Janeway & Seven

Disclaimer: Star Trek Voyager and all of its characters are the property of Paramount. No copyright infringement is intended.

Author's Note: this story takes place four months after "The Heart of the Matter" by Seema in the Glory Days Universe.
Many thanks to Seema for her usual wonderful beta.

By Rocky

The physical therapist smiled encouragingly at her patient. "That wraps up our session for today, Kathryn. How do you feel?"

"Honestly?" Janeway grimaced and rubbed her tingling right shoulder. "Like I've gone a few rounds with a Nausicaan." She glanced up at the petite Human. "No offense, Ellen."

Ellen laughed. "I'll take that as a compliment. Just remember, though, it was your idea to do that extra set of exercises at the end." She rose and began placing her equipment in her bag. "Rehab is an arduous process, but you're coming along nicely."

"I wish I shared your optimism." Janeway took a deep breath. "I thought I'd be back to normal by now. It's been months since I was injured, and yet I'm no closer to being fit for active duty--" Her voice drifted off.

Ellen studied the wall panel display of Janeway's biosigns. An identical set of readings, Janeway knew, was visible at the nurses' station down the corridor. "Determination is an important part of your recovery, Kathryn, but even so it's going to take a lot of time--and patience. Don't try to rush things. You've been here at the Center for less than two weeks, after spending five months at Starfleet Medical. Your doctors and I are very satisfied with the progress you've made so far, and you should be as well."

Janeway nodded, though not entirely convinced. "Thanks, Ellen."

"T'Kol will be here this afternoon to take you to the pool for hydrotherapy, and I'll see you again on Tuesday. Get some rest now, Kathryn." Ellen added with a smile, "That's an order."

After Ellen left, Janeway made her way to the one comfortable chair in the room and sank into it gratefully. The residential apartments in the rehabilitation complex were small; Janeway's living quarters consisted of just two sparsely furnished rooms. She sighed as she thought of her spacious new house in Monterey, the home that she had yet to spend much time in. No sooner had she moved in the previous year than she had been sent on a series of important diplomatic missions on behalf of Starfleet and the Federation, culminating in her final posting to the Neutral Zone to resolve the budding crisis with the Romulans. That mission had not ended in disaster, she reminded herself firmly. War had been averted, after all--at the cost of a few dozen lives lost like Harry Kim's, or put on hold indefinitely, such as her own.

She gazed out the window at the gray winter day. The icy rain earlier that morning had ceased, but the skies were still overcast. All the better to match her mood.

It had taken a long time to get to the point she was at now--made longer by the numerous 'setbacks' she'd suffered since the memorial service in August. The Doctor wasn't sure if the series of strokes had been caused by something specific she'd done--like overexerting herself--or were simply one of those things that couldn't be explained. All Janeway knew was how frustrating it all had been. Here it was the beginning of January, and she was still struggling with control of the muscles in her right arm and leg, still having trouble with all fine motor movements and experiencing occasional uncontrolled tremors--all signs of long-term neural damage. Her stamina was practically non-existent; this morning's twenty minute therapy session with Ellen had left her feeling completely spent. And in a great deal of pain as well.

Janeway took another sip from her water bottle, debating whether or not she wanted something hot to drink before showering. She thought longingly of coffee, but caffeine was still on her 'prohibited' list. With a sigh, she settled for herbal tea instead.

The door signal chimed just as she was about to head for the bedroom.

"Enter," she called, wondering who it could be. She'd had very few regular visitors ever since Tuvok had returned to Vulcan. The Doctor made a point of checking on her at least once a day--a practice he'd begun while she was still hospitalized and which he saw no reason to change in the ten days she'd been in the Center--but he usually came in the evenings.  And Tom had stopped by just yesterday afternoon with B'Elanna--who had herself been going through some rough times, but was now doing much better, Janeway was grateful to see.  

Her gaze fell on the table where Miral's and Joey's latest artwork lay--young children weren't permitted to visit, so Tom tried to make up for it with a steady supply of fingerpaintings and drawings--then shifted back to the door as the signal sounded once more. She raised her voice. "I said, come in!" Perhaps the annunciator wasn't working. Impatiently, she went over and opened the door herself, then gaped in surprise at the young woman who stood there.

"Hello, Admiral."

