Kathryn stepped into her quarters and let out a sigh. She pulled off her uniform jacket and slung it over the nearest chair before making her way to the replicator. "Coffee, hot," she said. Then she thought better of it. "Computer, cancel. Hot chocolate with whipped cream." The mug materialized and she picked it up. She blew on it a little and took her first sip. She wiped the whip cream off her nose and walked back into the living room.
Setting the mug down on the table, she turned to the large window that looked out into the stars. She watched them for a moment as they streaked by, before she finally turned and walked into her bedroom.
Kathryn still wore the same peach-colored silk nightgown that she had beenwearing for the past six years. She loved the way it felt against her skin. And at this point in her life, it was the only pleasant thing she thought she would ever feel against her skin. She ran her hairbrush through her hair a few more times as she made her way back into the living room. She put the brush down on the table and picked up her mug of hot chocolate. The sound of the wooden hairbrush making contact with the table seemed to fill the room, a testament to silence. She let out another sigh.
Over the past few days, she hadn't listened to music. She hadn't read, or gone to the holodeck, or any of the small things she used to do to unwind. She had been on edge lately, and she preferred to stay wound up. It made her feel prepared, although for what she didn't know. She hid it from the crew well. She had a lot of practice at that, hiding things from the people she called friends.
That's how this all started, with something she had been hiding for quite some time now. It had started a few days ago, when Neelix had mentioned to her that it was the Second Anniversary of Seven of Nine's addition to the crew. He wanted to mark the occasion with a party. But then, he wanted to mark every occasion with a party, so that wasn't what had surprised her. What surprised her was that he, of all people, didn't realize what else that anniversary meant. The two-year anniversary of the day she had left.
Kathryn sat down in the corner of her couch and turned sideways to face the window, bringing her knees up to her chest. She brought the mug to her lips again and took a long sip, enjoying the feeling of the warm liquid flowing down her throat. Somehow over the past two years, Kathryn had managed to keep her secret so well, that even she was beginning to forget. And maybe that was the hardest part. But she didn't want to forget. As much as it hurt, she never wanted to forget. But it seemed like it was getting harder and harder to remember lately. Or maybe the worst part was that she couldn't
share her feelings of lose with anyone, because she was too afraid of whatwould happen if the truth came out.
She put the mug back on the table, and her eye caught the PADD that rested next to it. She had brought it out a few days ago, intent on resolving some of these feelings. But somehow, she couldn't work up the courage to do what she had planned. But it was the only thing she could think to do to help to quell the pain she felt. She picked
up the PADD and activated it. It still said the same thing it had said two days ago. The only words she had written as of yet. 'Dearest Kes.'
Kathryn took a deep breath as she looked down at the PADD and made a decision. "Dictation mode," she said aloud. The yellow on black printing flashed for the briefest of moments, before she saw the cursor reappear on the line below what she had already written. She turned to look back out at the stars, and began to speak.
"I heard somewhere that it helps to write a letter to someone you've lost, to get a sense of closure. I know that you're not dead, but I've lost you all the same." Kathryn paused. "I miss you Kitten, so much sometimes that I can't stop the tears from coming." She paused again as she felt her voice begin to crack with tears. "You gave me so much strength. And now I feel like, without you, I might not have enough to keep going. I mean, during the day I have to remain the pillar of strength for the sake of the crew, but I'm used to that. Every captain has to do that. But not every captain is stranded so far from home... and so alone.
"I don't know if you ever realized how much you really meant to me. You were the only person I could really be myself with. I guess it was because you weren't in Starfleet, I didn't have to feel it was inappropriate to be so open with you. If I hadn't had you, I don't know what I would have done.
"It all started innocently enough I suppose. You were a friend, a confidant... a shoulder to cry on. You had this way of boiling down any problem to its simplest form. You had this innocence about you, with this quiet wisdom in your eyes. I suppose, for your kind, it has to be that way. With such a short lifespan, you have to make everything count. You couldn't afford to waste time with misunderstandings or unresolved feelings. You taught me to express
what I was feeling. If to no one else, then at least to myself, so that I could understand. You made me see how precious time really was. I don't know when I first fell in love with you. Maybe it was the night I told you about Mark."
"You know Kathryn, I've talked to a lot of people aboard Voyager, and if they have one thing in common, Starfleet and Maquis alike, it's that they've all got someone at home," you said as we sat across from each other on the couch in my quarters. I don't know when you started calling me Kathryn, but I know that it always made me feel like I was your friend, and not just your captain.
You continued. "Parents, siblings, lovers; they've all got somebody
that they're praying they'll see again someday."
