TEMPUS OMNIA REVELAT
Janeway leaned back in her chair, stretched out her legs, blankly staring at her ready room and not the data padds strewn on her desk, her mind clearly occupied on other things.
All in all, she surmised, things were going much better for her than she would have expected. She was settling back into being on duty with almost relative ease, although she did get tired quickly and Chakotay was very insistent, along with the EMH, that she only did short duty periods to begin with.
This left her with time to fill which she had always hated but more so now because it meant she had time to think about things in the recent past when all she wanted to do was move forward. But as the doctor had said "You can’t move forward successfully until you have come to terms with what happened to you in the past."
Great words! How could you ever come to terms with treatment like she’d received, and the countless others who had not been so lucky and made it home? Well, she guessed she understood the sentiments somewhere within his lecture. She’d take his advice and go slow, for a while!
Other good things were happening. She had taken to roaming the ship during the night shift, meeting crew she always felt she should know better, getting the feel of her ship again, visiting different departments. This helped her insomnia problems. She refused to lie in bed studying the ceiling and the bulkheads all night long. Best to do something constructive with her time, and wandering the ship made her feel good.
It made others feel good too. Word spread throughout Voyager like a contagious disease, that Captain Janeway ‘stalked the ship at night’. She noticed how, for no apparent reason, and at some ungodly hour in the night shift, Engineering or the Weapons department would suddenly be full of crew who ‘just happened’ to be up at that time and wanted to ‘just check’ a few things in their department. Rumour had it that morale was riding high too. ‘I guess the ship likes having its’ captain back,’ she thought wryly.
‘The Captain likes being back too!’
She had made a habit of finishing off her nightly tours in the mess hall and raiding the coffee pot, which Neelix now left conveniently for her. Of course, the doctor was adamant that she was not to drink coffee again just yet as it acted as a stimulant which failed to assist her in sleeping and apparently slowed down her recovery process.
Ridiculous! He had even brought this up in ‘Any Other Business’ at a Management Board meeting with the Senior Staff, informing them that they were to stop her if they caught her imbibing!
"You don’t trust me, do you Doctor?" she had demanded during the meeting.
"Not in the slightest, Captain," the doctor’s acerbic response, " which is why I’ve restricted your caffeine access on your personal replicator coding!"
Thank god for Neelix! The Morale Officer was doing just fine in her books and the nightly infusion of caffeine was a godsend. So she would end up in the mess hall, with her pot of coffee .. and a surge of officers who just happened to turn up for a quick snack at a time when all good officers should be tucked up and asleep in bed!
They would all gather around her and in good spirits, talk to her about anything and everything. There was always a great deal of laughter and happy banter, and Janeway began to recognise this as perhaps the greatest part of her healing process – the connection again with the crew, with those who mattered to her and who clearly felt she mattered to them. Family.
And then the unusual started happening. Strange little incidents concerning Seven.
First, the behaviour of Seven towards her on the Delta Flyer. She was still trying to work that one out. The change in behaviour seemed sudden to Janeway and she could only think it was merely Seven trying to re-establish a professional relationship.
However, then there were the things she had heard about Seven. In particular, how the young woman had apparently stayed by her side all the time she was sedated in sickbay. For nearly two weeks! Leaving only to carry out her duty and regenerate when necessary. Janeway had to remind herself that this was the woman who had shunned her with the efficiency of a knife through butter.
In many ways, nothing had apparently changed since, with the exception that the controlled hostility and ice-cold responses were gone. It had to be Borg efficiency ensuring professionalism was maximised.
But nothing made complete sense. Chakotay had informed her how Seven had almost ‘lost it’ when she had disappeared, how Seven had apparently suffered and become ‘closed-off’ to people, almost to the point of becoming ill? The First Officer had spoken of Seven becoming increasingly vulnerable and ‘disassociated’, to the extent that concerned crew members – and apparently there had been many – had considered it their duty and responsibility to help her come to terms with the loss she seemed incapable of handling.
