see Days of Open Hand parts 1 & 2 for info
see Days of Open Hand parts 1 & 2 for info
PART IV of Days of Open Hand
For the seventh time with red-rimmed glasses perched on her nose Kathryn Janeway watched the recording of the holographic representation of Annika Hansen as it propelled itself high into the air before it collided with her and she went down hard. Janeway grimaced slightly as she watched her image use the ground to stop quite a violent descent.
"How many times have you watched this?" Lyndsay Ballard's light alto voice contained a combination of amusement and inquisitiveness. She moved to the expansive computer banks of Majel closer to where Kathryn Janeway was seated. Her eyes never left the holographic display as she took a seat in the chair next to the headmistress.
"This is the eighth." Janeway removed her glasses to look at her red-haired companion.
"It's all over the Institute." Lyndsay leaned back in her chair as she crossed one leg over the other and held a hint of humor in her hazel eyes. "So, what happened? You're not usually so completely caught unawares."
"I'm not entirely certain." Janeway cursed the flush she felt color her cheeks as she tried not to shift under Lyndsay's amused gaze. "I guess I dropped my guard for a moment and she-it took advantage of that mistake."
"What's up with you?" Lyndsay's brow creased in bemusement as she took in the pinkish hue on the other woman's face. "Are you blushing?"
The almost suspicious tone Lyndsay had used made Janeway uneasy as she turned away for the look that had turned into a stare. "That's absurd."
"What's absurd is you trying to deny it." Lyndsay crossed her arms over her chest as she leaned further back in her seat. "So... what's going on?"
"Lyndsay." A long-suffering tone in Janeway's voice indicated her displeasure in being cornered and questioned, even if it was from a woman she had known for almost thirty years. "I was just distracted."
"You... don't get distracted. Now I know something's up." Lyndsay shifted her attention to the large display which contained a still frame of a hologram of Annika Hansen propelled in the air moments before colliding with Janeway. "Is it Annika?"
To her amazement, Lyndsay watched as the light blush turned quite a few shades darker and moved down to Janeway's throat.
"Don't be ridiculous, why would she be a distraction?" Janeway pressed her hand to her chest seemingly in an attempt to calm herself as her voice took on a discomfited tone.
"I don't know." Lyndsay wasn't sure what was more surprising. What this display of self-consciousness from the other woman could mean or just how uncomfortable Kathryn was in admitting that anything was amiss. Lyndsay tried to maintain a calm and open expression, but her own determination to ferret out the truth was beginning to add a hard edge to her voice. "You tell me. Because it's clear that she is. Please, don't lie to me, Katie."
Kathryn Janeway looked upon the woman who, along with Lwaxana Troi, had been like a mother to her since the age of eleven. No, she realized, she couldn't lie to Lyndsay Ballard even if she wanted to.
"I-I find myself... attracted to her." Janeway held her hand up to silence whatever Lyndsay was about to say after the initial shock at hearing such an admission had abated. "I know it's completely inappropriate and of course I'm not going to act on something so base as physical attraction. And it won't affect how I interact with her in the least, especially if she decides to stay here at the Voyager Institute, which I'm not sure if she has even made a decision regarding that. It's just such an idle thing really that doesn't amount to much. I'm sure it will wear off sooner rather than later."
"Who're you trying to convince? Me... or you?" Lyndsay's hazel eyes were wide and bright as a smile threatened to turn the corners of her lips up. "Congratulations, Katie, you're human... well, metahuman."
"Why are you grinning like that?" Kathryn crossed her arms in a most un-headmistress like fashion as a pout nearly threatened to be revealed on her lips.
"I just think it's amazing." Lyndsay had been taken off-guard at the admission. But now that the other woman had openly admitted to being attracted to Annika Hansen she knew despite her reservations regarding the newest arrival to the Institute she would help get Kathryn the happiness that she deserved. "When was the last time you allowed yourself to think of Kathryn Janeway? What she wants out of life rather than worrying about everyone else around her."
"I don't have time in my life for such contemplation." Janeway wouldn't admit that it has been awhile since she even attempted to think about herself, her future, what she wanted, needed. She had far more important considerations in her life than herself. The UFM, her work with Nechayev and the MPA, not to mention her status as headmistress and team leader at the Voyager Institute, and her work within Congress and the Human Rights Campaign. How could she even think about her own desires when she had such an abundance of responsibilities to attend to? She couldn't, that was the reality. "Now I admitted to my mild attraction, can't we just leave it at that?"
"Can you?" Lyndsay softened her tone since she knew what this conversation was costing Kathryn, who was always and quite determinedly silent about her feelings. "I'm not saying you two should run off together, but maybe you shouldn't be so, so scared to explore this... 'mild attraction'."
"Lyndsay, I have far too many things in my life right now that require my attention. I can't allow myself to be distracted by some adolescent... crush." Janeway's voice was decidedly averse to the term "crush" but she wouldn't put more meaning in what she felt for Annika Hansen than that. Even though the tingling that would begin in the tips of fingers before it spread like wildfire to each acutely sensitive part of her body, even now just thinking about Annika, had only occurred twice before in her life. And she had lost both of them... tragically. She wouldn't put herself in such a vulnerable position again, especially not for a complete stranger.
"I don't blame you for being scared." Lyndsay didn't wilt like most people did when presented with one of Janeway's famous death glares so she persisted. "I know you still haven't recovered from Tau Ceti Prime... or Reykjavik and no one is forcing you to. If you really don't want to pursue anything with Annika, fine, but let it be for a good reason. Your position in the UFM or here at the Institute or to the Voyager team shouldn't be what holds you back. All I'm asking is that you not let a chance at happiness slip away because you're afraid."