"Seven." Janeway hastily moved aside to allow her to enter. "Please, come in." She eyed Seven's immaculate appearance--the smoothly coifed hair, the elegant pale green outfit and pearl earrings--and was suddenly conscious of  her own sloppy sweatsuit and matted hair gathered back carelessly into a ponytail. "It's been a long time."

"Yes, it has," Seven said, taking a few tentative steps into the room. "We have not spoken since the party commemorating the one year anniversary of Voyager's return."

Janeway stiffened involuntarily at the mention of that evening. She remembered being surrounded by reporters and officials, when all she'd really wanted was to spend time with her former crew. When she'd finally shaken free of her 'entourage', none of the senior staff were still in attendance. She'd heard later that the Parises, Harry and his girlfriend, and Seven and Chakotay had decided to relocate to a jazz club for a more private reunion, and she'd been hurt that they hadn't thought to include her.

"Please, sit down," Janeway said quickly and gestured toward the chairs. "Would you like something to drink?"

"No, thank you, I do not require anything at this time," Seven said. However, instead of sitting down, she glanced at the empty tea cup on the table and headed purposefully for the replicator. Moments later, she placed a fresh pot of herbal tea in front of Janeway, along with another cup. "This was the last item ordered from the replicator," she said by way of explanation. "I assumed you would want some more."

"Thank you," Janeway said, not sure if she felt offended at Seven taking the initiative like this, when she was merely a guest. Suddenly Janeway wondered if Seven assumed she was enfeebled or otherwise too incapacitated to serve herself. She bristled at the implication. "But that was hardly necessary."

"I meant no offense," Seven said quietly.

Janeway exhaled. "None taken. Thank you." She concentrated on lifting the pot with her left hand and pouring carefully, for herself as well as Seven. To her relief, she didn't spill any of the tea. She sat down in the recliner, feeling only slightly guilty at leaving the straight backed chair for Seven. "What brings you to San Francisco?"

Seven hesitated. "As you remarked, it has been a very long time since we have spoken. We have drifted apart, which is unfortunate."

Janeway looked up to meet Seven's eyes. Something in the younger woman's expression made Janeway assume that whatever had brought Seven here today had to do with Harry's death.

Even though Janeway had been caught up in a haze of grief and physical pain at the time, it had still dimly registered that neither Seven nor Chakotay had been present at the funeral. To Janeway, their absence was inexcusable. Her stance hadn't softened in the nearly five months since. Just last month the topic had come up again in conversation.

"You'll never guess who called me the other day," B'Elanna said as she settled herself carefully in the visitor's chair near the head of the biobed. "Seven." She coughed--not the deep racking cough she'd had the last time she'd visited--and waited for a reaction.

Janeway shifted uncomfortably against her pillows and winced. "A little late, wouldn't you say?" she said scathingly. "How long has it been?"

"Seven was very apologetic for not having called earlier," B'Elanna said quietly. "You know, I felt sorry for her. It couldn't have been easy for her to do this."

Janeway wasn't feeling particularly inclined to feel any sympathy for Seven's ordeal. "Did she offer any excuses why neither of them bothered to show up?"

"They were off-world at the time--both of them. They honestly didn't know--well, maybe they had heard reports about a battle in the Neutral Zone, but nothing specifically about Harry--until the Doctor remembered to call her a few weeks later. You know how busy he was."

Janeway let B'Elanna's comment about the Doctor slide; she was well aware what had occupied the Doctor's time. She chose instead to focus on the first part of the statement. "I find it hard to believe that they had no idea what was going on."

B'Elanna shrugged. "It happens. I suppose in retrospect someone should have made a point of calling them before the service, just to make sure they knew about it. Maybe they wouldn't have been able to make it, but at least they'd have been able to send a condolence message."

"And just who should have contacted them?" Janeway asked. She broke off, thinking bitter thoughts about that period--of Tom, making the painful journey to the Neutral Zone to escort an ill B'Elanna home and bring back his best friend's body, Tuvok keeping an uneasy vigil by her own unconscious form on Vulcan. The Doctor, hovering anxiously over the survivors, doing everything in his power to restore them to health.

