“Oh, well that’s just great.”
Phoebe Janeway’s steps faltered when she saw who was standing beneath the large oak tree that overlooked a small pond on the outskirts of the Janeway farm. As much as she wanted to turn around and retreat back into the large house she had just escaped from she knew such action would be ridiculous. Seven already knew she was there.
“Phoebe Janeway.” Seven ignored the anxiety that filled her as she kept her voice flat though acknowledging. Her stance went more rigid as she clasped her hands behind her back. She wasn’t aware that such impassivity would just anger Phoebe all the more.
“Seven of Nine.” Phoebe’s voice was anything but flat. Seven’s name came out almost tauntingly and surely irritated. “What do you think you’re doing out here?”
“I required… air.” A cold sort of panic swept through Seven’s lanky frame as she watched Phoebe’s dark blue eyes narrow with poorly concealed antagonism. “I will leave now.”
As calmly as she could Seven walked steadily away from the small pond towards the house. Phoebe’s voice stopped her a few steps after Seven had walked past her.
“Answer me one thing, huh… who the hell do you think you are?” One slim hand went to her jutted hip while the other one had a finger pointed at Seven. Phoebe’s voice was hard and unforgiving as it went up in volume and accusation.
“I—I do not understand the question.” Seven really didn’t. She knew exactly who she was.
“Coming here. Looking all…” Phoebe’s hands waved in the air as she grasped for the words she wanted to say. “Damaged! Don’t you think I know what you did? I know exactly what you did, Seven of Nine. You. Killed. Her.”
The small muscle in Seven’s jaw below her starburst implant jumped and continued to as she felt a wave of pain, guilt, and anger. Yes, she was infuriated by this woman before her and her condemnation. But the truth of the matter was she couldn’t truly deny Phoebe’s indictment.
Seven’s stony silence just incensed Phoebe more. Her voice cut through the calm night sky as she rained all her sorrow and wrath onto the woman before her, which caused her slim frame to shake with the ferocity of her anguish. “Why? Why did you do it? You left her! She died alone on that damned Borg ship! All alone! Do you understand that? She was all alone!”
Phoebe screamed loudly before she let her fist fly. A tight grasp on her wrist prevented her punch from connecting with Seven’s face. The hit that did connect made her howl out in sudden pain after her fist collided with the metal of Seven’s abdominal implant. Now both her wrists were held in Seven’s impenetrable grip.
“Get your hands off me!” Phoebe pulled fiercely away from the woman that had her wrists imprisoned as hot tears of both grief and frustration streamed down her cheeks. “I said get your goddamned hands off me you… you BORG! You’re not even a person. You’re not human. You’re a machine and you always will be! Now let me go, you goddamned toaster!”
Phoebe let out a surprised gasp as she landed quite hard on the cold ground. She looked up angrily at the seemingly always impassive woman towering above her. But Phoebe Janeway saw something she had never before seen on Seven’s narrow features and in those icy blue eyes. And she knew that any patience Seven had held for a grieving little sister was now gone. If she wasn’t so furious she would have perhaps had the common sense not to aggravate the woman any more than she already had.
“Yeah, that’s right. I don’t care how much dressing up you do I know what you really are. You’re a Borg… a killer.” Even shaking on the cold ground, Phoebe’s fury heated her blood. “You’ve killed thousands before. And you’ve just added one more to your list. How does that feel? Knowing that you killed the one woman who… the one person who would have done anything for you? Who gave you back your life! She saved you. And you killed her in return. I asked you… how does that feel?”
“If you will be silent I will answer your question.” Seven was relieved when Phoebe did indeed stop her tirade though the furious expression didn’t assist in Seven’s calm. “It is true that I was the carrier of the Endgame Virus that destroyed the Borg cube. Initially I was unsuccessful in my mission. The Borg Queen prevented me from deploying it. It seemed that she could not be stopped and Earth would have been the first planet within the Federation to have fallen before the rest of the Quadrant and then the Galaxy would be devastated by the Borg. I could not stop the Queen, she was too powerful for me. It was your sister… she found me in the Hive Mind. She was able to overcome the control of the Collective. Just enough to sacrifice herself. She did it for me. She did it for you. For all those billions upon billions of lives that would have been destroyed by a creature who had taken possession of her body and mind. She did it as she did everything, her way. If you wish to blame me for your sister’s death, that is your choice. But know this… I fully acknowledge my part in her demise and I must live with my own guilt. But I also know what was in her thoughts, her heart. She thanked me, Phoebe Janeway. Because I gave her the tools she needed to do this one last act. To save us all.”
