DISCLAIMER: Star Trek Voyager and its characters are the property of Paramount Pictures. I'm just taking them for a ride because I like things that can go really fast. No bodily harm was inflicted to Chakotay upon the writing of this story. Well, not much... The Phantom of the Opera along with its characters and lyrics belong to Andrew Lloyd Webber and probably some other people, but sadly, I'm not one of them. If I was, I'd be rich.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I want to take a moment to thank my beta Chandi, who despite various problems with her comp managed to break the warp 10 barrier as she beta'ed this fic. Blame, and thanks, also goes out to three others (you know who you are!) who not only managed to keep a straight face when I asked the most important questions, like 'what color goes
good well with green?' but actually give several answers and visuals to get me writing again.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: Heavy Endgame spoilers.
The Phantom's doing
Light blue eyes blinked into the darkness as the woman looked up at the ceiling above her bed. "Computer, time?"
"The time is 0512 hours." Sighing deeply, Captain Kathryn Janeway sat up, throwing the covers off her body and stretching. Tonight was the third consecutive night she had not been able to sleep for more then two hours, and it was starting to take its toll on her. She felt herself becoming more and more short-tempered, irritable, and rash. Maybe I should head to sickbay. I've never suffered from insomnia this badly before. Standing up and rolling her shoulders only to hear a telltale 'pop', she made up her mind after the shift. It was less then 20 minutes later that she stepped into the mess hall, her command mask firmly in place as she greeted the staff members that looked up to catch her eye with a nod.
They had been in the Delta Quadrant for over half a decade now, and the people knew the character that was their captain well, and in this case she was glad for it: she could get her cup of coffee in peace.
"Good morning, Captain!" Neelix beamed a smile at her from where he stood across the counter. She gave him a pointed stare, the tiredness shining through her eyes taking most of the edge off. "You look like you haven't slept in days."
"Thank you, Neelix; you really know how to flatter a girl." He gave her a small smile.
"How about I whip you up some pancakes? I got a recipe from Ensign Green, and I've been waiting for a reason to try it for days." It was all the Captain could do to keep herself from shuddering.
"Thank you, Neelix, but I think I'll just stick with coffee right now. Maybe tomorrow."
"Are you sure?"
"I am. Thank you." She turned her eyes back to her cup hoping for a little time to let the brew kick in and up the dangerously low levels of caffeine in her system. It took her a couple of minutes to realize that her hopes wouldn't be fulfilled anytime soon. The Captain sighed deeply before placing her empty mug back on the counter and leaving the mess hall to head to the bridge for the beginning of her duty shift. The hallways leading to the bridge were relatively empty for this time of morning, for that Captain Janeway was happy: the less she had to interact with people today, the better. Hopefully there wouldn't be any requests for crew rotations so she could shut herself in the ready room for most of the shift. Unless they encounter an extremely hostile race. That would be just my luck...
"Captain on the bridge!" said a couple of young ensigns, happy to be leaving their shift soon.
"Morning, everyone." She smiled through her mask. "Report."
"All seems to be fine, Captain." Chakotay, her second in command, stood up from his chair and took a few steps so that he could stand closer to the woman. "Engines and Shields are at optimum efficiency, and scanners indicate a small class M plant not too far, though we still can't be sure in regards to the population."
"Can't be sure?" she inquired, slipping into her chair and crossing her arms in front of her as she leaned slightly back and crossed her legs at the knees.
"Yes. The planet seems... empty. There are no masses of civilization, no outgoing transmissions; it's as though the planet has not yet reached the evolutionary levels that earth had reached in 1000AD."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, Captain." The voice answering her inquiry wasn't that of Chakotay, but higher and feminine. If it wasn't for the low levels of energy currently occupied solely by the tasks of keeping her body upright in a sitting position and her eyelids from drooping, she was sure she would have jumped to her feet, startled by the voice coming from her immediate right. Looking up to meet the blue eyes of her Astrometrics Officer, she made a small gesture for the former Borg drone to continue. "I have run scans of the planet's surface on both the short and long range scanners and so far I am unable to locate any masses of population, large or small."