"Tom sent a message to Neelix from the
Livingston," B'Elanna said after a long moment. "While we were on our way back home. I was unconscious for most of the trip and didn't know about it until he told me later. I don't know why he didn't send one to Chakotay at the same time." She stopped, perhaps remembering how Tom and Chakotay had never been particularly close friends, not the same degree of closeness he and Neelix had shared. "But maybe he just couldn't face going through it again."

"Maybe." Janeway closed her eyes, wishing the dull ache in her all-but-useless arm would go away. "I suppose Tom also assumed--if he thought about it for more than fleeting moments--that everyone would have heard the news through other channels. That battle had ramifications for every citizen of the Federation, if not the entire Alpha Quadrant."

"It was major news for us," B'Elanna said, leaning forward intently, "because we were directly involved. But to the rest of the Federation it was important for a day or two, and then once the dust settled--war
was averted, after all--anything concerning the Romulan Neutral Zone was superseded by the next news cycle, the next big event." She paused. "The mining disaster on Rigel XII happened just a few days later, you know, followed by the news of the capture of the top members of the Orion Syndicate a week after that."

Or maybe it just didn't matter to them.  Janeway thought again of Chakotay's air of indifference--bordering on actual coldness--the last time they had met, at the one year anniversary. And the way Seven had avoided looking her in the eye. "I can't believe you're sitting there making excuses for them." She couldn't help adding, with a slight edge to her voice, "But I suppose your counseling sessions have something to do with that."

"You might consider trying it yourself," B'Elanna shot back. "It would do you a lot of good."

Janeway was silent, suddenly too weary to argue.

"You know I'm probably right, even if you don't want to admit it," B'Elanna said. She smiled, but it didn't quite reach her eyes. "Of course, that still didn't stop me from practically biting Chakotay's head off when he finally showed up on our doorstep in September."

"What brings you here, Seven?" Janeway asked once again.

"I'm on my way back to Boston. I just returned from Betazed and I have a few hours more before my shuttle leaves," Seven said. Her gaze darted around the room, taking in the bland institutional decor, the ubiquitous medical equipment and monitors, and came to rest on Janeway with a look akin to pity. Janeway flushed, embarrassed to be at such a disadvantage.

"You were just passing through, then?" So the visit was an impulsive, spur-of-the-moment action, not planned in advance. Which was surprising, as it was so unlike Seven. In the past, the former Borg always calculated everything to a science. But as Janeway reminded herself, people had a way of moving on, of changing, and it was unrealistic to expect Seven to have remained exactly as she had been all those years ago when Janeway first knew her. Especially, as Seven had pointed out already, it had been so long since the two of them had spoken.

Unconsciously echoing her former captain's thoughts, Seven said, "You and I have been apart for many years now, Admiral, separated by distance, both physical and otherwise. I came because I realized it is time for someone to take the first step to heal the breach between us."

"Past time," Janeway agreed, expecting an apology about missing the funeral to be forthcoming. But once again Seven surprised her.

"I do not know precisely what caused you to withdraw from me all those years ago on Voyager. But I do know how betrayed I felt at your abandonment of me."

Janeway stared at her. "I abandoned you?" She picked up her cup and stared into its depths, willing herself to remain calm, despite the unjustified accusation. If there had been any abandonment--or betrayal--it had been the other way around.

"Precisely." Seven's voice never wavered. "Ever since you separated me from the Borg Collective, I looked up to you, depended on you to help me adjust to living among Humans once more. You promised to always be there for me, but in the final year of our journey, you...changed. You sequestered yourself in your Ready Room for hours on end, you became focused on the journey home to the exclusion of everything and everyone else. And I was not the only one who was the victim of your withdrawal. You pulled away from the entire senior staff, taking your meals alone, spending your leisure time by yourself in the holodeck, seeming to prefer the company of holograms to real people. You were never around anymore outside of duty shifts, not accessible or approachable for problems or times of need."

"I'm sick and tired of having to defend my actions, Seven, and I don't need to justify myself to you," Janeway said heatedly. "I did the best I could out there in the Delta Quadrant. You have no idea of the pressures I was under. I'm sorry if my behavior didn't fit in with your ideas of what I should have been doing or if you felt slighted that you were not my number one priority. I had other things to worry about instead of your eternal 'rediscovery of your humanity.'" She couldn't resist adding, "Despite any 'neglect' on my part--my 'selfish' need for some private time--you certainly didn't seem to be lacking for people eager to help you."