“If—if that’s true. That you were with her, that you could hear her thoughts, know what she was feeling…” Phoebe Janeway’s fury was replaced by shame at her own behavior and also the need to know what Seven had felt at the end of her sister’s life. “Was she very afraid?”
“I once heard a statement regarding an incident that occurred before I was onboard Voyager. ‘Kathryn Janeway once stood toe-to-toe with death and death blinked first’.” Seven smiled softly, a bitter-sweet smile of remembrance as she thought of the woman that she had thought, hoped, would be somehow immortal.
“I still can’t stop… hating you, Seven. At least for now.” It was true that Phoebe had herself composed, but she still couldn’t find a way to forgive Seven for her part in Kathryn’s death. So she was truthful and knew it hurt Seven, but she couldn’t be any more dishonest than Seven could be. Phoebe warred internally for a few seconds before she decided to put it all out there. “She loved you, you know.”
“Yes. I know.” All the regret for what could have been flashed across Seven’s pained features as she acknowledged what she had discovered in those precious moments when she had been utterly connected to Kathryn Janeway.
“And you loved her.” Phoebe’s voice held no uncertainty. She had seen it plainly written all over Seven’s face the moment Kathryn had introduced them at the homecoming celebration.
Seven didn’t hesitate or waste a second to wonder how easily she could be read before she answered quietly, almost reverently. “Yes.”
“What a fucking mess.”
“We’re a long way from home. Everyone is lonely, and all we have is each other. I think eventually people will begin to pair off.” Her blue eyes were as light as her tone, she seemed more amused than anything else at the minor indiscretion of two members of her crew having been caught kissing in the turbolift by the First Officer, though there still seemed to be a trace of sadness and guilt in her voice.
Chakotay gazed down upon her, his eyes captivated by the way the Bridge lights highlighted her hair with strands of gold and red and his chest warmed as he wondered how that hair would look loose and falling freely over her delicate shoulders and down her back. His voice was soft and entreating. “Including you?”
He had surprised her he could see that much as she brought her eyes away from the readout on the aft tactical station to lock on to his dark brown ones. Now her voice was almost regretful, but she tried to hide it beneath her tone of confidence and her luminous smile. “As Captain, that's a luxury I don't have. Besides, I intend for us to be home before, before Mark gives me up for dead.”
Chakotay was brought back to the present as he stood next to his crewmates all of whose eyes were trained solely on the gray haired man who had just entered the Janeway homestead and had been quickly engulfed in the strong embrace of Gretchen.
But he did give you up for dead, Kathryn. Chakotay’s dark eyes narrowed with a fury spurred on by a deep seated jealousy that fired angrily within his large form. And after only four years. I’ve waited for you for almost a decade and would have waited for you for a lifetime if need be. He had you and the damned fool let you go.
Chakotay contemplated all he knew about Mark Johnson. Kathryn had never spoken too extensively about the man she had planned to be married to soon after Voyager’s first mission to capture Chakotay and the renegade Maquis was completed. However, they had spent four months with only each other for companionship on the planet they had named New Earth, so Chakotay had learned perhaps more than he had wanted to know about the man who had started off as a childhood schoolmate whom she had not liked in the least due to his “vulkiness” but who, over time, had become a strong and sure confidant, a good friend and then her fiancée.
He had learned that Mark Johnson was a tenured professor of philosophy at the University of Chicago and how he suffered from space sickness almost the moment he boarded a spaceship. How Mark had revealed to her after their romantic relationship had begun that he had always loved her, been in love with her, even from childhood. She had laughed when she had told Chakotay this since she had always thought of the child she had been as haughty and too highly opinionated not to mention intolerant of the well-mannered boy who she had called Hobbes or Vulky when her mother wasn’t around for the gentle, kind-hearted Mark to ever have loved her. Chakotay had smiled then at the thought of the rambunctious child Kathryn Janeway had been and how one could, not to her face of course, say that she was still haughty and highly opinionated but that she was also so very easy to love.
