What did you want to discuss.”


This is growling, this is posturing. She does not want me to stop. I do not wish to stop. What do I want to discuss? She felt four years of thinking that Kathryn had abandoned her- and how even that could not make her love Kathryn any less- and the discovery that Kathryn had never stopped writing, had never stopped wanting her...her emotions pushed hard at her, but she held them back. I want to discuss our future... but slowly. No sudden movements.

Seven tapped her shoulder, “I have not finished. Turn around.”


Kathryn's eyes held hers for a moment before she turned and presented Seven with her back. She took the hot skin under her hands, and thought that she would very much enjoy feeling Kathryn's skin hot and flushed under hands in several different contexts... slowly. No sudden movements

“I would like to discuss the value of communication in successful relationships.”

 

Kathryn tensed slightly, but Seven did not alter the course, pressure or frequency of her movements. Predictable. Calm. She continued.

“ In Nevada, there were several factors that precluded my... ability to communicate with those who were formally integral members of my collective. I have discovered recently, that though I was non communicative, those I cared for continued to try to contact me-even when they received nothing in return. Why?”

 

Seven ran her fingers along Kathryn's trapezius muscle, felt the tension ease, and repeated the gesture. The medication had already, strictly speaking, been applied and liberally, but Kathryn didn't need to know that. Not when they both enjoyed the contact. She had lain her plan out before her, and could only hope that Kathryn would fall into it with ease. She would sooth Kathryn now, would re-establish their broken ritual of discussion. If she had had to prove herself physically equal to the lions, she was sure she needed to do the equivalent with Kathryn. She would maneuver herself into a position to have access to Kathryn's home – her den site, she thought wryly- on a continual basis... because Kathryn's skin felt so good, so right under hands, because caring for Kathryn, made her feel... so good.

 

She felt Kathryn's pulse accelerate, and watched her shoulders rise as her lungs expanded for breath.


“ Humans are social animals. In order to be functional, many people need to maintain a variety of different kinds of relationships. Communication is vital for the success of those bonds. Humans aren't mind readers like Bajorians- we rely on frequency and honesty.”

 

“Dubious.”

Kathryn barked a startled laugh. “Yes, it is.”

Seven watched her fingers, human and metal capped, kneed the muscles in front of her. She congratulated herself on making Kathryn laugh. Familiarity is being established. This drone will Follow it's objective.

“Why continue to instigate a relationship that seems to have concluded- Why expend the resources?”


Kathryn's reply was a little hesitant. “In general, or do you have specific... instantiations in mind?”


“Generally, but in the specific scenario of Crewmates from Voyager . For example, Naomi Wildman. Data files between us were -waylaid, but she still sent me over 100 communiques. The files contained a complete range of human expression- without the knowledge that I had received, or ever would receive their contents. Why expend the resources?”

Kathryn sighed, and Seven used the action to press her fingers further into a knot that she was sure was bothering her. She pretend not to notice the hitch in Kathryn breathing, or the way her hands flexed restlessly in her lap.


“We all want to re-affirm our bonds. Expending effort in this way, validates previous emotional work- validates our feelings. Humans can be prideful, and we want to know that out efforts are not in vain- That the kinds of things we feel are real, and returned- not just in our minds. Naomi loves you... She asks me about you every time I see her.”

 

Seven smiled, thinking of the child, and how much she missed her- how she regretted being absent in the girls life- and how she would make a point to never be again. She continued what was no longer an application of medication, but most assuredly a massage.

Seven had not missed the way Kathryn's voice became a little smaller when touching upon Naomi, and Seven deduced that it wasn't not only Naomi that regularly asked Janeway about her. This made her inappropriately pleased. Inappropriate because this was obviously a sore spot for her former captain, but pleased because the crew knew enough to assume, and rightly so, that Seven would reach for Kathryn first. She was right to come here, right to leave Nevada-and their assumptions confirmed it. Validation, pride. This feels Real- is returned. I want to... I must be slow. Wounded animals need time.


“Why would she do that- she and I have not had contact. Should she not 'give up'? Why didn't the others abandon their attempts to reach me? Even Tuvok, whom I admire and consider to be a logical, pragmatic individual, sent me nine letters over four years- each at sentimental points on the Vulcan Calendar... If there can be such a thing.”

Seven ran her hands on either side of Kathryn's neck, and placed her thumbs at its base, pushing upward. She did not, did not, did not allow herself to become distracted by the almost inaudible moan that proceeded Kathryn's response.

“Voyager was special- we needed each person, each individual to survive, there wasn't room for formality and detachment- most of the time anyway. When people depend on each other in hostile environments, those relationships, those friendships are difficult to break-difficult to forget...”

 

Her voice trailed off as for a moment, Seven held her head in her hands and pressed slightly behind her ears, then down her neck.

 

“Those kinds of shared experiences make the maintenance work seem irrelevant- the person you are reaching for was once absolutely necessary to you. It would be foolish, for example, from the crews perspective, to throw away that relationship. Tuvok wrote you because he still feels you are part of his family. They all do.”

 

Seven smirked. “A 'paper trail' to follow in the absent of sent markings- in the absence of group bonding.”

Kathryn turned her head slightly to look over her shoulder. “Excuse me?”

“I have been considering several animals, mountain lions- to be part of my collective for sometime. They cannot reply when I speak to them, but communicate effectively none the less. The leave scent trails, markings- engage in social grooming.”

 

Seven found she was using a considerable amount of self control to prevent herself from dropping her lips down to the curve of Kathryn's neck. She felt alive, having discussions with this woman about human nature as if they'd never been parted- and with a closer physical intimacy that she had only dreamed of.

 

“I found that it was easier to speak to animals. You mention honesty as a point of communication between humans. Animals do not lie, or at least, they are as bad as it as I am.”


She smoothed her hands down Kathryn's back, abandoning the pretense of the medication entirely and working the knotted muscles right above the woman's hip bones. Please understand what is meant by this. Understand that every touch means 'I love you'. When Kathryn voiced her appreciation, a moan muted by the palm of her hand, Seven reluctantly decided that she could not take further stimulation.

 

“I am out of lotion Kathryn.” She placed her hands carefully on the narrow shoulders, pleased to see the burns already fading. This drone will secure access to this den site, it is.. home. “I would enjoy continuing to speak with you, but I need to make arrangements to retrieve my alcove from Star-Fleet.”

 

Seven watched as Kathryn's ears flushed scarlet, even under her receding burn. She waited, as sheepishly, Kathryn turned around to face her.


“Star Fleet tried to contact you after all of the debriefings and investigations were over, to return technology they had seized. When you didn't claim them, they were going to be destroyed- or shipped to different laboratories to be dismantled and studied... I didn't think you would want that. So I wrote you – I..... erm, I have them.”

Of course, from Kathryn's letters, Seven knew precisely where her alcove was. The woman had told her herself....But dangerous animals need to be approached slowly, on their own terms.

 

“That is convenient. Where is it? I have not had occasion to regenerate. I would like to do so.”


Her blush deepened and Seven found it charming. “I well, It's erm in yo-spare room- itsinthespareroom.”

 

“Expedient.”

She waited until Kathryn's eyes drifted back to hers before continuing. This drone will be received. This drone is wanted. This drone will stay here. She took one of Kathryn's hands in her own.

 

“ Kathryn, I believe we should retire now. I have errands and several appointments I will need to accomplish early tomorrow, and over the course of the next few days. Would it be acceptable for me to stay in your spare room, as my alcove is already installed? Until I make other arrangements”

 

Kathryn only a little startled, replied without missing a beat. “You are welcome to stay as long as you need to.”

 

I will need to stay with you for my foreseeable future.


“Thank you. If you are agreeable, I would like to continue our conversation tomorrow evening- we are both tired.” And this drone's self control is tested with your proximity.

 

“Yes, erm. Let me show you to your room.”

Mine. Yes.

 

Kathryn lead her up the stairs, and Seven, by her own estimation did a remarkable job of not staring at Kathryn's backside during the journey. She led Seven a short way down the hall, and opened the last door on the left. Seven didn't need to turn on the lights, her vision was superior to human sight, but the enhancement was unnecessary. One whole wall of the room was a vast window, and the clear night illuminated the room well enough. It was sparsely, but elegantly furnished, if empty. Seven could see that off of the side of the main space, there was a narrow hallway, and she could make out a telling faint glow.


Seven turned around to see Kathryn leaning against the door frame, studying her intently, trying to read her. Seven thought this was just as well. This drone has no abiding wish to hide its intentions. Seven, mindful not to push this first interaction too far, cupped Kathryn's face gently.

“Thank you. Good night.”

She was going to exit when Kathryn's hand alighted, almost like a bird, on her wrist. Slowly, Seven lowered her hand, but Kathryn didn't release her. She was just staring up at her with those grey-blue eyes intense and searching, before dropping her gaze to their hands. Seven watched fascinated as Katheryn took both of her hands, turning them over in her own. Seven considered that perhaps she was looking for markings, perhaps a marriage band, or that maybe Kathryn was still trying to convince herself that Seven was solid.

This will convince her.
She stepped in. Their bodies were so close to touching that when Seven lowered her mouth to kiss her forehead, she could feel Kathryn's hot rush of breath against her throat.

“Goodnight Kathryn, I will be here when you return from work tomorrow.”


As firmly as she could she ordered herself away. This drone will comply. She gave Kathryn one more confidant, and what she hoped was reassuring, smile, before she closed the door softly behind her.

 

She braced herself against he door, breathing as quietly as possible. Listening to make sure Kathryn moved away. Her mind was reeling, her nostrils still flared trying to catch her scent. She burned to leave the room and take precisely what she wanted. To taste Kathryn's mouth, her skin- to belong and in a way that she could not believe she was being given a second chance at. She sighed in mixed relief and disappointment when she finally heard Kathryn turn, and walk slowly down the hall.

 

Seven slumped a little, and rested her head against the wood. It would not do rush the reunion she wanted. Not while Kathryn was unsure of her. She would remedy that, she just needed more time. There was a small part of her that was hesitant. That thought perhaps Kathryn was in love with who she had been before -with who she had been on Voyager. After all, Seven had years of reading to assure herself of who Kathryn had continued to grow into- But Kathryn had no such assurances, or record of how Seven herself had changed. This drone has... has grown independent. This drone has adapted to life outside of its collective-this drone has survived isolation. This drone chooses to return. This drone has chosen it family from the mass of life on this planet-in this quadrant. This drone chooses Kathryn. She hoped, that after Kathryn knew how she had lived the last four years of her life, she would choose her too.

 

Chapter Text

Kathryn woke up, completed her streamlined morning routine, and still half asleep moseyed down the stairs to let her girls out. She was making her way to the replicator, when the smell of coffee caught her attention and she turned to follow it. On the side board was a steaming mug of coffee, and a fruit plate. She took the mug in hand, and as she lifted it, noticed a brief note. Clean angular script.

KJ,
I know you skip breakfast.
7/9

Slowly, Kathryn set the mug back down, and lowered elbows to the surface. She cradled her head. You didn't dream it Katie. The events of yesterday came back to her and she swallowed hard. Seven was here- or at least had been here last night. She had really been that sick- had really been taken care of by Seven, by Seven of Nine. Had been given a massage for Christ sake. Then offered up her home to her for as long as Seven cared to stay. And now here Kathryn was, a neat and fastidious note just under her reminding her to eat. Don't get used to this Katie. Don't you dare. Kathryn took a slow sip of the coffee and tried not to let her eyes roll back. She glared at her replicator and wondered if the beast had been holding out on her deliberately.... or perhaps Seven made everything better just by association.

 

She was not sure what of make of Seven staying under her roof or the kinds of things she'd pieced together over the last day... Seven cavorts with Lions, Seven didn't get any of her Mail, Seven has not had access to her alcove. Kathryn wasn't sure what to do. Part of her itched to check the federation database and see if Seven was still still listed as married and- hell, if Seven's still listed as alive at all - because the feeling of her hands down Kathryn's back had been surreal.

