“Captain, there—there’s something strange out there.”
Seven barely registered Lieutenant Kadohata’s frantic words as she continued to watch the last blue fragments of energy that had been Kathryn Janeway fade away into the blackness of space. Her body felt numb and breathing became a laborious endeavor as she forced herself to stay upright and not to fall to the floor as her anguish fought against her self-control.
“Be more specific, Lieutenant.” Picard’s irritation was more for himself than Kadohata. He had once again been unable to prevent Kathryn Janeway’s demise at the hand of the Borg. He had been rendered a spectator; a useless bystander. Picard didn’t dare look at Seven for his pain at failing her as well as Admiral Janeway was too great.
“I’m reading—I’m not sure what I’m reading.” Kadohata’s dark eyes were wide as she tried to make sense of the multitude of contradictory information that seemed so impossible. Then again, she had just witnessed a fight between a Borg sphere the size of a planet and a blue glowing ball of energy that had been a Starfleet Admiral. Perhaps she would need to expand her definition of possible. “It’s a human life sign, sir.”
Picard’s eyes went wide as he moved them quickly from the viewscreen to Lieutenant Kadohata. “Human?”
Seven quickly pushed past Picard, Worf and a few other irrelevant Enterprise crewmembers before she commandeered the Ops station from an indignant Miranda Kadohata. “That is not all. There is a faint Borg energy signature, as well as a power signature I do not recognize.”
“Oh yes, what could that indecipherable power signature possibly be?” Q smirked as he crossed his arms over his chest and rolled his eyes. His haughty expression didn’t diminish in the least despite the seriousness of his tone as he addressed the captain. “Beam her aboard or she’ll die from exposure no matter how powerful she is.”
“Captain, it’s Borg.” Worf’s warning tone rumbled deep in his throat as he pressed his hand to the damage the Borg Queen had left on his broad chest.
Seven was again bombarded by a wave of intense emotions, contradictory ones. She wanted to believe what Q was saying without him ever actually saying her name aloud: Kathryn was still alive. But she also shared Worf’s assertion that they should not bring anything with even the faintest of Borg signatures onboard the Enterprise. As she warred with her indecision, her fear and her hope, Picard made the decision for her. For all of them.
“Picard to Sickbay.”
Picard nearly smiled at the relief and affection he could read within Beverly’s tones. Celebrations would have to come later. “I’m transporting an unknown entity directly to Sickbay, accompanied by a full security detail.”
There was a long pause before Beverly’s voice, betraying none of her fear, replied, “Acknowledged.”
“You have the Bridge, Commander.” Picard’s pointed gaze stayed Worf’s protests. The captain moved towards the Ops station with a compassionate expression gracing his features. “Seven, you’re with me.”
“Yes, Captain.” Seven held her chin high as she rigidly followed Picard to the turbolift.
They rode the lift in silence, each one deep in their own thoughts. A small muscle jumped beneath the starburst implant on Seven’s jawline when the doors opened onto Deck Eight. The journey to Sickbay lasted only a few minutes, but to Seven it felt like infinitely longer. She wanted desperately to see the being they had just beamed aboard and yet she feared what she would find as well.
Picard was startled to see the trio of Q surrounding a biobed and none of his security guards after the doors to Sickbay had slid open for Seven and him. If he didn’t know better all three Q looked a bit confused by what they were seeing. That bemusement on their part fueled Picard’s dread of what lay on that biobed.
“Captain, I simply have no diagnosis.” Beverly’s green eyes were alight with worry as she looked up at Picard, before her attention shifted to Seven.
Doctor Crusher clearly recalled how broken the young woman had been when she had awakened in the Enterprise Sickbay after Admiral Janeway, the Borg Queen, had been defeated. It had only been a few months ago, but it seemed like a lifetime.
“Seven.” Beverly gently placed a warm hand on Seven’s shoulder despite knowing the other woman didn’t exactly welcome another’s touch upon her. Doctor Crusher’s soft tones brought Seven’s wide pale blue gaze to her as the doctor continued with all the seriousness the situation called for. “She appears to be Kathryn Janeway, but I can’t be sure. My scans can’t penetrate beyond the superficial. She also appears to have Borg implants, though I can’t even be sure of that. Honestly, I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Seven barely registered anything Doctor Crusher had just said other than Kathryn’s name as she slowly moved towards the biobed. She felt outside of herself, outside of the Enterprise and reality altogether as she looked upon the still form of a being of such indescribable beauty that it brought tears to Seven’s eyes and a sharp pain to her chest as she gazed down upon her.