No. Sorry Chakotay! If you are trying to imply she has deep feelings for me, forget it. Shocked, maybe. Guilt syndrome, probably. But that was it. Had Chakotay forgotten how Seven had acted toward her those months before her capture?
What Chakotay was missing here was the fact that Seven had always been vulnerable. It is what had drawn her to Seven in the first place, driven her to provide the friendship and guidance she so desperately needed. Seven’s nature had always been, to some extent, ‘closed off’ regardless of her arrogant, self-assured demeanour. These statements only served to irritate Janeway more, for it had always irked her that her apparently compassionate and feeling First Officer had been so incapable of picking up on these important facets of the complicated woman that was Seven of Nine.
Okay, so now Chakotay and some of the crew were taking time to recognise these nuances but they were perhaps over exaggerating them.
Bottom line, Seven had not gone out of her way to procure any deeper relationship other than that of crew to a captain. OK, so the woman’s statements on the shuttle were .. unexplainable and didn’t quite fit into the Captain’s analysis. But that aside…
Captain Janeway did admit to herself that the subtle changes in their new relationship were welcome. Even if the friendship was gone, it was good to have a better working relationship.
But Chakotay didn’t seem capable of realising that beyond the professional aspect of their working relationship, Seven still avoided her, remained aloof and kept her distance. Nevertheless, Janeway just found the whole relationship thing confusing, probably because she wasn’t yet recovered, nor would be for a long time, but she wasn’t going to let the doctor or any of her crew know that.
Her ‘old self’ would have made sense of all of this but right now, she couldn’t. Thinking about these things made her head ache. Best to not think about them.
But she couldn’t stop thinking …
One very late night, again in the mess hall, at 0300 hrs, whilst Janeway had been surrounded by a group of off-watch engineering and geospacial staff, Seven had turned up and quietly seated herself at the table next to where Janeway was. Seven hadn’t contributed to the conversation, but seemed glad to be part of the grouping and had been in no rush to leave.
The following night this occurred again, with Seven actually managing to seat herself on the same table as the Captain. Janeway hadn’t quite known how to handle this. She desperately wanted Seven there but was afraid that if she said anything, even acknowledged the ex Borg’s presence, she would scare her off. That is, until what loosely became infamously known as ‘The Mess Hall Coffee Incident’!
Janeway had sat with her crew at a seriously early hour of the morning, a mug of steaming coffee in front of her, when without warning, the EMH had sped through the sliding doors with an emerging ‘whoosh’.
"Hah! Caught you, Captain! Thought you could circumvent my medical orders by partaking of coffee here in the …Oh?" He had charged in like some avenging angel ready to catch the Captain ‘mug handed’ and in the act of the heinous crime but just as he was pointing the finger of doom, he stopped dead in his tracks, apparently confused.
The Captain, ready and prepared for the onslaught, frowned at his apparent loss of ‘firestone and vim’, and glancing down in front of her, quickly registered that the mug had gone and now sat before Seven of Nine opposite.
The Doctor’s eyes narrowed suspiciously.
"Since when did you drink coffee, Seven?" Straight to the point, his voice edged with the interrogation skill and tone of a Borgia.
Controlled, dignified, "I have been drinking this beverage for some time now in an attempt to widen my culinary experience. I find it .. quite ..", Seven hesitated, "different from my usual liquid refreshments. Does it concern you that I consume this?" Deflect accusation with question. Masterful.
She picked the mug up and discreetly swallowed some of the contents.
"Most .. stimulating. May I pour you a mug, Doctor?" Wide-eyed, light blue orbs stared at him in innocence. Janeway glanced from Seven to the doctor with equally wide-eyed amazement.
"Since when does a hologram drink coffee?" He eyed her sceptically, knowing full well what she had done but that he was powerless to act without evidence.
"It is a shame that you do not know what you are missing, Doctor." Everyone in the room barely managed to restrain themselves from laughing, hearing the response of the young woman.
‘A shame indeed’ thought Janeway. She could almost see Seven gagging on the liquid.