She was a little annoyed that she hadn't gotten more out of the woman, that she hadn't gotten clear answers..... nor, had she been clear with her own feelings. Kathryn was sure that Seven knew she loved her- after all, here was a note that told her Seven had read her letters. How many times, Gods, how many ways did you tell her in your letters....Seven had been so kind- not necessarily non judgmental, but nonplussed about everything-from finding her half cooked in the garden, to putting cream on her burns. She could not tell if Seven was just being friendly- if she had just been starved for touch out in the badlands- and had needed a friend and some kind of communion. However, they way they had stood together last night had been too electric- to alive to have been all in her head.


Kathryn closed her eyes again and remembered how close Seven had been, hardly a fraction apart, and how she had held her hands in her own- Kathryn had been sure that Seven was going to kiss her. And then- gently, softy- the door had been closed in her face.


She sighed and looked down at the fruit. I had better, I suppose. She ate most of it, finished her coffee and bagged the rest to take with her. She pulled on her coat against the slight morning chill, and locked up calling her dogs to heel as she made her way to 'Fleet HQ. A normal Thursday. Nothing special. Do not think about domestic bliss- do not think about coming home to Seven today. She'll change her mind. She'll make other plans. Do not think of her at all. She snorted at herself as Clyde came to her side and butted her hand for scratches. That wouldn't be a normal day at all if I didn't think of Seven.

 

Despite her initial trepidation, the day went smoothly. She did not however, check her inbox. She decided that she didn't need that kind of stress, and besides- it wasn't as if she couldn't be phoned in her office in case of an emergency. She stretched, and thought of Se- Nope. Normal Thursday. Glancing at the chronometer on her station, Kathryn decided she'd take a late afternoon break and go for a jog around the complex- let the dogs out with her like she normally did. Thats it, steady routine. Yup. Normal Thursday. Its good for you.

Kathryn had just completed her third circuit, feeling a little bit anxious for no particular reason, when she was almost bowled to the ground.

“There you are. I just saw Seven-” Half out of breath B'Elanna Torres was helping her back onto her feet and staring at her intently. “- She just showed up 'on business' at the Planetia ship yard. You, Kathryn-” She poked Kathryn's chest, just above her standard com link- “Are evil.”

Kathryn just stared at the compact woman trying not to let this intrusion absolutely flatten the artificial calm she was trying to maintain.

“She mentioned she's staying with you? Whats going on," She exhaled her next words, " Khhallessss- we could trade information. Tell me whats up with Seven, and I'll-oh, I'll tell you about the new ship in dry dock.”

Kathryn tamped down on a wave of panic, and masked it with a broad smile. She wiped a bit of sweat out of her eyes and relaxed. Its only 'Lanna. Get a grip Katie. She thought a moment and then feeling clever grinned.

“I didn't think there was a new ship 'Lanna, thank you for letting me know.” She batted her eyelashes and trotted away.

She got only a few steps before B'Elanna was pacing after her.

 

“OH, oh, no you don't. Get back her your Admiralship- have some Honor.”


Stepping back into her jog and deciding another circuit was in order, Kathryn tossed over her shoulder “I don't know what you're talking about, dear, we didn't make a deal.”

 

“Janeway you- ouh ugh-”
Kathryn turned around at the odd sound to find Clyde up on her hind legs, licking at B'Lanna's throat and face and Bonnie frisking about it what looked like an earnest attempt to knock her down out of pure excitement.

Laughing she helped wrestled the dogs down, but B'Lanna went down on her knees to play with them for a spell. Without looking up, B'Lanna spoke a little softer.

“Seriously, Captain...” B'Lanna sometimes called her that, a term of endearment that her old crew still occasionally used, and now- as ever, she could feel her self soften marginally at it's sound. “I'm glad she's with you. I get the feeling she's been I don't know, unhappy? Nothing horrible or anything-she wouldn't stand for that. But I don't know, I think there was something wrong at the ranch. I don't think she was herself- or Chak wasn't himself. I'm not sure. I'm not good with feelings- you know that.”

 

Kathryn felt the echoes of the regret she felt earlier tug at her, tangle her stomach. “ Did she mention him at all- is he alright- anything I can do?”

“I don't think so. Seven mentioned in passing that his 'behavior suggested he was processing his emotional needs in an unhealthy manner'. She didn't say a word against him though. I think she thinks he must be ill.”

Kathryn sighed, squatting down next to B'Lenna and tussling with dogs. She'd give up on the extra lap. Normal. Try for a normal Thursday Katie... “I know all about unhealthy processing.”

B'lanna fairly chortled. “Yeah, I know. Remember- remember when we first got back and we ran that intruder simulation of the holo deck- no safeties. Against a Hirogen invasion. For, what was it you called it 'Cathartic Purposes'.”

Kathryn rubbed the back of her neck. “Yeahhhh...”

They were silent a moment and when B'Lanna did speak, it was in an almost uncharacteristically soft voice as she stroked one of the dogs' snouts. “If she's staying with you Kathryn... I know she'll be alright. Take care of her yeah? She's something else.”

Kathryn didn't know what to say to that, or where to fit that into her 'normal day' paradigm so she nodded and headed back up to change and finish out her day.

She had been winding down for the evening back in the office with maybe another fifteen minuets left of the day- before the last bit of 'normal' was blown to the wind as her com rang. The vid screen opened easily and her mother was there- and wearing the kind of expression one only assumes when they're trying to look innocent.

“How are you Kathryn?”
“From the way you're smiling, I can tell you're up to something. Whats going on?”
Gretchen adopted a fake, wounded tone. “ Not a thing! Can't I call my daughter? My daughter who I couldn't speak to- couldn't see- for seven long years-”

“Mom.”


She leveled her mother a glare, but well, her mother had taught it to her, so it did nothing to affect Gretchen's almost manic smile. “Speaking of Seven....”

Kathryn narrowed her eyes. “What about her?”

“Well, she didn't come back to the farm last night, I wanted-”

“What?” Kathryn blinked, blindsided.

“She didn't tell you? She showed up on my doorstep Tuesday night looking like a desert sprite asking for you. She spent the night. The next day I sent her on up to you. She did come to see you, didn't she?”

 

Kathryn could feel herself blushing a slightly. “Yeah. She's staying in the guest room until she makes arrangements.”

“ Arrangements for what, when?”


Kathryn shifted her weight. She looked down, feeling like a child again under her mothers scrutiny. “She didn't mention.”

When she did look up it was to Gretchen's indulgent smile. “Katie, are you going to- I mean honestly-”


Kathryn pinched the bridge of her nose and waved a hand to discourage further speech. “Please. I've got to finish up here to be home in time for dinner-”

“You're having dinner.” The excitement in her tone was unmistakable.
“Mom...”
“Its a date Kathryn. That woman came all the way-”
“Mother-”
“The pair of you should come for dinner on Sunday.” The note of finality carried a certain degree of smugness.
“I'll asked her, but by then she might have other plans. She said she had business to take care of.”
“Mmh. I bet.”
“MOM.”
“Have a good date dear, I'll see you two Sunday.”

 

Before Kathryn could snap a reply Gretchen cut the vid link and Kathryn was left pacing anxiously in her office. She looked over to where Bonnie lay curled in a fluffy red heap by the door.


“You don't think its really a date, do you girl.”


The dog raise her eyebrows and cocked her head to the side before setting her head back down on her paws. The knowing, and almost condescending look she offered made Kathryn roll her eyes.

 

“Of course, I forgot. You took her side last night too.”

Clyde came slinking out from her spot under the desk, deceptively quiet for such a large dog, and licked at Kathryn's fingers. “What about you?”
Clyde looked away wining softly. “You too, eh?”
Resigned, Kathryn turned thumbed off her station, and steeled herself for her trip home. Just make it though dinner- she might not even be there....

 

~
When Kathryn arrived back in Indiana, she couldn't quite bear to go inside. She wasn't sure what scared her more, Seven's potential presence there, or her potential absence. She walked around to back, to by herself just a bit more time, and to turn on the sprinkler and attend her garden- because I did such a good job yesterday. She was coiling the hose back up when she heard a faint playful yipping from the front gate, and then her front door opening and closing. Cautiously, she peered over to the window that gave her a clear line of sight to the kitchen and she could make out the outline of a familiar figure setting bags on the counter. She came back. She said she would. She walked over to sand by the door, and for the second time in as many days, listened to Seven singing as she moved about the house. She couldn't make out the words, but it was soft and sweet. It made her feel content and home in a way that she didn't know she had been missing. Kathryn couldn't help think what other sounds the woman might make when she was happy, would she sound as sweet when she was being pleasured- stop that. Her hand froze on the door latch.


She shook herself. When did you start being such a coward Katie. Go in there, cripes, its your house.
Kathryn entered the kitchen, and moved to the sink to wash the dirt off her hands. She tried not to stare at Seven too openly as she set groceries along the counter. She came back. When Seven spoke, Kathryn acknowledged privately that she'd been longing to here her voice all day.


“I thought you would like to prepare a meal with me?”


Kathryn dried her hands in slow movements and restrained her enthusiasm. As if this isn't your life's wish. She came back. “Yes, that sounds good to me.”

Seven smiled “ Very well. Could you start by chopping these?”

Kathryn felt a little bit awkward at first, to aware of the rasp of the knife against the cutting board through the vegetables she was slicing. She kept telling herself not to get used to this, that making dinner with Seven in the kitchen she'd built for- well, Katie in the house you built for her- was a one time only experience... but somewhere along the line she forgot to be tense and reserved. Good humor broke through, and she and Seven established an easy rapport, moving gracefully around each other in the space between counters, almost as if they'd been doing it for years. Well, we've been moving around voyager together for years, it wouldn't be something I'd be likely to forget.

 

“I met that 'new girl' you mentioned in your letters, at Head Quarters today,” Seven said, rapping Kathryn's knuckles soundly as she tried to sneak out a slice of red pepper from underneath Seven's knife, “You were right, assimilation would greatly improve her demeanor.”

 

Kathryn' laughed, shaking the sting out of her hand, and leaned back against the counter. She watched as Seven scraped the last of the vegetables into the Pyrex dish and covered it with cooking foil. She did not watch as Seven bent at the waist to put it in the oven. No, she did not watch. Nope.

Seven began to clean her food preparation area and glanced over to give Kathryn's uniform a once over. “Would you like to change for dinner 'Admiral'. The dish should be ready in approximately forty minuets,” then almost as an after thought she added, “I am going to change.”

Kathryn' stretched, feeling a bit sore from her over enthusiastic run earlier in the day. “I'll take a bath and meet you down here then?”
“Agreeable.” Seven held her gaze for a moment before returning to cleaning her knives and cutting boards.
Kathryn paused before making her way upstairs. She could have sworn that Seven's look had been weighted- appraising-as if she had been considering Kathryn naked in the bath. Nope. Nope. She dismissed that and tried not to run from the room and into the comfort of her in-suit tub.

She felt flustered and excited. She was of course, annoyed that she was now fussing over what to wear- and annoyed by how badly, how desperately she wanted Seven to like how she looked. When she got out of her hot soak, she settled on an open throated loose white shirt, the sleeves gathered in ties at her elbows, and a simple green wrap skirt. It felt soft, and wasn't overly formal and.. well, Katie, it makes you feel pretty. She didn't bother with jewelry or shoes.. but she did indulge herself in a bit of perfume behind her ears, and on her wrists. If it is a date, and its not a date, I want to look nice for my date, who wouldn't be her. She couldn't remember the last time she dressed up for a person, and not an event- and not in her dress uniform for that matter.

When Kathryn came back into the kitchen she stood in the door way, watching Seven stand at the dining table pouring golden liquid into two long stem glasses.

“Is this acceptable? Its carbonated cider, I thought that....”
Acceptable?- you look good enough to eat.
Seven was wearing a light powdery blue summer dress with a golden sunflower print. It wasn't quite sleeveless, but had finger with straps that came to a collar around her throat that made Kathryn ache to strip it off of her with her teeth. She swallowed, following the princess bodice cut to the a-line skirt that swished around her calves.

