Tempus Omnia Revelat by Beacham

IMPORTANT STUFF

Disclaimer

: Paramount owns all things Star Trek. No copyright infringement is intended. I make no profit from this.
Summary
: J/7. The Voyager is under the captaincy of Chakotay. Seven has to face the probable death of Captain Janeway and the guilt she believes she played in her death.
Rating
: PG
Other
Notes: Written by Beacham. Published September 2003. First story by the author but more on the way in due course. Author genuinely wants to hear from readers, on britnurd12@yahoo.co.uk

| Ch. 1 | Ch. 2 | Ch. 3 | Ch. 4 | Ch. 5 | Ch. 6 |

TEMPUS OMNIA REVELAT
(Time reveals all things)
By Beacham

CHAPTER ONE

You can stare at a face for hours and only ever see what there is to be seen by the eye. You see nothing more, nothing less than that which the naked eye beholds.

But there are other faces we see, faces that sometimes only the one person sees, no one else, and that is because the person looking wants to see more.

Such are the complexities of life that one person will see immediately what another will never see despite years of looking. But then, these things are always so when the eye is acting as the agent of the heart.

And so it had been for Captain Chakotay, almost from the minute he had set eyes upon Kathryn Janeway. Damn her! The irritating persistence of that woman who had pursued him half way across the Alpha Quadrant, into the Badlands and beyond into the Delta Quadrant. He had only wanted escape, had only wanted freedom to pursue his noble retribution against those who threatened his people, family and friends, but she had shown no mercy and pursued him with the tenacious tracking skills of his long dead ancestors.

He had tried to rid himself of her.

He thought back on how he would have had no second thoughts in blowing her out of the space she and her ship occupied had he been given half the chance, such was the intense anger he felt towards the Federation. But that chance had never come, and instead, a whole incredible saga had opened out for both their crews, taking them all down the most incredible, dangerous, challenging, wonderful adventures of their lives � times that no one could ever have predicted.

And over time, he had learned to trust her, more than he had ever trusted anyone in his entire life. And whilst he was learning to trust the brave, unassailable, sometimes invincibly strong woman, he had found that part of him, that which his father had defined as the spiritual soul, being drawn towards her like a magnet. The rapidity of the growing bond had initially unsettled him, such was its ferocity of emotion. But as he grew used to it and learned to trust his feelings, with that bond of deep friendship had come the most subtle and skilful understanding of the woman he had called Captain.

He had once harboured a deep desire that one day, Kathryn Janeway would fall in love with him and return the feelings he held for her but that he now knew would never be. �New Earth� had been the first real indication that there was no reciprocation of feelings. And as time had progressed, whilst the friendship had grown and deepened, he became aware that whatever it was Kathryn was looking for in a life partner, he simply did not possess it. Neither had Mark, even though the Captain had not realised that until she received the �Dear John� message. That letter had been the impetus that gave her the freedom to suddenly see that which she desperately needed, and right in front of her nose.

Chakotay fidgeted with the metal badge on his collar, the badge that denoted his acting rank. He hated it! It didn�t belong there, the crew knew it didn�t belong there, and he didn�t want it there. But everyone acknowledged that someone had to be the captain of this star ship and the responsibility now rested uneasily on his shoulders. He had waited as long as possible before accepting this heavy burden. What irony, that a Marquis renegade would assume such a role, rise to such a challenge. Star Fleet would be turning in their proverbial grave.

His heart ached for Kathryn. He missed this woman like he would miss a part of himself - a leg, an arm. He had lost something irreplaceable; something so keenly remembered and once loved. He was incomplete without her presence.

He could still hear her voice, smell her scent, and feel the light touch of her tactile fingers on his shoulder, like a ghost walking the ship. She had not loved him but he would never completely learn to �unlove� her, some remnant of his affection would always survive, like that first adolescent, youthful kiss.

How could he ever give the order for Voyager to move on and continue the journey to Earth? Yet, how could he continue to expect the crew to stay in this area of space, looking for a trail that had long since gone cold? Chakotay could hear her voice in his head, the warm resonating tones giving sage advice and telling him that there was a time when you simply had to move forward. Even now, she pursued him!

Captain Janeway had disappeared during a planet-side expedition, from an environment all senior officers had assumed harmless, safe � and still did. Four months later and no leads, no trace. The crew, all the crew, were beginning to accept that they might never find the Captain, that perhaps she was lost forever, perhaps even dead.

But they had looked! Not a particle of stardust had gone unturned, not a star left unstudied, not a grid of space not inspected and then re-inspected. Nothing! The crew had not rested, neither Marquis nor Starfleet, in the vigil to find their missing crewmember, and it showed in their faces. The stressed, emotionally drained and haunted looks of failure.

He turned his head as he sat in the Captain�s chair on Voyager�s bridge, and gazed at Seven of Nine who was working at a console. They had become good friends in the months since the Captain�s disappearance.

The tragic loss of Kathryn Janeway was written all over Seven�s pale features, her eyes consumed by grief and guilt. This was the woman who had completely captured Kathryn�s heart. It had taken him a while to acknowledge this but he was no fool and could recognise true love when he saw it, even if Janeway had been slow � dense - in accepting the blindingly obvious. So he had silently stepped aside to allow that love, between two headstrong women, to run its tumultuous, turbulent course towards the inevitable. The tragedy was that time had robbed both women of the ecstasy of that never-to-be completed journey.

He heard her report to him. that her job was complete and she was returning to astrometrics. He acknowledged her with a nod but had seen the pain stir in her eyes as she had addressed him as �Captain�.

Poor Seven. When the Captain had just disappeared into thin air during a routine beam-up from the planet�s surface all those months ago, and the time since, every crewmember had suffered the loss. But Seven, then still very alone and emotionally incapable of expressing herself or reaching out for comfort, had very nearly died of despair. This was no exaggeration. Somehow though, good had been borne of bad, and through the patient nurturing of Neelix, Paris, himself and surprisingly B�Elanna, their compassionate ministerings had turned the young woman around and helped her make sense of the multitude of emotions she was to experience.

The outcome had been a further impressive step towards the woman Janeway had instinctively known could exist. Enter a warm, compassionate, sensitive young female with so much to offer life. But the loss had also ripped Seven inside out and left its dark, tall shadow over her. Here you sensed, and would always sense, a tragic sorrow pulsing within her. Seven would move on but bare the scars forever.

�Forever,�

thought Chakotay. Did he really now accept that the Captain was gone? Gone for good? Please, immortal spirits, no. As of one hour ago, there was some apparent hope on the horizon, but these past months had taught him to no longer breed hope in his heart. Previous expeditions into those waters had delivered too many false and empty promises. He acknowledged that this was the last chance, and if it failed, then the search was over � it had to be.

Chakotay�s train of thought was interrupted by Tuvok, standing resolutely at the station behind him.

"Captain, the Novena vessel is within range and the ambassador is requesting to come aboard. What are your instructions?" Tuvok�s voice was calm, controlled and Chakotay found some comfort in its emotionless timbre, even though he knew it belied the Vulcan�s own unseen frustrations concerning the loss of the Captain, his friend.

"Request granted. Show him to the Briefing Room, I�ll meet you there shortly."

Tuvok acknowledged the order and left but Chakotay sat a while longer, needing the time to mentally prepare himself. He flexed his hands in front of him, big �bear� hands that were powerful and strong. His father had always said he had the hands of a boxer, wide across the knuckles and with the athletic reflexes to knock his opponents to the ground. Spirits, he wanted to knock someone, anyone to the ground right now! Such was his frustration. He felt so powerless to do anything, to find the missing woman. He momentarily wondered whether, if it had been him that was lost, would Kathryn have had more success in tracking him down?

