TEMPUS OMNIA REVELAT
Seven walked slowly back to the cargo bay, needing to regenerate. She did not walk with purpose and efficiency as she normally did because .. she did not feel like it. Perhaps the revitalising of her bodily functions would assist her in feeling better, lift her spirits, something the afternoon watch on the bridge had failed to do.
It wasn�t as if things had gone badly, they just hadn�t gone. She had managed to get herself onto the same watch as the Captain, had managed to work out some ruse � the human term for deception � to get herself onto the bridge and work from the console there. She had attempted to join in the usual bridge �banter�, hoping to gain the Captain�s attention but this had not worked, indeed she felt she had been treated with casual indifference by her.
The Captain had smiled three times whilst on watch. Twice with Lt Paris and once with Ensign Kim. She had not smiled at her, even though Seven had responded to two threads of �relaxed� and non-professional discussion when bridge banter had prevailed.
The Captain had, on one occasion, stood to stretch her legs and in doing so had dropped a tactical report padd she had been reading. Seven had somehow managed to move with alarming efficiency to be the one who immediately picked it up and passed it back to the Captain who had simple responded, "I can manage."
The worst part had been when Seven had completed her astro evaluation well ahead of schedule and had handed it personally to the Captain, who merely stated that in future, just pass any such data padds direct to Chakotay who filtered what she did and did not need to see. The Captain hadn�t even bothered to look at her.
And standing now in front of her alcove, knowing she desperately needed to regenerate, Seven hesitated, not wanting to connect to the machine and simply switch off all these painful feelings coursing through her body.
Unusually, she chose to sit at the base of her alcove and wrapped her arms around her legs holding herself tightly, as if the position would somehow protect her from what she felt, would bring her solace. But it didn�t. Nothing did anymore, not now that the Captain was back onboard and safe .. and so close to her and yet so far away, so untouchable.
Seven moved a hand to scratch a facial itch only to find she was wiping an errant tear. There had been a lot of those lately. Tears of anger, of guilt, of loss. Then tears of happiness when Janeway was found alive and returned, tears of pleading to spirits .. whoever, that they would let the Captain live. And now, tears of realisation, of a dull dawning of recognition that the woman she loved, still loved, did not return her feelings and worse, now resented her for her past manifest and ignorant behaviour.
The pain of being human was too much! If only her acclamation back to humanity had had its limits, limits that would have restricted her emotional growth and saved her from such depth of pain as she felt now.
She had heard the term somewhere �Heart of Stone�, had at the time questioned its validity, since how could the heart, merely a biological organ for pumping blood around the human body, be held responsible for emotional content? The human brain is the area of emotional stimuli .. surely, a �brain of stone�? Though she had analytically questioned the statement, she now knew exactly what it meant, even if the source organ was contestable. Seven longed for that heart of stone � but then she would never have felt such joy in the Captain�s presence .. still felt � joy and pain twinned with each other.
She had confided in Chakotay many months ago, when the search for the Captain had been blackest, about her inappropriate behaviour, how she had gone about telling the Captain her feelings the wrong way, the reasons why she had behaved so badly afterwards, like a spoilt child. Chakotay had smiled at her words but been very understanding and had helped her to appreciate the complexities of human interactions and resulting relationships.
He had also spoken to her at length about her behaviour since the Captain�s return, how she needed to try and at least talk to the Captain, how the latter had noticed and felt her absence. Seven had tried to explain, tried to put into words how much she wanted to do this but somehow couldn�t. How she felt so ashamed for her actions and how she felt guilt for what had happened since, surely her fault because she had not been part of the landing party. Chakotay had told her she was wrong, that what had happened on Excelda had nothing to do with her but she couldn�t believe him.
And as time had marched on, it simply became more difficult to directly approach the woman she still loved. She couldn�t believe the Captain would want anything to do with her now, she had rejected Janeway so many times before. And now the Captain seemed not to notice her, treated her as if she wasn�t there, wasn�t important anymore � like she had treated her!
Seven just longed to be close to the Captain again, wanted to tell her how she felt, how she wanted to be forgiven and would do anything just to be friends again, even if it took time to rebuild the trust they had once shared. But all of this was complicated by the fact that the Captain was not the same person she had been. Who would have been after what she had gone through?