"I. Am not. Afraid." Janeway's face was now flushed out of anger instead of embarrassment as she stood abruptly from her dark leather chair. She ignored Lyndsay's unrelenting gaze as she levitated in the air before she flew quickly from the suspended platform to the cavern's exit. She exited still hearing Lyndsay's voice beckoning her back as hot tears fell from her eyes. Janeway furiously brushed them away as she entered the cool night sky that was just starting to be broken by the rising day.
"Yeah, Lynds, that went great." Still on the suspended platform, her hails to Janeway ignored, Lyndsay shook her head in frustration.
Perhaps she shouldn't have made any mention of Justin or Regina, but she knew the loss of those two people was one of the main reasons why Kathryn kept her shields up against any notions of romantic love. Lyndsay blamed her big mouth and her own concern for Kathryn's residual pain. Not for the first time Lyndsay wished Kathryn would talk to Kes and if not the counselor then someone else, anyone else, to her or Lwaxana.
Lyndsay hadn't been lying when she had said no one expected Kathryn to be fully recovered from losing Justin Tighe on Tau Ceti Prime or what had become of Regina McQueen during the Reykjavik Incident. Granted Kathryn had always been reticent about getting too close, but she never had the fear that she held now. In the last decade Kathryn had been attempting to cut herself off from her own feelings, her own emotions to the point that she kept even her closest friends at arm's length. Sometimes Lyndsay couldn't believe the coolly professional Headmistress Janeway was the same woman who had been relatively carefree and so in love thirteen years ago in England. But then anyone would have changed after what Kathryn had gone through, been subjected to in those years before she came back to the Voyager Institute.
Lyndsay had considered telling Kathryn that Annika possessed more than merely a "mild attraction" towards the oblivious headmistress, but thought better of it. It wasn't her place to speak for Annika, a woman she had only met a few days ago. Besides, if Kathryn were to embark on any sort of relationship it would have to be on her own terms, her own timetable. Lyndsay wondered idly if Annika had that kind of patience. Somehow she thought the woman probably did.
Lyndsay almost felt bad for reacting so strongly to Annika's heated words against the Headmistress. Kathryn Janeway was definitely exasperating at times. And she would perhaps be even more so now that Lyndsay had found her out. She worried that perhaps she had made an already complex situation worse by addressing Kathryn's fears so openly.
The buzz of the hovercraft echoed in the cavernous room as it transported Lyndsay from the platform to the exiting bridge.
Any more thoughts on Kathryn Janeway were interrupted when she nearly collided with B'Elanna and Annika coming out of the turbolift that went to the holodeck.
"Hey, Lyndsay, you're up early." B'Elanna's light tone indicated she obviously had no clue that there was residual tension between Annika and Lyndsay Ballard. "What's up?"
"Nothing but the sky." Lyndsay smiled rather forcefully as she turned her hazel eyes from B'Elanna to Annika. "I heard you got through some of Kathryn's defenses."
"Uh, yes." Annika's brow creased as she detected something indiscernible in Lyndsay's light tone. As if the redhead was speaking in some sort of code Annika wasn't privy to. "It was probably just a fluke or something."
"Maybe." Lyndsay smiled once more good-naturedly. "You definitely caught her off-guard. Not many people can do that. I think I've only seen one or two. It's not something to take advantage of, of course, but it is a wonder when it happens. Well, ladies, I am off to bed before classes."
Both Annika and B'Elanna watched Lyndsay depart down the hall. Annika had a decidedly confused expression on her features for she thought for certain that Lyndsay hadn't been talking about the training room exercise. What Lyndsay had been talking about was beyond Annika.
"What the hell was that about?" B'Elanna looked for answers but found none on Annika's bemused look.
"I have no idea." Annika shrugged for it seemed that the irritation Lyndsay had shown her was gone or faded at least. She wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth that was for sure. She turned back towards B'Elanna as she held one hand to her stomach, which rumbled under her palm. "Let's get some breakfast, I'm starving."
"Yeah, all right." B'Elanna let any residual feelings of inquisitiveness leave her as she thought about her stomach as well.
As they walked in the morning sunlight, speaking amiably about their sparring session, they failed to notice the woman in the sky high above the thick tree line that hid her from their view. A woman who, as she soaked in the rejuvenating energy of the sun's rays, contemplated all she had lost in her life most notably the people. She even allowed for a moment's consideration of what she could possibly gain if she were to allow herself to overcome the greatest obstacle standing in her way. Herself.
"Well there she is. The talk of the Institute." Tom smiled grandly as he took in Annika Hansen as she approached along with B'Elanna to the table where he was seated across from Harry. "Heard you knocked a certain headmistress on her ass last night."
"Well I-it was just a hologram." Annika blushed as she tried not to squirm under the amused and impressed gazes paid to her by Harry and Tom. "I probably wouldn't actually be able to, uh, take her, you know, down..."
"Yeah, but you probably have the ability to. That hologram was based on your biometric readings after all." Tom continued to smile good-naturedly and if someone who didn't know the kind of man he really was might have thought it odd that he wasn't in the least bit jealous that Annika had accomplished what he had never been able to. What that person wouldn't be privy to was the fact that he really didn't care to accomplish that feat. It was more fun for him to watch Kathryn Janeway being an amusingly adorable ungracious winner.
"Well, actually Doctor Zimmerman said that he based the... 'combat personality' on B'Elanna." Annika smiled and relaxed in her chair as she soaked up the humor and lightness that enveloped their table while the four of them consumed their breakfasts.
"With our powers combined, huh." B'Elanna smirked as she poured a good portion of maple syrup over her three banana pancakes.