Negative thoughts! Don�t go there. Think positive, think like a captain!

He rose from his chair.

*****

Ambassador Silus was a tall, thin, elegant man who possessed an aura about him that oozed diplomat. Here, one sensed a man of peace as he sat silently, unmoving in front of the also seated Captain Chakotay, only allowing his eyes to wander to the other two occupants in the room who stood, a dark haired woman who had a propensity for displaying an impressive and volatile temper, and a tall, thin, dark haired man with an equally impressive calm, analytical and composed nature.

The man called Chakotay breathed deeply into his hands that were steepled before his face. He closed his eyes and momentarily rested his forehead on the tips of those fingers.

Silus felt the tension, "I have no hidden agenda, Captain. I speak only the truth."

Chakotay, with minimal movement, raised his head and fixed his eyes hard on Silus�s.

"The Sung Ti," Chakotay stated, his voice sounding tired and irritable.

Silus�s attention was quickly diverted to the tall, dark haired man to his right.

"Based on the ambassador�s information, it would appear that when we went to the aid of the Brada Merchant vessel, we were engaging the Sung Ti."

Almost as if he hadn�t heard Tuvok, Chakotay sought clarification from the Ambassador. "You�re telling me that an incident that occurred over seven months ago is the cause of the Captain�s disappearance?"

"That is what I am telling you, Captain." His stilted tone of phrase and low voice could not betray the natural vocal power. Silus leaned forward. "You see, your noble act in giving protection to an unarmed vessel being fired upon by three Sung Ti vessels, though admirable to my people, would not have been viewed as such by the Sung nation."

"Especially when we blasted one of their ship�s into neutron dust!" B�Elanna cut in.

"Indeed. And especially when that destroyed vessel contained two members of the Regent�s family." Silus voice dropped lower, the delivery slow.

"It was an accident." Chakotay�s voice cut in hard. He hadn�t liked Torres�s unfortunate response, it had come over as arrogant and flippant. Not how he knew she felt. "We had targeted their deflector emitters but there had to have been a leak in their propulsion system because the ship just exploded."

"I don�t doubt you, Captain but you made a grave enemy that day. You allowed the other two vessels to escape and they would have been quite detailed in their feedback to the Regent."

"You�re saying they�re responsible for the Captain�s disappearance �some form of retribution?" Torres could barely contain her anger.

Silus noted the anger in the woman but did not take it personally, more, he understood its nature.

"In part, yes. You destroyed their ship, you killed.." he raised his hand to stop B�Elanna�s objection to the word �killed�, ".. in their eyes, an entire crew, you spilt Regency blood. You also attacked their honour with such destruction, showed they could be defeated, suggested they are weak. I regret that I am in no doubt that they captured your Captain." The last sentence was said emphatically and with some passion.

"And have done what with her?" Chakotay wanted answers now.

Silus frowned, averting his eyes to the ground where he studied the detailed fleck in the floor covering around his feet.

"Captain.." His response was hesitant, guarded. "This is, of course, all speculation because I have no objective evidence that this is what has happened to your Captain but the patterns are there. This is what the Sung Ti do." Silus was about to continue when two voices rang out at the same time, throwing him questions.

"What have they done to her, where would they have taken her?" Emotional questions, borne out of impatience, concern, desperation. Chakotay could feel his patience and control slipping.

"Who are the Sung Ti?" An analytical, probing mind trying to assess all the data to formulate answers. The voice of the man, Tuvok.

Silus raised his hands to calm them. "I will answer every one of your questions."

He paused and turned to the Captain. "Captain, if I am right, your Captain was taken to Krasus, home planet of the Sung Ti Empire where she would have been imprisoned in the Marchant holding units, and subjected to interrogation."

"Would have been? You mean they will have moved her?" Torres�s eyes narrowed.

Silus�s noble features registered discomfort. "Not quite. The Sung Ti are a warring, aggressive people whose Regent is a tyrant and whose acts of cruelty and subjugation of his own people are notorious. His prisons are full to overflowing with political, military prisoners, those who have dared to speak out against his regime, or attempted to usurp, to overthrow him."

Silus hesitated, almost as if he didn�t want to continue but then changed his mind.

All three Voyager eyes were on him, emotions hanging so heavy in the air, it was almost tangible. Perhaps time for truth, although it would be painful for them.

"You need to know that he does not treat his enemies well, and those that enter his prisons seldom leave them unless dead or so broken in spirit, he can use them as propaganda tools."

Torres visibly blanched at the words �broken in spirit�, her mind suddenly going off at a tangent, thinking demon thoughts that needed no airing.

Silus instinctively knew the affect of his words, "Forgive me for my harsh words but I know the Sung Ti too well. Your Captain would have been subjected to great unpleasantness. Four months their captive? She will not have survived. If, by some miracle she has, she will not be the person you knew but some broken image of her former self."

He drew breath and paused. "They take their prisoners and break their spirits, their very souls. They strip them of their history, their clothes, their home, their loved ones � all that was familiar and would hold a sense of attachment, of strength, of freedom. They are beaten, drugged, forcibly robbed of their sleep to an extent that they become crazed with pain and fear. Those prisoners whom we have rescued in the past, they are no longer our colleagues, friends, lovers .. they are wild, insane, crazy people who we have to lock up for their own .. and our safety."

Silus�s voice became deeper, his eyes haunted, "I know this, my brother was once one of their captives. I pray that your Captain died quickly. To believe anything less would be .." Silus dipped his head and didn�t finish the sentence.

Tuvok broke the uneasy silence that permeated the room. "Why are you telling us this? Why now, when you will have been aware of our presence in this sector of space for some time?"

Silus smiled sadly. "A good question. Perhaps it is because you have stirred something in my people .. something called conscience and honour, a need to do the right thing and not for profit." He seemed suddenly very small, his thoughts far away from the room in which he sat.

"You helped the Brada when you could simply have ignored the problem and continued on your journey. This area of space is not accustomed to people who do things for no monetary gain. You see, my people are merchants. We trade. That is what we are good at and it is what we have always done. And we will trade with anyone for the right price."

"Even the Sung Ti!" Torres�s spat. She didn�t like this man. She sensed an agenda, an ulterior motive for his coming here at such a late stage.

"Especially the Sung Ti." He met her eyes forcefully. "You don�t have to like a good payer!"

Continuing, "I suppose technologically, all the planets within this sector, including Krasus, are all roughly at the same developmental stage. But whilst the majority of planets are peaceful, though not always open to other cultures, there is this link between us based on trade, entrepreneurial business and commerce. But the Krasus have always been different, given to excessive hostile and aggressive behaviour."

Silus held the three officers attention.

"However, somewhere over the centuries, an acceptable co-existence developed. They would leave us alone as long as we traded with them and shared any scientific developments .. for a price that is."

"But they attacked an unarmed merchant vessel?" Chakotay�s voice interrupted.

"Hmmn. Yes they did and that is another reason why I am here. The Brada are good, harmless people and they have always been fair traders. On Krasus, the current Regent replaced his stable uncle who died some years ago, and whilst he is childless, there are members of his family who have, over the last few years, begun to disturb the acceptable co-existence between our worlds. Of late, our ships have been attacked, our merchandise stolen, our traders captured and tortured�"

Torres spat "Right! You want us on your side so you can even up the odds, eh?" So this was what all this is about!