But it was very obvious to key staff that Captain Kathryn Janeway was faking her way through normality � she was emotionally dead if you scratched beneath the surface. How could Seven approach someone she didn�t understand anymore and when they so desperately needed help? She just wanted to hold the woman and tell her things would be better, like the Captain had done to Seven all those years ago. She had never told the Captain how much she had needed those arms around her in the early days � something in their warmth had reminded her of .. other times, before she was Borg.
�Be persistent,� Neelix kept telling her, �Don�t give up, someone needs to break through and reach the Captain and that someone is you, if you really do love her. Love never gives up, not if it is real.�
Seven believed Neelix to be a true romantic. He had an instinctive regard and empathy for others that went far beyond anything anyone else seemed to possess on this vessel. He had told her that he always thought the Captain had a soft spot for Seven, something that was beyond mere friendship, he had seen it in the woman�s eyes, heard it in her laugh but he agreed with Seven that duty probably stood in the way. �But if you chip away long enough, you eventually break the ice, assuming the feelings are genuinely reciprocated on their side.�
�Does being human have to be so difficult?� she silently asked herself as she stepped up into the regenerator and activated it.
"Well, it�s an opportunity not to be missed," Chakotay stated to the senior officers, sat around the conference table in the briefing room. "Who knows when we�ll get another chance like this."
"Agreed. It�s been awhile." The slightly serious approach of Captain Janeway contrasted with the relaxed manner of her First Officer. "Protomatter is a rare commodity in this part of the quadrant," she stated flatly.
"I�d like to take a shuttle out as soon as possible � take Seven and Ensign Kim. We can .." Chakotay was already making plans and appeared to have the entire mission wrapped up just a little too comfortably for the Captain.
"Hang on, Chakotay!" Janeway eased forward a little in her chair, eyeballing her number one, a slow smile cut across her features, "Since when do you get all the fun? I seem to remember that you got to play with the shuttle last time we did this. Personally, I feel a little excursion coming on. Besides it�s been ages since I got to be in the driving seat and this little mission appeals to my scientific bent!" Her voice had the lilt of playfulness but the eyes indicated otherwise.
Chakotay�s response was hesitant. He was having difficulty getting the feel of his captain now she was back.
Face value, she was the same, albeit a lot thinner and clearly still getting over some physical issues. He noticed how she had tucked her right hand under her left armpit. She did this to hide the tremors, but everyone knew they were there.
No. It was more her mental state that gave him problems. Not that she was behaving differently but it seemed to him it was as if she had turned in on herself. There was a new aspect to the woman that gave her an edge of unapproachability .. and yet she wasn�t. He had tried to quantify what he thought and could only turn up fairly useless descriptions such as �heavy, stern, untouchable �hard as nails.�
He replied, "I just thought that �"
The Captain knew what he �just thought�. She could hear the concern in their voices, see it in their eyes and she didn�t help matters because they all wanted to help her but she couldn�t talk about what had happened to her � couldn�t even think about it. It was all too raw, too painful.
"Captain�s prerogative. You lose. I win!" The smile she gave him was warm but he knew she�d brook no argument so he grinned back at her, acquiesced to her wishes and shrugged his shoulders.
"Guess I�ll look after the farm then."
"You do that," she said with accompanying light laughter which relieved a tension no one wanted to admit to in the meeting and suddenly her laughter triggered something infectious, and quiet chuckles reverberated around the room.
For all his concerns, Chakotay happily found himself comparing the high levels of morale now to how the spirit of the ship�s crew had been a few months ago when all had started to believe that the Captain was dead.
"Actually, I�d quite like to volunteer, Captain. I do have a lot of experience in containing proto matter." Neelix�s keen enthusiasm rippled down the table.
"You nearly killed yourself last time you did it!" Torres butted in.
"Actually, you did kill yourself!" Paris added, then realised that perhaps this hadn�t been the most tactful of comments to make. Neelix had died during what should have been a simple gathering of base proto matter into a containment cylinder. But for Seven�s nanoprobes, the man would still be dead. It had taken him a long time to recover from the episode.
Janeway sobered immediately, fully aware that tact and diplomacy was called for.
"Thank you, Neelix, but this time I�d like to give Ensign Kim a shot at the containment. How�s that grab you, Harry?"
"I guess there�s got to be a first time for everything, Captain." His usual tone of youthful enthusiasm was evident.