"Maybe you two should team up. Like Batman and Robin." Tom tried not to grimace when B'Elanna's foot connected with his left shin. "Or not."
"Anyways, it's still really impressive."
"Thanks, Harry." Annika tried not to roll her eyes as a slight flush colored the man's features. How could she fault him if he had a bit of a crush, since it could definitely be claimed that she had a big ole yen for Kathryn Janeway. She worried that she was as readily apparent as Harry was, she certainly hoped not. "That training room is 'really impressive'. I wonder if it would help me work on my abilities."
"Annika here wants to be a superhero." There was a note of teasing in B'Elanna's tone but nothing malicious. "I said we could probably help here out with that."
"Okay, sure." Tom pretended to really ponder the task at hand, while he ate a meatless sausage link. "The first thing you need is a cool codename."
Harry had stopped blushing, but he still wasn't making direct eye contact with Annika when he countered Tom's enthusiasm with pragmatism. "Really they're to protect our identities in the field."
"Details." Tom ignored the practical application of their codenames in favor of something a bit more frivolous, perhaps childish. "Anyways, here at the Institute most people just choose a one word call-sign, something that reflects their powers."
"Gynoid. Since you are metal but have, uh, moving... parts?" Harry's voice had trailed off uncertainly at the end as he cast his eyes down away from the incredulous expressions.
"That's the worst name I've ever heard." B'Elanna snorted derisively. "Sounds like a growth you should get checked out."
"How about 'Tinman'?" Tom smiled until he considered Annika's raised eyebrow. "Er-Tinwoman?"
"That's awful." Her voice was sincere though Annika did have a kind smile.
Annika looked at B'Elanna with a questioning expression. "Isn't that a Superman villain?"
"What about 'Cy' for cyborg because, you know, you have both artificial and natural systems." Harry, who had overcome his initial embarrassment, grinned broadly for he thought this idea was grand indeed.
B'Elanna shook her head as she finished the portion of pancake in her mouth before she spoke. "Too much like 'Psi'."
"Borg." Annika's expression was as determined as her voice. "My codename will be 'Borg'."
If anyone thought Annika's forcefulness was odd they were too busy mulling the name over to voice it.
Tom nodded his head as he finished his consideration of the name. "I like it. Enigmatic. Sort of dangerous. Kind of Swedish. 'The Borg took down Captain Janeway'. Has a certain ring to it."
"I-I didn't take her 'down'." Annika couldn't explain was she was so uncomfortable with the thought that she was capable of besting Janeway. Perhaps it was because the headmistress seemed so strong that such a thought would mean Annika was very powerful indeed. She didn't know if she wanted that responsibility. She looked at her newly founded comrades, felt their humor although none of their jesting hinted at any disrespect towards Janeway in the least and Annika thought for the first time in her life that she was amongst friends.
Annika grinned, a theatrically arrogant smile, as her chin rose in an imperial fashion. "Okay, so maybe I did."
"Oh! Someone thinks just because she got in one lucky shot she's something special." B'Elanna's teasing tone accompanied Tom's whistle of approval.
Annika smirked as she crossed her arms over her chest. "How many of your bones did I break again?"
"Pfft." B'Elanna rolled her eyes dramatically. "Forty-two. Big deal. Besides, half of those weren't really your doing anyways."
"You know, Harry and I are done with classes after lunch." Tom's voice took on his best entreating quality. "How about we see you in action in the training room, huh?"
"Oh, well..." Some of the bluster had vanished as Annika became a little less sure in how she could withstand the human comet that was Tom Paris. But then again, she had proven to be pretty durable. "Sure, why not?"
"Maybe we could even get the Captain to come and spar with us." Tom emphasized his comment by looking and nodding his head towards the woman in question who had just entered the mess hall only moments earlier looking as immaculate as she always did.
The dark navy knee-length skirt fitted Janeway snugly from her hip to the skirt's hem and the modest slit at the right side helped her to maneuver easily. The powder blue short-sleeved blouse she sported had a tiny band collar and a row of small pearl buttons running down the middle. The ensemble was elegant, yet understated so as not to seem out of place in the more or less laid back environment of the school grounds. Although the professional and commanding air she possessed as she read, bespectacled, from a PADD as she drank from her coffee mug made it appear as though she was awaiting one of the Congressional hearings she occasionally attended rather than waiting on soy eggs in the noisy mess hall.
Tom wasn't the only appreciator of her attire. Annika was utterly captivated. She smiled vicariously as she watched Janeway paying sole attention to Neelix as he set her breakfast on the table in front of her. He was beaming brightly at what must have been words of thanks. Annika couldn't hear what was being said, but she assumed Neelix had just said something complimentary to Janeway about her appearance because the woman was blushing ever so slightly.
"Well I'll leave convincing her in you boys' hands." B'Elanna stifled her yawn behind her hand as she stood from the table. "Let's meet in the training room at two, I'll just take my Delta Combat class there for the demonstration. I'm sure they'll appreciate the reprieve."
"Two sound good for you?"
Tom's voice brought Annika out of her reverie quickly. She looked up at the trio who were standing with their trays before she stood as well and nodded as she replied. "Sure... two sounds great."
After a few departing farewells outside the mess hall, Annika walked alone back to the guest dorms still thinking of how soft powder blue silk looked.
"I must say, Captain, that is a very flattering ensemble. That lovely blouse brings out amazing vibrancy in your eyes."
Kathryn Janeway blushed prettily as she took in Neelix's compliment. "Well... I-thank you for breakfast, Neelix. And for this wonderful coffee."
"You, my dear captain, are more than welcome." Neelix smiled toothily before he made his quick farewell when he could hear his soy sausages sizzling a bit too loudly for his taste.