Silus turned and locked eyes with her. In a very even, cold tone "You have a very suspicious nature. I question what it is in your past that would want to judge me with such negative vim before I have given you any cause or action to justify such a decision."

"Your tardiness in coming forward says a lot!" she justified.

He wisely acquiesced. "Yes, we are guilty of that. But we are here now and hope to make amends in some way."

"What way?" Again Chakotay questioned.

"There is an alliance between the Volta, Brada and Novenian people, who have all suffered heavy losses of late by the hand of the Sung Ti. We are, as I speak, about to initiate acts of infiltration upon the Sung Ti Empire."

"War?" Tuvok queried.

"I prefer to call it controlled agitation. There is growing resistance on Krasus by its own people who wish to overthrow the current Regent and his cruel totalitarian regime. The alliance merely wishes to help the resistance along a little. Give them back a more stable, safe existence and re-establish a better climate for trading again. Put back the balance, the equilibrium, as it were."

"And you need our help?" Chakotay was beginning to think like Torres.

"No." Silus shook his head forcefully. "I wish you only to delay any imminent departure you may have been contemplating."

"Your reasons?" The dry, unemotional Tuvok took the words right out of Captain Chakotay�s mouth.

"We are attacking the Marchant holding units. If your Captain was imprisoned there, her body will still be there, kept for .." Silus was again agitated, ".. display purposes. Nothing deters a potential aggressor more, nor hinders their aggression, than seeing what their opponents do to their captives. Makes the foe think twice."

"What if she is alive?" Torres�s voice was now quiet, apprehensive, her mind frightened to contemplate thoughts that Silus had planted there earlier.

Silus sighed. "Well then, we will find her and will return her to you. Either way, dead or alive, if we find her, we will return her to your ship. You will wait?"

Chakotay nodded. "What if you aren�t successful .. with your controlled agitation?"

Silus just smiled knowingly. "Never sell your enemy the very best that you have. Always retain something up the sleeve! We will be successful, Captain."

*****

"I walked a mile with Pleasure; She chattered all the way
But left me none the wiser for all she had to say

I walked a mile with Sorrow and ne�er a word said she;
But oh, the things I learned from her,
When Sorrow walked with me!"

Seven finished analysing the data, saved the work then closed the file. She was done for today, having already worked well into the next shift. But now she would work no more. Now the time was hers to do with as she wished and she simply chose to stand and gaze up at the screen in astrometrics, letting her mind drift back to events that had so changed her, so forced her to come to painful terms with her humanity.

The loss of Captain Kathryn Janeway had quite simply, and quite unexpectedly, ripped her apart.

Seven could never again be seen as the apparent unemotional, arrogant woman she had been those months ago. Grief had held her in its hand and squeezed her tight almost until the life�s breath went out of her. Then, at the bleakest moment, she had discovered comfort in those around her. The crew of Voyager, themselves bereft, had quickly identified how the loss was affecting her, then reached out to her in the most unexpected ways, their compassion and tenderness reminding her so much of the one she had lost. The almost nostalgic d�j� vu allowed her to acknowledge the help they so freely gave and in doing so, welcomed her forever into the human fold.

She felt again what Paris had so rightly termed �the lump in the throat�, and sensed the threat of tears returning. This emotion called �grief� was apparently normal and yet so highly personal a response to loss. Seven analysed her situation. Grief was neither illness nor a pathological condition but a natural process that could lead to healing and personal growth. Seven grimly smiled at the thought �personal growth�. How proud Captain Janeway would have been of her now, to see how much Seven had grown and adapted to humanity.

Except the Captain wasn�t here to see it! Seven felt the tears again well up in her eyes, the now familiar stinging sensation returning.

How ironic that it was the Captain�s death and grief, which had given Seven the doorway to all of this. In such a short time, Seven had experienced a full gambit of emotional data first hand, finding also true friendship with so many crew. Seven now appreciated Janeway�s sage advice that often you had only to ask for help, that others were ready to reach out but often hesitated for fear of interfering or rejection.

Gentle Chakotay! He had been there to catch her when Janeway�s loss had caught her totally unprepared, had knocked her off balance and shaken her to the core. It had all been painful beyond words. Physically. Emotionally. She had realised then how fragile and vulnerable she really was, still was. She was still working her way through the pain � and the immense heavy weight of her guilt.

Guilt.

Seven felt the tears running down her face and glanced away from the astrometrics screen, choosing instead to look at the dull grey interior of the chamber. The guilt she felt was so heavy, so oppressive. Would this stay with her until the day she died? Or would the kindly spirits that Chakotay talked of to her in their quiet, shared moments, spare her and show mercy? Would they eventually let her forget and move on? Did she want to move on?

This guilt, borne out of her then, immature, inexperienced ability to understand her own and others feelings, other�s fears, Janeway�s fear, had led her into a quagmire of false loathing and a desire to hurt the Captain, to return the hurt the Captain had so unintentionally done to her.

The incident could have been yesterday, it was so fresh in her mind. Like a tape replaying, her Borg enhanced eidetic memory began to recall the events.

She remembered.

*****

The Past

Things had not been �quite right� between Captain Janeway and Seven for some time now, and Seven found this all uncomfortable and unacceptable. Ever since her disconnection with the Borg, the Captain had been a major � the major � part of her new life and now, some years later, things were changing, had changed, and Seven did not like it.

She found herself experiencing strong, disturbing and unsettling emotions which shredded her concentration and occupied her thoughts almost constantly, leaving her feeling ill at ease and unfocused on her primary function as Astrometrics officer.

What was wrong? What was �not quite right�? Seven found the answers to these questions difficult to assess since her developing appreciation of �instinct� was indicating this was a problem to do with human interaction, of deepening personal relationships, not some ordered systematic crises which could be analytically and scientifically diagnosed. Regardless, it all left Seven in a highly agitated state, unable to identify the direction of how to resolve the problem, and keenly aware that she would have to rely on her less than well-honed human skills. Yet something did have to be done since the ex Borg recognised that the balance of something had shifted between the two women.

They still met regularly for games of velocity, they still occasionally got together for philosophical discussions, although on reflection, perhaps these occurrences were less and Janeway now tended to host these chats in her ready room where they were less relaxed and not so informal ... where the Captain was, felt, more in control? Of course, Seven reasoned, the Captain had been exceptionally busy of late and, more reasoning, she still treated Seven with the same consummate respect both in and out of meetings.

However, Seven could only ascribe that whilst externally, Janeway conducted herself the same towards Seven, the Captain�s internal resonance towards her had altered. These human behaviours were difficult for Seven to interpret but it felt like the Captain was emotionally backing away from her, becoming more isolated. And that hurt Seven. A lot.

Where once, the petite Captain would have sought out Seven�s company on numerous, often inconsequential matters, almost as if she just needed to be with the younger woman, it was now almost the opposite. Instead of the countless impromptu surprises of the Captain just happening to turn up where Seven might be and to then spend time with her, Seven was now unable to count any such occurrences other than scheduled, routine arrangements. Seven recognised that the Captain was simply cutting Seven out of her personal existence, as gently as possible, but definitely increasing the distance. Yes, it hurt.

Seven had, of course, analysed and evaluated reasons for this unwelcome alteration in the Captain�s behaviour and her impressive well-honed analytical skills had suggested only one appropriate, rational hypothesis. The Captain had developed intimate feelings towards Seven and was now attempting to keep them contained.