“....thought that after yesterday you wouldn't want to drink.”
“You're right,” Kathryn berated herself her trip to... elsewhere, “I don't drink often, or alone.Yesterday-”
“I would like to discuss that.”
She winced. “Discuss my Alcoholism? Its not pretty Seven, but I...”

“No, I believe you are to far recovered for that to be the correct term for your condition. However, that is not what I meant.”

Seven plated their meal and gave Kathryn dishes to carry to the table while she took the silverware and some cloth napkins from a drawer by the sink.

 

“Oh?”
Kathryn set the food on the place mats, and then seated herself after Seven took her own place opposite her. She couldn't shake how painfully domestic the whole scene was, she tried to burn it into her memory.

“I think,” Seven took a bite of her food before continuing and Kathryn had to look away. How can eating be so erotic? Its just food. Just old friends eating dinner...“I think your actions seemed to be the result of significant emotional distress and as a direct result of my own actions.”

Kathryn suddenly felt a little over exposed, and wished for a second that she still had some of the protections afforded her by her command tunic. She pushed her food around her plate. As much to prolong the actual meal as to buy herself time.

“I am the only one responsible for my actions Seven, you didn't do anything wrong.”

 

“Of course you are responsible for your actions. However, I might have 'dropped you a line' to inform you of my intentions. I was determined to see you Kathryn. I did not consider sparing time to write.”

 

Kathryn swallowed as unobtrusively as possible as she watched Seven swallow a sip of cider from the elegant glass- a house warming gift from Harry. She'd been determined to see me? Intentions, Christ. Yes. Tell me, what are your intentions . She thought maybe, she should just ask her. Seeing as they were being so friendly and there wasn't an airlock handy near by she could float herself in if it all went to hell. Again. So she rallied before she forgot how scared she was of the answer.

“Seven, what are your intentions?”

Seven regarded her with what she was sure others would have called a cool disinterest. But Kathryn had studied her face long enough to know it, to know it better than she knew the schematics of Voyager. The current expression was one of reserved interest. And by the faint purse of lips, the subtle raises of the corners of her eyes- Kathryn would hazard a guess a little bit of humor too.

“To continue the course of our philosophical discussion from yesterday evening.”

Obviously.”
Kathryn smiled as Seven tilted her head to the side, the light catching and sliding along the seam of her optical implant. I want to run my tongue- nope. Nope. Nope. Old friends. Dinner. “Well, lets finish our discussion then. Where should we pick up from?”

 

“We had concluded that both humans and animals will leave trails- by differing means- to allow their loved ones to find them again.”

“That was not quite how we phrased it.” The words were out of her mouth in a sarcastic lilt before she could think to stop them.
Seven half shrugged in such a familiar way that for a moment, Kathryn thought she was back in the woman's(- because it had always been hers-) Astrometric lab.
“No- Though, this is more succinct summation. Is it untrue?”
“No... but where did you plan to go from there?”

“I wanted to provide you with the same courtesy you allowed me.”


Apprehension tickled the back of her neck and Kathryn leaned slightly back into her chair, straightening her posture. She wanted to at least look confidant and in control of herself because she could feel herself slipping.

“What do you mean Seven.” It wasn't quite a question.
“I 'mean' to give to you an account of my time in Nevada,. How I cam to be in your home. I wish to discuss several points of interest in my past and hear your input upon them... I wish to leave you a trail...”
Kathryn abandoned her ridged display, stupid she thought, and leaned forward into the edge of the table.
“Seven, you can tell me anything. You can talk to me about whatever you like. I'm... I'm just glad you're here, alright?”
Seven smiled, at her and Kathryn thought that she would endure most anything to see that smile everyday.
“Very well.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Seven took a small sip of cider and considered from where she should begin.

 

She felt nervous and anxious. She was fairly burning with energy- upon waking from regeneration earlier in the day she could not believe how deprived of rest she was. It had given her renewed perspective. She now only needed to expend the energy she had been afforded in the appropriate manner.

She had left Kathryn's home early, and made the necessary arrangements and appointments to start her life- to restart and make what she hoped, would be the correct choices. She had secured a position as a civilian scientist, and appealed to head the foundering team working on her slip-stream initiative. She was aware that they planned to install them in a new class of ships, 'Voyager class'- but could not move forward. She made a few suggestions, and offered to assist their team, and as a condition of her acceptance, had insisted that Lt. Torres be selected for the team as well. Torres was already doing much of the work, but without enough classified information to be successful in her endeavors. Seven anticipated that she would work well with B'Elanna, or at the very least, their good natured conflict would drive them both towards success.


She had also put a bid, a place holder, on a property in San Francisco. Close enough to her new work place to be practical, and near enough the Torres/Paris household, as well as the Wildman's, to ensure no undue future separations. She considered this a reasonable safeguard against the absolute possibility of Kathryn's dismissal. Seven would pursue her own interest, gather her collective- but she desperately wanted that collective to include Kathryn, and in any capacity. She had worked this morning to set herself in motion, to move forward- but it did not dispel her need to be known. She wanted Kathryn to see the person she'd changed into- This drone has changed- and for Kathryn to choose her- This drone has come to value choice- and not the person she had been before.


She weighed her next words carefully as she studied the woman across the table. She was acutely aware that the only reason she was currently sitting in this woman's dining room- in her home, her Indiana refuge- was because of her artificial leverage. Her knowledge of Kathryn, how she had changed and grown and struggled gave her an unprecedented advantage... but it was also how Seven was enjoying her company, hearing her voice, smelling her perfume, sleeping under her roof. She was aware that the course of the conversation that followed would determine weather or not she would ever experience any of it again. This drone will begin.

“ I wrote to you at first. In the first weeks of my arrival on Earth, during the hearings. I was angry. I was frightened. I did not understand why you had removed yourself from me. I feel guilt now, for giving up on our correspondence. You did not give up on me.”


Seven found it difficult to speak with the way Kathryn was watching her. She had observed her former captain on the bridge- knew that this kind of attention denoted intense interest. This drone will continue. Kathryn's time and attention were valuable, it would not do to waste them.

“I agreed to date Chakotay on Voyager because I believed it to be the logical, and there for the best- the only course of action. It seemed safe. The most rational course. The one most able to meet with what I thought were conditions of happiness; Order, Stability, a Family Unit. Marriage was a natural solution to the problem of courtship. I now acknowledge that adherence to this structure of thought can be...” she foundered, then located the correct words “ Can mask cowardice.”

Seven watched Kathryn's eyebrows raise, her shoulder shift- the subtle displacement of weight across her opposite hip as she crossed her legs. This drone has surprised her. Kathryn's fingers splayed at the edge of her place mat, and Seven willed herself not to extrapolate upon their prospective strength or skill.


“Elaborate.”

Her own words coming out of Kathryn's mouth were both comforting and foreboding. It reminded her of late night conversations- spent on diametric opposites of the debate. This drone wanted this. This drone will continue.

“When I had the inhibitor removed, it was not only feelings for Chakotay that I was able to process. My feelings were irrational- incoherent. I could not plot them- could not qualify them. My feelings for you were tumultuous, distracting- incongruous. Intense. When Chakotay expressed his desire to pursue a relationship his affection could be quantified, measured, and acted upon- and to a degree, reciprocated. They were safe feelings that did not leave me- Confused. Or filled with heat and longing.”

Seven watched as Kathryn looked away, as she stood, walked to the replicator and coded a coffee. She didn't speak. Seven wasn't sure if this was a good sign or not, but she had observed her pace in the past, when lost in thought, and it comforted her to see that Kathryn hadn't changed this habit. Seven returned to her narration.

 

“I thought that this course of action would make me more human. It did; However, not in the way I had anticipated. I know regret more intimately than I ever I expected I should. The basic assumption that my first act -to continue my relationship in spite of my feelings- was correct informed my conduct. Each subsequent choice, though difficult, seemed to validate me... and when I suspected error, made it more difficult to face censure.”

 

Kathryn paused, sipping her coffee and standing at the other edge of the room, three-quarters to Seven.
“Tell me about your home in Nevada.”

“Nevada is not my home.”

Seven noted the way Kathryn's muscles tensed slightly, and hoped that it was from something other than revulsion. This drone will continue.

She told Kathryn about her struggle to conform to community technological restrictions. How at first the challenge had been intriguing. Then, how it was stifling, and damaging to her physiology- she struggled to rely solely on her solar unit, and the council did not approve of her bio-metric suits, or prolonged use of her portable unit. She told her about how difficult sleep was, and how she found small ways to rebel against the strict sanctions of her adopted tribe.

 

She said how much she had come to resent her co-workers and staff at Daystrom for their apprehension and skittishness around her- how she had felt she had no peers- only those that feared and reviled her for the same skills they coveted. She said how she had resigned with no notice, and the shame that stung at her because of it.

She told Kathryn about the work stations she had built along the boarder of the land that she had shared. How she had sought community from broken discarded tools that only needed minimal repair. She told Kathryn how confused she felt about learning to lie- she had been asked about her activities, and evaded discussing her illicit workshops- and no one had noticed.

She told Kathryn about the night she had told Chakotay she had miscarried when he found her bunker. How she had felt a nauseating relief. She could not have imagined loving a child that came of her body- not when she felt frustrated at her continual dependence on technology, not when she saw the people of her town gave her looks of fear and awe when she was  on errands. The same way her colleagues at Daystrom had. She could not stomach the idea of having a child that came from a body she hated.


She told Kathryn of how she had met the mountain Lions. How viscerally she had been reminded of Kathryn- how much she longed for a community that reminded her of Voyager. She mentioned how in the cabin, around anyone in the village, she had been made to feel that speaking of her past was unacceptable-that she should live and work in the present. She told Kathryn about how after she had dispatched the threat to the lion, she had named the creature Captain. She said how much being with the felines Captain, and her offspring Naomi, and Icheb and Harry, had brought her her first measure of happiness in Nevada. How they helped her to realize that she did not have to follow formulaic logic if she chose not to.

Seven paused to drink. She could not recall ever speaking for this length of time, even to Captain, or Naomi. She tracked Kathryn's sure slow stride over the carpet, and the line of her arm as she ordered herself yet another coffee. When Kathryn spoke, her voice was low and calm.

“You spent a great deal of time with a lion you named 'Captain'.”

 

“It seemed appropriate.”

Kathryn closed her eyes, and took a drag from her mug before responding. “Quite.”

“I did spend a great deal of time at her den site...”

She told her that when she spent time with the lions after her second failed pregnancy she had started to enjoy her body- she was strong and fast enough even without proper regeneration, to earn an unprecedented place with creatures that made her feel joy, connection, comfort, and security. She told Kathryn how she had enjoyed their easy companionship and the thrill of a clean hunt with them. How in her way, she had also enjoyed defending them from predators- she'd been the apex beast in her territory and reveled in defending those she loved.

 

She told Kathryn how after her third pregnancy had not gotten far along before her body had terminated it, that she strongly suspected it was from a lack of resources. She had not advocated strongly for her own needs- her reliance on her borg technology. She had stopped wearing her suits at that point, stopped using her solar unit entirely, and was sleeping. Or trying to.

She told her how she had been caught by Chakotay on a hunt with Captain and had not been able to return to the mountain lions. How bitter and resentful that had made her- how much it had felt like loosing Kathryn a second time. She told her how she felt she had failed at each task she had set out to accomplish. How when she failed to carry to term for a fourth time, she decided she would not try again. She told Kathryn about waking up from a dream calling her name, and how finally- she had been able to confront her feelings, and have an honest conversation with Chakotay. How she had found out about her letters, how she had come to Indiana.

“I...” Seven felt- heard her own voice break. It sounded as brittle as she felt. “I feel my time on Earth to be a series of mistakes.”

 

Seven flexed her hands in her lap, conscious of her ridged posture, but unable to address it. “I have read how others from Voyager, how you have overcome difficulty. Have grown. I have not. I have failed. I was missing, I did not act on my feelings. I chose a calm secure track with no challenges. I was wrong.”