Janeway defiantly raised her cup to her lips. But to her dismay, her hands began to shake violently. The cup slipped from her fingers and fell to the floor with a dull thud. Surprisingly, it didn't shatter, but the liquid spread over the carpet in a dark pool. It would doubtless leave a stain.

Seven, her face inscrutable, knelt down and retrieved the cup. She placed it on the table. "It is undamaged."

Janeway took a deep breath, willing her muscles to obey her. After several agonized seconds, the trembling ceased. "It doesn't matter."

"But it does," Seven said, still staring at the cup. "As I recall, this is your 'lucky teacup' that you had in your Ready Room on Voyager."

Under other circumstances, Janeway would have snorted. 'Lucky teacup', indeed. A phrase floated through her mind, part of an old song Tom had quoted just yesterday. "If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all." Aloud, she said, "Your memory--even for trivial things--has always been impressive."

"I recall every detail from my years aboard Voyager," Seven said earnestly, leaning forward as if to give her words greater emphasis. "Even things whose significance escaped me at the time, or events I did not comprehend until long afterwards."

Janeway picked up a napkin from the table and dabbed at the wet spot on the front of her shirt. Still looking down, she said, "It sounds like you're referring to something specific."

"It took me a long time to realize that you once harbored feelings for Chakotay." Seven waited until Janeway's eyes met hers. "I need to ask you this, Admiral--was I responsible for coming between the two of you?"

Where did this come from? Janeway hid her surprise. "I admit the Commander and I had a major disagreement around the time of Voyager's first Borg encounter," she said with a calm she did not feel. "He didn't approve of my plan to form an alliance with the Collective against Species 8472."

"I am not referring to a command disagreement, but something of a more personal nature."

Janeway was silent for a moment. "There was nothing for you to come between."

Seven looked puzzled. "But Chakotay's feelings for you--he never went into much detail about it, but from the little he told me about New Earth--"

Janeway looked up as the shadow fell across the patch of dirt she was working on. "Back so soon, Chakotay?"

"Soon? I've been gone for hours, Kathryn." His voice took on a teasing tone. "Nice to know you missed me while I was away."

Laughing, she replied, "I'll have you know I've been hard at work! While you were enjoying a nice leisurely walk down to the river, I've been planting the garden." She proudly pointed to her labors. "Talaxian tomatoes--they should be producing fruit in approximately six weeks."

"I'll be looking forward to it," he said, smiling at her in a way that made her heart turn over.

She glanced down at her arms, muddied to the elbow, then at the sun sinking toward the horizon. "I didn't realize how late it was. I'm just going to wash up a bit before dinner."

"There's no hurry, Kathryn." He caught her hand in his. "We've got all the time in the world."

"If there was anything, Seven, it was over before it had a chance to ever really begin." Even as Janeway said the words, however, a part of her tried to understand why that was so.

Admittedly, in the early years of the journey, there were a number of factors working against them--Chakotay's involvement with and subsequent betrayal by Seska, the fact that Janeway had left a fiancé behind in the Alpha Quadrant. But Seska had died in the violent aftermath of the Kazon takeover of the ship at the end of their second year in the Delta Quadrant, and less than two years later, Voyager had made contact with their loved ones back home. Janeway had discovered that Mark had mourned her and then moved on with his life, and she was now free. She had even admitted as much to Chakotay--that she had nothing standing in her way any longer. So why hadn't anything happened?

With a sudden rush of clarity, Janeway realized that she had been afraid. She'd had a poor track record as far as relationships were concerned; she'd lost two fiancés, albeit for different reasons. And if an attempted  personal relationship with her first officer hadn't worked out, it could have had adverse effects on their professional interactions, possibly even jeopardized the well-being of the ship.

There had been other reasons as well--the mounting pressures of getting home took their toll over the years, leaving her hardened and wary. Somewhere along the way, she'd feared she'd lost the ability of opening up to someone else to the extent that a successful relationship required. Perhaps Chakotay had sensed this. She knew he'd been resentful at the sheer amount of time she'd devoted to Seven, had clearly felt her new protégée had eaten into the hours she had previously spent with him, maybe even thought she was purposely trying to avoid him.