Janeway replaced her red-rimmed glasses, but her eyes didn't immediately go back to her PADD. Instead she surreptitiously observed the quartet on the other side of the buzzing mess hall before they departed. She sighed softly as she turned her attention back to the data on her PADD instead of the sliver of pain in her heart born of regret and disappointment. She was glad, of course, that Annika had already begun making friends at the Institute, especially if she was going to stay on for a while. But Janeway couldn't help but feel a twinge at the thought that she was made even more distant from the woman who had stirred feelings within her that she had thought were long since buried since Annika was quickly becoming entrenched with Tom, B'Elanna, and others. Janeway allowed herself to wonder for a moment if perhaps she was jealous. That she was envious of the closeness that the others were allowed with Annika that she wouldn't allow herself to have. She couldn't. Despite what Lyndsay had said to her, she had too great of a responsibility to the Institute and too many other things to be so easily diverted by such self-centered thoughts.
"Good morning." Janeway smiled at the burly man that took the chair across from her that she had offered with a casual motion of her hand.
"Morning." Chakotay couldn't help but return the woman's smile with a deeply dimpled one of his own. "I heard you had a little... mishap last night. Are you all right?"
"Oh, yes, I'm fine." Janeway took a sip from her coffee mug before she continued. "Nothing bruised but my ego, I assure you of that."
"Will you tell me what happened? It's not like you to be so caught off-guard." Chakotay knew that Annika had left with Tom, B'Elanna, and Harry but his dark eyes still did a sweep of the mess hall before he leaned in closer to Janeway. "Don't you think it's a little suspicious that she claims to not know a single thing about her powers? That she just happens to be in the same cell as Telfer?"
"I-appreciate your concern, but neither Tuvok nor Kes could sense anything untoward from Annika." Janeway tried to keep any innate defensiveness regarding Annika out of her voice and instead adopted a more impassive expression and tone. "Unless she does something to warrant our suspicion I'd like to give her the benefit of the doubt."
Chakotay knew it wasn't so much a suggestion as an order, so with a nod of his and head and an internal vow to keep an eye on Annika himself he acquiesced. "Aye, Captain."
"She really is quite impressive, Chakotay." Janeway smiled and was completely oblivious to the glow that radiated off of her almost as visibly as her energy projections. She also didn't notice how Chakotay's eyes narrowed for he sensed something in her voice that didn't bode well for him. "Her strength levels are one of the highest I've ever seen. As for her invulnerability, she could withstand a concentrated blast of thermo-energy from me."
"That is impressive." Chakotay's calm voice hinted at nothing that would indicate that he didn't find anything about Annika Hansen impressive.
"Of course she'll need more training. But if she would want to stay on, I think I could find a post for her here." Janeway ignored the combination of delight and worry that thought caused within her as she took another sip of her coffee. "One more issue of business... Alynna will be here Wednesday evening. With the number of rescued metahumans from Oregon we decided to move up our meeting."
Janeway didn't think he could sound less enthused if he tried. She was quite aware that for some reason Alynna Nechayev rubbed Chakotay the wrong way, always has, and for the life of her she couldn't figure out exactly why. Alynna of course would give her a bawdy answer if she ever asked alluding to a secret obsessive wanting on Chakotay's part or something equally without basis.
Chakotay despised Alynna Nechayev for a number of reason, all having to do with Kathryn Janeway. He was jealous of the closeness the two women shared. They had been friends for far longer than he and Janeway and that gave Nechayev an advantage over him. She also did not make her attraction, whether it was entirely put on at this point or not, towards Kathryn a secret. In fact she made it a point to voice it quite boisterously especially; it seemed to Chakotay, in front of him. And then Nechayev would get this look in her eye as if she had bested him in some way. His teeth grated just thinking of the insufferable woman.
Janeway had long since stopped trying to convince Chakotay that Alynna wasn't quite as abrasive as she came across. She just made sure the two stayed away from one another as much as she could whenever Alynna came to the Institute.
Chakotay sighed internally before he decided to change the subject. He knew Kathryn would never share his animosity toward Nechayev. "So... you've been joining Icheb on his nocturnal flights."
"He's a remarkable young man." Janeway knew the last thing Icheb needed was her pity, but she couldn't help the feeling of regret that the UFM... that she hadn't been able to a put a stop to his parent's experimentations before they had irreparably mutated their son. The fact that the UFM hadn't known about it until it was too late didn't lesson the remorse she felt.
Chakotay nodded his head in agreement before he purposefully made his voice as light as he could. "Have you ever thought about sending him to the Jupiter Station?"
"I'm not just going to send him away, Chakotay." Janeway's narrowed slate-gray eyes emphasized her opposition. "His... situation has changed, but he still belongs here. With us."
"He never turns off his mobile emitter unless it's at night... with you. He's too afraid to go into the city because there's always a chance the emitter could get damaged and expose him." Chakotay softened his voice even as he saw Janeway's elegant features harden. "He's becoming depressed and reclusive. Maybe he needs more help than we can give him."
"Maybe." Janeway modulated her tone; she knew Chakotay was only saying what he was because he wanted to help Icheb. "But I'm not willing to ship him off just yet."
"Understood." And Chakotay did. If there was one thing Janeway was it was unrelentingly and compassionately supportive. "I'm just suggesting that perhaps he needs more help than we can offer."
Chakotay knew someone like Janeway, who looked majestic rather than monstrous when her powers were displayed, could never understand the angst Icheb experienced due to his appearance. How could she? She looked like a goddess with the glow of the heavens surrounding her or at the very least a vengeful archangel. Icheb had, at one time, also been an angelic creature, born with beautiful brown-feathered wings, a natural-born Icarus. Now he had the visage of a demon, he surely would be considered one by the general public. Chakotay knew firsthand what it was to be feared because of his appearance. He was by all accounts a werewolf.