"Humph. I may of course hide my prodigious skills under the proverbial bushel and appear a simple little hologram but I wasn’t created yesterday." His eyes narrowed to slits, " I know exactly what I am missing, Seven, and it’s called hard evidence."
He was genuinely disgruntled and for one nano second, the Captain actually felt guilty but then she braced herself for what was surely about to follow.
‘Here cometh the lecture,’ she thought, her eyes momentarily catching Seven’s, who immediately, almost shyly, broke the contact.
With pantomime flamboyance and theatrical flair, the doctor started strutting around the elite gathering, eyeballing each and every officer present.
"If I was an EMH given to paranoia, which we all know is a mental disorder based on intense suspicions," he placed great emphasis on the words, "I might suspect that you are all in league and conspiring against me which of course, I being fully in charge of my mental faculties, know cannot be true. Why? Because before me sits a paragon of virtue. Your Captain!" He pointed at her elaborately. "A person of high moral integrity, the consummate professional, the role model of all before her, the cream of Star Fleet …."
He gazed directly into her eyes, before continuing.
"And she is surrounded by her ‘knights of the round table’, they who seek to follow on such hallowed ground and dare to be the leaders of tomorrow."
Then he turned on the professional appeal. "How could there possibly be anyone sat here who would not understand the basic importance and logic behind the astute medical direction of a hard working, gifted man of medicine, to have his advice thrown back in his face, his words of wisdom ignored and thrown to the wind? Who could ever doubt that I would have nothing, nothing, but the Captain’s well-being in mind?"
Pause. Complete silence in the room. Anticipation of more to come.
"If I was paranoid, I would be smelling a rat. A large, fat, hairy rat! But of course such delusional ramblings are beyond my impressive programming. Wouldn’t you agree, Captain?"
"Absolutely." Unemotional but vigorous.
"And of course, if I was for one moment delusional and chose to ask, I don’t suppose any one here saw the Captain consuming coffee against my express wishes and medical advice?"
A barrage of voices as everybody spoke at the same time.
"Your suspicions are without foundation, Doctor." Seven calmly spoke with the wide eyed innocence of a lamb, but the doctor was having none of it and leaned over to her whispering, "Et tu, Seven?"
"I could insist on a mouth swab!" He thrust a challenge at the Captain.
"You could try!" She parried and met his challenge with steel grey eyes.
"Shouldn’t you be resting?" he continued his challenge.
"Haven’t you got some specimens to go dissect and analyse?" she retorted.
The EMH stared at her but eventually folded, deciding on the last word.
"There will be other occasions, Captain. The battle may be lost but not the war." As he turned and strode out he said over his shoulder, "Watch yourself for I am watching you!"
No sooner had the EMH gone and the doors closed behind him than a riot of laughter broke out.
"Oooo .. scary." Ensign Moffatt waved his hands in the air, the others laughing.
"If he ever gives up his day job, there’s a man who belongs on the stage." Janeway spoke, attempting to bring some order back into the proceedings.
"I thank you all for your support but I wouldn’t get too won over by this short lived victory. He knows who we are and where we live!" She warned, her eyes twinkling with humour, the smile sitting naturally on her features. "Just wait until the next round of medicals!"
Seven had pushed the coffee back in front of her, saying nothing and steadfastly avoiding further eye contact. This was not the regimental, arrogant persona to which Janeway had become used to.
Downing the now cold remnants of her coffee, she rose to leave, excusing herself to return to her quarters and get some sleep before her shift began. Without exception every crewmember present wished her a good night, and just before she walked out through the doors, she hesitated and turned.
"And Seven, thank you for your quick thinking and initiative."
Blue forget-me-not coloured eyes magnetically connected with the Captain’s and the older woman suddenly found herself straining to breathe. This woman had such power over her, perhaps more so since her return and once again, she felt the utter emptiness and loneliness flood through her as she recognised that the feelings she increasingly realised she held for the stunning, deeply complicated younger woman were never going to go anywhere or be returned in any measure.