Seven had noticed on numerous occasions the subtle biological changes evident in the Captain whenever Seven was near her. Whilst Seven had recognised them straight away - she had done extensive research into the mating rituals of Tom Paris and B�Elanna Torres - Seven had doubly checked to ensure those biological changes could not be due to other reasons. The only other valid reason to explain some of the changes, but not all, was that the Captain might have an allergic reaction to Seven. Insufficient answer. Improbable. Why an allergic reaction now and not sooner? No, Seven�s hypothesis was correct. Captain Janeway was developing deep and increasingly personal feelings towards her. Further, Seven could pinpoint an incident where things had come to a head and where directly after, subtle negative changes in Seven�s and the Captain�s relationship began.

Several months ago, Seven had been experimenting with the downloading of high, intensive amounts of data whilst regenerating. All had gone wrong. Seven�s cortical implant could not handle the excessive amounts of input and she had consequently made serious errors resulting in her allegations that both Chakotay and Janeway where guilty of heinous crimes concerning conspiracies against the general well being of Voyager and its crew in furtherance of their own ends. Clearly, these accusations had not endeared her to the senior officers.

The outcome had been a very paranoid Seven stealing the Delta Flyer and escaping Voyager, with an equally emotional Janeway in hot pursuit. This latter piece of information was, in itself, quite important towards the validation of her hypothesis. Janeway herself had come after her, not some delegated bridge officer. Curious. One then had to consider all the other numerous occasions that the Captain had personally stuck her neck out to rescue Seven, beyond that of expected duty and care for a crew person.

Janeway had that day beamed aboard the shuttle and listened to Seven�s paranoid rantings about Janeway being on a mission for the Federation, sent to capture and then exploit Seven, a future defence against the Borg enemy. Janeway�s face had registered such shock and anguish when contemplating that Seven could think such things of her. Seven�s words had truly pained the Captain. When Janeway had gained an opportunity to reply and reason with Seven, her entire body language changed, she had moved as close to Seven as she could do without hitting the force-field, her voice had become quieter, softer, and her beautiful hands had skilfully embellished the points she was so clearly desperate to get across.

And when simple star dates and facts hadn�t quite been enough, something far beyond the required behaviour of a superior to a subordinate had entailed. What had then occurred had been the older woman laying her emotions on the line with no camouflage. The Captain had reminded Seven of the bond that had grown between them, reminded her that she had never lied to Seven and had begged her to �trust� her again.

Seven had lowered the force-field and Captain Janeway had come forward to kneel in front of Seven, her eyes so full of affection .. of love. The moment had been charged with intimacy, a depth of closeness that had nothing to do with mere friendship and both women had recognised it. Those precious short minutes had been full of words and actions oozing with subtext. And in the few seconds before the two of them had beamed up, Seven had caught an expression on Janeway�s face, that of dawning recognition that something very strong had developed between them. That awareness had caused the woman�s face to flush, her body temperature to soar.

Seven had been hyper aware that the Captain had only just resisted reaching out for her before they both disappeared into the transporter beam. Seven was also strongly aware that her own brief reaction would have shown that the desire was mutual, and she knew that the Captain had registered this.

The arrival in the transporter room had been uncomfortable, with the Captain exiting rapidly and being unable to look at the young woman.

That

was where everything had started to go wrong.

And that was why Seven now stood in Captain Janeway�s quarters, having requested an urgent need to talk to her about a serious matter that could not wait.

*****

"What�s wrong, Seven?" Janeway�s voice was edged with genuine concern. Seven�s request after their Velocity game had been nervous, full of anxiety and it had been crystal clear to the Captain that this was not just some routine desire for stimulating intellectual discussion. Seven�s entire body language screamed that something was eating away at the young woman, and badly. Janeway had immediately put herself into diagnostic/repair mode and reactivated the use of her own quarters to facilitate a more comfortable environment in which to counsel the anxiety- ridden woman on what ever the problem was that had yet to be revealed.

Standing rigidly in her usual military stance, feet slightly apart, arms and hands locked together behind her back, Seven was however, shaking like a leaf. "Captain, I must thank you for affording me this time."

Affording her the time? So formal. What is going on here and why is Seven so nervous?� Janeway stood patiently and waited.

".. to talk to you privately.. in your quarters." Hesitantly. "There is something wrong, very wrong and it is causing me great distress."

�Seven is admitting to great distress? Not good�.

Seven was finding it difficult to look the smaller woman in the eyes. Janeway picked up on it. Her hand reached out and touched Seven�s arm, gently running up and down the thin, muscular forearm. In a calming, soft voice, "Seven, it�s OK. You�re allowed to breathe! Take your time and tell me what�s wrong. You know I�m always here for you. Let�s sit down shall we?" Janeway used the words to calm and started guiding Seven towards the couch but Seven resisted.

"I would rather stand, Captain. I find it .. easier to proceed."

Janeway removed her hand, whispering, "OK." She automatically stepped closer to the ex-Borg, her body empathically leaning forward in support, intimate support. This was not wasted on Seven. Her eyes found Seven�s, sending out messages of understanding, compassion, that she was ready to listen and there to help.

Seven sighed, her voice tinged with pain. "Captain, you say you are here for me but this is not correct� anymore. You have been avoiding me lately and I find this .. distressing and unacceptable."

The petite, wiry officer interrupted, "Seven, I�m not avoiding you!" Oh God, is that what this is all about? And Yes, I have been avoiding her. Talk your way out of this.

"We�ve just played velocity! Plus you know you are always welcome to come to me when you have problems, just like you have now." The last statement was said with emphasis. It masked the surprise and alarm she felt that the great distress Seven was facing had anything to do with her. How could she not have realised that Seven would not notice any changes? Changes as subtle as a sledgehammer!

Janeway�s heartbeat had risen a notch, she felt put on the spot and increasingly uncomfortable. Where might this conversation lead? Could she contain it and keep it harmless? Or was this suddenly going to move towards something that she felt very confused about and � absolutely not ready to handle right now.

The emotional intensity and pain lodged in Seven�s eyes chilled the Captain�s blood.

"Captain, please do not insult me by pretending to ignore what we both know to be the truth. You have, for the last 1.4 months failed to initiate interactive pursuits with me beyond those which are already routinely established." This brought a frown to the Captain�s face. �Flawlessly accurate statement�, Janeway thought.

Seven continued, sad eyes focused on alert ones. "The change in your behaviour corresponds with the incident on the Delta Flyer 1.4 months ago when I attempted to escape Voyager having incorrectly accused you of conspiracy .."

�Ah, she thinks I�m harbouring a grudge. This is good. Containment is possible.�

Janeway felt a fleeting surge of relief. "Seven, that�s all in the past and I know you weren�t to blame .." Janeway interjected.

"Please Captain, I am not finished. This is not to do with apportioning blame to the actual event. It is more to do with what was said, and not said, on the shuttle .. what passed between us on that vessel."

The temporary relief evaporated, Janeway�s false sense of comfort gone as quickly as it had arrived. �What passed between us on that vessel? Containment buggered.� Janeway felt a sudden surge of panic. This was going to be a conversation hinged around her feelings for Seven. Her beating heart got louder.

"I stated the bond that had grown between us ..", Janeway cut straight to the point and by way of explanation, " the close friendship we have, Seven. Important as that may be, I�m not aware of anything else passing between us."

"I believe you are and it is that awareness that is the very reason why you have chosen to avoid me ever since. Further, given what you said about the bond we share and our level of friendship, the evidence for that has been greatly lacking of late."