What had struck Chakotay as curious then was that aside from descriptions of Mark as a kind, quiet man who had given her comfort especially after the death of her father and her first fiancée, Justin Tighe, Kathryn had never been explicit about why she had fallen in love with the man. Chakotay wondered about that fact then and wondered about it now as the man who he had wanted to thank for releasing Kathryn from her marital obligations but to also bash in for having caused the strong woman so much pain spoke in hushed tones to the woman who would have been his mother-in-law.
Mark Johnson towered above Gretchen Janeway, Chakotay hadn’t expected the man to be quite so tall. Gretchen barely reached the large man’s broad shoulders, which indicated that Mark was several inches taller than Chakotay. The present Captain of Voyager didn’t know exactly what he had expected of the man who had been engaged to Kathryn Janeway, perhaps a too thin studious man with no substance to him whatsoever definitely not the man who nearly engulfed Gretchen with his arms and imposing frame. The large build bespoke a man who had been a strong youth who had only softened due to age. The gray haired man’s head was bowed as he smiled, a sad tremulous smile, while he still held on to Gretchen Janeway’s now trembling form since she had begun to sob softly into the man’s green sweater covered chest.
The living room was sparsely filled with people, conversations had quieted, but words that flittered around indicated that most people knew who the gray haired man was who had so recently entered. The ex-fiancee.
Captain Janeway’s former crew and Jarem Kaz had never met the man who had quite suddenly, upon his entrance, ended their words of concern for Seven of Nine when Chakotay had uttered a name, the tone filled with years of resentment.
“Who is that?” Jarem kept his voice soft and quiet as his blue gaze took in the tall gray haired man with curiosity.
The holographic Doctor’s brow creased as he shifted through his memory files. “I believe that’s Mark Johnson. Admiral Janeway was engaged to him when Voyager was taken into the Delta Quadrant.”
“Oh.” Jarem looked a bit more closely at the man whose identity was just revealed to him.
Before Doctor Jarem Kaz could stop himself he found that he was evaluating the man who would have been Kathryn Janeway’s husband. After Jarem appraised the other man with keenly intelligent light blue eyes, he determined for himself that Mark Johnson was an attractive enough fellow if not particularly noteworthy with a large sturdy build that was bulky but couldn’t be called fat, had a calm, gentle presence and a slow, easy way of moving. Jarem tried to picture the arresting, authoritative, charming, almost larger than life in personality though delicate and petite in stature woman who was Admiral Kathryn Janeway coupled with a man who on first inspection seemed quite the opposite and found it extremely difficult to do so. Though to be charitable Jarem Kaz hadn’t known Kathryn Janeway for very long and certainly hadn’t before her grand return from her seven year journey through the Delta Quadrant and so it was quite possible and actually most probable that she had changed immensely in those seven long years.
Before any one of the Starfleet officers could comment further, they closed their mouths and stood straighter as they watched Gretchen Janeway lead the gray haired man towards their position in front of the fireplace. She had encircled one of his arms with her own and though she seemed calm the unmistakable veil of sadness was still around her. Mark for the most part had a relatively friendly and open expression tinged with the sorrow expected of a man who had just lost someone he had loved for nearly his entire life.
The Voyager crew and Mark were left awkwardly alone when Gretchen, after a few cursory introductions had been made, departed to greet a new group of mourners who had just entered the Janeway home.
“Mark.” Tom Paris smiled his warmest, most inviting grin as he moved between his wife and Chakotay who he wondered could be giving off any less friendly vibes than the man already was. “Let’s get you a drink.”
Still smiling his friendly, boyish grin, Tom led Mark away from the scrutiny of his crewmates and into the empty kitchen.
Unlike the others, Tom knew exactly why someone like Kathryn Janeway would have fallen for a guy like Mark. He actually reminded Tom strangely of his mother, Julia Paris. Mark, like his mother, was naturally affable, stable, calm, supportive, and most importantly reliable. Janeway needed someone who would always be there. Someone she could put out of her mind when on a mission. And then come back to when it was over. Tom also understood that the detour into the Delta Quadrant spared Janeway from a pretty dull marriage if a pleasant one.
“Thanks.” Mark took the proffered tumbler filled with Irish whiskey gladly. The liquid burned on its way down, but he ignored it as he took a second drink from the glass.
“Not a problem.” Tom decided to forgo any more alcohol as he took in the rather shaky way Mark brought the tumbler to his lips. “I’m sorry… we—we all loved her.”