As she looked at the woman, she couldn't help but see the transformation that had occurred since they had severed the statuesque blue-eyed blonde from the Borg collective just a few years ago. In that time, she had seen the younger woman flourish from the Borg drone who wanted noting but to return to the comfort of the collective, the only kind of family she knew, even going so far as to try and take over the ship and hurt its Captain in attempt to free herself. But as the Borg collective was all Seven knew at the time, the attempt wasn't taken all that seriously by the older woman, especially since it failed so miserably.
"There are no signals emitted from the planet, no satellites, nothing?" Chakotay shook his head.
"None, Captain, not even radio signals." She frowned.
"All right. Maintain course and keep scanning. If there is intelligent life down there, I don't want to interfere with them, even if they are in biblical times. The last thing we need is to start a new religion."
"Why not?" her first officer shot her an amused smirk. "Didn't you ever want to play god?" The only response he got was an exasperated look from the sitting woman and a raised eyebrow from the other.
"I was unaware that one could 'play god'. How does one..." She stopped at a small wave of the Captain's hand as the older woman rose to her feet.
"It's a figure of speech, Seven. It means someone who controls and manipulates people's fates on a whim." She could almost see the nanobots scurrying around in the younger woman's head as she filed the information for future use.
"The same way you do on this ship?" All activity in the bridge stopped as heads were turned in direction of the pair, wondering how their captain will answer. For her part, the auburn haired captain was trying not to let her jaw hit the floor in shock and hurt. Why hurt? Is that... This is Seven asking for information. Don't read anymore then there is into this, Kathryn.
"I am the ship's Captain, I am responsible for what the vessel does as a whole and hence - to the productivity and welfare of its occupants. But I don't decide on matters based on my personal wills and desires alone. I do what is best for the ship and the people in it."
"I see." Kathryn sighed before turning back to Chakotay.
"You have the bridge, Commander; I'll be in my ready room." As she turned on her heel and started to leave, she added quietly, intending her words for the tall woman alone: "When said to someone, the phrase is usually an insult, Seven." The ready room doors closed behind her before she could get a response. Sitting down at her chair, she mentally counted back, expecting the door to chime. But when she had reached zero for the second time and was still left in silence, she smiled sadly and rose to her feet, getting a cup of coffee before sitting down again to work through the PADD's waiting her attention.
The next time she raised her head slightly to ask the computer for the time, it was nearly the end of her shift. And after having been alone in her ready room almost all day and never once hearing from Seven, she decided to head to Astrometrics. Maybe this way she could at least find out if the scans on the planet have revealed anything new. She took the long way to the lab, walking by a couple of hallways which held windows facing the planet and stopping to look at the sight.
They weren't as close as to allow her to see more then a small half-marble painted in blue and white, but the vision was breathtaking. It looked almost like Earth, and for the life of her she wasn't sure if that was a good or a bad thing. On the one hand - it was hope. But on the other hand, that resemblance only served as a reminder of the place they had lost. Of the people left behind, the families parted without knowledge of when and if they would ever return. It was an image representing her failure. She turned away from the windowed halls and headed deeper into the ship, closing her eyes for a moment before once again squaring her shoulders and moving in purpose-filled strides. Her crew could not see her like this. They could not see their captain when she's doubting, hurting, and weak.
It took less then five minutes to find herself in front of the doors that would lead her to Seven, and after running her fingers once through her hair, she moved to a spot where the doors would open for her and she could enter.
The tall woman turned to face her as the doors closed her face and eyes a blank. "Good... afternoon Captain," Seven said after calculating the appropriate phrasing of her greeting. I thought I was getting better at reading her.