Seven�s voice was tinged with dejection. She brought her hands forward and clasped them in front of her. "Please, this is not why I came here this evening, .. not to pass criticism." She paused before continuing, her voice taking on a tender tone, the speed of delivery slower.

"Your absence in my daily routine causes me discomfort. I find it unacceptable. At first, I thought my illogical behaviour had caused you to reassess my importance to you but having analysed what happened that day .. and previous events, I have come to the only conclusion that I find viable."

"And that is?" The Captain�s voice was deadpan as she bit her bottom lip. She felt as if she was standing next to Pandora�s box and someone was about to take the lid off. Now she wasn�t breathing!

" I am .. inexperienced in delivering the words I want to say, I lack the articulate eloquence and expression that humans desire at such a time. But my words, .. I am genuine .. I feel these things here." Seven raised a hand to where her heart was. "I would not tell you now if I believed I still had time, .. time to develop the optimal, most appropriate way of showing you that I�" Seven hesitated, her level of discomfort rising. "Your recent withdrawal from me dictates that I must share my feelings with you now before you close me off completely."

In a contradictory, split-personality kind of way, part of Captain Janeway wanted to smile at the awkward and difficult manner in which Seven was attempting to explain herself, still so formal in her verbalisation. The other part of her was on the defensive and had her frozen to the spot. Years of experience told her what was coming. She knew what Seven was about to unleash, she could sense it, could see it in Seven�s eyes.

Intimacy, true intimacy was never something Janeway handled well and certainly not when it was sprung on her like this! Oh yes, she was good at the role-playing part of romance but this real baring of hearts stuff? She was a scientist for Earth�s sake! This was something her sister would be better capable of handling.

All of her affairs of the heart .. Justin, Mark .. had just happened in some simplistic fashion. But this was different. This was Seven�s first flutters of the heart and Janeway didn�t want to hurt the young woman. It was also, in truth, the first time Kathryn Janeway had ever felt such deep emotions for another human being, even more powerful than the love she had had for Justin. And as such, Janeway was fighting scared. She simply did not know what to do or how to handle the overwhelming strength of these intimate feelings she experienced whenever Seven was around her. Hell, even when she wasn�t!

Seven had always had a disquieting effect on her, and yes, lately those feelings had been growing exponentially. But there where bigger issues here which clearly, Seven was about to call her on. She was going to have to do some fancy footwork now and think on her feet.

" You do not touch me anymore," Seven stated flatly. "I was unaware of what your touch meant to me until you stopped, and now it is gone, I am deficient, without nourishment. Others touch me but I do not feel the depth of resonance I feel when you do so. I miss your touch." The sincerity was overwhelming.

Seven was visibly shaking now. "You do not look at me anymore. Not like you have done in the past. Your eyes avoid mine .. as they are doing now, and I feel as one of many .. in a collective .. where I no longer have a special place with you. And I know I have held a special place with you." The latter comment was spoken with such heartfelt tenderness. "I feel as if I have been ripped from the inside out and I do not understand."

Slow, calculating choice of words. "I only know that when you are with me, I am connected. I belong, and my life has meaning. Because of you, of who you are and your importance to me, I begin to sense my humanity and all that it may offer.

I begin to understand your words when you tell me of what I am capable."

Seven allowed a ghost of a smile to cross her ashen face. "I am capable of love, I am capable of experiencing the desires of passion, of wanting to hold someone close and to not let them go." Seven looked into the Captain�s eyes to ensure the smaller woman was in no doubt that the someone was her.

"Captain, I have always felt that .. my proximity to you makes .. made," she corrected, "you smile a lot. I miss your smile. You do not smile for me anymore and I find that hurts, though I don�t know why. I want to stop hurting but I don�t know how to."

Janeway could now feel her heart hammering inside her chest. Perhaps not the words or eloquence of the romantic poet or experienced suitor but to Kathryn Janeway of Indiana, these were the most beautiful words of love anyone had ever said to her.

Mark, another scientist at heart, had been very matter of fact about being attracted to her, loving her sharp intellect and wanting to pursue a relationship because they were of similar analytical natures. His approach had appealed to her scientific heart. But this? She felt humbled, proud, frightened � how could she respond to this? How did she want to respond to this? She simply didn�t know. Despite all the self-examination she had been doing recently � a lot � she was still so confused. Whilst she had to acknowledge the force of her feelings for this beautiful woman before her, were they feelings of love, or very strong friendship? If love, was she taking advantage of someone inexperienced, na�ve, one who might later regret a romance with her Captain? Janeway wasn�t sure that even if she could commit to an affair, that she could ever face giving herself to this woman only to be cast away in time as Seven matured and needed to move on.

Then there was the age thing, the command thing �the confusion. She felt her heart turning to the heavy weight of Kerndite vel-ore at her impending lack of ability to handle this.

Seven was talking again, "I feel your pain when you lose a crew member and how it affects you. I see how you hide the burden of your responsibilities, how they consume and exhaust you, how you give your time to all and yet, there is no one who gives their time to you when you need it in your darkest moments. I want to be that person, the one you can turn to, who can hold you when you need someone to hold."

She paused before resuming, " I want to have more with you Captain Janeway, more beyond the friendship. I find myself consumed of thoughts of you when you are not with me. I am fulfilled and happy when you are. You make me more."

A quiet, unsure voice now, "I know that I am not sufficient at expressing these things but I do know, Captain Kathryn Janeway, that with everything that I am, I am in love with you. And .. I believe you reciprocate those feelings."

Seven now stood perfectly still and awaited a response which, at first, seemed remote as she stared into the face of the compact, petite woman before her. Janeway�s face had gone as white as an Icelandic blizzard, completely drained and without colour. It occurred to Seven that the woman was bolted to the ground because she made no movement at all, her hands hanging motionless by her side.

Though physically still, mentally the captain�s mind was on overload, her thoughts threatening to overwhelm her.

�How can you respond to this woman when you don�t even know the answers yourself? Do you love this woman? Is that what your feelings are about or is it some delineation of deep friendship? Face it Kathryn, have you ever had any friendship as meaningful as this? No, you�ve always been a loner, pre-occupied with achieving, forging your career in Starfleet. Can you really tell the difference? And what if you do return her love? Is it right to love her? You�ll be jeopardising any future happiness she can have. You are wrong for her. You are too old for her. You are in the wrong position for her. You are her mentor, her Captain. For Earth�s sake, you are her friend! Don�t abuse that trust! You have too many responsibilities, too many pre-occupations. How could you ever make her happy? Sort this out now! Be gentle.�

After what seemed like an eternity, the Captain drew a breath, forcing air into her lungs. Then slowly and with great control but her voice breaking with emotion.

"Seven, you are so very special to me. Over the years we have developed a bond, a friendship which I treasure immeasurably but .. your feelings? They are wrong." She emphasized �wrong�. "Whilst I acknowledge what you say and how you think you feel about me, you have misunderstood .. misinterpreted the fine line between friendship and love .. intimacy."

This was killing Janeway. She wasn�t sure that what she was saying was right or wrong, she just didn�t know. The confusion would not dissipate and she was, if anything, more confused now than ever before.

"This complexity between friendship and love, well � it�s a common mistake to make. All humans go through this at one stage or another, usually when we are young adults, learning to handle these intimate emotions for the first time." Nervous pause. "It takes a long time to learn the difference between strong friendship and love, which is probably why teenagers have such traumatic times!" She tried to rationalise things and give Seven a get-out clause.