She could sense Kathryn behind her, on the far path of her orbit around the room. She could practically see her standing there, regarding her with her diplomatic expression, and sharp grey eyes. This drone will complete this task.

“I could not adapt to a 'human' life on the reservation. I did not make connections to any individual in my adopted tribe. I resigned from a prestigious institute for no discernible reason. I failed to be a mother, I failed to be a good companion - I failed my marriage.”

 

I failed to love you properly. But she could not quite say it. Hearing herself say the words out loud, knowing Kathryn could hear her made her elated and sick. Still, she was almost done, and she would not fail this task at least. She would let Kathryn know that... that...

“I am not who your letters are addressed to. I am no longer empirical, as goal oriented. Fastidious. I understand if you no longer harbor fond feelings towards me, after processing the data I have provided.”

When she heard Kathryn begin to move again, then heard her tread stop just behind her chair, Seven was aware of just how much power over herself she had given. She could not help but imagine herself as the subject of Kathryn's hunt- if she had a tail, Seven was sure it would have been able to hear it lash. This drone will voice its intentions.

 

“I am prepared to make whatever indemnity- obeisance- that you request.”


Seven was momentarily proud she did not flinch when Kathryn's hand rested on her shoulder. It seemed to burn her like a brand. “Tell me what you want.”

Seven remembered what Gretchen had relayed about Kathryn's openness to Seven; 'Anything you care to give'... and she voiced it. “Anything you care to give. I require you in my collective.”

“That is not quite what I asked.” Her tone was one Seven recalled from the bridge; not impersonal or cruel- but implacably commanding. “Tell me. What you want.”

Seven closed her eyes, and decided that at this juncture there was nothing to be gained by 'hedging' her bets. It is at this point, this drone would be mauled if Kathryn were predisposed to such activities. She knew her display and deportment in human-Terran body language was lacking, so she fell back upon what she did know. She turned her cheek against Kathryn's hand on her shoulder. Faintly pressed her lips against freckled knuckles.

 

“I want you. I want all of you.”

She tilted her head away then, towards her opposite shoulder and exposed her neck. This is what a hunter would wait for. This is the opening I have not yet given... Will it be the feel of her claws in my back- or her fingers in my hair.

 

She could hardly believe it when she felt Kathryn's fingertips ghost up the column of her throat, or when she cupped her jaw and made Seven look at her. Her eyes were bright with tears, and her voice was hoarse.


“I have conditions.”

Seven closed her eyes. This drone will comply. Comply. Comply. Your drone will comply. It was a song in her head.

 

“Name them.” Seven could feel Kathryn exhale softly against her own mouth. “Enumerate and I will comply.”

 

“Never call yourself a failure again...”

 

This drone did not anticipate this. This drone has been granted amnesty.

Both hands on Sevens face now, Kathryn came around her to the side of the chair.

 

“...Do not change yourself to suit me.”

Seven swallowed, her eyes closed tight as Kathryn said,

“...Do not stay if you wish to leave. I couldn't bear it.”

 

Seven felt a tear slip from behind her right eye, and Kathryn brushed it aside with a thumb, “....Don't cry over me.”


Seven smiled hesitantly, willing her eyes open. “ Too late.”

Kathryn smiled back at her, pressed her forehead against Seven's, “And never stop contradicting me. Please.”

“You are intelligent; we are bound to agree eventually.” Seven could hardly believe her own daring, was half afraid she had made yet another mistake, but then Kathryn was laughing- a relieved watery sound.

She disengaged to look at her, and Seven watched a tear slide down her check and catch in the corner of her mouth. Seven was made aware that perhaps she had stared too long at Kathryn's mouth when she detected her blush, noted the chemical change that denoted... arousal.

“If your next condition is that I kiss you-”

But Kathryn's mouth was already on her own.

 

 

Chapter Text

Kathryn could hardly breathe could hardly think. She'd finally acted on her initial impulse, and was hell bent on kissing Seven senseless. Her mouth was indescribably soft, pliant beneath her own and welcoming, so goddamn welcoming.

“ 'Nnnno longer harbor fond feelings'-” She couldn't help the soft moan that escaped her as Seven's tongue flicked at the seam of her lips, anymore than she could help her instinct to tease Seven, “mmhm, 'processed data'. Silly Borg. No, no, no. I have to have you.”

She leaned further into the kiss, her hands falling from Seven's face to her shoulders. She felt like a missing piece of herself had been returned- it felt so right, so good- and then Seven was hauling her into her lap. She was straddling her now, her skirt bunched up to mid thigh and Seven's hand was fisted in her hair- pulling her head back and to the side. Her mouth was less pliant now, slanted across hers, urgent and decidedly hungry.

Kathryn couldn't believe how fast the power dynamic had changed. She had felt exposed, almost painfully transparent, and then Seven had begun her story and well Christ, Katie, what a story. What an incredible woman. It had clawed its way inside of her, and the only thing she could think to do to sooth the ache was to touch Seven, to kiss her, to kiss her and make everything better. The way Seven had exposed her neck, her throat, had been a devastatingly elegant and tender gesture. She'd been endanger of loving her to much. Of not being able to speak. All she had needed then was to hear Seven say what she thought had been impossible; That Seven wanted her. Impossible, her tongue is in your mouth, her fingers are in your hair, nothing is impossible now.

 

She skated her fingers over Seven's biceps, over her clavicle, and hooked her fingers into the collar of Sevens dress. She worked her fingers back and forth along its edges. Seven groaned into her mouth, catching her tongue, scraping gently along teeth- it made her stomach do a delicious roll and she found her hips mimicking the motion. Seven's hands gripped her ass, matched the pace for a few moments before she broke the kiss, dropping her mouth along Kathryn's jaw. Seven panted into Kathryn's ear, along the sweat slick curve of her neck.

 

“Any more caveats?”


Kathryn groaned, trying to angle her pubic bone against that lovely band of metal on Seven's abdomen she'd hit just moments before, “Don't....”

“'Do not' what-?”

 

Kathryn turned her head and kissed Seven with a ferocity that surprised even herself. I have waited for you to love me for so, so long.. don't- don't...

“Don't stop.”

“-Oh, Kathryn...”

She kissed her way along Kathryn's neck, scattering little kisses and bites that had her gasping, until Seven was pushing her loose white shirt over her shoulder, down down- and then her breast was in Seven's strong hand and she couldn't think very well at all. She felt Seven's left hand smooth up her thigh, gathering and then pushing aside the fabric of her skirt to slide underneath and cup her mons.

Seven feathered her fingers over her sex with a gentleness that was as arousing as it was infuriating. Kathryn could not make up her mind if this encounter was going too fast- too slow? To slow by far- because one of Seven's fingers was tracing an agonizingly slow trail across her labia, teasing her through her scrap of underwear . Kathryn gripped the collar of Sevens dress roughly.

“Darling- please-”

She brought her head forward to find Seven's eyes again and she was looking at her with such wonderful admiration, such naked pride and desire. If Kathryn hadn't already been flushed and wanting, she would have been scarlet and dripping... Then again, Katie, that's what you're doing now, dripping right into the palm of her hand. She wanted Seven out of this dress that felt like the softest cotton against the backs of her legs, and into her bed. She was going to say as much when one of Seven's fingers slipped past the suggestion of fabric posing as panties. It sunk to third knuckle and Kathryn's voice broke on a satisfied husk. It rock against her once, perfect- twice- perfect- three times per-

Kathryn almost whined in frustration as the digit withdrew. Seven smiled wickedly, brought her hand up and spread the sticky wetness she'd drawn out over Kathryn's exposed nipple.

“ 'Please'. Please taste you? Yes. I will.”

Oh, you marvelous creature.

 

Seven's mouth was wet hot velvet over her pebbled skin, and Kathryn threaded her fingers through Seven's hair to keep her head bowed there. Her hands were back against Kathryn's ass, urging her to rock again, holding her just shy of the ridge of an implant that would have ground against her clit. Maddening, for the love of all that is holy- its like she knows exactly how I like it. It occurred to her then, if what Seven had said was true, about having been in love with her ( and presently Kathryn was quite sure of at least that much), then perhaps Seven had contemplated at length how she would touch her. The implications of having all of Seven's considerable intellect, and razor intensity bent towards her own personal pleasure made her bite her lip. Oh Katie, be very good to this sweet girl- you certainly don't deserve her. Seven rasped her teeth over the skin she'd drawn taught into her mouth and flicked it deftly with her tongue. Kathryn couldn't help by cry out.

Seven cut her eyes up to Kathryn's and spoke to her around the sensitive skin, “Do you want me- do need me Kathryn?”

The spark of challenge, of play mixed with adoration made Kathryn's desire spike. She put her hands on Seven's chest, and pushed back, shrugging her shoulders to bring her shirt vaguely into place.

“ My sweet girl, there is a difference between need and want.”


She briefly caressed Seven's breasts, admiring the blush that stained Seven's cheeks, the curve of her mouth as she smiled, the flash of pink tongue as she licked her lips. She scooted back, the soft material of Seven's dress accommodating enough, until she could drop neatly to her knees at Sevens feet. She brushed her fingers whisper soft over Seven's ankles, tracing her short nails in a senseless pattern up her calves.

“-I-is there?”

“Absolutely.” She leaned forward, collecting the skirt of Sevens dress and bringing it up across the tops of her thighs. “I will demonstrate.” Kathryn smiled wolfishly, looked up from her position nuzzled against Seven's thigh and disappeared under blue silk.

 

~*~

Seven could not so much hear as feel the next words Kathryn spoke, but her processing was slow. She couldn't focus on her auditory capacities- her head felt like it was filled with down and fireflies.

“Right now, Seven, you only want me. I will show what need is.”

She heard something else, something about begging, but she could not focus. She felt so alive- elated and electric. She had thought this morning that she could not feel more of conduit for energy than when she stepped out of her alcove- she was advising her stance on that. She felt so grateful for each touch, each hardly-there pass of Kathryn's skin against her own. It felt like- like swallowing a live wire, a plasma fire, a sun- and she was sure her gratitude was spilling out from between her legs.

As Kathryn drew her cheek up the inside of her leg, Seven felt unsure. She was aware of the affect her implants had on others. She had several along her legs, and tracery of silver that capped her hip bones and a starburst implant just- just where Kathryn's mouth hand landed. Evidently this drone's reticence is misplaced. Seemingly in response to the breathy moan that slipped past her clenched teeth, Kathryn concentrated on the implant. Seven could feel her tongue it- the hot slide against each metal ray. The sensation almost burned- it ricocheted- information, pleasure searing to the larger implant at the base of her spine. This drone speculates these implants are embedded in the femoral nerves, connected to the T10 area. Vestigial tissue joining the navel to the bladder wall, to the uterine wall to- Seven could not finish the thought because suddenly her mouth wasn't there anymore, but was on her sex. Each kiss, each delicate swipe of Kathryn's tongue felt like absolution. She was not sure for whom.


Seven gripped  hard at the edges of her chair. She was not sure where to put her hands, and the chair seemed just as good an anchor as any other available location. She looked down, and all she could see of Kathryn where  her feet peeking from the hem of her green skirt. She felt her legs begin to shake, and she fought the urge to press herself against Kathryn's face, against her mouth. She flexed her feet, curling her toes into the plush carpet, before raising them to press her heels slightly into Kathryn's back. She felt something almost unbearably sweet ready to-

Kathryn gripped her hip firmly with one hand, and with the other pushed her legs further apart. Seven changed her posture to accommodate, her shoulders braced against the chair back.

“Do you want me.”

“Yes.” Seven wasn't sure why Kathryn had stopped. “ Yes I want-”
“ 'Want' not 'Need'. I see.”

This time Seven felt Kathryn's mouth on her ankle, a gentle kiss, a mild pressure with her teeth. Higher, and then back down, to lick at the hollow created by her tendons. Seven had not considered this area an erogenous zone. Nor, when Kathryn kissed and sucked and nipped at the backs of her knees, had Seven considered that area to be erogenous either. She reflected that perhaps its was an area of effect- conditional to Kathryn's proximity. She felt Kathryn's hands moving in concert, her nimble fingers sweeping along in the wake of her kisses and nips. Seven was gasping and more than a little breathless, when Kathryn's tongue parted her folds and stroked firmly up against her clit. Again. And again. Seven's fingers clenched white knuckled on the wood.