"I suppose that's true," I answered. "Maybe it's that common ground that's gotten us so far; that's made this a ship with one crew instead of two."
smiled at me. That smile that always made me smile back. The one that told me that you were talking about something else.
"What are you driving at?" I asked, trying to suppress a laugh and only half-succeeding. You laughed too.
"What about you Kathryn? Don't you have someone special back home - someone that you want to see again someday?"
"I have a lot of people that I want to see again Kes, just like everyone else," I answered.
"But isn't there one person that stands out?" You asked. You lowered your voice. "The one you see in your dreams every night." I must have gotten this spacey look in my eye, because I saw you smile at me. "There," you said pointing at me.
"The person you were just thinking of," you said. "I could see it in your eyes." My face fell. "I don't mean to pry Kathryn, I just know you well enough to know that there are some things you're suppressing. And I care about you enough to try and help you see them for yourself. I don't mean this to sound selfish, but who else are you going to tell? I'm the only one you really talk to anymore."
You moved closer to me and took my hand in yours. You looked into my eyes, and I remember seeing such concern, such warmth. I just nodded slowly. "His name is Mark," I said.
I told you everything that night. Things I hadn't even admitted to myself. My feelings for Mark, my fear that I would never see him again, or that he probably thought I was dead. I cried that night, and you held me. I had never in my entire tenure as a Starfleet captain felt so free to let myself go so emotionally, not even with Mark himself. I realized that night what a precious gift you had given me. You freed me. And although I don't think I knew it consciously at the time, that's when I started letting go of Mark.
And that's when I began to realize that I loved you.
It probably didn't seem like it for you, but for me, it was all happening so fast. It felt so wonderful to have someone that I could tell everything to - someone who understood that Captain Janeway and Kathryn really were two different people - that there were certain things that a crew expected from a captain, and I wasn't about to let them down. You understood. You understood everything, and you were always there for me.
What I didn't know at the time, was that you loved me too. I wouldn't find that out for several weeks more. It was the first night you told me, the first time I noticed the love in your eyes. And it was the first night we made love.
"I mean, I know he loves me, but he can be so possessive sometimes."
We were having dinner in my quarters, and for once, I was trying to help you with a problem instead of vice versa. I could see the torment in your eyes as you talked about Neelix. I knew you loved him too, but you were just on separate timetables. He knew he wouldn't have you for long, and he was trying to make the most of what time you did have. But he didn't realize that you had needs too, and that maybe you didn't want to spend your whole life with one person. He had nothing but the best of intentions, and he loved you dearly. I certainly can't fault him for that.
I helped you as much as I could, trying to be there for you and do what I could. But I suspect I didn't tell you anything you didn't already know. But I knew that it helped to talk, and I was more than willing to listen.
"I just wish he could see things from my point of view once in a while," you said in frustration. "I mean, he's not the only person on this ship I care about anymore. I've made so many friends." You paused. You suddenly seemed unsure of yourself.
"What is it Kes?" I asked.
"It's just... well, I wonder sometimes. There's someone on board that
I've... developed feelings for. And the last thing I want to do is hurt Neelix, but sometimes I think I'll burst if I don't let this person know how much they mean to me." You looked up at me expectantly. I was still in the dark however, I thought you were talking abut Tom Paris. I went into some spiel about how Neelix would ultimately understand and that you had to be true to yourself, all the while not noticing the hints you were dropping with the subtlety of a two-ton anvil.
We had moved to the couch for coffee. Well, I had coffee, you had tomato juice I believe. I never could get you to give it another try. I told you it was a bit of an acquired taste. Anyway, we were still talking and I was still not noticing as you crept closer and closer on the couch. Then finally, with your hand on my knee, you asked me.
"You never asked me who it was I had feelings for Kathryn, aren't you
I assumed you felt obligated because of everything I had shared with you, so I just smiled and quoted something you had once said to me. "Well, I wouldn't want to pry."
Mild amusement mixed with frustration filled your eyes. Gods Kitten, I feel so bad about it now. What I must have put you through. But you were very resilient. Your hand crept up a bit higher and your smile became a little brighter. And finally, one of those two-ton anvils hit me square between the eyes. You laughed at what must have been the look of utter shock on my face. And I didn't even realize my mouth was hanging open until you reached over and physically closed it. After a few moments of silence I finally managed to speak. "Me?"
What you didn't realize at the time was that I was still battling myself about my own feelings for you. And then to find out that you felt the same way about me too, I was just so surprised. I saw the crestfallen look on your face as my shock didn't seem to dissipate, and I realized what you must have thought. "Maybe this was a mistake," you said. "I should go."