Mark peered into his near empty glass for a moment or two before he brought his hazel eyes to Tom’s sympathetic expression. He took another drink from the tumbler before he spoke in a soft, gentle tone. “Kath had that effect on people. I think I fell in love with her before I even knew what it meant. She didn’t give me the time of day though. Too… ‘vulky’ for her tastes. Not many people are aware of this, certainly no one in Starfleet, but Kath had a bit of a rebellious streak when she was a teenager.”
Janeway’s voice from years ago floated in Tom’s mind. “When I was in high school I snuck out of the house a couple of times late at night. Had to tiptoe past my parents’ bedroom. That's kind of how I feel right now.”
Tom almost laughed out loud as an amusing image of a young rebellious teenager that had been Kathryn Janeway was conjured in his thoughts.
“She actually saved my life once. But only after convincing me to go swimming with her in some caves under the Olympus Mons on Mars.” Mark laughed softly as he shook his head at the memories. “She probably could have convinced me that jumping out of an orbital shuttle was a good idea. Plus, she wasn’t too good at taking no for an answer. She was a bossy little teenager.”
Tom’s soft snicker matched Mark’s as he nodded his head in understanding. “I imagine that she was.”
“Was she happy?” Mark’s voice lost all of its teasing quality. He looked apprehensively at Tom as his voice turned regretful. “I haven’t really heard much of her in the last year. She… I knew she was busy and Carla and I, we—do you know if she was happy?”
“I—I don’t know.” Tom looked away as dismay marred his features. The reality was that Admiral Janeway in the past year had seemed to increasingly distance herself from her former Voyager crew. “Since I became First Officer onboard Voyager, we’ve had—”
“Missions.” Mark drained the rest of the contents in his glass before he set the tumbler on the kitchen counter next to him. “Yeah, I can understand that.”
“She’s been busy too. Working to rebuild Starfleet.” Tom didn’t know who he was trying to convince Mark or himself. The distance that had grown between the Voyager crew that had been lost in the Delta Quadrant and the indomitable woman who had brought them back home was reasonable, tolerable, though regrettable.
Mark merely nodded in acknowledgment of Tom’s words, his explanation, as he wrestled with his own guilty conscience for all the things he had done and not done regarding Kathryn Janeway. He had been so relieved when Kathryn and Carla became friends. His wife had always been concerned that if Kathryn Janeway ever came back into his life she would lose him. But that hadn’t been the case. Whatever he had with Kathryn had been taken from them during the seven years she had spent in the Delta Quadrant. He still loved her, he always would, but even if he would have been willing to give up his family he knew she wouldn’t let him. She was never cold, just distant. Warm but never entirely open. And then after a while she drifted away from him completely and he had allowed it. Seemingly too wrapped up in his own life with his wife and son to notice that the woman he had always loved was vanishing from his life. He didn’t know if he should feel a modicum of relief that it hadn’t just been him that she had pulled away from. Her beloved crew apparently had also lost that seemingly unbreakable bond that had formed between during their voyage home. Or perhaps it was just with their former captain that bonds had loosened.
Tears of regret and sorrow formed in Mark’s eyes as a pain clutched at his chest. He had been forced to bury Kathryn once before when he had thought she was dead when no word of Voyager appeared after three long years of searching. But she had come back then. Impossibly, but Kathryn never did do things the easy way. So seven years after he had seen her off on her brand new ship, Voyager, her Captain with crew in tow returned to Earth and Kathryn Janeway had been resurrected. His chest tightened as he allowed the hot tears to fall for he knew this time she wouldn’t be coming back. Ever. She was gone and he would never have the chance to tell her how much he still loved her and always would.
“I’m sorry.” Mark wasn’t really that apologetic though he did wipe the tears from his face as he composed himself with several deep breaths.
“Hey, it’s all right.” There was nothing but sympathy in Tom’s light blue eyes, sympathy and growing moisture. He didn’t hesitate to lay a supportive hand on Mark’s shoulder. “Come on, let’s get another drink. We can sit down and you can tell me where a young Kathryn Janeway snuck off to late at night after tip-toeing past her parents’ bedroom.”