"Good man!" Janeway nodded. "Oh, and actually, I�d like to take Ensign Torb along this time. He�s been pushing for more exciting away missions. Seems he finds life in engineering dull!" Janeway threw a playful glance at Torres, "This could be right up his warp stream, get him out of engineering for awhile. Any objections, Lieutenant?"
"No, Ma�am. I�ll let him know but, well .. hasn�t Seven got the most experience where n�"
Torres didn�t get a chance to finish.
" Torb�s my choice. See he gets briefed, Commander." Her tone was implacable, this was not something that was open to debate. She looked to Chakotay who acknowledged her order. The Captain had reverted to full command mode, knew what she wanted and wasn�t going to waste time discussing it.
Somewhat quickly, perhaps too quickly, she continued.
"Any other matters? No? Dismissed."
The staff began to leave the room but Seven hovered in the background, eventually approaching the commanding officer.
"Captain." The voice was cool, respectful. The young woman stood before Janeway, who had now also stood, her arms folded across her chest, a studious look of stern austerity written across her face, the eyes flint grey.
"As I was the one who discovered the energy field, I thought I might be best placed to take part in the mission. The field is showing signs of volatility and sporadic power fluctuations �"
Janeway studied the other woman�s face and frowned slightly, "I�ve made my mind up. I want Ensign Torb on the mission. I�ve studied the readings and the energy fields are within safe parameters. I think we can handle it." Seven wondered if the last few words hadn�t been delivered with just a hint of sarcasm.
The captain had moved to leave the room but then stopped and turned back to face Seven, the smaller woman�s face serious, resolute.
"There�ll be other missions, Seven. Time to let someone else have a go. Besides �"
the Captain paused, her tone commanding, unappeasing, "I�m sure you have more urgent matters to attend to in Astrometrics, some project or other, that requires your immediate and personal, undivided attention." The statement was rhetorical, demanding no answer.
Seven�s body posture immediately went rigid as she recognised the similarity of her own earlier wording being thrown back at her. Unusually, she could feel the heat burning in her face, as she comprehended the fact that she had been very much put in her place and not so subtly reprimanded for her earlier behaviour on a mission she had backed out of many months ago.
Seven�s head shot up, surprise and shock written across her face. Before she could respond, the captain had turned and left.
Was this how Captain Janeway had felt all those months ago when she herself had been so callous and cruel. Another lesson learned.
Chakotay who had remained behind with the Captain, had witnessed it all and his heart went out to the young woman who looked completely stunned and miserable.
He knew she had done her penance and had repented over her previous behaviour towards the Captain. Unfortunately, the latter still had issues.
He didn�t say anything to her but simply, gently, tapped the young woman on the shoulder in sympathy as he followed in the Captain�s wake.
The doors swished closed, leaving Seven alone in the Briefing Room. Her legs felt like leaden weights and only served to match the way her heart felt. How could things have turned so wretchedly bad?
Captain Janeway had just coolly relegated her to an area that was usually reserved for those the woman had little time for, those she disliked or distrusted. Seven recalled Tuvok�s discussion once of a man called Souter? Janeway had apparently been icily unreceptive to the man, even when he had shown great leaps in moral integrity.
Yet Seven felt she deserved no less from Kathryn Janeway. Seven had acted like a spoilt brat when she had not received the response she had wanted from the captain all those months ago. And Seven had been quite accomplished in hurting and humiliating the senior officer whenever she had had the chance. The woman who had never done her any harm and had only ever shown her compassion, understanding, friendship and given her precious time so freely. Who could blame the Captain?
But it didn�t make Seven feel any better, recognising why Janeway should chose to act like this.
All the former Borg could do now was serve Kathryn Janeway to the best of her capacity, not let her down in any quarter. Make Janeway recognise and acknowledge her qualities again, and maybe, get the captain to like her once more? See her once more?
With laboured difficulty, Seven lifted her head in accepting her own challenge. She would be more efficient, more effective! Janeway would have to take notice of her again! Wouldn�t she?
Chakotay had accompanied the Captain back to her ready room, to discuss final arrangements for the mission later that day. He could see that the altercation with Seven had disturbed the fragile equilibrium of the Captain, who appeared worryingly frail.
"Interesting staff meeting, Captain." Chakotay had a wry grin on his face and Janeway initially turned and scowled at him.