And then I did something that to this day I can't believe I had the courage to do. I put my hand on your shoulder. And when you turned to face me, I pulled you into my arms and I kissed you. The fear disappeared the moment our lips touched. It felt so right, so perfect. From my position on the couch, and the fact that I kept pulling you closer, I ended up sliding down with you on top of me until we were nearly prone.
I remember the feeling of your hands in my hair, and how my own hands instinctively settled on your slim hips. The kiss was filled with so much passion, love, desire... hunger. It was perfect. When it finally broke, I remember thinking that it was a good thing I was laying down, because I don't think I could have stood if I wanted to. I remember thinking that the look in your eyes must have mirrored
the one in my own, because I saw there everything that I was feeling too.
I'm not sure how we eventually made it to the bedroom, I don't seem to recall anything beyond you that night. Your hazel eyes filled with such passion, the way you bit your lower lip with excitement. I remember, we were still kneeling on my bed, helping each other out of our clothes. I lifted your shirt over your head, and then mine came off as well. We embraced, and for the first time I felt your bare skin against my own, and it was positively electric. We broke apart and just looked at each other.
You blushed deeply under my gaze, and I remember thinking 'What does she have to be embarrassed about?' You were so beautiful, you took my breath away. There was so much I wanted to say, so much I wanted to tell you. But in the condition of arousal I was in, the words weren't exactly coming so I decided to let my actions speak. For the second time that evening, I pulled you into a kiss. And, as our mouths caressed each other's, our hands explored our bodies. I remember how soft you felt, how gentle. So gentle at times that you drove me mad, but you would just giggle at my impatience.
I rolled onto my back again, taking you with me. The rest of our clothes were kicked aside, and I found that my patience had been rewarded. I saw my eagerness mirrored in your eyes as you made love to me. The gentle caresses and kisses moved down my body, until you came to my center. I had never in all my life felt anything so exquisite. I had to grip the sides of the bed to keep from bucking you off completely.
I came screaming your name that night, and I remember how I felt when I heard you scream mine. Like we were the only two people in the universe. And in that moment, for us, we were. The only two that mattered anyway. We completely explored each other's bodies that night. Every peak and valley, every curve and crevice, with our fingers, with our mouths. It was a night of pure, unadulterated passion. And it was unlike anything I had ever experienced before or since.
When I woke up the next morning, you were still curled up beside me. I kept thinking how it couldn't have been real. That it must have been some kind of exquisite dream. But there you were, as real as I was, your skin pressed up against mine. I remember thinking how small you seemed, how fragile. I guess my unconscious mind had cast me into the role of protector, even though in my eyes, you were always the strong one. I guess that's where the name came from. I was nuzzling your neck when you woke up and turned to me. We shared another heated kiss, and when you pulled away you whispered, "Good morning
"Good Morning Kitten," I said. You smiled at me and I could tell you liked it. And from that moment on, that's who you were to me. My Kitten.
The fear came later. That I had somehow taken advantage of you. That I had acted inappropriately in my capacity as captain. I mean, you might not have been in Starfleet but you were still a member of my crew. But you laid those fears to rest. You told me that you had wanted what had happened just as much as I did, and you told me that you loved me. And with those three simple words, you made everything better. You always seemed to have that effect on me Kitten. You made everything right again.
Of course, we didn't tell anybody. We couldn't. Everything was still new to us in the Delta Quadrant. And while we had that sense of community even then, we didn't fully realize that we were more than just a Starfleet vessel. We were a family. If things had happened later, I think we would have been able to tell everyone. But we never got the chance.
The short time we had together was the happiest I have ever been. Even though we had to keep it a secret, we still managed to find ways to show how much we cared, even in public. I never realized how much could be read into a smile, until I saw you smile at me. It was like I could tell exactly what you were thinking.
I remember the time I almost called you 'Kitten' in the middle of a staff meeting. I had to stammer to cover it up, so bad that it seemed like I couldn't remember your name. I remember you blushed so deeply that the doctor thought you might have hives. I dismissed the meeting as soon as I could and when everyone filed out, leaving just the two of us, we burst out laughing. You came up to me and put your arms around my neck, and I let mine rest on your hips. We were silent for the longest time, just holding each other. We never had the need to fill the silences, just being together was enough.
I remember thinking at that moment how much you meant to me, and how
I almost wanted them to hear me call you 'Kitten.' I wanted everyone to know how much I loved you. I guess that was the moment that I decided we should tell them.
But the Borg had other plans.