"Why do you only go out in the dead of night in wolf-form, Chakotay?" Janeway's tone was kept openly inquisitive any accusation or suspicion removed
"You know why, Kathryn." His dark eyes narrowed considerably as he wondered to what point she was driving at. "It's dangerous."
"It's you." Janeway knew very well the considerable brute strength at Chakotay's disposal when in wolf-form and why the non-violent man rarely displayed it. The wolf was far more aggressive and uncontrollable and she was aware Chakotay only prowled the woods on the outskirts of the Institute. "It's a part of you. Icheb's exterior may be different than how he was born, but it's still a part of him. Perhaps it wasn't wise to give him the mobile emitter. He hasn't had the time to accept himself, much less have the others understand that this is who he is."
"You don't understand." Chakotay's characteristically calm voice was beginning to show traces of his frustration. "You have no idea what it's like to be seen as monster. To have people literally run away from you in fear."
"You're right, I don't." Janeway recognized the truth of Chakotay's statement, but that didn't mean she couldn't try to understand. "Bottom line is we're not doing Icheb any favors by pretending that his appearance hasn't changed and that he's still the same young man despite it. We should be encouraging him to go without the emitter here at the Institute and other safe places."
Chakotay knew from experience that her steely tone could not be offset by anything he said so he nodded his head in defeat. "I-I'll work on it."
Janeway allowed only the smallest smile of satisfaction to grace her lips. "Thank you."
"I do have an issue to address with you."
Chakotay kept his tone mild in order to belie his reprimand. "When do you sleep?"
Janeway lips were pulled up in an ironic smile as her brow creased. "What?"
"I'm serious." His voice was low but admonishing. "I read the Doctor's report. He says you aren't getting enough regenerative sleep and that your body is overtaxed. That what happened in Oregon could happen again."
"What happened in Oregon was Cullah's doing." Janeway still felt violated for having any part of that odious man inside of her. She took a hearty drink from her coffee mug to hide her grimace.
"Granted, but you helped him out." The residual concern was still carried heavily in his chest, but he wouldn't let it show on his features or his voice, both were kept impassive despite his words. "I know you don't want to hear this, but as the head of personnel and more importantly as your friend, I'm saying to you... you can't go on like this. Even you can only take so much. It's irresponsible and it's dangerous."
Chakotay knew he had crossed the line when she stood slowly, carefully, and then looked him directly in the eye in what seemed like slow motion. Her chest rose and fell heavily and he could practically hear her counting to ten to reign in her anger.
"I can take care of myself, Chakotay." Janeway could feel the heat rising to her cheeks, but she kept her voice icy and hard. "Now if you don't mind, I'd like this to be the last discussion we have on this subject."
He did mind, he minded a whole hell of a lot but as stubborn as he was she was even more so. Chakotay shook his head in exasperation. He knew going into the conversation that he wasn't going to get through to her, but he had to try for his sake if not for hers. But he couldn't tell her that he wanted to be her rock, her support, he wanted to be the one to take care of her. And as he looked at her, the steely gray gaze and the hardened set of her strong jaw he knew the last thing she wanted was to be taken care of, at least not by him.
"You're the captain."
"Thank you." Janeway understood that he was just concerned for her well-being, but she couldn't help but be irritated by his words. Especially since a part of her knew he was right.
Annika groaned as she tried to shield her eyes from the offending sunlight that came in through the slit in the bedroom curtains. Slowly, carefully she opened her eyes as she tried to discern what had awakened her from her midday slumber. She sat up in the bed as her icy gaze took in her surroundings but she found nothing amiss. Her brow crinkled. She felt troubled by what must have just been a dream, a nightmare really, that she couldn't get a hold of but was still bothered by. It felt as if she had an elaborate puzzle, one that she would be able to finish if only she could recall where the missing piece was. She shrugged off the uneasy feelings as she pulled the covers off of her body. She looked at the digital alarm clock to the side of her bed and was pleased when it read "1:19". She would have plenty of time to shower and grab something little to eat before she was to meet in the training room. Her stomach did a flip as she thought about the possibility of Kathryn Janeway being there as well.
The hot water that poured from the showerhead and the lilac scented soap divested Annika of the last remnant of sleep. She wasn't afraid to belt out a few verses of "You Are My Sunshine" while water cascaded over her shoulders and down her back to pool with soap lather by her heels.
Annika toweled herself dry while she wondered about Lyndsay's words and the seemingly cryptic meaning behind them. Her brow crinkled, but she still couldn't figure out if it had just been her imagination or if Lyndsay had in fact been hinting at something other than Annika's hologram taking Janeway by surprise. Annika truly couldn't imagine what else Lyndsay could have meant, but there had just been something in the redhead's alto tones that left a niggling feeling in the back of Annika's mind.
Annika covered the plum jumpsuit she had, with some effort, fitted over her body with a pair of black cotton drawstring pants and a red-hooded pull over. While she moved into the kitchen she pulled her shoulder-length blonde hair into a knotted ponytail.
Annika opted for an Amy's tofu scramble. Before the ding of the microwave sounded a knock on her door pulled her attention away from the red-numbered countdown. With a bit of disappointment that she couldn't start right into her meal, Annika pressed a finger to the star that released the lock on the door.
A soft squeak of surprise was released by Annika for she was quite surprised, though pleasantly so, to see the woman who stood in the entry way the lights of the hallway creating highlights of copper through her auburn tresses.