"What�s that supposed to mean?" she challenged, immediately on the defensive, the body language stiff. She knew where he was coming from.
He gently raised his hands in front of him in mock surrender, "Oh nothing. Just felt you were a little harsh with Seven, that�s all."
"I wasn�t harsh. I made a command decision to take Ensign Torb instead of her. Torb needs the experience."
"Yes, he does. I�m just saying that you were a little hard on Seven," his voice had taken on a gentle, caring tone, "and you don�t need to be."
For a split second, he thought she was going to pile into him with the third degree. In the past he had been on the receiving end of more than one of her interrogation style one-way chats where she had shown she had the ability of a forensic examiner!
But her aggressiveness faded immediately as she stared up at the ceiling and sucked air in, and then out. She indicated for him to sit.
"Oh, Chakotay, and I was supposed to be building bridges!" Her hand went through her hair, a look of resignation flew across her gaunt features. Chakotay noticed the hand trembling. She was better, but still not fully recovered.
He smiled at her and beckoned her to sit down beside him. "You might want to change the style!"
She grinned sheepishly, then sat on the couch beside him.
"I don�t know where that came from. Not very mature of me, was it?" The deep, sultry tones held an edge of despair.
Her first officer leaned back into the couch, "I think you�ve had rather a lot to put up with lately, Kathryn, so no one�s looking! But I do think there are a few things you ought to be aware of. Things you probably don�t know about Seven � that I think you really need to know."
The captain sighed out loud. "Chakotay, I don�t think I behaved very well today but once Seven�s got over the slight, she�ll realise I saved her having to find some noble excuse why she couldn�t make the mission!"
Chakotay shook his head, "No, Kathryn, you�re wrong and that�s why I want to share a little information with you about our illustrious little Borg. Things that, as a good First Officer, I have to let you know and that you, as a fair and just Captain really do need to be aware of. OK?" He was being a touch theatrical.
Janeway just flipped a hand forward, giving the man permission to continue.
"You don�t think she cares for you, do you?" he probed.
"Whether she does or doesn�t is irrelevant as long as she does her job well."
Chakotay frowned at Janeway�s avoidance of the question, and didn�t mask his disappointment and anger. He resorted to the time-honoured trick of just not coming back at her response, allowing a silent pause to stretch a little.
Janeway tutted in recognition of his tactic and sighed, "Hell, I know she doesn�t. We weren�t exactly on the best of terms before the mission to Excelda, or have you conveniently forgotten that?"
So now the Captain was trying to throw him off the conversational thread by bringing him into the chain? �Doesn�t work, Kathryn, I�ve known you too long.�
"Yes, the mission to Excelda .. she talked to me about that, and what happened between the two of you prior to that." Janeway blanched. "Sorry, but she did. She was desperate to talk to someone and she chose me." Chakotay knew he was delving into personal relationships now and he knew neither of them were comfortable with this, but things had to be said.
"She was devastated when you disappeared. She blames herself, you know."
"For what happened to you. She thinks that if she�d been on that mission, none of this would have happened."
"That�s ridiculous!" Her tone was sharp.
"Yes it is but try telling that to Seven."
"Well, I am genuinely sorry if Seven feels that but it doesn�t really change anything. We�re not exactly the best of friends anymore." Janeway rubbed at her temples.
"Is that what you think?" He was probing, pushing Janeway and she didn�t like it. She didn�t really want to talk about this right now.
"Honestly? Yes." Pause. "I mean, fine, she�s more approachable now and .. less hostile in her dealings with me but I don�t think she�ll lose any sleep, regeneration alcove or otherwise, over this."
"Really?" Chakotay was frowning, only just beginning to realise how much both of these woman felt for each other and yet, how totally useless they were at apparently reading one another.
"Do I have any evidence to say otherwise?"
Chakotay took stock, pushed himself up to his feet and glared down at the captain.
"Perhaps that�s the problem, Kathryn. You don�t have any evidence to say otherwise, because you either weren�t here or you were a little sedated at the time!"
"Your point?" The hard-as-nails attitude was back and it was beginning to annoy Chakotay.
"My point?" he said curtly, sitting back down again, this time closer to her. "Sit back, Kathryn and prepare yourself to hear things you may not want to know."
He momentarily paused as if contemplating where to begin, then the words flowed.