"You doubt my feelings?"

"No, Seven." The voice adamant. "I�m just saying that .. you have the pitch wrong."

Kathryn Janeway couldn�t look Seven in the eyes and chose the floor instead. Cruel to be kind. You can do this. "You can�t possibly begin to understand the complexity of human interactions, you�ve only just begun to experience humanity on the most base level. What you are experiencing is nothing more than a teenage crush .. on a teacher, a mentor. Real though it may appear, it is just a passing phase." �What on earth are you saying? Bluff or lie to Seven but don�t insult her!�

"I am no teenager!" Seven was incredulous at what she was hearing the Captain say.

"Age, no. But experience? It puts you in the same playing field." OK, this sounds a little more acceptable. Janeway expanded, "Also, sometimes a person gets trapped by the role model thing, the power attraction .. to the teacher, the mentor .. the captain. Again, it may seem like the real thing but it�s just a passing phase, you�ll move on."

�You couldn�t insult her more if you tried! I can�t believe I just said that.�

Seven of Nine listened to the words as they washed over her, the Captain had not heard a single word she had said, or at least had not understood their source nor meaning. It made her feel sick to think that her most heart felt emotions were being brushed away as inconsequential.

Seven reached out and grabbed the captain by the upper arms in an attempt to get her to look directly into her eyes. "You cannot believe that I genuinely love and desire you, that I would wish to spend my life with you, only you?"

Kathryn Janeway felt such a surge of energy spark through her body as Seven grabbed her arms. It was a familiar sensation, something she had not felt for years. Sensations felt once with Justin, though never with Mark. Passion! Was her body giving her the answers her scientific mind couldn�t? She was in love with Seven? How easy it would be to just give in to this most basic desire and need .. and how she suddenly wanted to give in to Seven. She could see only Seven�s lips and found herself contemplating what it would feel like to just say �Damn it� and step up closer and place her own lips there and to hell with all her reasons for avoiding this relationship.

But she was not a star ship captain for nothing, and resolve and restraint were upper most in her thoughts. She needed to stop this conversation now before she couldn�t. Her desires were not the issue here, Seven�s future well-being and happiness were and she could not be part of it.

Pushing herself out of Seven�s grasp, "You�ve misread everything, Seven. I�m sorry. Perhaps we can talk about this later and examine what you are really feeling .."

An agitated, desperate Seven, "I know what I am feeling Captain and I have just told you this but you seem unable to accept it .. for whatever reason."

Janeway was now on the defensive. "Look Seven, I can�t be clearer than I just have. I think we should leave this for now, maybe discuss it some other time."

"Do you not feel anything for me, Kathryn?" Seven�s eyes implored her to answer.

"Of course, Seven. We�re friends." Avoidance of the answer.

"That is not what I asked you. What are your feelings towards me?"

"Seven, I think you should leave now."

"Why do you not answer?"

"I want you to leave now."

"Do you not love me?"

No answer.

Seven had no frame of reference for an occasion such as this and her vulnerability made her feel raw, unsure of herself. She felt inadequate to continue the discussion, if that is what it could be termed since Janeway was clearly not going to answer any of her questions.

So she chose to leave but as she moved towards the door, she turned one last time towards the Captain, "I find it difficult, cruel, to believe that I can be so in love with you, Kathryn and yet you appear to harbour no such feelings for me. Is this the wonderful fulfilment of humanity that you wish me to embrace?" She paused and stared directly into the Captain�s eyes.

"Goodnight, Captain." And with elegance and grace, she left the quarters.

Janeway felt as she had just imploded. She had not handled the situation well. She had been less than honest. She should have simply told Seven the truth, whatever that was, however confusing and then let them work things out from there. Had she not always told Seven that honesty was the best policy?

And now, all Kathryn Janeway could see was the burning image of Seven turning back to her before she left the room, her blue eyes, her beautiful big blue eyes full of tears, tears rolling down her cheeks. And the irony of the whole occasion hit her. In her pitiful attempt to spare Seven pain, she who had once dared to call herself Seven�s mentor and friend, had been the first person to ever make Seven of Nine cry. She was in no doubt, she had just broken the young woman�s heart.

*****

Despite two requests, Seven had not reported to Captain Janeway, which is why the latter now sought Seven out in Cargo Bay 2. She knew the young woman was off duty and was avoiding her.

�This won�t be easy�,

Janeway thought as she entered the storage facility. She knew she had hurt Seven with her reaction and ill thought out responses the day earlier, responses she still couldn�t believe she had made. Where had all that life experience and star fleet training gone in tact, diplomacy and sensitivity during their conversation and why had she reacted so badly? She stepped into the bay, heard the doors swish shut behind her and then ordered them secure using her command security authorisation.

Seven stood at the computer console close to the regeneration alcove. Though she had obviously heard the Captain�s entrance and the associated security order, she chose not to acknowledge the older woman�s presence.

�O..kay, not a promising start,�

Janeway took a deep breath and swallowed nervously. With an outwardly commanding presence that was not mirrored by the way she felt inside, she walked purposefully up to the other side of Seven�s console and stood facing her, challenging the tall woman to at least recognise her presence.

"Seven, we need to talk." Good start. Direct, to the point.

The immaculate, classically beautiful woman did not look up from her work, "Your topic, Captain?" The voice was unemotional, uncharacteristically hard.

"Yesterday." No change registered at all with the elegant woman. Janeway sighed. �OK, Seven has every reason to make this difficult .. just go with the flow and put this right."

"Seven, I� I want to apologise for the way I handled our conversation yesterday. I wasn�t � expecting to hear what you had to say and well, you rather took me by surprise. I could have been a lot more .. understanding and sympathetic. I could have handled it better. I�m sorry, Seven." �This is good. Keep it going�.

No reaction from Seven. �Maybe not so good�.

"What we should have done is sat down and talked this through and I guess that�s what I�d like to do now, if you want to .. if you�ll let me." �I can beg�. Janeway�s voice oozed compassion and gentleness but she was met with stony silence. �Definitely not a good start�.

A tender, small voice, "Seven, I didn�t mean to hurt you, I would never knowingly do that. I care too much for you to do that .. and I can see that�s what I�ve done." Janeway rested her slim hands on the top of the console, her eyes searching Seven�s face, desperate to make eye contact.

"Speak to me, Seven, please," the older woman was begging, "I�d like us to try and work through this, I don�t like the way things were left. You are my friend, and I so value that. Friends should not �."

"You state that the words I said were unexpected?" The words were ice, "I don�t believe you. You lie. You refuse to answer my question. I ask you again, do you love me?" Seven�s stance had suddenly shifted and cold, piercing eyes locked onto the Captain�s. The voice of the Astrometrics officer was charged with anger, resentment, the voice grating and low.

"I love you as a friend, as a ..", she was interrupted.

"That is not the question I ask. Do you love me?"

Desperation. "Seven .. I can�t answer that question because you don�t understand what you are asking." Janeway was frustrated, this was not going the way she had hoped.

Seven�s anger continued to escalate and had Kathryn not known the woman better, she might have felt physically threatened as the younger woman stepped aside from the console to stand directly, towering over the smaller woman.

"Do not patronise me, Captain. You compare my feelings for you with that of an adolescent with a crush on a teacher? You insult me! How little you understand me. You dare to suggest that my affection for you is nothing more than a power attraction? I was Borg and consider myself at least your intellectual equal, an intelligence I have never chosen to ill-use against you and yet, you dare to use your humanity against me as a pitiful attempt to hide your own feelings and emotions."