"Good afternoon, Seven," she replied as she stepped closer to the work console, leaning against it in what she hoped looked more like nonchalance then fatigue. "Is there anything new in regards to the planet?"
"No, Captain. I have run scans at one hour intervals since the planet was first sighted. At the speed that Voyager is traveling, scanning at shorter intervals would not be as efficient." Kathryn nodded.
"If we maintain course and speed, we should arrive within beaming distance to the planet in about three days. When we do, I plan to set up a few away teams that will go down to the planet and collect any materials that could replenish our supplies. Would you like to join one of the teams?"
"I believe I would."
"Good. In that case..." the Captain gently pushed herself away from the console and to a more upright stance only to have the room spin round her for a moment. She closed her eyes, willing the room to stop before attempting to reopen them, only to find the other woman standing closer to her, her eyes showing her concern.
"Are you... all right Captain?"
"I'm fine Seven." the shorter woman replied quickly, hoping to delay any other questions and suggestions. "I'm just tired. I think I'll call it a night early today." An eyebrow arched. "It means - go to bed."
I know this place... this meadow... Those mountains! I'm home! The captain of the U.S.S. Voyager looked around, her joy swelling in her chest as she started up the near by hill, knowing that behind it she will finally be able to see the place she had missed all these long years: her mother's farmhouse. Her smile and stride grew with each step she took until she was running, 'captain decorum' be damned.
She reached the top of the hill with her eyes closed tightly, wanting to experience the full force of the vision awaiting her. The gentle breeze pushed her hair back behind her shoulders as she stopped to catch her breath. She realized then that that soft wind in the trees was all she heard: there were no voices, no birds, no machinery, nothing. It was just her breath and the wind.
Twin blue eyes shot open and the woman fell to her knees in the grass as the view struck her like a physical blow. There was no farmhouse, no barn, and no trees. Nothing but grassland. Above her, a second yellow sun joined the first in the sky as if taunting her. Laughing at the notion that caught her in its grip, all she could do was scream out her pain. She didn't, she couldn't, stop the tears as she sobbed for the home she lost, the family she missed, a whole planet left behind. Lowering her shoulders, she bent almost painfully low, burying her face in her hands and her shoulder in the tall grass as she wept.
She only rose slightly when she felt a presence behind her. Strong, yet comforting and soft. She wouldn't turn around. She can't let this person see her like this. Not when she could at least maintain some of her dignity. But the presence showed no need for that and just stood behind her, allowing her to absorb the sense of peace and comfort it emitted.
After a few moments, she could feel it moving, and a soft weight was placed against her shoulders and back, the feeling of company and comfort now radiating from there. Raising her head and daring to look, she was that the stranger? had placed a soft, woolen fabric on her shoulders and let it hang from her back. The color was a mixture of white and light browns and by the shape of the garment she wasn't sure if it was a blanket or a cloak. But it didn't matter, she was no longer alone.
Captain Kathryn Janeway sat at her ready room desk, a cup of hot coffee at hand as she ran the events of last night's dream through her mind for a second time that morning. These dreams had started two days ago and were now a reoccurring fixture in her sleepless nights. It was the same every night for nearly a week now - she would go to bed, sleep for less then two hours and wake up with a new dream fresh in her mind. In her dreams, she was as alone as she felt in her waking hours, but then that presence would come and she would be safe and warm. They never spoke in her dreams, nor did she ever see the figure which stood so close to her. But the presence alone was enough to calm her.
After the first night, she woke up feeling rested. But the feeling fled her body as soon as she sat up. It has been so for three nights now, and by the end of today - they would reach the planet, and maybe a night on the surface with an away team would be the cure for her insomnia.
The chime to her door sounded, startling her out of her reverie and she straightened as she called the person on the outside of her door to enter. The doors swished open and she smiled to see Chakotay motioning for Seven to enter before him, and immediately had to suppress a frown as she watched him look at the woman walk.