Whatever the cause, the timing had never been right for the two of them--not during the journey itself and certainly not since the return when even their friendship had eroded.

"I had no claim on Chakotay, Seven," Janeway said.  She ran her hand through her hair distractedly. "I admit I was surprised to hear you were involved, but only because the two of you had never seemed particularly close prior to this--as colleagues or friends." She summoned a smile. "You always seemed much closer to the Doctor--and Harry."

Seven bit her lip. "Harry Kim was my first friend aboard Voyager, the first person, other than you, to show any interest in me." Her eyes were suddenly very bright as she whispered, "I deeply regret that I never had the chance to say goodbye to him."

Despite herself, Janeway was moved by the obvious grief in Seven's voice, remembered too her own conversation with Harry when she'd first come aboard the Livingston at the start of the mission in the Neutral Zone. "A lot of us feel the same way."

"But you were with him shortly before the battle. You were still colleagues, your paths crossed on a regular basis." Seven was quiet for a moment. "It had been years since I last spoke to him--or almost anyone else from Voyager."  

Was Seven looking for absolution, or a chance to atone? "I'm sorry you're feeling regret right now, Seven," Janeway said, more harshly than she intended. "But you chose not to be involved with the Voyager 'family', to drift away, and this is a consequence of that decision."

"You are correct," Seven said, raising her chin. "But knowing that does not make it any easier to bear."

"No, no it doesn't," Janeway said, ashamed of her earlier outburst. What was the greater crime after all--withdrawing from those she loved while still on Voyager, or drifting away after the return? She sighed. "Regret is a singularly useless emotion, Seven. Nothing can change the past."

 "I agree that we cannot change anything in the past," Seven said, "but I still hope that you and I can settle our differences in the present."

"There's nothing to settle--"

"There is still a gulf between us," Seven insisted. "It is not simply due to the fact that we have not spoken for many years. Our problems began earlier, while we were still aboard Voyager." She paused. "I am asking you again, was it because of Chakotay? It never seemed as though you approved of our relationship."

"As I told you before, I was surprised neither of you told me. That was all," Janeway said, looking away. "A romantic relationship--I didn't think you were ready for something like that. You were so young and inexperienced." She added quickly, "But obviously I was wrong. After all, you're still together after all these years."

There was a nearly imperceptible pause before Seven said, "Chakotay is currently involved in a long-term archaeological expedition on Betazed."

"So you're working on Betazed as well?" Janeway asked. If that were the case, she wondered why Seven had returned to Earth.

"No, I am teaching and doing research at MIT. It is the break between the academic semesters now; I took the opportunity to travel to see him."
"It's good that you were able to spend your vacation together. I imagine it must be difficult being apart for long stretches."

"Yes, it has been very difficult." Seven fingered a pearl pendant as she spoke.  

Janeway hadn't noticed the slender gold chain earlier. It appeared to be the same design as Seven's earrings. The jewelry--a symbol of personal adornment--surprised Janeway; it suddenly occurred to her how far Seven had come in the years since she had been separated from the Collective. For all intents and purposes, Seven was truly Human now; there was little if anything 'Borg' about her. Janeway wouldn't have laid odds on this even a few years earlier. Chakotay had been very good for Seven, after all, she admitted. He had clearly done far more for her than Janeway ever could have.

Before she could say anything along those lines, however, Seven added, "It is not the same as when we were together on Voyager, or even when I accompanied him to various dig sites during our first years back in the Alpha Quadrant." She let the pendant drop; it was once more lying mostly hidden in the folds of her sweater. "Chakotay has his work, and I have mine."

"What is it you're researching?" Janeway asked curiously. "Something in the field of astrometrics, I presume."

"I am working on developing a sensor grid capable of detecting alpha particle emissions."

Janeway raised an eyebrow. "Interesting."

"It is something I had been considering for some time, but not seriously as there are numerous problems concerning the practical applications of the theory. However, one of my colleagues made a few suggestions that helped immeasurably, and even offered to work with me." Seven launched into an enthusiastic and detailed technical account.

"That innovation is simple but at the same time exceedingly clever," Janeway said, genuinely impressed, when Seven had finished. "Your colleague must be a genius to have thought of that."