"I am .. glad that I was able to be of service, Captain." It was a quiet, composed response, much like the young woman had been throughout the ‘coffee incident’.
Captain Janeway merely tipped her head in acknowledgement and left.
Janeway, Tuvok and several security guards converged as they walked quickly into Cargo Bay 1 to be instantly presented with a very noisy, aggressive little scene of raised, angry voices, waving arms and stabbing fingers – not exactly the picture of textbook diplomacy which Janeway favoured.
With only a split second to assess that the tension lay between the small group of Akbarian officials and Seven of Nine, Neelix immediately approached the Captain, concern etched across his puggy, multi coloured features, "Captain, I didn’t know what else to do," he had hailed her when negotiations had suddenly turned sour, "but there seems to be an issue over what was agreed, at what exchange and it’s all turning a little unpleasant as you can see. I felt we needed help … fast." The ‘we’ he was referring to was himself and Seven.
The 7 feet tall, very muscularly built Akbarian, Dasos Nada, had invaded Seven’s ‘personal space’ and was looming over her in a considerably threatening manner, whilst she was straining her neck, chin jutted upwards, to return his aggressive stare. Janeway grimly thought that it was almost comparable to a classic ‘showdown’ scene out of one of Paris’s old western movie’s, ‘Gunfight at the OK Corral’, with the two contenders standing toe cap to toe cap.
It was an extremely menacing and maledictory scene, and one where the young Astrometrics Officer was the recipient of intense intimidation and bullying tactics by the imposing height and build of the ‘diplomatic agent’ of Akbar. However, anyone could see that Seven had ‘dug her heels in’ and was not prepared to give an inch.
Never a good sign.
Janeway’s stomach clenched as a bolt of panic surged through her, ‘If Seven tries to defend herself and hits out first …’ Janeway recognised only too well that if Dasos Nada chose to retaliate, Seven would not come off well, for all her Borg technology.
"What appears to be the problem here?" Not bothering to acknowledge Seven, Captain Kathryn Janeway cut straight in between them, her height of almost comedic proportions when compared to the alien’s.
The man’s deep, gravely voice bellowed, echoing through the bay, "I was promised more for the trillesium sulphate and phenoghem. This .. thing, this ugly Borg mutant reneges on the deal she promised!" Janeway felt his spittle spray across her face.
"I did not promise him what he now demands, Captain. He has changed the bargaining position yet again." The response from the ex Borg was unemotional, hard and uncompromising.
Janeway continued to ignore Seven, looking over at Neelix for clarification. Just one look at Seven and the Captain knew she would lose her professional edge. Dear god, whether she had chosen to have a relationship or not with the woman all those long months ago, it didn’t make any difference, she was involved anyway! Everything the woman did affected her … everything!
"I’m afraid I wasn’t present for that particular negotiation, Captain." Neelix desperately wanted to add however, that if Seven said Dasos Nada was changing the terms to benefit him, then .. well, he was changing the terms to benefit him! But now really wasn’t the time to agitate the incident further, when desperately required commodities were on the negotiating table, and certainly not whilst the Captain stood right before the volatile alien.
Dasos Nada stabbed out over the top of the Captain’s head at Seven and blustered, "She is a liar and a cheat! We had an arrangement for these supplies and I have negotiated my part of the deal in good faith, Captain."
Tuvok’s concerns for the Captain’s safety had almost psychically transmitted themselves to Seven, who now recognised the threat to the smaller woman and so stepped back a pace, not wanting to escalate the situation anymore.
Seven’s mind was a flux of emotions. She was angry that this supercilious, untrustworthy cretin was calling her on her own honesty and moral ethics. She had not lied or cheated. Far from it, she had been far more generous that necessary in order to ensure that Voyager would indeed secure these desperately needed resources, and for him to now call her on that!