"We have reached orbit, Captain, and are ready to begin site to site transport of the away teams," stated her second. She nodded.
"Do you have anything to add, Seven?"
"No, Captain. However I wish to inquire as to the possibility of..." she paused, "exploring the planet's surface with one of the away teams leaving today." Janeway sighed as she placed her mug down on the table, then stood up and headed to the windows, looking out at the azure orb dotted with white. When they were in viewing distance of the planet, people rushed to available windows, hoping to see a semblance to the planet they left behind. She was glad that they didn't. The geography of the orb made that distinction very prominent, very soon, as the two masses of land that covered about a sixth of the surface looked too different and shape and color than they ere supposed to. The red soil served as a reminder that they were still strangers here, that they still had a way to go. Not that I could ever forget.
"I would rather you didn't go this early in the exploration Seven. There are still matters that need your attention on deck. But you will be on surface tomorrow."
"No, Seven." Her voice was cold and firm, much more than she thought it would be, and the Captain tried not to wince at its harshness as she cut the woman off. "You are needed here. You will leave tomorrow. Dismissed, both of you."
"Understood." Unlike Seven, who turned on her heel and left, Chakotay took a moment to look at her before he left, and for the life of her she didn't know which had hurt more, or why she was so hard on the young woman. There was no reason. I will go after her and apologize.
Raising herself from the couch, the woman was able to take two steps before collapsing on the floor.
After the second time he chimed and got no permission to enter, Tom Paris decided he would wait no longer and enter anyway, knowing that there was no way that the Captain hadn't heard the chime. He wasn't completely through the door when he dropped the PADD he was carrying and ran to his captain, turning her over so that he had easier access to her pulse point. "Computer, site to site transport, two to beam directly to sickbay."
"Please state the nature of the medical emergency." The doctor appeared stating the old customary greeting before grinning to himself and looking about to see Tom in the same position he had taken in the ready room: kneeling with the captain in his arms. "Oh my goodness! Quickly Tom, get her on the biobed."
Word was quickly out to Chakotay, and from him to all the senior staff regarding the captain's incapacitation, and it was not long before Tom, B'Elanna, Tuvok, Harry Kim and Seven joined him in an out of the way conference room.
"Tom, since you were with the Doctor, you give the update." Five sets of eyes turned to the man and he leaned forward in his seat, entwining his fingers as he placed his elbows on the table top.
"Captain Janeway is in sickbay. I found her lying on the floor of her ready room and took her the Doctor almost an hour ago. He says this is exhaustion, so we have nothing to fear, but he injected her with enough drugs go get a horse to sleep for a week." Chakotay took lead of the conversation from there.
"This means I will be taking command of Voyager, which will leave me unable to lead the Alpha team. I know that all of you have a lot of work that needs to be done, but I would greatly appreciate it if one of you took my place. I would rather a senior officer lead them." He turned to the blonde woman staring at the tabletop, "Seven, how about you?" Blue eyes slowly rose to meet his own.
"I don't that's wise, Chakotay," a second female voice interjected. "No offense, Seven, but the Alpha team needs to be led by someone who knows how to command, and Seven is more of a loner than a leader."
"Well, there isn't an abundance of commanders on this ship."
"No, but there are department heads."
"I concur. While we can not question the capability of Seven, we can not let the de-facto leader of all the teams be an inexperienced one." B'Elanna nodded.
"I say let Tuvok do it. He has the experience, and the people will take him replacing you better than..." She cringed slightly. "I'm sorry, Seven, I didn't mean for it to sound like that. What I meant was..."
"Lieutenant Torres," the cool voice cut her off. "I have comprehended your meaning and do not find it hurtful. You may continue."
"That was my whole point actually. What do you think Tuvok?"
"That would be the most logical course of action," he agreed.