"Ethan--Dr. McNeill--is most perceptive," Seven agreed. "Ever since his breakthrough, we have been making steady progress. This past summer I presented a paper at the biannual astrometric conference on Regulus IV, based on some of our preliminary data. It was very well received. Unfortunately, Ethan was unable to accompany me, but he was pleased our findings were met with such enthusiasm."

Janeway couldn't help but notice the sparkle in Seven's eyes when she mentioned Ethan McNeill--a sparkle that had been conspicuously absent when she had been speaking about Chakotay. "It sounds like a very successful collaboration, then," she said neutrally.

"Yes, it is an extremely satisfying and successful relationship."

"And I take it that Ethan has become a good friend as well as a colleague."

"Yes. He has been very kind and helpful to me in many respects."

"Do you have many friends at the university?"

"A small number. For the most part, however, my social activities consist of an occasional dinner or concert with Ethan." A faint blush stole into Seven's cheeks. "He was concerned that I was lonely when Chakotay left Boston last spring."

If Janeway didn't know better, she would have assumed Ethan would like to be more than just a 'friend' to Seven. Or perhaps he did, and Seven simply wasn't aware of his intentions. She was devoted to Chakotay, wasn't she? To all appearances, the two of them had a very strong and committed relationship. They had been together for so long--

Seven's voice abruptly broke into Janeway's reverie. "May I ask you something, Admiral?"

"Of course." Janeway waited, but there was nothing forthcoming. She wondered why Seven seemed so hesitant.

"It is not an easy question. It concerns a sensitive topic."

Janeway almost laughed. More sensitive than any of the other topics Seven had brought up during the course of this visit? "What is it, Seven?" she asked gently.

"I was wondering how it is possible to stop loving someone, to realize one day that you no longer feel the same way about a person you once cared deeply for."

For an instant, Janeway was back in the cabin on New Earth. In her mind, she could hear Chakotay telling her the end of the 'Angry Warrior' legend, that he would always be by her side. And then the image changed, became her quarters on Voyager the night before they attempted the slipstream drive. "Are you with me?" she's asked him. His reply had been, "Always."

But always was not forever.

Aloud, Janeway said, "When we're in love, Seven, we never can imagine that it could end, that there would be a time or place in which we would no longer feel the way we do now. But we can't know what will happen in the future. People continuously grow and change, and sometimes they just grow apart. It's no one's fault, it just happens." She smiled sadly. "But knowing that doesn't make it hurt any less."

Seven nodded, her expression pensive. No, Janeway thought, studying her more carefully--not sad but resigned. As if Seven only needed to have it put into words to confirm what she already knew deep inside. Hesitantly, afraid of being rebuffed, Janeway laid her good hand comfortingly on the younger woman's arm.

Seven's eyes met hers. "You spoke of two people growing apart--I want you to know, Admiral, that you have always been important to me. You were the closest thing I had to a mother." Her voice cracked; she cleared her throat and went on,  "I  never really realized at the time how much I depended on you, or how much of a burden I was to you. And I want you to know how sorry I am."

Janeway shook her head, feeling tears threatening. "It's all right, Seven. There's no need to apologize. I did what I had to do."

"Was everything you did for me only out of a sense of duty, of obligation?" Seven asked in a pained voice. "Wasn't there anything more--some feeling for me?"

"I felt compassion over your circumstances--" Janeway began.

"Only pity? Nothing more?" Seven interrupted.

"Seven, I went to hell and back for you on more than one occasion," Janeway reminded her tartly. "If that doesn't tell you something about how much you mattered to me, then nothing I can say right now can possibly change your mind."

Even as she was speaking, Janeway realized that Seven's action in coming to see her today, being the one to make the first move, spoke volumes about what Seven truly felt about her, how much she mattered to the younger woman. And she realized as well that she could no longer keep holding Seven at arms' length, holding on to her anger to the detriment of them both. The time was long past for assigning blame; it was time for reconciliation.

"I can't make any guarantees," Janeway said haltingly, "but perhaps it's finally time for the two of us to see if we can forge a relationship as true equals--and as friends."

Seven smiled through her tears. "I would like that very much, Admiral."

"My name is Kathryn," Janeway corrected her, with a slight shake of her head.

"Kathryn," Seven said, and clasped Janeway's hand with her own, holding tightly as if she would never let go.


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