She was also experiencing rapidly increasing feelings of disappointment and fear. She so wanted to redeem herself in the Captain’s eyes, to make good for her previous, offensive and undesirable behaviour. To let the smaller woman know that she was still a valuable addition to the Voyager crew and not someone to be ignored or looked upon as some form of awkward, trouble maker. She did not know how to make things stop and nurture something better between the Captain and herself, and now this one golden opportunity was turning extremely sour. Sour enough to jeopardise the whole deal and worse if the alien hit the Captain, which was definitely a possibility, given his agitation.
She had worked very hard and efficiently to negotiate with this species that changed the rules of the bargaining every time she and Neelix thought they had reached a deal. She had been nice, and pleasant and cooperative. Everything that Neelix told her a good negotiator should be whilst maintaining a quiet ruthlessness to drive home the bargain. And now, she was being called a liar, his word against hers.
Janeway reached out a hand and placed it on the tall alien’s upper arm in what was a friendly, calming gesture.
"Dasos Nada, I must apologise for all of this. I agree that there is nothing worse than having to deal with a liar and a cheat, someone who cannot be trusted to sustain a deal once agreed." The voice was calm, composed but there was a chill of ice about it.
Dasos’s face lightened, his body relaxed, whilst behind the Captain, Seven’s posture straightened and went rigid. Was this deal so important, was her existence now so superfluous that the Captain would chose to believe this man’s word over hers? She felt vile rejection and humiliation course through her body.
"Which is why .." the captain continued, "I must ask you to now leave my ship."
"What?" Dasos scowled uncomprehendingly at the diminutive woman before him.
"I do not understand," his voice becoming louder again.
"No, I expect you don’t," the Captain replied evenly, her body posture starting to go rigid. "but this is not the first incident of your diplomacy skills pushing our potential agreements to the limit."
Dasos interrupted her. "You are calling me the liar and the cheat?"
Janeway removed her hand, stepping back as several of Tuvok’s security guards moved closer.
"If a member of my crew informs me that you have lied, cheated and generally attempted to manipulate the bargaining process, I believe them, completely and without question."
"Even this .. Borg Drone?" he spat dismissively.
"Even this .. crewmember, absolutely and without question," she responded curtly.
"But we are negotiating a deal!"
"We were negotiating a deal."
"You need these resources very badly, Captain."
"Yes, I do." Her eyes were deadly grey, the colour of British rain clouds. "But there is a limit to what I will exchange in order to procure them and you have well exceeded those. I am not going to ask my crew to continue to waste their time in bartering for what little you will actually end up giving us and of what questionable standard. Not getting these provisions is a set back, but it isn’t the first and it won’t be the last. Now leave my ship. Commander Tuvok?" Janeway beckoned to her Security Officer and stepped aside to allow the guards to escort the man and two of his aides to their vessel waiting in the hanger bay.
An interesting volume of expletives were fired at the Captain as he was led from the cargo bay but as the doors closed on him, the offensive words were gone and just history in another chapter of Voyager’s travels.
Neelix moved towards the Captain to speak but she raised her hands, indicating that now wasn’t the time, she didn’t want to hear. She looked very tired and hollow-eyed, her entire body posture was stiff with rage, her teeth clenched.
"Not now Neelix. We’ll talk about this later." She fleetingly glanced at Seven, moved as if to talk but then changed her mind and all but marched out of the bay, her arms swinging as if on a military parade ground, leaving her two crew alone. Neelix looked over at Seven’s haunted, ethereal features, standing like a lost child in a park, desperate to find its parents.
"I have failed the Captain." The ex Borg’s tone was flat.
Neelix wanted to allay her fears on the issue but wasn’t too certain himself of exactly what the Captain felt about the whole incident. The fact that she hadn’t stayed behind and said anything was unusual in the least, although perhaps now on reflection since her return, not so unusual. She had become emotionally remote and although she did her best to conceal this, it wasn’t always successful. Captain Janeway had a long way to go before she was over what had happened to her on the planet.
Maybe the Captain did blame the two of them in some part, and he could only imagine how disappointed and worried she would be that they had lost the replenishments, both needed badly by engineering. However, ever the optimist and more for Seven’s sake, "Don’t worry, Seven. I’m sure the Captain doesn’t think that."