"All right, in that case: Tuvok, come with me and we'll let the other team leaders know of the change. The reason for it does not, however, leave this room. Dismissed." Seven only noticed her surroundings again when she stepped through the doors to sickbay. She hadn't noticed walking this way, or telling the turbo lift to take her where she needed to go, but she was here nonetheless and the Doctor was headed her way.
"Good morning Seven!" he beamed at her. "What can I do for you this morning?"
"I am here to see the Captain."
"The Captain?" he looked perplexed. "She isn't here Seven." Her brow furrowed in confusion.
"The Commander had stated that..."
"Shh!" He took her by the arm to his office and stood facing the doorway. "The Commander and I have agreed to keep the matter of the Captain's... condition on a need to know basis so that it doesn't affect moral. People on ships tend to be a superstitious lot at times." He chuckled softly. Seven's pointed stare made sure he soon picked up this line of thought. "Anyway, since there was no danger, and what the Captain needed most is rest, then I have moved her to her quarters." When the woman looked as though she was ready to protest, he raised his hand indicating that he was not yet finished. "I was, however, hoping that I could be allowed to share this "secret" with another individual that will be willing to look after her: watch her to see that her condition is not deteriorating, that my diagnostic was indeed correct. Not that I doubt that in the least, but it never hurts to make sure."
"I will do it."
"Seven, you don't have to do this. I'm sure I can find some crew member that will be..."
"Your protests are futile. You have stated that the Captain's condition will be divulged only to those who need to know it. I already know and it will hence be more efficient to let me look after her instead of informing another crewmember and hoping that this person will not speak of the matter, even after we break orbit and continue our journey home."
After a short moment to think over her words, the Doctor agreed and handed her a tricorder. "I would suggest you take several PADDs with you. It will probably be hours before she wakes."
She was standing in her quarters, a cup of hot coffee held tightly in her hands. In the background, soft jazz music was playing, and in front of her was the vastness of space. Black silk and diamonds. Tightening the robe, she looked out into the cold view and could barely suppress a shudder.
The hairs on the back of her head told her when she wasn't alone anymore, and she smiled. "I've been expecting you." Her visitor was quiet. "I've been starting to wonder if I'll ever get a chance to hear your voice." She admitted to the figure standing next to her as she continued to look out at the stars.
"All you needed to do was ask." It replied in a familiar voice.
"Then I guess I'm asking." She could feel the being smile. "Why are you here?"
"Would you rather I left?"
"No, I... didn't say that. But I was wondering..." she let the sentence die, not sure how she wanted to end it.
"I am here because you need me." Kathryn took another sip of her coffee.
"You gave me a blanket once."
"Affirmative." She laughed, still not turning to face the being at her side.
"I never understood why people prefer that word to a simple 'yes'."
"Perhaps it is conviction that makes one take the longer route."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Why settle for something short when you can have something everlasting?"
"Was that supposed to be and explanation?" the being smiled again.
"Yes. And you will ask the question that leads to it in time." Kathryn blinked at the stars in confusion.
"What do you mean?"
"Captain?" The voice was near her, and if she could just open her eyes... "Captain," she heard the soft voice again. It was as though it was trying not to wake her while inquiring if she was still, in fact asleep. "Are you awake?" It took but a moment for realization to dawn on her as to the person's identity.
"I'm awake, Seven." Opening her eyes slowly to take in the dimly lit room she was, for a moment, disoriented until objects came to better focus and she recognized her quarters. "What am I doing here?"
"You had... collapsed, Captain. The Doctor says you suffer from severe exhaustion, and that you must rest." Tentatively, she raised a hand to her forehead, winching at the headache setting in.
"How long have I been out?"
"23.39 hours." Closing her eyes, Kathryn huffed. "Do you require anything, Captain?"
"A glass of water please."
"I will comply." The Captain leaned deeper into her pillows to stretch away the remains of sleep before sitting up, feeling better than she had in days. And this time the feeling wasn't fleeting, she couldn't help but smile.