"You won�t be aware that we got several �tips� from traders suggesting where to look for you. Most of them were useless, some even trying to lure us into traps to gain our technology. One of these informants we chose to completely ignore � wisely � but Seven felt we were wrong and stole a shuttle."
Janeway�s face was blank, as though the words were not registering.
"She stole a shuttle," he repeated, ensuring the words hit their mark with the woman, "and so we went after her before she could get into any trouble."
Now Janeway�s interest was piqued. "Why did she disregard the senior management�s decision?"
"Because she couldn�t think straight. Because she wasn�t regenerating properly. Because she wasn�t eating. Because she was lost without you. Because she was eating herself up alive with guilt and worry. Are you getting the picture, Kathryn?"
Janeway�s face registered nothing.
"She shared a lot with me whilst you were gone. Like how badly she was in love with you, how she felt she�d approached you the wrong way, how badly she had behaved towards you afterwards. I guess we really are talking �major guilt� syndrome here but she suffered. She suffered so much, we thought she was simply going to shut down. She refused to eat, regenerate or socialise. Her work became erratic and what she was able to produce was of no value."
Chakotay watched for the responses on his captain�s face. They were disappointingly minimal, but still he continued.
"I feared for her life, as did many others on this ship. So, what am I trying to say? Do not mistake her apparent distance with that of someone who doesn�t �give a damn�. She cares for you, Kathryn � she cares a lot. Seven did a lot of soul searching whilst you were missing and I can tell you this, if what she feels for you isn�t love, then I don�t know what is!"
Janeway smiled grimly, sensing the reprimand she had just sensitively been delivered.
"Always the romantic, Chakotay, but I can assure you she doesn�t have any measure of affection for me."
"Really? Then you tell me, Captain," he leaned in towards her as if in conspiracy, "what measure of affection makes a person spend every waking off-duty moment by your side in sickbay when you were sedated for 10 days?"
"What?" Now Janeway was registering emotion, the shock clearly evident.
"You didn�t know that, did you? Apart from when she was either on duty or being ordered to regenerate by the doctor, she never left your side. I honestly believe that if anyone had tried to get her to move, she�d have broken their neck!" Chakotay was deadly serious.
"I don�t expect you to remember any of this, Kathryn. You were seriously ill at the time but you�ll just have to trust me. Don�t doubt for one minute the �measure of affection� that Seven has for you."
"But she never came to see me once in sickbay .. not after I woke." It wasn�t a question, more a statement of fact.
"I know, and I don�t really understand that either. She stopped watching over you the minute you started to regain consciousness, and for some reason � she wouldn�t visit you." He glanced away, studied the flooring and then set his big brown eyes on grey ones. "I think it�s guilt, Kathryn. She really does blame herself for everything that has happened to you. I don�t think she can face you."
Captain Kathryn Janeway sat pole-axed and couldn�t think of anything to say. A large masculine hand reached out and covered an elegant, delicate one.
"Just consider what I�ve said and maybe .. maybe, cut Seven a little slack and see what happens. You said you wanted to build bridges?"
The small woman swallowed loudly, "I do .. very much." Her voice quiet and distant.
Chakotay now rubbed her hand between the two of his, "I don�t know what is going through Seven�s mind right now, Kathryn, but I can tell you this, whatever she thinks of you, it isn�t with disinterest or ambivalence. And if you were to ask me my personal opinion?"
Janeway stared into his eyes, saying nothing but demanding everything.
"I�d say she was hopelessly in love with you .. still. She just hasn�t got a clue how to proceed through .. all of this mess. She doesn�t want to hurt you, or worry you. She can see you�ve been through a lot and she doesn�t want to make anything worse." For Janeway�s benefit, he repeated a few words again, "Seven doesn�t want to hurt you anymore."
There was something else the man wanted to say and he choose the words carefully.
"You see, she doesn�t really talk to anyone about all of this."
Janeway arched her eyebrows.
"Oh, she feeds me snippets, Kathryn, and I piece the bits together. But, you see, she can�t talk to her mentor, her friend because that person is you." He paused for effect, "Just make sure you know what you�re doing before you put her down again like you did just now."
"Is that a reprimand, Commander?" Janeway gave him a gently, genuine smile.
"Only if you can handle it." Warm, brown eyes never left hers.
"I can. Thank you!" For the first time, Chakotay felt that he was communicating again with the old Janeway, the one who had been impressively in touch with her own emotions.