"I’m sure she does," was all the young woman could say before she too left the bay.
Leaving the cargo bay, Captain Janeway marched as quickly as she could without running and accessed the nearest turbo lift. With quiet efficiency, she requested the level and destination of her own quarters, walked directly there, entered her code, accessed her rooms, went straight to the bathroom and threw up.
Twenty minutes later when she was sure she wasn’t going to be sick anymore and when the shaking had subsided, she returned to the Bridge.
The next two days were spent hightailing it out of that sector of space as quickly as possible. Dasos Nada had taken the decline to negotiate rather personally and had set the Akbarian fleet on the heels of Voyager. Fortunately, the Akbar’s did not have the skill nor speed to match the star fleet vessel, and though Voyager was heavily outnumbered – the Akbars seemed to be everywhere – eventually, the ship cleared the area and was out of hostile space.
Janeway walked into her ready room with Chakotay, and headed straight for the comfort of the soft chairs beneath the viewport, sat down heavily and attempted to relax, rubbing the knots in the muscles of her right shoulder.
"You alright?" he questioned.
She nearly threw back the simple ‘Yes’ and then decided better of it.
"Honestly? No! I am so sick to death of all this, Chakotay." She beckoned him to sit beside her, "It seems to me that the whole concept of ‘friendly’ is a complete anathema around here. What I wouldn’t give for a few amiable, non hostile aliens for a change. Where are the Neelixs of the Delta Quadrant?"
"We seem to have had our fair share of problems in the past 12 months." Chakotay’s dark eyes gazed intensely at his Captain. She looked raw, on edge and had dark shadows under her eyes, those still vacant inexpressive eyes. The strain and stress of being ultimately responsible for some 150 crew and far from home was always an issue but since her return from Krasus, he worried about her more. It seemed to him that she held her problems inside of her, only ever sharing some of the professional ones and never any of the personal. If you asked her how she was, you usually got the automatic, recorded response, ‘I’m fine’. Today was a breakthrough in relationships!
"Understatement, Chakotay." Then the petite woman caught the look of uneasiness in her friend and colleague’s expression. She leaned forward and tapped his knee, "Hey, nothing a long soak in the bath won’t cure!" They exchanged smiles.
"Well, maybe this evening will lift your spirits .. along with the bath."
"This evening?" Janeway questioned.
"Lt Talbar and Ensign Galbraith? The reception in the mess hall this evening?" he jokingly reminded her, knowing she knew full well that she was required to say a few words at the occasion.
Hell, yes. Now she remembered. During her absence, Captain Chakotay had officially conducted the marriage ceremony of Vero Talbar to little Sagi Galbraith. He had said it had been the one nice thing the ship had had to celebrate whilst looking for its captain, and even then, there had been no reception. No one had had the heart. So the reception had been put on hold ‘for later’. Neelix and others now felt the time was right and there was an air of excitement rippling through the ship.
"I hope you’re not going to leave me to deliver the speech, Kathryn? Public speaking was never my forte." Although said with humour, Janeway caught the look of genuine fear on his face.
"Relax for heaven’s sake. Anyway, aren’t you warrior types supposed to be capable of anything?"
"Not this one. Remember when I tried to light my first real fire on New Earth?"
She tilted her head and eyes towards him quaintly and gave a throaty laugh. "Now you mention it, not a resounding success. Do you remember the bow and arrow episode?"
"How could I forget." Chakotay playfully put his face in his hands.
On New Earth, Chakotay had manufactured himself a bow and arrows from natural wood and twine. It had been an impressive looking hunting tool – until he attempted to use it . The expelled arrow travelled about two metres and then, perhaps a little exaggeration, had turned a 90 degree angle and gone straight into the ground. Janeway had exclaimed that, if that was truly where the animal had been, it would have been easier to stamp on it!
She was about to tease him but decided to put him out of his misery, "I’ve got something prepared, don’t worry. I’m looking forward to this, it will be nice to do something pleasant for a change."