"Doctor Janeway." Annika tried not to blush as the other woman granted her a luminous smile accompanied by a pair of sparkling blue eyes. "Um, please, come in."
"Thank you, Annika."
Annika nearly swooned at the way her name fell from Kathryn Janeway's lips. The deep-bodied huskiness, the throatiness that sent shivers down Annika's spine. She felt heat course through her body until all the warmth traveled to the same place. She blushed hotly as she felt moisture begin to gather between her thighs.
"You and I have a problem." There was just enough humor in Janeway's blue eyes to allow Annika to assume that they didn't actually have a problem for which she was quite glad.
"Oh?" Annika's full lips curled into a broad smile as a fluttering began in her lower abdomen. "And what's that?"
"I can't stop thinking about you." Kathryn's voice took on a teasing, supremely seductive, quality as her gaze raked over Annika's curvaceous form. The smile on her lips indicated that she quite liked what she saw. The desire-laden blue eyes met Annika's once more before Kathryn began a slow, sauntering journey towards the spellbound blonde.
Annika was completely and utterly transfixed as Kathryn stopped within a hair's breadth of her, so close she could feel the warmth of the other woman's body transfer to the front of her own and the scent of lavender reached her nose.
"I want to know..." Kathryn boldly cupped Annika's cleft chin in her hand. "Exactly how you plan to rectify the situation."
Annika's response was quickly and abruptly stopped by Kathryn's hot mouth pressed against her own and a tongue that aggressively entered her mouth. A loud moan flitted to Annika's ears and she didn't know if it had been emitted by her or Kathryn and frankly she didn't care. While Kathryn captured her mouth Annika pulled the petite woman against her with an arm around the other woman's waist and one in her hair. The auburn tresses were quickly released from the French twist it had been captured in and now the waves of auburn hair fell across Kathryn's shoulders and down her powder blue silk encased back.
"Do you have... any idea..." Annika groaned as Kathryn nipped at her exposed collarbones all the while maneuvering her very competently to the conveniently close sofa. "How sexy this goddamned skirt is?"
"Yes." Kathryn's grin was almost feral for she had accomplished her goal and now had Annika beneath her atop the soft brown leather cushions. The red cotton pullover was removed quickly before Kathryn began to peel away the plum material that tore apart with unexpected ease. "Why do you think I wore it in the first place? I could sense your eyes on me in the mess hall. I pictured what you-what I wanted you to do to me."
"What? What did you... want me to... Oh, God!" Annika arched her back in order to press herself closer to the hot, wet mouth that lavished attention to her breasts. Her thoughts were focused on the white hot point of contact and she didn't realize there was a sound pervading her senses until Kathryn's mouth left her aroused body and blue eyes made dark with desire looked at her questioningly.
"Aren't you going to get that?"
"What?" Annika's eyes memorized the mussed appearance of the woman above her, though a buzzing sound was becoming a distraction. As was the carpeted floor that was quickly coming up to meet her.
Annika groaned loudly as she came awake on the floor of her sunlit bedroom. She turned onto her side before she lifted herself into a sitting position and brushed a hand across her face. Her dream came back to her quickly and a cry of outrage and frustration left her. "You've got to be kidding me!"
The buzzing sound that had been in her dream still existed, begrudgingly Annika picked herself off from the floor. She grumbled during her journey to the door, which unsealed when she pressed the star. Unlike her dream, no Kathryn Janeway stood behind it looking elegant and damned sexy.
"Did you just wake up?" Tom smiled brightly despite the rather crumpled figure that greeted him none too warmly. "It's almost two."
Sleep still fogged her mind and Annika's voice came out hoarse. "What?"
"You know. Two?" Tom shrugged as he remained in the entryway. "It's time for you to kick some ass and take a few names."
"Oh, right." Annika's eyes had flitted as if her gaze could catch the memory. When her attention returned to the man still standing in the hallway she began to be aware that perhaps she should have invited him in a few minutes ago. "Um, come in I guess."
"Thanks." Tom was sort of surprised that a freshly woken Annika Hansen was so off-kilter. "Hey, are you all right?"
"Yes, of course, I was just having a... a dream." Annika shifted uncomfortably under Tom's concerned look.
"That bad huh?" Tom knew what it was like to be plagued by nightmares so his sympathy was quite genuine.
Uneasy, Annika ignored the question. "So, I guess I should suit up?"
"Sure, yeah." Tom shrugged as he stood in the living room, oblivious to the fact that the nature of Annika's dream hadn't really been affirmed by the woman.
Annika smiled pleasantly to cover up the residual feelings left from her dream before she left Tom alone in the living room as she entered her bedroom to change.
"Hey, so I asked the Cap, but she said she couldn't make it because of some Congressional thing or whatever she had to prepare for, but said she'd try to stop in to 'observe' so I guess we won't see who comes out on top today." Tom's voice rose in order for it to carry across the quarters, humor and just the slightest hint of disappointment colored his tones.
Annika heard the comment and couldn't help but be relieved by Janeway's busy schedule. After the vivid dream she had just experience, she wasn't entirely sure she would be able to handle seeing Kathryn Janeway or her skirt. Annika pulled her hair into a ponytail as she rejoined Tom in the living room.
Tom didn't even try to repress his appreciation of how the plum-colored suit fitted snugly over Annika's form. His low whistle had earned him an eye-roll though, so he didn't add a voiced reaction.
Annika snorted derisively as her hands went to her waist. "You're just one big hormone walking around doing stuff, aren't you, Paris?"
"Guilty as charged, Ma'am." Tom bowed in exaggerated deference.
Annika smirked after she shook her head and rolled her eyes. "How many times have you had a drink thrown in your face?"