He rose. "Welcome back, Kathryn. You have been sorely missed � by everyone!"
All this information. All this emotion which she felt entirely too incapable of handling just yet. If only she could have time, time to just ease the wounds and get her breath. All she wanted was to find her feet again. But meanwhile, she had snubbed Seven in the meeting, which was an action not worthy of her. She would have to fix this but how? Why was nothing simple anymore?
Janeway sat in her quarters and stared at her computer console, like she had done yesterday, the day before and the day before that. Well, so much for another attempt to update her personal logs. The screen was blank, much like she felt. No thoughts came into her head that gave her voice power, spurring recording activity. She was like an empty, unwritten book full of empty unwritten pages.
Rationally, her mind told her to take it steady, be gentle with herself. She just needed time to adapt, time to heal. Trouble was, she knew she wasn�t running on �empty�, she knew she had a lot of emotion bottled up inside her that wanted out. All those emotions she had buried deep inside her during her imprisonment, done deliberately to stop her going insane. But now? Now, she just couldn�t access them. She felt inhuman, without passion, incapable of deep feeling or sensitivity .. an automaton.
She accessed her last log, the one written the night before she left for Excelda.
It was as if the words had been written by a complete stranger. It wasn�t as if her feelings had changed towards Seven, it was her love for her that had kept her alive in those early days of her imprisonment, while she could still think. But now, she was different. Janeway was no longer the person for whom Seven had declared her love, she was nothing but a gutted shell. She didn�t know where her �life anchors� were any more. Irony. She lived but she was really dead inside, it was just that no one realised it yet.
Besides, Janeway reasoned, this log had been written before she had witnessed Seven pulling out of the away mission the following day and the look that had been so evident on the young woman�s beautiful classical features. The frosty, hostile ice blue eyes had challenged Janeway to keep her distance. There had been genuine enmity there that morning. It had sent a bitter chill through the Captain. Perhaps that is why she hadn�t been paying as much attention to the surroundings on the planet as she should have done? Her thoughts had definitely been occupied with things other than bargaining and negotiation. Well, all history now.
Janeway leaned back in her chair, her fingers resting lifelessly in front of her on the desk. She pondered what Chakotay had told her about Seven still caring for her but somehow she couldn�t quite reconcile herself to those hopes.
Seven had clearly moved on anyway, the Captain wasn�t blind. She could see that Seven had formed deeper relationships in her absence and would never need her as a mentor, friend or � whatever � anymore. So why bother even thinking these thoughts, the whole mess was now non sequitur.
She had nothing left in her to offer the young woman anyway, she couldn�t even find the emotional output to record a personal log! How on earth was she ever going to �woo� a Borg? All she could do was put the relationship on a better footing .. build those damn bridges!
But as a tired Kathryn Janeway acknowledged that the ache in her leg was starting to bother her and that she really ought to lie down, she failed to recognise the smallest emotional bubble float up from somewhere deep and lodge in her subconscious that she was not at all happy to be left on the fringes of any relationship with Seven. Not happy at all.
Tonight, in another restless sea of nightmares, she would dream of Seven of Nine.
Janeway stood in the shuttle bay. She was early and took the time to survey the exterior of the Delta Flyer before Ensigns� Kim and Torb arrived.
It really was a beautiful craft� sleek, streamlined. A small smile graced the Captain�s pale features as she thought about the creator of the vessel before her. Not wanting to demote Kim�s part in its building but there was a definite place for the maverick, Tom Paris in Star Fleet. Whether they would like it or not, Star Fleet would simply have to accept the incredible diversity of the talented man. Perhaps not outwardly like his father, but he was definitely cut from the same cloth. �Captain Proton�, Warp Speed breaker, and builder of shuttlecraft .. debatably the father of her �slug� offspring but hey, that was some time ago and she didn�t want to go there!
Her chain of thought came to an abrupt end as the shuttle bay doors hissed open and Chakotay, Kim and Seven entered.
Chakotay positively skulked over to her. "Captain, a slight change of plan."
He moved up close to Janeway, anticipating her disapproval at what he was about to deliver. "Ensign Torb has managed to break his wrist falling out of a Jeffries Tube. He�s with the doctor now so I�ve re-assigned Seven to accompany you and Ensign Kim. She�s been fully briefed."