“Do you want me Seven?” Kathryn's voice was rich like honey and husky like smoke and Seven could hear the smugness, almost see her smile.

“Yes, Kathryn I want you so badly I-”

“Not good enough pretty girl.”

Kathryn flipped the dress up over head, leaving it bunched up and forgotten around her waist. Seven groaned as Kathryn lightly pressed back the hood of her clit and in light delicate swipes, passed her tongue just beneath its bottom ridge. This woman, this superlative female- She felt as if every nerve in her body had migrated between her legs specifically to receive Kathryn's ministrations. And then  fingers- painfully slow, pressed against her opening. Hardly contact, then a withdrawal. Then a fraction more- and a retreat. Each time dipping just a bit further, a touch faster. Seven found her self caught, completely ensnared in the rhythm Kathryn was exacting. A hand abandoned its grip on the chair to rest tentatively on the mass of red hair bobbing in her lap.

“Yes, Kathryn. Please yes-more.”

Her fingers seemed to reach deeper, and Seven was sure that it was her heart that Kathryn was touching because she felt so full inside her chest that the potential for immolation seemed a reality. I might expire- the wave of pleasure she was riding crested high, higher, she would surely climax-

Kathryn's hand stilled- but Seven's hips didn't. She rocked up against the hand, an almost involuntary response, and her fingers clenched tightly against the base of Kathryn's skull, pushing her forward.

No. Why? D-dont stop, I need-”

She heard Kathryn growl, felt it vibrate against her flesh, her clit- “That is 'Need'.”

Her fingers sprang into motion again, hitting that sweet spot that brought stars to dance in front of Seven's eyes- Flying. This is trans-warp. She could feel herself twitch, her hips cant up without her conscious volition. She could hear her own voice, foreign in her  ears, pleading inarticulately.

 

“That is need,Seven, that is how I feel about you.”

Seven shattered.

She came down slowly, floating back into her body from some high far off place. She felt languid, liquid and satisfied. Beyond satisfied. She released her hold on Kathryn's head, and studied her where she knelt, arms wrapped around Seven's legs. She was looking up at her with affection. Esteem. Desire. Love.

Seven leaned down, tilted Kathryn's chin up so she could kiss her. She could detect coffee, herself, and it was the most erotic thing she thought she had ever tasted. She could smell herself on Kathryn's skin and it made her feel... made her feel Strong. Invincible. She broke the contact, licked her lips. Feral.


She caught the fabric of the white shirt and tugged, willing Kathryn up against her, holding her close.

“I want- Need to touch you Kathryn,” She spoke between kisses, “Without Clothes. Now.”

Kathryn smiled against her mouth. “Bedroom?”

Seven wanted to lift her, wanted to carry her up the stair to the room she'd made for her, and ravish Kathryn completely. She suspected, however, that her legs would not accommodate this, and allowed Kathryn to lead her up the stairs. They stopped several times, but managed to stumble into the room, My room.

The room was well lit, bathed in early moon rise, and gilded by the sun setting. Seven tugged at the tie of Kathryn's wrap skirt and was surprised when Kathryn's hands stilled her own.

“Seven, I'm not young, I-”

Seven pressed her fingers against her lips. “I have conditions.”

She gathered Kathryn close, stroking her back, working the hem of her shirt free, and pulling it up, She glossed her hands over Kathryn's back, her shoulders her breasts. Until she was trembling in her arms.

“Yes?”

“Do not tell me you are anything less than desirable.”

Seven tasted the sweat that had collected along her collar bone, discarded clothing until Kathryn's chest was bared to her. Seven was pleased to see the freckles continued across her flesh, small erratic constellations across soft skin.

“I will try.”

Seven returned to the green skirt, the tie, and again Kathryn's hands came up.

“Seven, I'm not proud of this, there are scars, from the Cardassian Prison camp- and.. and some that I... when...”

Seven felt her chest tighten. “You placed your mouth on my implants Kathryn.”

Kathryn raised her eyes to meet her own, and Seven seven said,“Allow me to see you. ”

Seven guided Kathryn down to the edge of the bed, my bed? Our bed, and then turned around. “Unzip me Kathryn.”

Kathryn's voice had a dry wit. “Is that a condition?”


“Should it be?”

She reached for the zip, drew it down. Seven felt the cool air against her back, then the her whole body, as the fabric pooled at her feet. This drone will lead by example. She faced her,took Kathryn's hands and pressed them to her implants, narrow bands of silver ,angular outcroppings of mechanical steel, geometric flowers against her skin. “ What right have I, to judge your body?”

Kathryn closed her eyes. Exhaled. “You are too good to me.” She laced her fingers through Seven's and brought them back to the knot.

Seven tried to hide her anticipation, but her fingers shook. “I could be better than 'good to you'.”

She walked her back, let the backs of Kathryn's legs hit the bed, and then followed her down onto the blankets. She felt  unhinged. Kathryn was finally sprawled under her, naked waiting for her touch- arching up against her stomach, a leg hooked around her own. She wanted to lick and touch and taste and feel. So she did. She braced herself on her knees and an elbow, freed her left hand to explore and began an exactingly thorough catologue. By the time she had reached her lover's waist, Kathryn was clearly no longer concerned with scars- no longer concerned with anything in the world except Seven's touch. The rush of power, seeing this woman she loved vulnerable and asking for her touch was... gratifying. She made her way across the subtle curve of hip, a smooth flank, memorizing the feel, the satiny smoothness of the inner thigh. The pearly, white thin  even stripes of scar tissue. She kissed and licked her way back up her torso and ended with her mouth on Kathryn's.

 

“I have examined you. I do not find you wanting of any improvements.”

She pressed her knee up against the juncture of Kathryn's thighs and reveled in the low vocalization that followed .So she did it again. She ducked her head to catch an erect nipple between her lips and teeth and worked it in tandem to the increasing pressure her knee provided. When Kathryn's hips began to buck, she straddled her thigh, and reached down to trace her sex. You are wet for me. This is for me. I did this to you- you love me.

She didn't wait for a response to her statement before she moved her fingers inside, curling up to find the spot she had discovered earlier. The one that had made Kathryn groan, and writhe against her on the kitchen chair. She received an enhanced response. Fingers tangled in her long hair, raked down her back, teeth bit lightly at her shoulder. The leg beneath her tensed, and Seven found herself rocking against it in time with her thrusts. She could hear the wet sliding sounds, smell their combined arousal and the wonderful, gasping moans she earned for her efforts inflamed her.

“Fuck, Seven- that's-” Kathryn was panting hard against her throat, her arms wrapped around Seven's shoulders, slick inner walls wrapped tight around Sevens fingers. She wanted to surround herself, bury herself in Kathryn, to swim, sink or drown in her. It didn't matter which; so long as Kathryn kept moaning her name in that particular timbre, kept snapping her hips up against her hand.

Seven kissed Kathryn roughly, slid her tongue between her teeth in an echo of her digits inside her and then bit lightly at her lower lip. Her own breathing was ragged when she spoke.

“Is- is it b-” her voice craked, as pleasure sang through her “...better than good?”

 

Kathryn laughed, the sound abruptly pitching into acute longing as Seven redoubled her efforts. “Yesss” her reply was a hissed exhale as her body tensed, “Gods, yes Seven, sososomuchbetterthangood-” Her shoulders pressed into the bed has her back arched off of it, and Seven was impressed with the muscle contractions that gripped her fingers, with the wetness that bathed them. “pleaseohpleasedontstop” She did not, not until Kathryn sagged back onto the mattress and begged her tremulously to do so.

Seven lowered herself onto the bed and rolled, pulling Kathryn's sated and languid form over hers. Kathryn's words were husky and slow. “Seven, with all that I have...I love you.”

Seven tucked Kathryn's head under her chin and drew the edge of the top sheet to cover their cooling bodies. “I know.” She kissed the top of her head, and held her close, feeling her heartbeat against her chest and confusing it with her own.

“I'm going to fall asleep. I'm sorry Darling, I'm sure you need some attention.”

Seven pressed a few more kisses into her red hair, and despite her own arousal felt her eyelids grow heavy. “Then you have a measure of the means by which I would like you to wake me.”

Kathryn nuzzled into the curve of her neck and shoulder and sighed contentedly. “I look forward to it.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Epilogue part 1

 

Kathryn started at the screen, and then after a pause that she wasn't proud of, opened the communication.



Kathryn,

I promised Kolo- well, Kolo's a cat, and wouldn't know if I- ah, hell. I made myself a promise that I would write to you If I finished Six months of bi-weekly therapy, and I did, so, here I am. I am doing so much better now.

I'm finally in a place where I can say that I am sorry. I should have done a hundred things differently- I could have done so many things differently- but I didn't. I wasn't a good friend to you when we both needed a confidant... I pulled us apart. The three of us, I broke us, when we should have been together- in any arrangement. I let you down and I'm sorry. I made sure that we were all miserable. In my anger I made sure that I sabotaged everything that was good in my life- I didn't think I deserved it.

Communication was hard for me, it is still hard... But I've been in contact with the old crew, with B'Elanna and Thom, and I've been watching Miral. I enjoy it so much. It was arrogant of me to think I could deal with my issues on my own, and shutting everyone out- everyone who could have helped me was... well, I don't need to talk to you about what that can do to a person- you know. I'm sure you do.

I'm sorry I kept you out of my life,  away from Seven when we lived together in Nevada- oh maker- and before too, on Voyager. I was such an angry man Kathryn. I hated that I had lost my ship, my command. It was all about power and control, and I felt like I had none; over my old Maqui crew, over you, or Seven- and certainly none over my self . I'm sorry. I'm sorry, I was wrong and If I could change it- I wrote Seven- if she doesn't read her letter, and you for whatever reason do- can you tell her that I hope she can forgive me...

I think you would like Kolo though- he's lazy and fat and stupid and I am far too fond of him. I named him after my father. I think in many ways I always felt I had let him down, that he would be ashamed of me. And this stupid purring ginger cat helps with that.

I wrote to Icheb and apologized for breaking my promises to him when we got to earth- I didn't take him camping, I didn't teach him any of the things my father taught me. You know what Kathryn- I'm finding that people are so, so much better than I thought, and children doubly so. He forgave me, and the same night he got my letter, he showed up at my door in waders, Kathryn- Waders in the desert- demanding I teach him the proper cast for fly fishing.

 

How are you- I read that you scare the pants of cadets in dangerous simulations, that you lecture, but hows my friend Kathryn. I- maybe you dont want to be my friend. - I miss you though. I miss you as my friend and I regret , bitterly, that I tossed our history aside in a bid to gain control over myself and my fear. If the friendship we had before is dead- can we plant a new one?

I ….

 

 

Kathryn had to stop, look up and pretend that she wasn't going to cry. There was more to the letter, but she didn't need to read anymore. She knew from the first line that she had forgiven him forever ago. Who am I to tell him how to cope when I have scars to prove that I made mistakes too. She glanced at the time, and then quickly sent two brief memos one to her mother, and the other to Chakotay.

Hopefully, Seven and Gretchen would have time to set another plate. She grabbed her coat and headed for the door. I hope Kolo gets along with dogs.

 

~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~



The door screen door slammed shut behind Seven as she knocked snow off her boots.

“I do not find this humorous.”

Naomi and B'Elanna were still rolling in the snow, laughing.

“Your- snowman i-is ssssso bad Seven” Naomi could hardly choke out the words as she tried to sit up.
B'Elanna was no better, laughing so hard she'd hit a quiet patch, eyes screwed shut with her arms tight around her middle.

 

Surveying the three snow piles, Seven did admit that compared to the other two, round, three-teared structures, with fallen tree limbs for arms, and stones for eyes- that her.... thing... did not match. She glanced over to where Harry and his twins Danny and Taylor were constructing a similar 'snow-man'... Their efforts are superior ....