It was her Kathryn, resurrected as a creature of white flawless flesh that gleamed beautifully beneath the harsh Sickbay lights. Kathryn’s long, wavy crimson hair fell across her bare shoulders, the gray fabric of the biobed and across the silver thermo sheet, which covered her from her naked collar bones on down. Kathryn processed an internal source of brilliant blue light which flashed intermittently beneath her epidermis. Her body was sporadically covered by thin wiring that looked more like lines of black onyx than metal. With each breath Kathryn took into her body her blue light dimmed and the implants melted beneath flesh until she exhaled and the light shone brilliantly once more and the wiring reemerged.
“Beautiful, isn’t it? And yet terrible.” Q shook his head at the fate that would be Kathryn Janeway’s for perhaps eternity. She was human, Borg and Q and yet something entirely new and separate than the sum of her parts.
“Will she be all right?” Picard’s voice was soft, tremulous as he too looked upon this inexplicable being.
“Alive, yes. ‘All right’? I have no way of knowing that.” Q’s voice was resigned. It was such a strange thing for a seemingly all-knowing omnipotent being to say, but it was the truth.
“What will become of her?” Seven didn’t dare touch Kathryn despite her deep desire to brush her fingers across Kathryn’s still features, to feel her, to know that Kathryn was really real.
“She’s no longer Q, not exactly anyway, so the Q’s power over her is defunct.” Q didn’t mention that he and his family were still very much under the Q’s purview and would most likely be punished for their meddling. But that seemed a distant concern at the moment. “The Borg Queen was destroyed along with her sphere, but our dear Kathy was still affected by her attempts to absorb her. Infected is perhaps the more accurate term. She’ll learn to conceal those unsightly implants after she is conscious.”
Seven felt relief wash over her at the finality of Q’s statement regarding the Borg Queen. But it was only a short respite as her all-consuming concern for Kathryn colored her tones. “Why is she not conscious now?”
“That was our doing.” Q’s voice was light, but her features were quite serious as she spoke her warning. “She may not be a Q anymore, but she’s still very powerful.”
“Wake her, Seven.” q’s smirk was a mirror of his father’s as his warm tones coaxed Seven towards Kathryn. “Only you can. Speak her name, kiss her lips and she will awaken.”
Q rolled his eyes while he sighed in exasperation. “Oh Junior, how absurdly romantic you have become over the last millennia.”
“Is he serious?” Crusher’s voice was bemused as she looked at the being that appeared to be a young dark haired man though she knew he was obviously anything but.
“Unfortunately, yes.” Q sighed in resignation of her child’s odd sense of humor as she nudged Seven towards the bed. “Come on, Seven, it’s not a secret that you want to.”
Seven rolled her shoulders in discomfort though her expression only held love as she looked upon Kathryn’s elegant features. “Kathryn?”
Kathryn’s lips upon hers were warm, too warm. Seven felt a surge of energy pass through her body, which made her pull away from the kiss and cry out in surprise. It wasn’t an unpleasant feeling; it was actually quite the opposite. Seven shifted uncomfortably as arousal pumped hotly through her and showed in the heat that reddened her cheeks.
“I think our work here is done. It’s been fun but we have a court date we just can’t be late for.” Q’s words echoed even as he, his wife and son vanished from the Enterprise’s Sickbay in three brilliant flashes of light. Picard, Seven and Crusher might have wondered at the fact that none of the three Q’s had snapped their fingers, but their attentions were occupied with the being lying on the biobed.
Kathryn’s raspy voice stopped Seven’s world, or at least that’s what it felt like to her as her pale blue eyes met Kathryn’s indigo gaze. Seven’s voice was a soft, reverent whisper. “Kathryn.”