The Captain took a breath, hesitated but said nothing. Not necessarily disapproval written across her face but definitely apprehension. Chakotay decided to further seize the moment. "You�ll have to move fast Captain, the concentrations of protomatter are beginning to break up and disperse. I�m not sure how much time we have left to harvest it."
She nodded, her eyes now fixed on the deck as if intensely studying the meter of space she stood in. Then glancing up at the commander, Janeway looked him straight in the eyes, her head set slightly to one side, her face wearing the �Why do I feel I�m being manipulated?� look. However, she merely nodded again "Thank you, Commander, for the quick and efficient change of personnel." A simple glance but with warp thrusters all the way behind it.
Chakotay felt his blood pressure rise a notch but ever cool, he wore his lop sided grin.
"Thank you Ma�am, just doing my job!"
He indicated to the other two to board the shuttle and once they had passed the Captain and were inside, Janeway leaned in close to Chakotay, "And how convenient that Seven was available with no other commitments." She arched an eyebrow at him.
"Have a good journey, Captain," he grinned and gently tapped her shoulder before turning to leave the bay.
Seven sat at the pilot�s station whilst Janeway monitored the science console to her left, analysing the data from the nebula. Ensign Kim was in the rear of the vessel, ready and prepared with the containment cylinder.
"I�m picking up traces of the proto-matter. Drop speed to impulse." Janeway�s voice was cool and controlled. "Better get ready, Harry. Nervous?"
Kim sat, perched on the edge of the seat, clearly very nervous! He glanced over to the Captain and Seven sat in the front, "Yeah, well �I keep remembering what happened to Neelix when he did this � I don�t think I want any of Seven�s nanoprobes in my blood stream. No offence, Seven."
"None taken, Ensign Kim," Seven responded, smiling. "They would, of course, make you more efficient and functional." She did not look up from her station.
Janeway caught the intonation and dry humour, looked up and back from her console and smiled a little at him "Don�t worry Harry, we�ll do this nice and smoothly." She turned back to her screen, "OK people, there�s a concentration of protomatter directly ahead."
"I see it, Captain." Seven�s voice clear, efficient.
"OK, set the transporter for 8000 AMUs." Janeway, predicting Seven�s thoughts, amplified her comments, "2000 less than when Neelix did this, and that .. " she said with emphasis "is where I think Neelix had the problems."
"Containment field is standing by." Kim straightened himself.
Janeway immediately glanced back at Harry Kim. He was grinning widely, "I�ve got it, Captain, and it�s stable."
"Well done, all. Let�s get out of here and go home."
Things were quiet on the Delta Flyer�s home trip. Ensign Kim was sat in the back of the craft, quietly nodding off whilst Seven piloted the craft home to Voyager, ever efficient and with effortless activity.
But for all the calm emitted inside the small craft, the apparent picture of serenity, Seven was exasperated. She glanced to her side, quickly taking in the woman sitting there.
The Captain sat quietly, seemingly lost and far away in some distant place and time, still mentally caught up in those recent past experiences? Seven couldn�t tell what was going through the woman�s mind but regardless of how still she sat, her body exuded tension, like a coiled spring ready for release.
Never one for �easy� conversation, Seven did however want to engage Janeway in some form of informal chat, just to break the monotony of the long journey back to Voyager and to begin to put flesh back on the bones of their old friendship. But the Captain looked unapproachable and this made Seven hesitant to make the first move.
This was the primary difference between the Janeway of old and now. The �old� Janeway would have been quick to make irrelevant and unimportant conversation, probably sharing a joke or two about her early officer experiences et al, showing an abundant connection with them. But not now. This woman was reserved and inhibited by social surroundings and seemed only able to function comfortably when on duty, something she had thrown herself into with alacrity and which, Seven knew worried both the doctor and Chakotay.
Janeway had however, proved herself once more the consummate professional and returned to work with great success, all things considered but something was missing, and noticed by all the senior staff. The warm spontaneous spark that was Captain Janeway was simply not there anymore. This woman was dark, hidden and always on edge. Even her eyes were slate grey with no trace of the blue that had once been there.
But Seven was tenacious and just desperate enough to want to pursue the Kathryn Janeway she knew was still inside this shell of a woman. She also possessed a heavy amount of desire to re-establish that personal link between them and return to a sense of well-being they had once shared long before the Excelda incident.