"Not as many as you think." Tom smiled with good humor while he followed Annika out of her quarters. "Only a handful, I swear."
"What are these for?" Annika, with a raised eyebrow, looked at the four rectangular pieces of curved plastic in her hands before she turned her attention to B'Elanna.
"They're polaron disruptors, you wear them on your hands and feet. When a hand or foot connects with one of our contact points a... mild shock is delivered." B'Elanna pointed to the circular sensor on her own chest that matched the one on Annika's sternum and scattered across each of their suits. "So, the point is to connect with your opponent's sensor while protecting your own. The sensors also relay information to the computer. It measures your strength of impact and also your level of invulnerability."
Annika attached the disruptors to her feet and hands and was startled when they immediately began to glow an icy blue. Her metal fingers hovered over the now glowing sensor on her sternum as she considered what B'Elanna deemed to be a "mild shock".
"You need this training so that you'll know how to control the strength of your hits. Not everyone can take forty-two broken bones and live to tell about it. But at the same time you need to be able to protect yourself and others." B'Elanna smiled, a hint of kindness was revealed in her smirk. "Don't worry I've turned the shock system in our sensors off... for now. Let's begin."
Annika looked up from her position on the ground in shock at B'Elanna who towered over her with a smug grin. The sensor on Annika's chest blinked a few times before it was restored to its solidly lit state. If she wasn't encased in metal Annika figured her chest would be caved in. She stood from the mat and brushed away nonexistent dirt from her midsection, while she removed traces of embarrassment from her thoughts. She could be embarrassed later; right now she had B'Elanna to contend with.
"You're too slow, Borg. Your reaction time is sluggish at best." B'Elanna made her point clearer by taking Annika down to ground with a kick to her chest that sent the metallic woman flying a few feet.
Annika realized with a start that B'Elanna had gone easy on her. It wasn't something she had expected of the other woman, but that was the reality. She bristled at someone coddling her in anyway, so with a yell of anger fueled by adrenaline she charged at B'Elanna that resulted in a full-on collision. The crunching sound of bones made Annika lift herself immediately away from the fallen woman.
"Not bad." Blood due to her collapsed lung fell from B'Elanna's mouth as she got to her feet with one hand covering her reconstructing ribcage. "But you just killed someone who doesn't have at least a level eight invulnerability or someone who can't heal rapidly like me, which I can say is a whole lot of metahumans not to mention all humans. Unless you're busting through a brick wall or someone made of brick I suggest pulling your punches... and controlling your temper. Okay, let's go again. Try not to break any of my bones this time."
Annika managed to block the first punch B'Elanna threw her way, but the second connected solidly with the side of face. Her head snapped back from the force of the blow though she did stay on her feet. Annika had never been in a physical altercation in her life before the Friends of Humanity had taken her captive only four days ago. She didn't know how to "pull her punches". Annika thought about how it's different to hit a heavy bag at the gym and punching someone good-naturedly though surprisingly on the shoulder, fast but light. With that in mind, she let her metal fist fly.
B'Elanna's chest sensor flickered and though she was laid out on the mat aside from a bruise that healed almost faster than it could fully form she was unharmed. "Good."
The rather self-satisfied grin was quickly removed when B'Elanna kicked Annika's feet out from underneath her. Annika sounded not unlike a keg hitting the ground as her heavy metallic form fell to the mat.
"But you're still too slow." Again B'Elanna towered over Annika, but the extended hand offering her help up was new. Once Annika was to her feet, B'Elanna pulled the other woman close to her. "Your hologram surprised the Captain, who's not a woman easily surprised, you're faster than this. Stop thinking like a human."
Annika nodded her head as they separated. Was she holding back? She didn't think so, but perhaps the fact that she never used her abilities in any sort of offensive way she required a bit of reprogramming. As if in slow motion Annika saw B'Elanna's attack.
B'Elanna's ankle was caught in a metal vice grip and she roared as she was flung across the room towards the matted walls. In mid-air she twisted her body so that her feet collided with the wall and the momentum propelled her back to Annika. Her connection with the metal form was avoided when Annika sidestepped her and caught her by the fabric of her black combat suit.
"How's that for human?" Annika smirked as she held B'Elanna face down on the mat, the heavy metallic body kept the other woman pinned.
"Get off me, you damned toaster!" B'Elanna had to admit, if only to herself, that she was impressed. Annika's incredible strength was indeed sufficient in holding her to the ground but what was more was that there wasn't a painful pressure on her, just unmovable.
Annika's hold didn't let up. She knew B'Elanna wouldn't just give up the fight that easily. And she was right. The back of B'Elanna's skull connected sharply with Annika's face and the force from it made her grip loosen. The other woman used that to her advantage and pushed up from the ground with all her might which sent Annika into the air only to land with an expulsion of breath on the mat a few feet away.
The door to the training room opened as Annika got to her feet. Tom, Harry and the Delta students: Icheb Brunali, Henry and Beatrice Burleigh, entered the training lab with a myriad of expressions. Tom and Harry were excited, the Burleighs overtly unimpressed and Icheb... well, Annika couldn't tell exactly what he was thinking behind that holographic façade he maintained. Who entered last, dressed in a tight fitting black outfit with red piping from shoulder to shoulder and from her collarbones to the top of her calf high boots, shot a feeling of heated excitement through Annika. She was glad that her metallic features hid the flush that had warmed her face.
A subtle nudge from B'Elanna startled Annika and with a flittering of embarrassment that made her stomach twist, she realized Kathryn Janeway had just asked her a question. "I'm sorry, what?"