“I’m not dead, am I?” Kathryn looked around the Sickbay and figured she probably wasn’t unless her heaven or hell was the Enterprise-E’s Sickbay. “No, I suppose I wouldn’t be heralded into the afterlife by Doctor Crusher wielding a medical tricorder in front of my face.”
Crusher snorted indelicately at Kathryn’s derisive tone although Picard’s voice sounded over it. “Admiral?”
“I haven’t been an admiral for over three centuries.” Kathryn’s voice was almost wistful, nostalgic but lost none of its sharp edge. “Though it is oddly nice to hear.”
“Kathryn, are you well?” Seven’s brow creased at the inane question, but she had to be sure this wasn’t a dream. She had to know that Kathryn Janeway had returned to her.
“I’m not sure if ‘well’ would be the word I would use.” Kathryn was scornful as she held her hands out before her and watched as the black wiring running like veins atop of her flesh interacted with the blue light gleaming beneath her skin. She forced the evidence of her Borgness beneath her skin. “I have no idea what I am.”
“You are Kathryn Janeway.” Seven grasped Kathryn’s hands and ignored how the heat from the blue energy warmed her body as she held strong sincerity in her unyielding gaze.
“Yes, I know.” Kathryn extracted her hands from Seven’s hold, not liking the painful feelings having Seven touch her caused. She didn’t intend for her voice to be so harsh, so condescending especially not to Seven but she couldn’t seem to help herself. “I’m the one who has been telling Q that for the last three hundred years. I know perfectly well who I am. It’s what I am that concerns me.”
Kathryn felt like she had fire in her veins and the heat of it suffused her body, nearly to the point of pain. It was infuriating to feel so powerless in one’s own body, but that’s what she had felt for so long. First with the Borg making her their Queen and then the Q trying to form a Q out of her. And now, now she didn’t know what the hell she had become. A monster, it would appear. An amalgamation of all she had been. Human. Borg. Q. And yet nothing at the same time. She was nothing.
Seven felt inept, powerless to help Kathryn even though it seemed to her that Kathryn did not even want her help. Kathryn’s voice was so unkind that Seven felt sick with the unpleasantness it caused within her. She had wished for Kathryn not to be dead for so long. To return to her, somehow. Seven now understood the essence of the old Earth idiom, “be careful for what you wish for”, but despite her discomfort she internally rejoiced at having Kathryn Janeway with her again. Worf’s voice over the comm. reminded Seven that there was still a world outside of the Enterprise’s Sickbay. Being in Kathryn presence once again had distracted her of that fact.
“Bridge to Captain Picard.”
“Sir, contact has just been reestablished with the Voyager. They are reporting several injuries, but no causalities. They are requesting repair teams be sent over to try to seal the hull breaches.”
Worf’s final words were overlaid by Kathryn’s low, certain voice. “Voyager is fine.”
“Sir? Belay that. The Voyager is reporting… no hull breaches, no damage of any kind. Captain Chakotay is requesting to speak with you.”
“Tell Captain Chakotay I will contact him shortly. Picard out.” Picard looked carefully at Kathryn. Her hard features betrayed nothing, so he had to ask perhaps an inane question. “Did you repair Voyager?”
“Of course I did.” Kathryn’s voice was irritated because she could sense what they would be asking of her next. She preempted their questions and requests. “Tell them nothing of me. The less they know the better.”
“Kathryn, they believe you are still dead.” Seven’s brow creased. She did not like nor understand Kathryn’s despondency and it showed in her voice. “You must tell—”
“No, Seven, I must do nothing.” Kathryn moved off of the biobed with grace and strength. Without batting an eye her form was wrapped in a dark red dress that draped across her body like thick waves of blood, which contrasted with her pale skin drastically. “I will send you all back to the Alpha Quadrant, to Sector 001, but I won’t be going with you. I can’t.”
Seven’s voice left her completely, so it was Picard who spoke out against such a course of action.
“What would you have me put in my report, Admiral? And what do I tell my crew who witnessed you destroying the Borg?”
“The Q intervened.” Kathryn appeared to shrug, though no part of her inhumanly still body moved. “As for your crew, leave that to me.”
“You can’t do that!”