The moment we knew would come, came at the worst possible time for us. I guess at the time, I was too busy thinking about how we were going to all survive to think about us. I had no way of knowing how little time we had left together. I remember you sitting next to me on the bridge shortly after I came back from the cube. You were in contact with Species 8472. I remember how frightened I was for you to be so close to the danger, but my rational mind told me that you were a member of my crew, and I had to treat you as such, regardless of how I felt about you. And after Seven of Nine was severed from the collective, and we were still limping away trying to escape, I felt
this tremendous sense of relief. Even though it wasn't over yet, I knew it soon would be and things could get back to normal.
You were still sitting in Chakotay's chair, as the rest of the bridge crew was busy at their tasks. I reached over and took your hand in mine. You looked nervous at first, but then you smiled at me and you mouthed 'I love you.' I mouthed 'I love you too, Kitten,' and smiled. There, in the middle of the bridge, we managed to share a private moment. I just didn't know that it would be our last.
But I did see you one last time, in the corridor before you left. Tuvok tried to mind-meld with you to help you regain control, but it didn't work. I looked into your eyes, and you looked back at me sorrowfully. I wanted to hold you, to kiss you one last time. But I just said, "Go."
And that was the last time I saw you. But I did hear you. In my mind, just before you sent us 10,000 light years closer to home and saved us from the Borg, I heard your voice again.
"I love you Kathryn."
And then you were gone, out of my life forever.
We managed to put things back together again, slowly. Chakotay noticed how distant I was, but he just assumed I was still mad at him for going against my orders. Again, I managed to hide my feelings from my crew. Only this time, I didn't have you to hold me while I cried.
I cried alone that night, and on many subsequent nights since. I felt like I had lost everything. I had finally found the one person that completed me, the person I knew I could spend my life with, and I had lost her. But even from the beginning, I knew we couldn't be together forever. Maybe it was meant to be this way.
Now I know that you're still alive in some way, and that you always will be. And of course, there's Seven. If things hadn't happened the way they did, she wouldn't be with us here now. She's come so far Kitten, she really has. I wish you could have known her, she could have learned so much from you. She really is special.
If by some chance, some way you can hear me now, I hope you know how much I love you. You were like some rare flower that could only bloom for a short time, and we were just lucky enough to have been there when it happened. And I was lucky enough to love you. When I said that I would always think of you as my Kitten, I hope you know what I mean. The name was a way for me to tell you how much I loved you every time I spoke to you, to let you know what you meant to me. You were my life, my world. You were my everything.
Love Eternal, Kathryn.
Kathryn closed the letter and set the PADD down on the couch in front of her. She let her head fall into her hands, and she cried. She let out all the pain, all the loneliness. It flowed out of her in its purest form, and in the end she knew she would be better for it. The next morning she would put on a fresh uniform, and face her crew again. But still, none of them would know. She had loved, and lost, and grieved, and not a single soul even knew about. And maybe at the end of the day, that's what really hurt. She wiped off her face and stood from the couch, taking the PADD with her. She was halfway to her bedroom when she heard her door chime. A puzzled look crossed her face. "Computer, time?"
"23:30 hours," the computer responded.
"Now who would be knocking on the Captain's door at 11:30 at night?" she asked herself aloud. She walked to the door and opened it to be greeted by the sight of none other than Seven of Nine. "Seven?" Kathryn said, slightly surprised.
"Am I disturbing you Captain?" she asked.
"No, not at all," Kathryn lied. "Come in." Seven stepped in and Kathryn walked back into the living room. "Have a seat Seven." They both sat down. "What can I do for you?"
"Actually Captain, I was going to ask you a similar question."
"I don't understand."
"I have observed over the past several days that you have been preoccupied, distant. I was... concerned. The computer informed me that you were still awake, and I wanted to... offer my assistance if it is required."
Kathryn was a bit taken aback. Was this Seven of Nine, showing concern? It was true, Seven was becoming more human everyday, but this was just something that she didn't expect.
Kathryn was shaken out of her introspection by Seven. "Hmm? Oh, uh, no Seven. I'm fine, really. But thank you for your concern."
"I merely wished to help if I could. You have helped me many times in the past, I thought it only fair. Are you sure there isn't anything you wish to talk about?"
Kathryn looked down at the PADD still in her hand, and then out at the stars. Then she smiled. "Are you trying to tell me something Kitten?" she whispered, still facing the window.
"Nothing," she said turning back to Seven. She paused for a moment. "If you're sure you want to listen Seven... maybe it would do me some good to talk to someone."
"I am sure," Seven answered.
Kathryn drew her legs up under her and absently straightened her nightgown, getting comfortable. "Seven, have I ever told you about Kes?"
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