Seven stepped closer and leaned down over the Captain. Janeway could have felt intimidated. Hell, she was intimidated!

"Captain Janeway," the voice so formal, with no sense of any friendship present, "you see my inexperience for more than it is. Inexperience does not represent a lack of understanding, nor does it reflect that any emotions borne out of it are any less true or valid. Those emotions are simply lacking the opportunity to express themselves. Opportunity the Borg did not give me!" Seven paused momentarily and though Janeway wanted to respond, the words weren�t there.

"I am inexperienced. I do not deny it but at least I possess honesty and moral integrity which you appear to have abandoned." And then with a grave, cold voice, "I have seriously misjudged you and I must thank you for showing me the true value of your friendship and potential as a lover. It is better to realise such shortcomings now than to find out later."

Captain Janeway swallowed hard. "Now hang on, Seven.."

"You have lied to me. You have not told me the truth. You have not admitted that you have strong feelings for me. You do not answer any direct questions I ask you. Yet you continue to call me �friend�. I question this now. I thought I saw something in your behaviour, your consistency to place yourself and the crew of Voyager in positions of great danger to rescue me, on what have been so many occasions. I foolishly believed your actions were driven by some personal desire, some affection for me beyond that of friendship, something more but now I find myself questioning my own ill founded beliefs."

Seven�s head tilted to the side like something examining a specimen in a jar. Janeway�s comfort zone was well out of an airlock.

The tall, beautiful woman�s tone was now dismissive, aloof, her words as if stating the plainly obvious, "Perhaps the truth has been staring me in the face all the time but I have been so distracted by my own inner struggles, my searching to find my own human identity that I have not been able to see it. Indeed, perhaps the truth, though not disclosed, is dual natured."

Janeway frowned, confused. Where was Seven going with this?

"I am not good enough for you! I have failed to live up to your human expectations and you do not see me as an equal. Your words yesterday implied as much. This reason alone would be creditable enough to explain the cessation in our relationship termed friendship. Friends spend time together and share. We do not do this anymore. It would explain your �cooling off� and distancing yourself from me."

The Captain could not believe that Seven would interpret any misunderstanding between them as this; surely there was enough between them to have cemented their friendship over the years? Had their bond, their closeness really been this tenuous?

"Seven .."

"Do not interrupt me Captain. You will at least allow me to finish what I have to say and then this matter can be closed." Such cool detachment.

"I see something else, Captain, another reason, more powerful that explains why you could never want a relationship with me .. or anyone else on this ship." The words were almost spat at Janeway.

"And that is?" Janeway asked flatly.

"Your obsessive addiction with your command role, too embroiled with the pips you wear on your uniform. You cannot distance yourself from your role or professional objectives enough to pursue any personal relationships."

Seven�s leaned her head down towards the Captain�s, ice blue eyes boring into the smaller woman�s.

"Any relationship would detract from that career which you rate of greater importance. I look at you and I do not see you surrounded by a plethora of people one would term �close friends�. You do not let anyone into your world, afraid that it will detract from that to which you are accustomed and comfortable with. You even keep Chakotay at arms distance. Your obsession with your career has hindered your personal and social development, producing this lack of balance."

Janeway looked away, fighting the surge of anger rapidly rising up in her. Sucking her bottom lip, her tone became dangerously low, the usual subtle warning to anyone who chose to recognise it.

"I don�t think � Seven .. that you have any credibility or experience when it comes to assessing why I do or do not live my personal life as I do." The Captain�s eyes narrowed in warning. "Quite where you think you get off with all of this I don�t know but you have no right to question my personal relationships, either on this ship or before. You know nothing about me and my past." Her jaw was tight and she was seething with controlled anger.

Seven�s voice momentarily lowered, "You do not like the truth, Captain, to have someone stand up to you and inform you of your weaknesses? And yet you felt able to do this to me yesterday. One rule for one and not for another? How arrogant you are and how unappealing that trait is. I find this part of your nature unacceptable."

Seven�s enunciation was crisp and harsh, like boots cutting through ice-frozen snow.

Years of experience helped Kathryn Janeway to hold her temper but it wasn�t easy.

Despite all of her feelings, Janeway was able to recognise Seven�s emotional outburst as the age-old human trait of wanting to hurt someone who had hurt you, in whatever way they could. And of course, Seven knew what buttons to push. "Seven, you are angry right now but .."

"I am not angry, I am frustrated that one I had held in such high regard should turn out to be such a disappointment, that I should have allowed myself to be so humiliated and abandoned."

Had held?� The words hit Janeway hard and suddenly she had an impending gloom of just where this conversation was going. It was going very badly � very badly.

The tall, blond stepped back several paces, " My approach to you was based on inefficient assessment. Your emotional declaration has, on further evaluation, proved to be of no consequence to me, as mine was clearly of none to you. You are insignificant to me. No further concern is necessary. I have adapted, as will you."

Pause.

"And what exactly is that supposed to mean?" The threads of anger still audible in the Captain�s tone.

"I denounce any measure of affection I believed I harboured for you and I decline your future friendship and mentorship. In these areas I can and will do better."

Janeway felt the blood pressure in her body plummet.

"Professionally, you are unquestionably a consummate and most able star ship captain who possesses talents of exceptional ability and I will continue to work at optimum efficiency to assist you in your.."

"Optimum efficiency?" Janeway interrupted dryly.

" .. assist you in your endeavours to return this crew home. However, I find your social and emotional interactions with regard to intimacy sorely lacking. I find it disconcerting that it has taken me this long to discover that you are deficient in this area and that you also have capacity for deception and deceit in regard to your treatment of me regarding friendship. Since you are now not what I seek in friendship or otherwise, this matter is at a close."

She stood and looked at the smaller woman, her own height towering over the other, her demeanour entirely arrogant and haughty.

"Now, you will excuse me. I have work to attend to."

"You�re off duty, Seven." Janeway stated evenly, reminding her.

"Then I have better places to be, Captain."

Seven turned and walked out of the cargo bay, leaving a completely stunned woman standing alone by the console, her hands still resting on its surface.

*****

Days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months, during which time Seven of Nine steadfastly closed herself off to Janeway, despite the latter�s forays to try and put matters right. Seven had changed her shift to achieve the most efficient way to avoid the Captain. She refused invites to Velocity games, often never even bothering to respond to such requests, refused invites to late night chats, or frequenting the bridge to work on astrometric charting there. In short, wherever the Captain might be, you could bet that Seven would not be there.

Cold, detached and with casual indifference, Seven treated the Captain with professional respect but social disdain and distance. There was no hint of their former close relationship and all Janeway could do was watch what had once been, slowly fade into the past.

Seven treated the Captain as if she was invisible and had on one occasion actually passed her in the corridor as if unseen. Janeway had bided her time, hoping that time and distance might thaw the ice between them but to no avail.

For Captain Janeway, as time marched on, it began to feel like a bereavement. She was now, on a social consideration, confined to those crewmembers that Seven deemed inconsequential, without importance, and irrelevant.

Kathryn Janeway loathed this. Never, in her entire life, had she ever been confined to some backwater anonymity. No matter who she had dealt with in her life, she had always evoked some emotion. People either liked, loathed, loved or tolerated her .. whatever, but they never viewed her with indifference. And for Seven to do this now? Well, it simply aggravated, annoyed and hurt like hell.

It hadn�t taken the crew long to recognise the shift in the relationship and strangely enough, it concerned many who, whilst they may not have been members of the Borg Fan Club, they had recognised the depth and importance of the relationship borne between the two women.