Gretchen Janeway’s smile didn’t quite reach her eyes as she overheard a snippet of Mark telling Owen’s son some of Kathryn’s teenage antics. She continued her course past the kitchen to the back porch. She was surprised and not just a little concerned when she saw Phoebe with Seven underneath the large oak tree Kathryn had loved so much as a child. Gretchen could almost see a six year old Kathryn climbing the large oak in order to sit on a dense branch and escape her little sister that Kathryn would call “meddlesome”.
She was brought back to the present when Phoebe made her way steadily to her location seated on the bench swing. Her youngest daughter had a blush to her features, but she didn’t look as upset and angry as she had earlier in the day. Perhaps the blame Phoebe had placed on Seven was beginning to dissolve. Gretchen certainly hoped so. Anger wouldn’t help Phoebe grieve or come to terms with her loss, it would just eat away at her and she would never be able to resolve her own feelings regarding her sister. Perhaps Phoebe needed to talk with someone, professionally. Perhaps, Gretchen thought warily, so did she.
Phoebe didn’t say a word as she sat next to Gretchen on the bench and embraced her tightly. Gretchen returned the comfort as her own arms wrapped around the shaking form of her daughter. They had grieved for Kathryn before. When Starfleet had deemed that Voyager had been destroyed. But that hadn’t been so definite, so heart-breaking. Both she and Phoebe had sworn to themselves, at least that if anyone could do the impossible it would be Kathryn. That somehow she had survived and would return to them. And she had. Was it not possible this time? Gretchen strengthened her hold as she realized that no, it wasn’t possible. Whoever her daughter had been… she had been destroyed by what she was forced to become long before the Borg cube had been decimated.
She wiped the tears away from her daughter’s cheeks after she was released from Phoebe’s arms. “Mark’s here, regaling Owen’s boy with tales of Kathryn as a teenager. Why don’t you go in there, tell them about the time you ‘found’ Kathryn’s diary.”
Phoebe nodded before she stood from the bench. A broad grin grew as she remembered that time nearly three decades ago. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so mad. I thought her head would explode.”
“Well, you didn’t have to ask why the French were such sloppy kissers.” Gretchen gave Phoebe’s right hand a squeeze before her daughter entered the house.
The small smile on Gretchen’s lips vanished as she turned back to set her gaze on Seven still standing beneath the big oak tree. The other woman had her back to Gretchen, but she had the distinct impression that Seven was fully aware that she was there. She debated whether she should just leave the young woman to her own thoughts or go to her. Gretchen also wondered what had transpired between Phoebe and Seven. Something told her that Phoebe’s anger towards Seven had dissolved at least a little.
“Seven?” Gretchen pulled her shawl tighter around her chilled frame as she waited for Seven to face her. She had wondered if Seven had been either too lost in thought or ignoring her since her approach hadn’t exactly been quiet.
“Do you also blame me? Hate me?” Seven didn’t turn anything but her head. Her optical implant gleamed in the moonlight.
“Oh, Seven, no, no not at all.” Gretchen walked closer to the small pond so that she could see Seven’s features more clearly. As Seven turned to face her completely Gretchen’s heart clenched at the sight of a woman in extreme pain. A trail of hot tears had left tracks across Seven’s cheeks and a dark sorrow had fallen over her features.
“You are certain?”
“Yes, completely. You aren’t to blame for what happened to Kathryn, Seven. I know that Phoebe is… angry, but she shouldn’t be taking it out on you. I’m sure a part of her knows that. You would never have done anything to intentionally harm Kathryn, I know this.”
“That is correct. But I did not accompany her to the Borg cube. I was unable to convince her not to go.” Seven’s eyes shifted from Gretchen to look once again reflectively at the small pond. “I cannot help but wonder if I could have somehow prevented the events that occurred.”
A strangely familiar hand fell on Seven’s shoulder, which brought her attention back to Gretchen. The warm hand that remained on her shoulder felt and looked so much like Kathryn’s that it made Seven’s chest ache with renewed pain.
“It’s not me you need to ask forgiveness from… or Phoebe. Or anyone else for that matter.” Gretchen gently turned Seven towards her so that she could place both hands on the other woman’s shoulder having no idea the mixture of torture and gratification Gretchen’s touch brought Seven. “It’s you. You have to stop blaming yourself, Seven. I don’t blame you and I am certain Kathryn wouldn’t either. To start healing you must begin by forgiving yourself.”
“What if I cannot?”
