I do not understand the human custom of burying the dead in soil, so that the worms may eat at their decayed flesh and loved ones can mourn over wilting flowers on a cold stone tablet. It would make sense if the area were used for production, the nutrients absorbed from the body bringing forth new life and vitality to the earth around. But here nothing grows, not even the grass, which they have replaced with something artificial and far too green. Humans, they will always be a mystery to me, despite the fact I was once one of them. Am one of them, at least according to him, but then he's now six feet under, about to become food for a lazy worm. It makes no sense.
"Annika?" The Captain's voice. Kathryn's voice, I should say but her continual use of my former and now despised name makes me reluctant to use the one she prefers. If only once she'd bothered to ask me if I minded. If only once he'd called me Seven as we made love, then perhaps I could have loved him as a wife should. Then maybe now I would be able to grieve for him as more than just a fallen comrade.
I look to her sympathetic face and realise she thinks me overcome with grief, it would make me laugh, if I remembered how. "I'll be there is a second." I wish she would go away, back to her precious Starfleet and the all important work she used to mock us with. Him the ex-Marquis, praised for all his work on Voyager, then shunned by the Federation for once daring to question their precious wisdom. Not that he complained, or even saw how they had used him. But I saw and I minded. I hated them for reducing him to a second rate lecturer nearly as much as their trying to turn me into a side show Borg freak. Thankfully I had her on my side, my most unlikely of saviours, my little engineer.
She was here at the graveside, her hand clasped by that of her husband, the tears she shed more real than anything I could have produced. I always thought my lack of response was due to my borgness, a hidden design flaw to complement my cortical inhibitor in the destruction of my feelings. Then one day she smiled at me. After years of animosity and barely concealed irritation, she was the one to stand up for me, fight for my right to be what and who I am. My little engineer, always the fighter, but never before for me. Then when all the decisions were made and my life was mine again to live how I saw fit, she smile at me in a way that rocked my entire being. It was gentle, guileless, an acceptance of me for who I truly was for perhaps the first time in my life. In that moment I fell in love.
"I'm so sorry for your loss." The words cut into my thoughts and it takes me a moment to realise where I am. Standing over the grave of my dead husband, mourning a love that could never be, far more than the man who was by my side almost permanently for eight years. For a moment I feel like explaining to my latest well wisher that I am a fraud, an unfeeling monster whose only thoughts are for herself. But then I look up into his eyes, the eyes of a Starfleet Admiral, and realise he doesn't care, he's only here for appearances or maybe to placate their famous Admiral Janeway at the loss of one of her little sheep. "Thank you for coming." These humans have taught me to lie too well.
"Seven?" The name startles me. No-one has used it in such a long time, no-one but her.
"B'Elanna." I can't help my smile, it comes unbidden to my face at the first sight of her, beautiful in her obvious distress. "I'm glad you could come." Words I have blandly spoken to many sudden have the ring of truth, I only wish I could say more.
She looks uncertain, an expression I cannot read lies behind her sorrow and sets my heart racing to an unknown beat. "He was a good man." It wasn't what I expected, but it was true, he was a good man and he deserved better than me.
"Yes he was." Polite graveside chat does not suit us, the vigour of an argument and earnest entreaties of love are far more our style. Not that we had many chances to practice the latter. One cold winter's day of stolen kisses and deep felt regret before we had to banish that side of ourselves and return to our stilted marriages and expected paths. I cannot tarnish the memory of those few hours with this talk. "I've missed you."
She didn't expect that. Her eyes darkened for a moment, their warmth enough to unfreeze my recalcitrant heart. Then it was gone, locked away behind a sheen of propriety. "I should be getting back to Tom."
"No." He gets to be by her side every day, I just want a few moments. "Don't leave me."
"I have to."
"No." I pull her towards me, her body is warm and comforting, despite the tremors that convulse her frame. "Stay with me." I sound pathetic, a lost child clinging desperately to a familiar coattail. I don't care. I don't care if they all think I'm weak, or desperate, I only regret that they'll think it is because of him.
"I can't." Tears are in her voice, prompting my own to fall.
"Just for a moment, please." The Borg do not beg, which just shows how far I've come from those early days aboard Voyager. Kathryn would be so proud, unless of course she knew the reason why, then her tone would fall back into condescension and she would pity me my stupidity. As if loving B'Elanna could ever be stupid.
"I can't." She breaks away from by grasp, but doesn't pull away, her breath caressing my ear as her voice reaches me on a sob. "If I stay now, I'll never be able to leave."
"Stay." A moment has never lasted as long as the time it took for her eyes to answer my plea, their warmth and love engulfing me a second before her arms pressed me close.
I don't think I've ever felt so happy as I did that day, standing by my husband's grave, with the woman I loved and continued to love, held close to my heart. I think I finally saw the point of funerals, to make the living grasp on to life.
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