“I can do many things, Doctor, wholly without your permission. What you must understand is that I can’t go back. You have no idea how powerful I am. How dangerous.” Kathryn’s voice lost some of its ice-cold hardness as something a kin to shame shadowed over her features, but anger was in her voice. “Believe me; they’re better off not knowing.”
“Captain, Doctor, leave us.” Seven’s narrowed gaze never left Kathryn’s face, despite the protests from both Crusher and Picard. She stayed their denials with one simple word. “Please.”
Neither Seven nor Kathryn watched as Captain Picard and Doctor Crusher left. Their eyes were only for one another. After the Sickbay doors closed behind the couple, it was Seven who spoke first.
“You are wrong. You are not allowing them the closure they require, Kathryn.” Seven maintained her distance, so she did her pleading with her eyes and her voice. “They are grieving for you, terribly. How can you be unfeeling to that?”
“Oh, Seven, you can’t possibly know the depth of my grief.” Kathryn’s voice was a soft whisper, but within the silence of Sickbay it was easily discernable as was the pain in her husky tones. “The cosmos themselves wept with me for three centuries. I destroyed entire solar systems, hundreds of worlds, billions of lives in my grief. Of course I had Q to undo all of my destruction and I’ll be eternally grateful to her for that, but the fact remains I was responsible for all of it. And before that, before the Q claimed me as theirs, I gave the Borg the ability to destroy humanity once and for all. It was me, I gave that to them because I had to go to that Cube. I knew it was wrong, arrogant of me to go. You told me, the Q told me, hell I even told myself and yet I still went. To prove to myself that I wasn’t afraid of the Borg. That like anything else they could be conquered. I was wrong and my mistake killed millions. And I felt it all, trapped within the Borg Queen, my prison. And then here in the Delta Quadrant I could see everything, all the pain she was able to inflict upon you, my family, because of me. Because of what she had taken from me. I saw her take my love for my crew and pervert it just because she thought it was entertaining. She killed so many people, Seven, devouring them alive and reveling in their agony. Jaffen. Kohlar. Each and every death I felt as if it were my own, every scream, all their fear. So, please, don’t presume to tell me how ‘unfeeling’ I am. I feel more than you can possibly comprehend.”
Seven nearly snorted or rolled her eyes. Even after three hundred years of existing as a Q Kathryn Janeway was exactly the same.
“You are not to blame for what the Borg did to you, Kathryn. Anymore than I am. I assimilated hundreds of individuals personally. It was not my choice, as the Borg Queen’s actions were not yours. Your guilt is irrelevant. As for the Q; they manipulated you to serve their own purposes and there was no sustainable damage inflicted.” Seven thought back to a turn of phrase she had once heard Naomi Wildman speaking. “Discontinue throwing yourself this ‘pity party’.”
Kathryn’s wide indigo eyes blinked once, twice and a third time before she finally succumbed to the feeling bubbling up within her and she laughed out loud. It was a soft, melodic sound that filled the Sickbay. It washed over the surfaces of the biobeds and medical equipment, which caused them to tremble slightly, and filled Seven with warmth and light.
“Oh, Seven, how I’ve missed you.” Kathryn’s broad toothy smile and sparkling eyes were the last remnants of her laughter as she looked upon a woman who would openly chastise a semi-omnipotent being and accuse it of throwing a juvenile tantrum.
“I have missed you as well, Kathryn.” Seven felt her full lips pulling up into a small smile. She was still apprehensive as to what Kathryn’s course of action would be, but there was something so humanizing in that laugh that it had filled Seven with great hope and love. Her smile faded completely as she felt pain constrict her chest, her voice tremulous as she continued to look upon Kathryn. She barely blinked in fear that Kathryn would vanish, never to have been there at all. A dream. “I believed you were dead.”
“I know. And I still am, to an extent. Seven, you know as well as I do that my body was vaporized when the cube imploded. I did die. What Q salvaged was my soul, for lack of a better description. She offered me a new existence and it wasn’t exactly something I was in a position to want to refuse. And really, I didn’t want to. It was an exciting prospect, but then…” Kathryn took a deep inhalation which caused the shimmering red that concealed her form to shift across her body. Her voice was remorseful as her indigo eyes moved away from Seven to look at her own white hands. “I saw you, Seven. I could feel you, always. I could see your struggle, your anguish. I felt your grief like a physical pain in my chest. I never wanted to cause you pain, ever, but I saw that I did and that’s when I knew I could never be Q. Because I could never forget how much Kathryn Janeway’s soul was so entwined with your own, Seven. I could never forget how much I love you.”