The breakdown of this special relationship proved of most concern to Chakotay and Neelix, both of whom had on separate occasions approached Janeway and offered to try and mediate in whatever way they could, to try and put something special back in place.

However, through it all, Janeway had held on to the hope that eventually, when Seven calmed down �because surely all this coldness had to be an act? - there might be an opportunity to slowly put things back in place, starting with the friendship and then?

Then? Well, perhaps the great Kathryn Janeway did need to assess what depth of a relationship she wanted with the younger woman. If the recent months were anything to go by, Janeway was not reacting to the loss of just a friend. Even she could see that somehow Seven really had wormed her way into those areas of the heart which the Captain thought she had so successfully locked and bolted away for the duration of the journey. Who would have believed it would be an ex Borg that would become a master locksmith?

But even hope was taking a severe thrashing of late and to be truthful, after a particularly painful incident in the mess hall about a week ago and then, what had happened at the pre-mission briefing that very morning, even Captain Janeway was beginning to feel that any revival of a relationship was over. It had been a long time since she had felt this low in spirit.

Eight days ago, she had entered the mess hall for her usual early morning fix of coffee, had seen Chakotay, Kim and Seven seated together and had come across to join them. Seven had made a point of deliberately rising to leave almost as soon as she had sat down, excusing herself to go and see to some inconsequential problem or other. It had been blatantly obvious that she was leaving because the Captain had joined the table.

Momentarily, their eyes had locked and Janeway knew her own would have unavoidably registered hurt and disappointment, but Seven�s were hard and cold, without any sign of emotion. Simply a case of �I don�t see you, I don�t hear you.�

For a while later, whenever the Captain would enter the mess hall for breakfast and see Seven present, she would try her best to avoid the young woman, choosing instead to join some other group. But after a while, the Captain just gave up and in most cases now, simply chose to take her coffee and leave.

Then eventually, the Captain stopped going to the mess hall altogether at the interchange of the early shift for fear that Seven would begin to avoid the place. Ridiculous as it all was, she wouldn�t jeopardise Seven�s opportunity to increase her social skills and make new friends � she had come so far and Janeway had recently begun to sense a break-through in the young woman�s ability to connect with other crew. Regardless of their problems, she would not hinder the young woman�s progress.

Beyond Seven changing her duty watch, avoiding having to interact quite so much with the �professional� element of the Captain, where on occasion Janeway would in the past have expected an astrometrics report by hand, now they came via some impersonal electronic route or by a junior crewman�s hand.

This particular morning had delivered a particularly low blow to Kathryn. There had been a pre-mission briefing in preparation for the afternoon�s landing party mission to the recently orbited Excelda. These pre-mission meetings were routine, to tie up procedures and objectives, check last minute preparations for the away team. This one was to have been attended by Neelix, Tuvok, Ensigns Chargory and Bethan, Seven and with Captain Janeway leading. As usual the team had been nominated by Chakotay as part of his first officer responsibilities.

However, during the meeting, Seven had unexpectedly thrown the proverbial �antigravity- spanner into the works� by insisting that a project she was currently involved in had suddenly become a greater priority, and knowing how much importance the Voyager command placed on the findings, she felt that now was not the most appropriate time to be leaving the data and consequent analysis to attend some trivial and routine planet excursion. She argued that perhaps someone else who better needed away-team experience might replace her?

Chakotay immediately recognised the excuse for what it was, a ruse to avoid being any where near the Commanding Officer. He felt the blood rise to his face and was about to rip into her about issues such as unprofessionalism and inappropriate timing when Janeway, who really had had enough, put her hand up. "Leave it, Commander. Just find me another officer and get them briefed up."

The remainder of the meeting had continued in muted discussion about requirements, negotiation and cultural awareness issues, and security aspects.

Chakotay had stayed behind on completion of the meeting and leaned against the conference table in front of the Captain. He wasn�t completely aware of what had happened between the two women but he wasn�t a fool and knew it hovered around personal issues. He suspected what those issues might be but at the end of the day, it was still just speculation and none of his business.

He felt desperately sorry for both women, as it was self evident that they were both suffering in their own ways. What annoyed the man was the manner in which the ex-Borg was letting off steam.

Most of all, he felt bad for the Captain who had clearly taken whatever the incident was between them, directly to heart. He had witnessed her desperately attempting to put whatever was wrong, right but to no avail. He had had to watch Seven literally throwing Janeway�s attempts back in her face, often in front of others. Janeway could do no right and was damned if she did, damned if she didn�t. His commanding officer had enough problems and command weight on her small shoulders without this. He was angry.

"You know Kathryn, Seven�s behaviour is now becoming an issue and I would like to approach her about this in my capacity as First Officer. I know you and she have issues which need to be resolved one way or the other, but I can�t continue to have her messing the ship�s rota around like this."

The auburn haired woman ran her hands through her hair and sighed, "I know Chakotay, I know. I had hoped that today, away from the ship in a more relaxed planet environment, we might have been able to construct the framework for a little repair work, but I guess that�s not going to happen! Not in the next few days anyway."

"I�ll talk to her while you�re away and explain a few salient points about being part of a team."

Janeway was now rubbing her temples, "Don�t hammer her too hard, Chakotay. She doesn�t have the emotional experience to fall back on, to help her in situations like this .."

"You mean situations where she acts like a petulant teenager." Chakotay was through cutting Seven any slack.

Janeway stared over his shoulder into the vacuum of space beyond and pointed a finger from a delicate hand into the air as if at some imaginary object.

"No, .. I think that�s where I made the mistake, ..treating her like a teenager, someone who doesn�t understand because they are too inexperienced, too young to understand. I think she does know what she feels, what she wants."

She paused as if mentally connecting thoughts and for the first time, making sense of something which had been confusing her for a long time.

"I think I was the one who didn�t understand, didn�t trust what I was hearing, seeing. That�s my mistake. Of course, her mistake is she doesn�t know how to handle �.." The Captain�s voice tailed off into silence, she was loath to give too much away regarding the actual issues set between the two of them.

"Well, she doesn�t know how to handle it!" she inadequately finished off.

Chakotay smiled his gentle, crooked smile. His eyes twinkling, "Well, thank you Kathryn for clearing that up. Now I really understand!" As clear as mud. Janeway smiled coyly at his gentle humour.

His intuition elbowed him to push matters and try a little probing. "Would I be so off the mark if I presumed this had something to do with wanting to push the boundaries of friendship?"

Janeway froze, staring into his brown, warm eyes. Fractions of seconds passed but they felt like minutes.

"No. You wouldn�t." She spoke honestly, her husky tones quiet.

"Not mutual?"

She went to talk, hesitated, then spoke. "At the time .. I didn�t think so." She sounded unsure, lost.

"And now?" he continued to probe.

"Now?" The voice sounded pained and desperate. "Now ..I can�t see the wood for the trees .. and I�m wondering if it�s too late."

"What are you going to do, Kathryn?"

"Honestly? I don�t know." Then the smile returned to her face, she wanted closure now on the serious turn of conversation. "For now, I think I�m going to get ready for the mission and just occupy my mind with that! Maybe a few nights on a strange planet, the guest of some nice alien hosts, will give me a fresh perspective and evoke inspiring ideas. But right now, Voyager needs replenishment of fuel and food! Priorities, Commander!"

She rose and tapped him affectionately on the shoulder before leading them both out of the room.

*****

Continue to Chapter Two

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