"I just asked if you were finished for the day or if you'd like to stay on for some non-powered training?" Janeway couldn't read anything behind the metal visage, but she had the oddest sensation that Annika was blushing beneath the metallic exterior. The headmistress studiously ignored the tingling in the tips of her fingers as she maintained her professional demeanor. She worried that B'Elanna could hear the rapid thumping of her heart.
"Um, sure." Annika's upturned lips helped conceal how fast her heart was beating as she gazed upon the elegant features that held her completely and utterly captivated.
B'Elanna had to turn away from the pair so she wouldn't laugh out loud. She moved to the holographic controls as she half-listened to Janeway explaining what they were to be doing and how Doctor Zimmerman had "ordered" her out of her office. Annika was so obvious to apparently everyone but Janeway it made her wonder how much she could wind Annika up before she burst from embarrassment. With a grin that showed slightly pointed teeth, B'Elanna decided she would see.
"You will most likely find yourself in a situation where you either won't be able to use your powers or you won't want to reveal them and risk exposure." Janeway's explanatory voice was purposefully kept flat as she pulled on a pair of polaron disruptors over her hands, but maintained eye contact with Annika. "That means you'll have to power down."
"Oh." As she shook herself out the warm fog that Janeway's voice had caused in her mind, Annika realized what the other woman's words meant. "Oh! Right."
Unlike the violent intense transformation into metal, Annika's metamorphosis back to her unpowered state was gentle and slow. The metal seemed to just melt beneath the new layer of epidermis and in a matter of seconds blonde hair, bright blue eyes, and rosy skin were revealed. Janeway's heart raced faster.
"Okay, let's begin." B'Elanna circled Janeway slowly before she launched her surprise attack. With one arm underneath Janeway's chin and the other was around her waist. B'Elanna lifted the Captain from the mat, compressing the air from her body with the tightness of her hold. Annika made a move for B'Elanna, but stopped when she suddenly realized she wasn't needed.
Janeway jabbed her left elbow forcefully into B'Elanna's side before she stomped her left heel on B'Elanna's toes, which weakened the grip she was held in. Using B'Elanna's loosened hold to her advantage Janeway swiftly turned and with the heel of her hand delivered an uppercut to B'Elanna's jaw that took the woman to the mat.
B'Elanna grinned up at the Captain before she regained her footing. "Computer, disengage safety lattice around B'Elanna Torres."
Annika watched as a previously unseen yellow grid that fitted over B'Elanna's form flickered into view a second before it was removed altogether. She wondered if a "safety lattice" surrounded her and Janeway. She could see or feel anything that would make her think there was, but then perhaps it was meant to be hidden.
"The safety lattice, like the sensors, measures the force of the hit and it protects you from the actual contact during training." B'Elanna moved to the low set bench before she took a drink from one of the water bottles. She wiped away the excess fluid and her smirk before she leaned back on the bench to relax and take in the upcoming show. "Okay, Blondie. Do what the Captain did."
Unnoticed by Janeway, Annika's eyes grew wide and she looked quite scathingly at B'Elanna who had the most infuriatingly innocent look that didn't suit her at all.
"Don't worry, you won't hurt me." Janeway had moved into position, so her warm breath flitted over Annika's shoulder. Goosebumps from the voice, from the breath that moved a few blonde strands, and from the warmth of the petite form behind her covered Annika's skin. "You ready?"
"Y-Yes." Annika hoped Janeway would take her stutter as nervousness about the training and not from the uncomfortably torturous feeling of having Kathryn Janeway so close.
"Just pretend I'm bad." Janeway cursed how low her voice had dropped, but she was completely in control of how her body reacted to Annika's close proximity. At least that's what she kept telling herself.
When Janeway positioned one forearm under Annika's chin, the other over the other woman's midsection and pulled her close she had almost convinced herself that it was true. The gasp that emitted from Annika made Janeway's hold loosen, until B'Elanna's yell instructed her to tighten her grip. Janeway did what B'Elanna had instructed her to do, despite what that gasp had done to her; the shiver of excitement that still ran through her body.
I'm in hell. Those three words ran through Annika's mind as her back felt the onslaught of Kathryn Janeway's curves and body heat. The feel of the other woman's form fitted tightly against her was nothing short of tortuous and Annika felt the results of that torture acutely in places where she hoped weren't as obvious as the way her heart was thumping wildly in her chest.
Annika gasped when she was suddenly lifted off the ground and B'Elanna booming voice telling her to take control of the situation filled the training room. She tried to disregard her own feelings towards the woman who held her in a vice grip and reassured herself that she wouldn't actually be harming Janeway if she fought back. So, with a feeling of resolution filling her Annika swung her elbow as hard as she could to connect with Janeway's left side. What Annika, and apparently B'Elanna and Janeway, had forgotten was that despite the relative normalcy of her appearance Annika still had a reinforced metallic infrastructure that made her quite a bit stronger than the average human. For when Annika's sharp elbow collided with the invisible lattice that protected Janeway they both fell to the ground from the force of the blow.
"I'm sorry!" Annika quickly pulled herself off of the fallen woman. Embarrassment made her cheeks a ruddy color as she helped Janeway to her feet.
Anything Janeway was about to say in reply would have been drowned out by the loud chortles that came from B'Elanna. Seeing that her laughter was unappreciated by both woman staring scathingly at her, B'Elanna wiped errant tears from her dark brown eyes as she controlled herself. "Okay, let's try it again. This time, Captain, I suggest letting go."
Annika held herself perfectly still as she felt Janeway drawing closer to her. She refrained from gasping in pleasure as the other woman's body fitted against her back once again while three simple words were repeated in her mind like a mantra. I'm in hell.
(to be continued)