Kathryn was in Seven’s arms before the latter even realized she had crossed the distance between them with three long strides. Her arms crushed Kathryn to her so tightly that if the person in her arms was actually human Seven would have broken a few of her ribs. Seven felt tears fall onto her cheeks as she breathed in Kathryn’s scent, felt her hard body relaxing in her embrace and heard the husky voice speaking words she had always longed to hear.
“Seven, I’ve been in love with you for so long I don’t even remember how it felt not to have you in my heart. And I don’t want to.” Kathryn pulled back from Seven’s arms so she could gently brush away the hot tears that streaked across Seven’s flushed cheeks. Her voice softened to a quietness barely perceptible to even Seven’s enhanced hearing. “But I can’t go back.”
“Then I will go with you.” Seven’s voice became as hard and rigid as her posture had just become due to Kathryn’s words. Her metal encased hand trembled as she brought it to cup Kathryn’s face and felt the warmth and softness of that pale flawless skin beneath her touch. Seven’s words were said gently, but there was a finality to them that not even Kathryn’s stubbornness could hope to demolish. “I will not be without you again. Do you know the depth of my love for you? Did you feel that through my pain and grief?”
“Yes. I did.” Kathryn’s gaze brushed across Seven’s features like a caress as she recalled how even in her darkest moments Seven’s love for her had sustained her. She felt that love like an intoxicating drug that tempted her into doing the wrong thing. Her sense of responsibility overruled her desire to remain with Seven, forever. “Seven, I’m sorry, but it’s too dangerous for me to—”
Seven crushed Kathryn’s body to hers as her full lips silenced the other woman’s words. What Seven felt through her entire being when Kathryn responded to her kiss, actively made it deeper, more fervent, wilder, was nothing she could have ever imagined. What she had felt after her chaste kiss had awakened Kathryn from Q’s ministrations was nothing compared to the hot, overwhelming arousal that surged through her body and her soul. She wanted to be one with Kathryn, as much as two women who strived to be human ever could.
Kathryn’s red sheath felt like liquid in Seven’s hands as she attempted to rip it from the other woman’s hard pale body. Her attempts were stopped by firm hands on her wrists and Kathryn pulling away from their kiss.
“Seven, we mustn’t do this. It’s too dangerous.”
In her desire-laden haze Seven didn’t quite comprehend what Kathryn was saying at first until her mind cleared and she saw precisely what it was that Kathryn meant. Kathryn’s pearly white skin was now a dark blue as energy lit her from within. Seven looked down at her own hands and saw that they too glowed blue. It didn’t alarm her though because she knew Kathryn would never harm her. The glow actually made Seven feel stronger and infinitely aroused.
“Seven, I—I’m afraid I’ll hurt you.” Kathryn tempered down her energy output as she forced her body to calm after the onslaught of desire she had felt when Seven had mercilessly claimed her lips.
“I was afraid that I could harm you as well. I was unsure if I would be able to control my strength if you and I ever… if we were ever intimate.” Seven pulled Kathryn to her once again as she pressed a hand to the small of the other woman’s back. She could feel the energy pulsating between their bodies and relished in the warmth it endowed her with. Her voice was coaxing as her breath whispered over Kathryn’s parted lips. “I no longer have that fear. Do not be afraid of this, of us. I am not.”
“It’s not that simple, Seven, I need some time to more easily control my—” Kathryn was once again silenced by Seven’s lips upon her own and suddenly all of her fears melted away and all that remained was the intractable fact that Seven was kissing her. And nothing else in the vast Universe seemed to matter more than that. Kathryn Janeway had found what the Borg Queen craved and tried to force and what the Q had known would lure her back to the mortal plane. She had found an all-consuming love that entwined two souls so completely that not even death could wrench them apart. Along with Kathryn’s heart, the cosmos rejoiced.
(to be continued)