Phoebe ducked onto the porch to see what the rucus was and when she saw Naomi and B'lanna breathlessly pointing she managed to keep a stoic expression. “Seven... wow. Erm. It has such.. Character.”

Thom came upon the scene, making his way with Miral up the path from the pond. With their skates over his shoulder, he calmly strode to the line of snowmen. He considered them, and draped his scarf around Seven's creation. He looked at it a bit longer, and broke into a broad grin smiling over to Seven.

“Miral, did you make this one-”

Seven opened the door and hit him square in the chest with a well aimed sphere of snow. Seven suspected that a full escalation to total snow warfare would have broken out if, at that moment, the object under scrutiny hadn't been swiftly destroyed by a teenager on a toboggon.

Icheb looked a bit startled to be suddenly wearing Thom's checkered scarf, but he turned to shout back over his shoulder “I won! I accurately predicted-um-ff-”
A second sled knocked into his and two young-adult Vulcans dismounted smirking slightly- if Vulcans showed such flagrant displays of emotion.

 

“We did not want to wreck such a well developed.. structure.” The younger of the two, a female who strongly resembled her father, said “It would disrupt the emotions of the individual who made it.” She scanned the crowd briefly, flicked her eyes over Seven, and almost grinned.“Seven, did Miral build this all on her own-”


B'Elanna barked another laugh, and Seven decided that while she had initially planned to cease her attempts to defend her creation, that prolonging the encounter would be pleasant.

“Teams.” Seven said flatly, stepping back into the yard. “We will engage in a half an hour of combat before dinner.” She reached down and began to form a precise globe in her gloved hands.“Naomi, Icheb, with me?”

 

“Hey no fair- you can't have two Borg on the same team!” Thom called, grabbing Harry and pulling him over to B'Elanna, effectively making sure he was on his team, leaving Harry's twins poking too many pebbles into their snowman.


“The Vulcan youths will be with you. Surely that is more than fair.”

“We do not wish to engage in such a -”

“Shut up and get over here Sek, you too Asil.”

 

~*~ ~*~

Gretchen was helping the twins out of their snow-suits when Kathryn finally stomped her way up to the door.

“I thought you were the only one who wasn't going to make it .” She held the door open as Bonnie and Clyde bounded in, and smiled as she heard the commotion the dogs made inside with the rest of her guests.

Kathryn shrugged out of her coat and scraped the snow off her boots along the side panel.

“I know- I'm sorry. I had wrapped some gifts- food items- candies for the children, from my last run abut the quadrant with my Cadets- but Bonnie thought it'd be great to eat them.” She shot a baleful look towards the fluffy red dog who recognized her name, but went back to snuffling about the people in the living room.

 

“There you are, Danny, Taylor, in you go.” Gretchen shooed the kids in to their mother by the fire and gathered their wet clothes in her arms before tuning to Kathryn.

“He showed up. I think you did a good thing Kathryn.”

Kathryn smiled, “I think so too.”

She cast her eyes around the porch, noticing snow sticking in odd places against the wood. She spun about to take a closer look at the yard. Low, half destroyed barricades made of snow littered the field several half murdered snowmen slumped about, and there winding mazes of footprints lead to an area of almost completely packed snow off towards the side of the pond.

“What happened here,” she snorted, “It looks like-”
“What it looks like Katie,” Pheobe called from just beyond the door, “is that Borg of yours and her two little Borglets massacred an extended family of Vulcans and Klingons for the sake of her poor sculpting skills.”

“Ah, got what was coming to them then?”

“I'm a Borglet?” Naomi peeked around the door and when she saw Kathryn, jumped into her arms. She smiled up so brightly at her, that Kathryn couldn't' resist swinging her around in a tight circle before setting he back down. She was a little large for it, but Kathryn didn't care.“I'm sure Seven would think so- where's your mother?”

“Inside helping Seven cook. We were all cooking,Ma Janeway, Seven, I. But, I wanted Seven to build a snowman with me.” Naomi wrinkled her nose and whispered, “She wasn't very good at it- I told her so, but she kept me on her snowball team anyway.”

 

Kathryn looked suitably impressed and allowed her mother to herd them in toward living room. Everyone was gathered about the fire, and Kathryn smiled when she saw a large ginger cat blink at her from over the back of an arm chair. God, it is a fat cat. A moment later, Chaktoay's head turned towards the sound of them coming in and their eyes met. He held her gaze for a moment, searched her, and then offered a small half smile.

Kathryn felt her self release a breath she did not know she'd been holding. Well, it'll be alright then, we'll all be okay. He did look different though. Kathryn thought that though the crows feet creasing the corners of his eyes were far more pronounced he looked more calm, more at ease then she could remember ever seeing him. Well, you did make his acquaintance trying to arrest him then stranded him in delta quadrant- not a recipe for a pleasure cruse Katie.

She walked over and offered her hand for the cat to sniff- but instead he shoved his head right under her fingers and rumbled out a loud purr. She scratched the cat behind his ears, and smiled at Chakotay who looked like he was waiting for an executioners verdict.

“He's a sweet cat. I'm glad you two could make it.”His relief was palpable and as visible as his dimples.

Samantha entered through the side door then, and summoned them to the dining room, where T'Pel, Tuvok and The Doctor were setting the table. Seven was stowing her apron and bantering about which key would be more appropriate to sing in.

“Seven, Coventry Carol is a song about mourning it's supposed-”

“I believe it sounds more 'festive' in a major key. I thought you wanted me to be more 'festive'.”
T'Pel gave both Kathryn and her husband a knowing look. “Seven has artfully steered our friend from lecturing.”


Kathryn tried not to laugh as she wound her way over to Seven and kissed her on the cheek.
“Sorry I'm late, Bonnie ate all my gifts.”
Seven sighed, but smiled indulgently, “I did suggest you put them on top of the refrigeration unit.”
Kathryn poked Seven in the side as she went to find her place at the long table. “I did. She's an exceptional jumper, and very food motivated.”


“I'm food motivated,” Said B'Elanna, patting a chair next to her to indicate Kathryn should be seated, “Sit! Your princess there thrashed me. At least let your mother feed me.”

 

 


After dinner, Phoebe, Harry, Meagan, B'Elana and Thom sat hunched around the card table, at the sidewall of the room.

“Why,” Thom complained, “Are you all picking on me?”

Megan threw one of the candied nuts they were using as chips at his head and placed her cards on the table- a royal flush- in grand style. “You cheated every night on the lower decks fly-boy. On earth there's bound to be turn about.”

Tom shuffled his cards before folding, and looked to Harry, “I didn't cheat....”
Harry held up his hands in defense before noticing the nut, taking it, and crunching it thoughtfully, “I wont side with you, over the mother of my children.”
B'Elanna snorted, and gathered the cards on the table for another round. “Not while she's in earshot,” She muttered.
Megan threw another nut, but she was smiling.

Kathryn watched them from her seat by the fire feeling a profound sense of happiness. Behind her, she could hear Tuvok and his family playing dimensional chess with her mother. Gretchen was more than a match for any one of them, but the four of them taking turns at the projection, against her- it was giving Gretchen a through work out. She could just make out her reserved jibes at Asil and it made Kathryn grin. The Doctor had been playing with them earlier, but after he lost the third round to Gretchen, he politely excused himself, thanked her for her hospitality, and mumbled something about updating his sub routines before leaving.

 

She was nursing her coffee and staring into the fire when Chakotay's voice reached her. She took her gaze from the flames to find his face.

 

“Look at them following her around like ducklings.” Chakotay motioned with his hand that wasn't filled with ginger cat, towards the tree.

 

Kathryn looked. Seven, in a red red jumper over her white blouse, and black slacks was orchestrating the tree decorating. And the children were following just like adoring ducklings. Danny and Taylor staring up at her in something between awe and fascination, Miral at her side, diligently untangling tinsel, and Icheb and Naomi just a pace behind, arms full of boxes of ornaments hanging on her words. Seven directed them with her usual precision, but she was softer, kinder with children than most gave her credit for, - She can be so tender. She hoisted Miral high on her hip to help the child place a wooden horse decoration up on high branch, and Taylor tugged to be held too. Seven smiled just a little and crouched down to whisper something that had all of the children, Naomi and Icheb included, giggling.

“How come they listen to you?” It was B'Elanna's turn to complain. She was appraising Seven like she was some sort of strange creature. “I can't even get Miral to put her pants on in the morning.”

Thom quipped that while Klingons were scary, they were not Borg scary. Seven chimed in that it was 'her natural charm'- in her usual dead pan voice, and Naomi laughed so hard that she has to sit down.



Kathryn turned back in her seat to glance at Kolo who was purring loud enough to be mistaken for her bike in the driveway.

“He really is a lovely cat Chakotay, it seems like all he wants is food and cuddles.”
Kolo, as if on cue, roused himself to walk along the arm of the chair and jump lightly over in to Kathryn's lap. Kathryn scratched under his chin and patted him until Clyde raised her head from her feet by the fire to push it into her lap as well.

Chakotay laughed, “Here, Kolo, come.”
Kathryn took a sip of her coffee and chuckled, “Chak, cats don't do-... huh.Well.”


She watched as the cat, graceful for its unweildly bulk, came back to Chakotay to settle back down to purr and sleep again.


Chakotay offered her a dimpled grin, “Yes, all he wants is food and cuddles, and as I give those to him the most, he tends to listen to me.” He ruffled the beast's head affectionately. “I fully acknowledge that he's a lazy animal. But he's just so damn happy all the time Kathryn... I suspect I was supposed to be like that-happy, around good people and good food- from the beginning too, and this furry bastard is good for reminding me of that.”


Kolo's pur intensified, and Kathryn shared the sentiment. Everyone is meant for that. Most peoeple need to be reminded too. She couldn't believe how relieved she was to have her friend back, to have a chance to build, and to repair the relationship without being shut out. She glanced around the room at her family and had the distinct sensation that she was having her cake and eating it too.

When Chakotay spoke again, his voice was small. “I cant tell you how content I am right now. Really- happy. Thank you, I know I don't-”

 

Kathryn reached across the short distance between the chairs to grip his forearm. “Stop. You deserve happiness. Thank you for showing up last minet.”

He lifted his eyes, and Kathryn was sure she was looking at her loyal friend again, and his next words proved it.

“You can count on me.”

 

The moment between them was broken as Danny, silky black curls covering the child's face crawled up into Chakotays lap.

 

“ 'Otay, hug?”

 

“Of course baby, come here.”


Oh, Harry, when did kids start having kids. She mouthed to Chakotay, “'Otay?” Gathering the three year old in his arms and arranging the cat at his side, Chakotay stuck his tongue out at her.

 

~*~

 

Chapter Text

 

Handing Gretchen the last plate, Seven folded her dish towel and hung it over the rail. She let her eyes scan the room for any waste that could have escaped her- unlikely. She did find an empty mug on the side table by Kathryn's chair, but that was to be expected. Seven reflected that mugs, in various stages of use, seemed to follow the woman like flotsam on the tide. Her lip curled slightly, This drone follows her in the same manner. She studied Kathryn where she was sitting in her chair, a novel in her lap. Seven could tell she was relaxed by the set of her shoulders in her green turtleneck, and content with her stockingfeet curled up under her- There was none of her usual crisp alertness and awareness of her surroundings as she gazed into the fire with a half asleep smile. This drone will change that.