She saw the sound register with the older woman who blinked, and with minimal movement, turned only her head to acknowledge �the voice�. Strong, penetrating grey eyes focused piercingly on cobalt blue.
"Yes?" The head tilted slightly as if giving permission for the anticipated question.
"Captain." Seven repeated again with some audible hesitancy, almost as if she no longer wanted to open this conversation. She recognised her own nervousness but having waited so long for this opportunity to both engage the Captain in conversation and have her almost undivided attention, she could not fail now.
"I wanted to say that .. it is good to have you back on Voyager." There was no facial response from the Captain but Seven continued. "You were .. very missed by everyone onboard." Seven couldn�t seem to find the right words and felt that the ones she did find, sounded trite and without meaning. There was an unaccustomed sense of dryness to her mouth. "The morale of the crew has never been higher, and the ship functions better now you are back."
"The ship now works at optimum efficiency," Janeway�s muted response.
�Optimum efficiency� � those words came back to haunt Seven, returning from a conversation the two women had had so many months ago in a cargo bay when things had not been going well between them.
" I �" Seven paused, temporarily thrown off track but then resumed, "Captain, you are responsible for freeing me from the Borg collective and for encouraging my re-integration into humanity. You have consistently encouraged me to embrace my emotional inheritance, despite it all being so .. alien to me."
Janeway frowned in confusion, swivelled in her chair slightly to check on Harry. He was asleep.
Seven gave the Captain a cursory glance. "I was � alone � but for your administrations and continual mentoring. It is you who helped me connect with my individuality, you who helped me to express myself emotionally and to reach out and connect with people."
With trepidation and second thoughts, Seven finally voiced, "I find it .. disconcerting that our fortunes appear reversed."
For a while, Kathryn Janeway said nothing.
"You find me emotionally wanting, Seven? Think I�ve lost my individuality?"
There was an edge to the response as if replying to a criticism.
Seven had not meant her words to be received negatively and yet that is how the Captain seemed to have perceived them. It worried her that Captain Janeway did seem to want to find �undercurrents� in what she was saying, as if not believing the actual words could possibly mean what they meant at face value. She frowned in frustration.
"I ..you .. I was not implying any .. what I am trying to say is that it is good to have you back on board."
Understatement. Understatement. Understatement.The ex Borg�s frustrations grew.
The cool, restrained response, "Thank you," came back from the Captain.
And then the shutters came down again as Janeway turned back to the forward view and continued gazing out. Seven inwardly sighed.
One more attempt. Serious. Important.
" I was once Borg," she blurted out the obvious, instantly recognising how much more she needed to master the art of conversation. "Now I am not. I am human. I am capable of feeling and expressing emotion." �Very deep emotion�, Seven reflected momentarily on the pain she had felt when she believed this woman was dead.
"I am now an individual .. thanks to you. I continue to feel guilt for what I, a human, did to others whilst I was Borg even though I am able to rationalise that I did such things with no knowledge, or control, of my actions. Yet it does not absolve me of what I did, and some part of me will live with that guilt forever."
The Captain did not directly acknowledge Seven but she was certainly listening because Seven saw the woman glance down at her own hands which were folded in her lap, and take a deeper breath than usual. Seven chose to continue, leaning over, closer to Janeway.
"However � Captain, .. I wish you to know that I would, without any hesitation, assimilate those who have done this to you. There would be no guilt. It would be justice." �Yes, I would do this for you. If only you knew that now I understand what you mean to me, I would do anything for you�.
Captain Kathryn Janeway rapidly turned her head to face Seven and the pain Seven saw on the woman�s face, so raw and unguarded, cut her to her emotional core.
For just a brief moment, Kathryn Janeway had dropped the �untouchable� visage and what showed on her countenance was inexpressible, but Seven thought she recognised vulnerability and despair. She felt a tumultuous cascade of emotions rock through her and an almost primeval urge to grab this woman, hold her in her arms and never let her go.
But something of unknown significance held Seven back, an instinct that Janeway wouldn�t be able to handle that level of emotion, not yet. Chakotay had told her how he had touched the Captain earlier, during her time in sickbay, and how badly she had reacted, clearly recalling unpleasant memories.
Seven must wait. She could do that for this woman.
And as Harry Kim stirred and asked how long before they were back on Voyager, Seven heard a quiet, sincere �Thank you� emanate from the Captain.