"Now we’ve got rid of our friend, Nada."
"I really thought he was going to hit Seven," she confided, "and I was so afraid she wasn’t going to back down but thankfully she did. I should never have put her and Neelix in that position, we were getting plenty of early clues about Nada’s true intentions."
Janeway leaned back into the cushions, her head tilted back, "You should have seen her face, Chakotay. She was so angry that he’d broken his word and then accused her of being in the wrong."
"You did the right thing and got rid of him."
"I was fuming. If Tuvok hadn’t moved him fast I would have personally pushed him and his escorts out of an air lock!" She expelled air slowly, rubbing the bridge of her nose with her fingers. "I really need to speak to Neelix and Seven, make sure they’re OK. I’m sure losing the deal has upset them both, they’d worked so hard." Then leaning forward again, "I should have done it then but .. I’ll try to talk to them both this evening."
The mess hall was completely transformed into a setting that could only be described as classically elegant, like something out of a romantic holonovel. Neelix had outdone himself this time. With some help, he had created a romantic, candlelit atmosphere that oozed an aura of warmth, relaxation and homeliness. This was the perfect, if late, wedding reception for the newly weds, something magical that they would cherish for the rest of their lives.
It was getting late into the evening and Janeway had said her few words before the buffet dinner, wishing the happy couple the usual token health, wealth and happiness speech with a few well chosen jokes. And now everyone had formed into little cliques, blissfully happy, the drinks flowing and all seemingly relaxed, temporarily forgetting where they still were.
These were the best times to be a captain, to see your crew happy, relaxed and enjoying themselves, moments that were so precious, so rare, to be savoured.
"More Selkenian wine, Captain?" Neelix was at her shoulder holding the bottle to her nearly empty glass.
"I’d love some Neelix but I don’t think my head will appreciate it in the morning so I’d better say no." She looked at him again, "You know, Neelix, you have done a wonderful job here, first class. We really are incredibly lucky to have you with us, I hope you know how much we appreciate you and how thankful we are for all your hard work and assistance."
"Why, thank you, Captain, although Seven and I were a little concerned that we had angered you over our failure to drive home successful negotiations with the Akbarians." Neelix looked down at the front of his brightly coloured suit in an attempt to look anywhere but at the Captain. "You were very angry when you left the cargo bay."
Janeway played with the glass in her hands, rolling the stem in her fingers. When she spoke, it was with utter sincerity and a genuine concern that two of her crew should think she was angry with them.
"Neelix, I was angry, very angry for the way Dasos Nada played us for fools, but my anger was never focused on you or Seven. In fact, exactly the opposite. I felt I’d put both of you in harms way, especially Seven. When I walked into the cargo bay, I thought he was going to attack her. If he had, it would have been my fault." She lowered her voice slightly, "I’m so sorry if the two of you felt otherwise. I really did mean to speak to you both afterwards, after my temper had calmed down but then we started coming under attack and well, the opportunity just wasn’t there."
Neelix’s face lit up, "I’m very pleased to hear that Captain, thank you." Then as an after thought, "Are you going to tell that to Seven, too?"
Her response was hesitant, "Yes, I suppose I will do." Neelix caught the flicker of nerves on the otherwise fearless woman.
"She misses you, you know." Five simple little words that instantly drew Janeway’s attention back to Neelix and unspoken, demanded more. She frowned, querying the statement.
Neelix nervously coughed a little into his hand as he was wont to do when dealing with a tricky subject that he was none too sure how it would be received. "Seven. She misses you … a lot."
Janeway stood silent, somewhat taken back at the quick flick and change of the topic of conversation. At first she wasn’t entirely sure how to answer, if indeed she wanted to answer his statement but then unexpectedly, she felt like talking to him, being honest with this wonderfully warm and genuine man.
Lowering and softening her voice, she leaned her head down a little as if to reduce the height differential between the two of them, knowing where he was coming from.
"I’m trying to build bridges, Neelix … I just don’t seem to be very good at it."