Their guests had left 48.7 minuets ago, and Seven had been engaged with Gretchen in the activity of 'house-keeping' since then. She had found the ritual surprisingly satisfying, to be bringing order and cleanliness back into Gretchen's home. She had also enjoyed spending time bonding with Gretchen. Seven had few memories of her own mother, but the kindness and tenderness that Gretchen displayed towards her, coupled with her intelligence and her willingness to 'banter' made her think of Gretchen as a suitable proxy for her missing parents. Gretchen for her part did nothing to disavow her of the notion, and Seven took that to be as important as any declaration could be. She often visited without Kathryn's company to discuss a wide variety of topics, or just to sit in companionable silence with the woman in her garden. Gretchen would touch her shoulder, scold her, occasionally adjust her hair, berate her for not eating properly when she was stressed, or for forgetting to take her shoes off at the door- Even push her bodily from a room when her help in meal preparation was not necessary. There was no one in her life who treated her that way-with complete disregard for the fact she was still, at least partially, Borg- excluding perhaps Phoebe, but she considered that to be a relationship closer to that which she shared with B'Elana Torres. Kathryn touched her, and scolded her too, though Seven's feelings towards Kathryn were decidedly not familial, at least, not in that regard.

With a small flair of anxiety, Seven's fingers traced the outline of the small gift in her pocket and turned back to Gretchen.

“Do you think it is an acceptable offer?”

Gretchen put the plate in its designated position in the china cabinet, and faced Seven. Her eyes seemed soft. “I certainly think so- do you have any reason to believe otherwise?”

“None. Though, I am unaccustomed to the sensation of such acute...” She drummed the fingers of her human hand along the table, a habit she had adopted from Phoebe, while she searched for the correct word.

 

Gretchen leaned forward on the kitchen island and brought her forehead in close to Seven's. “Seven, sweet heart, its an important choice your going to ask her to make. It's important, so you're nervous, anxious, excited- all of those feelings let you know that what you're going to do is important. That it matters to you.” She lifted her eyes over Seven's shoulder where Kathryn was slowly tuning the pages of her book, “But do it quick, so you can call me tomorrow and I can celebrate? She'll fall asleep if you don't leave soon.”

Seven made a dismissive gesture with her hand that was so like one of Phoebe's that Gretchen smirked. Seven said, “Doubtful. The amount of caffeine she imbibed this evening would make imminent sleep unlikely.” She glanced at the antique kitchen clock, and then admitted, “We should be going soon... I will be in contact.”

Gretchen caught her arm as Seven went to retrieve their coats, “You will be in contact regardless- Do you understand me?”
The firmness in the older woman's tone, and the set of her jaw brought to mind exactly where Kathryn must have learned a good portion of her command training. Seven covered Gretchen's hand with hers briefly “I will comply.”

Gretchen nodded, smiled brightly, and released her. “I'm going to say good night to Kathryn and send her on out to you. She's such a fire bug- she'd crawl right in if we didn't pay close attention.”

Not long after, Kathryn was beside her on the mud-room bench tugging on her boots. She shrugged into her coat, and then turned to Seven, wrapping her scarf around Seven's neck and kissing her on the cheek.

“Everything was wonderful tonight. Thank you so much for helping Mum, she loves having you around.
“I am fond of your mother.” Seven allowed, hooking her arm through Kathryn's and walking with her out into the yard.

They made their way down the path to the road, and Kathryn said rather hesitantly, “I hope having Chakotay here was not unpleasant for you. I just thought that...”

“You wished for your collective to be whole once more.” Seven indulged the desire to rest her cheek against the top of Kathryn's head as they walked close- side by side. “That does not cause me distress. On the contrary, Chakotay and I had the most civil, and pleasant discussion we have had together in years. He even brought me a gift.”

“Oh?” Kathryn tilted her head up, searching Seven's face, “What was it?”
“He brought me a piece of paper.” Seven responded, being deliberately vague, knowing Kathryn would persist- ever curious.
“Don't tease,” Kathryn poked at Seven's rib though her thick coat, “Tell me.”
Sven relented, “He was able to petition the elders in his community to trade the farm land, his ranch, for a separate plot of land. He deeded it to me. A piece of paper”

 

“Really? Why?” Seven enjoyed the way Kathryn pressed her arm against her side in an involuntarily possessive action, “The only thing you told me you wanted in Nevada was- Oh, he didn't-”


“Yes. He secured the territory both Naomi and Captain use as their home range. It was quite a generous, and insightful thing to do. I felt... I feel as if we could be...Friends.”

“That's wonderful Seven, that really is. I know how much you wanted to go visit them.”
“I want to bring you with me.”
“Seven, sure the cats would invite you to dinner- but they'd eat me for dinner.”
Seven looked down smugly at Kathryn, “You have never objected to me eating you for dinner before.”
Kathryn made an indignant sound and swatted at Seven's chest with her free hand. “If you think that you can keep them from killing me, I'll go visit your pet lions.”
“Acceptable.”

Seven walked a few paces more before stopping. She pulled a long length of silk from her pocket and held it in her hand a moment.
“What- is something wrong?”
“Nothing is wrong. I would like to give you my Christmas present.”


~*~
Kathryn looked up at her with furrowed brows. They'd already exchanged gifts this morning. She'd given Seven a set of brushes and some high quality paper- as Seven had taken to scribbling cats in the corners of her pads, or even when she was working out numbers by hand- something she had been encouraged to do by Gretchen- the margins were filled with anatomical studies. Seven's eyes had lit up at the gift, and Kathryn had felt reasonably pleased with herself for not only not forgetting an important holiday, but selecting a suitable gift. Seven had given Kathryn an elegant silver necklace with a single grey pearl pendant that she was currently wearing. It was a lovely gift- but apparently not the only thing that Seven was planning. And god, how this woman can plot.



“What is it?”
“It is difficult to wrap. I should like to wrap you instead.”

Kathryn flushed hot at the implication of those words, and then blushed as Seven held up what looked like a silk blindfold, blue black in the winter night. Of course she didn't mean that. She looked from the blindfold, back to Seven who was grinning, but only just.


“Do you trust me?”

“Implicitly.”

She closed her eyes, and Seven affixed the blindfold- are her fingers shaking? Her lover was always steady, and firm and confidant. She couldn't' remember a time, aside from their first interactions nearly six months ago, that Seven had shook like that in her presence. Well, at lest from anxiety.

Seven took her hand in hers and they began walking very much the same as they had been before, only now, Seven's other hand also cupped her elbow for added guidance. When they had walked further than what Kathryn had judged to be the distance to her home, she could feel her curiosity stirring. After all , you are a scientist Katie, curiosity is natural. She didn't say anything though- Seven sometimes teased her that she she wasn't patient enough, so she decided to make a game out of how long she could wait to ask a question. She began to hear what she was sure was the tell tale low hum of a transporter pad. In Indiana. In the middle of winter. On a dirt road? She almost let a question escape, but held it in.

“We will go through a series of transports. This will be most efficient- do not let go of my hand.”
Kathryn could hear Seven's smile, knew she was being teased, but didn't mind- Seven was obviously going through a great deal of effort to do something special for her. She smiled back.

“I will comply.”

 

Seven lead her through what Kathryn counted to be three transports, but she couldn't be certain. She thought she recognized some of the sounds- the voice of a regular operator in San Francisco- but then again that was such a widely use traffic hub, that by the time Seven was leading her away from the humming dais, she had absolutely no idea where the might be.

She heard the soft swish of doors opening in front of her, and could smell something a sharp, bright and clean scent. Polish maybe? It smelled vaguely metallic, but that could also be because she had herself tight against Seven's side as she lead her down what felt like an enclosed place- a corridor? and then through another set of swishing doors.

“You did not ask a single question.” Seven ribbed her good naturedly.
“That would have been an inefficient use of breath.”
“Indeed.”

Seven's hands left hers, but came to her throat to undo her coat, and help her out of it. She took her gloves too, and a moment later Kathryn heard Seven removing her own outerwear as well. She felt her in close behind her, and undo the blindfold, but Kathryn kept her eyes shut tight until Seven said
“Open your eyes.”
She did, and she couldn't help but laugh.
“It's dark.”

“Observant,” Seven quipped, “Put out your hand.”

Kathryn extended her hand into the darkness, and felt Seven's metal capped fingers brush hers and deposit a velvety box in her palm.

“I hope this stands in absentia for the whole. It would have been tremendously impractical to gift wrap.”

She heard Seven walk away, and pause some distance a head of her. Where are we? What is this? She wished she had payed a bit more attention on their trip over, but she had been concentrating on the feel of Seven's hand in hers, and how solid her shoulder had felt against her cheek. She felt a little embarrassed by how easily she had given over to being lead around, perhaps even in public, blindfolded by Seven... but she was too curious to focus on the sensations that particular observation caused.

Seven muttered something low, and the lights came up. Kathryn blinked a few times, and stared a little dumbfound at the open box in her hand. It was plush, deep blue, and inside nestled four perfect brass pips. Oh. She looked up, around the room, and blinked a few more times. Oh Christ.


Kathryn was able to piece together that she was standing on the bridge of a star ship. A new one, She wasn't sure what kind- which was odd- but she was sleek, glossy and gorgeous, she even smells new. She turned in place, looking out the front video screen, observing they were at the mars ship yard, Earth a small star, glittering in the distance. She tore her eyes away from the crisp lines of the work stations, the wonderful design, and fixed her gaze on Seven, who was standing behind what would be the captain's chair. She felt her throat tighten as she looked at the worn, and considerably battered arm rests, out of place on the shiny new ship.

Seven cleared her throat, and held her gaze, “The ship is the Marie Curie, first of the Voyager Class Vessels. 'She' is a science, and diplomatic vessel, equipped with the newly finished slip stream drive, and has already, before her official christening, a full crew roster consisting entirely of volunteers. All that is missing from the manifest is a Captain.”

Seven continued to speak, giving her more details of the ship, its decks, the specifics of its power supply, how many she could hold at full compliment, her considerable defense systems,but Kathryn couldn't make sense of it. Overwhelmed, she stepped towards Seven.

“This-this is for me? You did this?”
Seven bowed her head slightly, but did not break eye contact, “It was conditional that upon my completion of the drive, Star-fleet offer you the position of Captain aboard the fist vessel of its class.”

Kathryn continued to stare, feeling tears prick behind her eyes as she looked from the captains chair-her chair from Voyager- to the pips in her hand, and back to Seven. She tentatively ran her free hand over the arm of the chair. Her voice when she spoke next was thick.

“How did you get this?”


“I asked nicely. You have greatly improved my interpersonal skills.”

 

Kathryn barked a started laugh, and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. She stared back down at the shining pips. “Seven I-” Her voice cracked and she was embarrassed about how strong a reaction she was having to, to- a few scraps of metal and some old leather, “ I don't know what to say.”

“Say, 'Yes, Seven'.”

~*~
Seven watched the play of emotions over Kathryn's face, she could positively identify longing, naked excitement and want- for her or the ship was irrelevant- it would be the same. She could feel that twisting ache- so different from pleasure catching behind her sternum. She wanted Kathryn to see what she was offering, to take what would make them both happy- but she could not make Kathryn want anything. Only ask.

Finally, Kathryn sighed, and stared with longing at the box. “Seven, I wont go into space without you- but if you're under my command... I cant have an affair with one of my officers.”

Seven reached out, took the pips from Kathryn's hand and pressed the woman, This foolish human woman- down by the shoulder, exerting a little force when Kathryn resisted, to get her seated in the chair. Seven appraised her- This is correct. This is where you belong- before crouching at her side, and beginning to affix the pips to the collar of her shirt. You want this as badly as I do.

 

“I would be displeased if you were to leave me and have an affair. You could however, go into space with... your wife, if the idea appeals to you.” She fastened the last pip, both of her knees on the deck. She was half in Kathryn's lap, her elbows on the armrests, meeting Kathryn's gaze.

“Did you ju-just give me a ship and propose to me. Did you really just do that. Are you serious?” Kathryn was babbling a little, but Seven found her excitement, her joy, infectious.

“I am rarely anything other than serious.” Seven kissed the tip of her freckled nose, “I took it upon myself to ensure that our quarters would have an en suit tub of suitable size. With jets. Does this arrangement appeal to your Kathryn?”

Seven watched as Kathryn leaned back into the chair, sighing- It must be familiar, it must remember her form at least as a well as This Drone does... Her eyes closed for a moment, and when they opened, Seven felt her breathing hitch. That kind of look was generally reserved for her only in their bedroom. It was precisely the look Seven had been hoping she would elicit. Kathryn treadled her fingers through her hair, tilting her head back.