“Then you can’t. But try. Please.” Gretchen’s eyes held fast as her voice turned quite earnest. “I know she wouldn’t want you to be unhappy.”
“There are many things I regret not saying to her. How… grateful I am for all that she has done for me. She was my constant guide to humanity. And I believe through her I have found it.” Seven found it both comforting and distressing to look upon a woman who was so much like Kathryn. Seven allowed the sensation of comfort overshadow the distress as her words were uttered quietly, sincerely. “I grew to depend on her. Too much perhaps. Now that she is—I am… unsure as to how to function sufficiently without her.”
“You carry on, Seven. And you aren’t alone. You have friends.” Gretchen pulled Seven into her slim arms as she whispered affectionately. “And family. I’ll always be here for you, Seven. Always.”
Seven’s eyes filled with tears before they closed and she embraced Gretchen as tightly as she dared. Her voice was soft next to Gretchen’s ear, heartfelt and grateful. “I do not know what to say. Thank you.”
“I know you have a good heart, Seven.” Gretchen loosened her hold so that she could bestow upon Seven one of the famous smiles known of her and her two daughters. “Kathryn wouldn’t have fallen in love with you if you didn’t.”
Suddenly self-conscious, Seven averted her gaze to the ground before it was brought back to look upon Gretchen’s elegant features when fingers turned her chin.
“You thought perhaps I didn’t know. I am her mother.” Gretchen’s tone was lightly teasing as she liked where the conversation had turned. “And you loved her in return. I’ll admit I haven’t known you for very long, but I could see it plain as day the first time I met you.”
“What you say is true.” With no conscious thought on her part, Seven pulled the dark gray knit shawl around Gretchen’s slightly shivering form. The action warmed Gretchen more than the actual material as she thanked Seven. “I regret that I did not have the… courage to state my feelings to her.”
“I’m sure she knew, Seven. Unconsciously perhaps. Or perhaps she didn’t know that you were in love with her. But she certainly knew you loved her. That she was important to you.” Gretchen felt an almost overwhelming feeling of sympathy for the woman before her who had loved her daughter so purely, who had possessed her Kathryn’s tremendous heart like no one ever had, and Seven had in turn granted Kathryn possession of her own. To never be able to have that love realized… well, Gretchen could think of nothing more tragic than that. “And even though she’s gone she’ll always be a part of you. She’s in your heart.”
“I am sorry I could not save her.” Seven’s voice was uneven as hot tears filled her throat and heated her chest. “That I could not bring her back to you.”
“Oh, Seven, I know you are.” One slim hand cupped Seven’s cheek gently, lovingly, as if the heartbroken woman before her was her own daughter. Perhaps she would have been if the fates had been kinder. “And… you did save her. She wouldn’t have wanted to live as a force of death and destruction. I’m sure she was grateful to you for helping her defeat the Borg… one last time.”
Thank you, Seven.
Seven knew it was impossible but she had the unmistakable feeling that Kathryn Janeway was near. So close to her that she could almost smell her subtle perfume. Feel her blue gaze on her and the smile her mind had conjured up that held mischief and affection. And then the sensation was gone and Seven felt cold, empty, and incomplete.
Gretchen’s frantic voice brought Seven out of her reverie suddenly. The weight of the implants in Seven’s slim form had forced Gretchen to lower them both to the earth when Seven had went stiff, with wide blue eyes, and then quickly proceeded to faint.
“Seven, are you all right?” Gretchen was relieved when Seven’s eyes opened and an almost desperately disappointed look filled the icy blue gaze.
“Yes. I am all right. I apologize if I frightened you.” Seven stood uncomfortably as she brushed away the last strands of hope that when she would open her eyes she would find herself in Voyager’s sickbay, the vessel still traveling through the Delta Quadrant, and the last two years were just a dream. That Captain Janeway would be peering worriedly down at her as she had so many times before. That Kathryn would still be alive.
“Let’s get you inside. You need to eat something. You’re skin and bone.” Gretchen brought her shawl around Seven as she led her towards the house. She barked out a surprised laugh when Seven added that she was also made of metal. Though if the former Borg drone had meant it as a joke only Seven could really say.
Even if they would have been allowed the awareness of the two individuals standing by the small pond, Gretchen and Seven were too far away to hear a husky voice tinged with reproach. “You shouldn’t have done that.”
An equally husky voice filled with remorse answered back. “I know.”
(to be continued)