Neelix moved forward, took the glass from her and topped it up with a little more wine before the Captain could object, "Never mind the hangover tomorrow, just relax more, Captain. Stop thinking about it too much, and just do."
"I really do want to put things right between Seven and myself. I miss her too," she admitted for the first time to herself as well as Neelix, "more than I can say but I seem to have lost the knack in communicating with her. It all used to be .. easier. All we do now is hurt each other and I don’t know how to stop that."
"Well, Captain, I can tell you this, you won’t build any bridges whilst you’re over here and Seven is over there. Maybe you ought to be a little more proactive and take the lead... make the first move." He gave her arm a slight tweak and a gentle, understanding smile.
Before Janeway could respond, several crewmembers interrupted their conversation to chat with Neelix, so the Captain chose the opportunity to go over and join Chakotay’s group, where Seven was.
Janeway nestled into the group easily but Seven was diagonally opposite her and trying to initiate a conversation wasn’t possible because of the layout of the furniture but Janeway thought that if she held her position long enough, someone might move and she could then take advantage of that. However, as time ticked away, it became obvious that this wasn’t going to happen and although the Captain was part of the group, she existed on the periphery of the conversation, choosing to listen rather than speak.
After a while she found herself catching Seven’s reflection in the viewport and used the opportunity to study the woman. Seven had chosen to wear a light blue, silk dress that accentuated her trim figure. It was one of the few times the Captain had seen her out of her standard bio suits.
Standing now and watching her reflection in the viewport, Kathryn Janeway realised that Seven wasn’t just beautiful, she was exquisite, like some chiselled beauty borne of the hand of Michelangelo.
But studying her, she was aware that she was seeing something more beyond what was physically evident. What she could see upset her, but if anyone had asked her why, she would have been at a loss to explain. She had always seemed to read Seven by intuition, right from the early days and had often seen things about Seven that no one else seemed able to pick up on. And right now, what she was seeing she didn’t like.
The beautifully tall young woman had blossomed in the Captain’s absence. She seemed to wear her humanity with more comfort now, getting used to its feel, but in turn that made her appear even more delicate and vulnerable in Janeway’s eyes.
The young ex Borg was not listening to the ongoing conversation and her attention seemed focused elsewhere, miles away. There was sadness about the eyes that suggested an inner disquiet, and this perplexed Janeway. It was like looking at Da Vinci’s portrait sketches – hauntingly beautiful but there was always longing in the eyes, something unspoken, that of a wounded person inside, slowly bleeding away. It is what drew the Captain to that particular maestro – his work spoke of considerable understanding, feeling and observation of people, of life.
Captain Kathryn Janeway found it difficult to contain the urge to just climb over the furniture and wrap Seven in her arms, but of course, that would probably be the last thing the woman wanted. It wouldn’t do much for her professional image either! Nevertheless, probable rejection or unprofessional behaviour didn’t quell the urge.
It was then that the Captain realised that Seven’s focus had shifted to her, that Seven was now watching her in the reflection of the window. The recognition and knowledge that they were both watching each other didn’t seem to make either of them shy away or seem uncomfortable, and they chose to mutually continue watching each other recognising this tenuous link as a re-connection of some sort.
And then something in the Captain snapped and she found herself smiling at the attractive woman. Her heart nearly burst, the breath expelled instantly from her lungs when a half smile was returned.
But then, almost as unexpected as the apparent milestone itself, Seven suddenly dipped her head, breaking eye contact, instead professing that there was something in her eye, explaining a reason for their watery appearance and further explaining her need to now retire and regenerate.
Astonishingly, everyone seemed to accept this excuse at face value but Janeway didn’t believe one word of it and instinctively went to follow her astrometrics officer until she was stopped by the newly weds who demanded her time to thank her for the wonderful words she had said and, blast them, enquire after her well being. Once more, duty came between her and Seven.
By the time the Captain made it to Cargo Bay 2, Seven had initiated a lengthy regeneration period and thus rendered any follow-up on the older woman’s behalf, useless.