 

“I believe you meant Captain, just then. Captain Janeway. Is that what you meant, Dr. Hansen?”

 

Seven felt an altogether different sort of tremor run through her as she dropped her hands from the armrests to undo the belt at Kathryn's waist. She flicked it open, and drew it smartly through the loops, leaving it coiled beside Kathryn in the chair. She leaned in to kiss her, as she unfastened her slacks and said against her mouth, “There is no one name Dr. Hansen on your ship, Captain.”

She felt Kathryn press her back, her kiss changing in tone, and Seven found the force, the confidence she was exuding tasted delicious. One of Kathryn's hands was curled in her hair, the other fisted in the neck of her blouse.

“Then who are you, Crewman?”

“Your Astrometrics officer, obviously.”

 

Seven was positive she had made the right choice. The return to command gave Kathryn a presence that turned her knees to water, and she was glad to already be in close proximity to the floor. The swagger that Kathryn was projecting was immensely appealing, and Seven already found Kathryn attractive at any given time- the combined affect was arousing her with almost alarming speed. She was glad to see that spark in her lover again, glad to see her whole- confidant and in command and not hindered by guilt or the burden of being lost so far from home.

 

Seven gasped as Kathryn bit lightly at her neck, lifting her hips just high enough for Seven to slide her trousers down. Kathryn smiled down at her, traced the line of her neck with her fingers, before letting her hand inside the the V of her button down to tweak one of Seven's nipples. Seven bit her lip.

“Insubordinate already. I asked, who are you?”

With the minor pain blossoming in the warm wet place between her legs, Seven decided that she was going to make this interaction as prolonged as possible. She could fee some of her old, secret fantasies about Kathryn, about her Captain- so close to become reality now. She no longer had anything to feel ashamed about. There was nothing confusing about her feelings. Seven ignored the question. She wanted Kathryn to make her submit, to demand it. She wanted the old power play back between them. This drone desires for Kathryn to meet her - and over power her. Then, to repeat the scenario. In reverse.

Seven let her eyes close. “I used to imagine you in this chair Kathryn... like this.”

The hand in her hair pulled back, just shy of painful, putting her head at an uncomfortable angle. Kathryn was in her space, palming her breast while her mouth worked one of Seven's ears. Seven felt a small shift of leg against her side, then Kathryn's booted foot was pressing- rocked once- against her crotch. Seven didn't bother to suppress the moan that slid from her throat- and then Kathryn was kissing her, all teeth and tongue and hunger before pulling back.

“You used to imagine me thinking about how to punish you for insubordination? Because that is what I'll do if you don't answer me. Discipline you. Is this what you want?”

Unflinchingly Seven lifted her eyes to Kathryn's. “Affirmative.”

Fingers flexed, twisted her nipple-hard. She moaned breathily, and corrected herself. “Captain, yes, Captain.”

Kathryn eased her touch, stroked the side of Seven's face affectionately, “Such a quick learner.” She paused a moment, then said, “Lean forward. Hands behind your back.”

Seven did so, feeling achy and excited. She was in against Kathryn's thigh, and didn't resist kissing the soft skin there- but stopped when Kathryn tugged lightly on the hairs at the nape of her neck.

“No.”

She couldn't help but hide her smile against Kathryn's lap. She was happy, deliriously so. This drone will go to space with her Captain. This... I can have my wonderful Kathryn, and my marvelous Captain. I can travel with my collective, I can have community, adventure- challenge, and Kathryn, Kathryn, Kathryn.

~*~

Kathryn allowed her self a moment to toe off her boot and slip the rest of the way out of her trousers and panties. She took the belt at her side, and deftly bound Seven's hands together behind her back- do not think about how badly you want to crack it against her pretty bottom Katie- She had considered it, but decided that not only would Seven enjoy it to much for it to be considered disciplinary, but that at the moment she had a more pressing desire for satisfaction that she didn't want to delay.

She ran her hands up Seven's strong arms, over her shoulder and up her neck to take her jaw in both hands. “Look, but don't touch.”

She sidled further back into the chair, parting her legs slightly. One had still firmly holding Seven's jaw, she slipped the other up her stomach, under her shirt to cup and caress one of her breasts. She watched as Seven's eyes tracked her, and the want she saw displayed there manifested itself between her own thighs. She closed her eyes, sighed deeply and circled her hips, arching into her hand- until, there it is- She felt Seven try to lean in to press her face against her leg again, but she held her back. She felt Seven open her mouth and turn her head enough to catch her thumb with her teeth.

When Kathryn opened her eyes it was to find Seven staring back, intense and incendiary. I like that look- I like that look rather a lot. She hadn't felt this confidant in her body, or herself to indulge in play like this with Seven, but... Now seems to be the time. She smoothed her hand down her chest, over her stomach and to her crotch. She didn't break eye contact as she brushed her fingers lightly over tightly curled hair, before reaching lower to part herself so that Seven could see.

“Did you imagine yourself on your knees in front of me, Crewman?”
“And with my mouth on you, yes. Yes, Captain.”

 

Kathryn found her eagerness endearing, and she knew that she is was very wet, and that this- the bridge of brand new, still classified vessel- was not the appropriate place... and how very very right that made everything. She slid her fingers down her labia, and looking right into Seven's pretty blue eyes, started to play with herself. She didn't bother censoring the soft sighs she made. Hell, after so long alone, I know exactly how to touch myself.... And Seven watching, god, her breath on the back of my hand makes me feel so unbearably hot and desirable.

 

Seven seemed to jerk forward again, but again Kathryn held her firmly. Her resolve began to crumble when Seven started to suck and lave at her thumb, and Kathryn was pretty positive she could feel it against her clit. It's not as if I don't know exactly what that mouth could do to me either. She could hear herself panting, the way her voice cracked, but didn't care.

“Did you imagine me using you? Fucking your face?”

Seven groaned loudly around her thumb and Kathryn pushed it a bit further in. When her eyes fluttered closed, Kathryn tightened her hold, and shook her gently. “I ordered you to watch. Watch.”

So, Kathryn gave her a show. She started slow, spreading the slick wetness across her folds with her fingertips, dipping just a bit, to bring some up to her clit. She kept her thumb in Sevens mouth though, and when the time did come that she entered herself, she echoed the motions with her hand against Seven's tongue. When Kathryn felt like if she didn't stop, and quickly too it would be over too soon, she released Sevens jaw, and removed her fingers from her cunt. She surprised her self, acting on impulse, she wiped her wet fingers across Sevens lips, took her face in both hands and kissed her as best she knew how.

 

 

Seven surged up into the kiss, receiving it greedily. She wanted to speak, to pour her heart our for Kathryn's personal observation, but didn't want to stop kissing, touching. She wanted Kathryn, so badly- she could feel the mess she'd made of her own undergarments. She always knew that Kathryn could be this sensual, suspected that she would enjoy this kind of play, but her own response to watching a Kathryn who would masturbate in front of her, who would speak so coarsely- was far greater than she had anticipated. She knew however, that Kathryn had limits, one knows such things about their lovers, and suspected that she was reaching them. Her suspicions were confirmed as Kathryn broke away to catch her breath. She could see how dilated her pupils were, and the twin points of colour flushed high on her cheekbones. Seven relished the amber tone of her voice, laced with open lust when Kathryn spoke next.

 

“I will give you what you imagined. I'll give you the pleasure of being used- but you have to be a good girl, and tell me your name.”

She answered promptly. “ My name is Seven of Nine, tertiary adjunct to Unimatrix One, Captain.”

 

Kathryn raised one of her eyebrows in an attempt to seem disapproving, but Seven could feel her resolve lessening, yearning to give Seven what they both wanted.

“Technically, Correct. I shall be more specific.” She leaned down, her her head in her hand, elbow on the arm rest, surveying Seven, until the waiting made her want to squirm. “Tell me who you are listed as on the Official Crew Manifest for this ship.... and, I'll ride your mouth the way I know you want me to.”

Seven shifted, rising on her knees to put her face as close to hers as she could and smiled beatifically. “Certainly Captain. You shall find me listed as the Civilian Scientist heading your Astrometrics Department, Doctor Janeway.”



Her smile is motion, is promise and future- Seven closed in to kiss the smile right off her face. She caught her bottom lip between her lips and pulled, enjoying the groan that followed. She flexed her shoulder, twisted her hands and shredded the leather belt- as if a belt of leather could hinder an elite drone. She kissed Kathryn once more before placing her knees, one over each shoulder, and attending the task she had been longing to complete.

 

 

Kathryn's hand snaked into the thick blond hair, her back arched off the chair and she was gone. Sevens mouth felt- she could hardly make a coherent thought, as Seven used her lips, her jaw the- flat broad strokes of her tongue- Seven was going to consume her whole. She was going to die, and she thought that this time, well this time it would be fine because She was a captain again, and no one could say she didn't deserve it. She felt her legs tense, the muscles of her stomach coiling and melting into liquid heat. Her heels knocked against Sevens back.

One hand beneath her back, supporting her, Seven brought the other to her slick opening.

“Captain.”
And she thrust home. She said it again, “Captain,” with each pump of her fingers,"Captain", and Kathryn couldn't remember a time when she had needed release more. While Seven's touch was burning, making her see stars behind her closed eyelids- it wasn't enough. She lamented the loss of her mouth wrapped hot around her clit, and she was sure Seven knew this too. Seven changed her stance, not breaking the fluid glide of her hand against Kathryn's sex, but she was braced over the top of the chair now, fairly looming over her. Her gaze intent and ravenous.


“Beg me Captain”

Kathryn sucked in a deep breath, and the muffled sound against Seven's shoulder was somewhere between a sob and a groan. She threw her arms around Seven's neck, hooked a leg around her hips and rocked to meet each almost-to-hard piston of Seven's hand. When she added a third finger Kathryn wasn't able to stifle herself and they both moaned.

“Seven, please.

When Seven didn't change her pace, her force, or action, Kathryn felt real desperation- her need felt like it was crushing her. She cast about. “Seven? D-doct...” her voiced broke on a grunt, as she fought to keep up with Seven's demanding rhythm.

Doctor Janeway. I took your name, Kathryn, and I will take your body too.”

Seven changed her angle by a fraction of an inch, swiped her thumb over Kathryn's clit, and that was all she needed. She started to come and it seemed to go on for forever. Seven didn't stop, prolonging the contractions, until Kathryn was limp in her arms. Seven was trembling, breathless, and could feel a bead of sweat break away from her hair line to trickle down the back of her neck. She had never climaxed with out direct stimulation before and the force of it, that it had happened at all, was at once startling, and validating. She used the last bit of energy she felt she had left to lift Kathryn enough to slide underneath her in the chair and hold her close, gathered against her chest.

 

Kathryn felt drunk. She pressed little feather kisses against any bit of Seven she could reach, her jaw, her cheek, the side of her throat. Her fingers gripped loosely, clutching the fabric of her blouse. She snuggled in, inhaling her scent, and found she was laughing. She was so happy, she felt free and light and possibly made of stardust and... curious. She could feel Seven's body, under and around her, and the vague blurring sensation of the borders of her body and Seven's -the way that only happened after good Sex. Sex where they both climax.

Doctor Janeway, did you come too?”
“Yes, Captain Janeway, I did. You were very... stimulating.”

 

Kathryn laughed again, “I love you Seven, I love you. When I can move again, I'll show you just how much.

Seven sighed contentedly and wrapped Kathryn that much closer in her arms. “I take it you're accepting my proposal?”

Kathryn nipped hard at Seven's earlobe, earned a startled yelp and then kissed it better. “Yes, yes- Thank you- yes, you silly Borg, yes.”

Seven's smile returned and she stroked Kathryn's hair. “Merry Christmas Kathryn. Remind me to call your mother in the morning.”

Well, that's an interesting thing to say. But Kathryn couldn't find the energy to care. Not with both the woman of her dreams, and a new ship underneath her. She closed her eyes and gave Seven's throat one last kiss. “Merry Christmas, Seven.”