"Don't tell me the senior staff has been taking turns watching over me," she half-stated, half-asked the woman returning with the requested beverage.
"No, they were not," came the reply as the former drone handed her the glass.
"Then what were you...?"
"The Doctor has asked me to monitor your condition and report any change to him."
"And you were here all along?" The blonde woman nodded and Kathryn couldn't help but press on. "So why not just keep me in sickbay?"
"The Commander and the Doctor have decided that seeing you in sickbay might result in inefficiency among the crew." The older woman mouthed 'oh' and sipped her water, at a loss for words to phrase the question running through her mind. "I should inform the Doctor that you are awake." Nodding her accent, she watched as Seven contacted the Doctor who promised to be there shortly.
True to his words, he was stepping through her bedroom door in minutes. Seven stepped over to the other side of the bed to allow him to work. A short examination revealed that she was now a bit dehydrated, but all right. "I want you to rest Captain, and drink a lot."
"What if I go planet side, Doctor? I promise not to any heavy lifting and I know the fresh air will do me good."
"Why do always I feel a need to worry whenever you promise me something concerning your health?" She shrugged, her face purely innocent. The man sighed and shook his head. "You are making life hard for this hologram... I would agree on one condition - that someone goes with you on shore leave to make sure you follow my instructions." The Captain laughed as she threw her legs over the side of the bed and got to her feet.
"Fine Doctor, I will join one of the teams, and..."
"No, no," he cut her short with a raised hand. "You and another person will be going to the shore leave site. I have no problem with you spending the night on site, but you are not joining a team. I know you Captain - if you do, you're going to want to show them that you can pull your own weight, literally. And I can not allow that. I'm allowing you to take a crewman, not a team."
"You're serious about this, aren't you?"
"Of course. You collapsed due to severe exhaustion, I have half a mind to look though my matrix and find an hour long reprimand about not coming to me sooner." Her shoulders slumped.
"You're right." He brightened, a smug smile settling on his face.
"Of course I am." Sitting back on her bed, the Captain frowned up at him.
"Do you have anyone in particular in mind or should I ask for someone over the ships comm system?"
"That will be unnecessary." The two turned their attention to the woman standing at the other side of the bed, her posture ramrod straight, her hands clasped behind her back. "I shall endeavor to the surface of the planet with you." The look of confusion melted from Captain Janeway's face, replaced with a soft smile.
"You have given me much of your time already, Seven. I can't ask you to do this, not when you can be more productive if you go down with the team you are supposed to go with."
"I am not scheduled for an excursion." The confused look returned to the older woman's face. "I asked Commander Chakotay to remove me from that mission so that I could be..." the woman paused as she tried to find the correct word "here."
"I will leave you to get ready, Captain. I am sure you are anxious to depart." The older woman blinked in confusion as the blonde apparently dismissed herself and left. A few moments later the Doctor cleared his throat and she turned back to face him.
"I'm sorry, Doctor," she apologized as she got to her feet "she just... confuses me so much sometimes."
"You are her friend, Captain, she cares for you." She waved a hand in dismissal of his statement.
"I'm aware of that. That wasn't my point: it feels like every time I've adjusted to a change, another one pops up. I enjoy her development immensely, but sometimes it just happens so fast..."
"You sound like a parent, Captain." He looked at her with a gentle smile. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll return to sickbay." Nodding her head, she dismissed him.
Less then an hour later, the two women were in the transporter room heading to where the crew decided to erect a campsite for all who didn't want to stay alone in the wilderness. The encampment was made up of several circles of tents in various sizes around the remains of a bonfire circled with rocks.
"Captain!" A surprised Lieutenant Russom jumped to her feet as the two materialized a few feet away from her. "I mean," she blushed, "Hi Captain, Seven." Captain Janeway smiled at the woman and inclined her head.
"Alex. Nice place you set up here." The woman's blush deepened.
"Thank you Captain, but I wasn't here during the set-up. I was with the second beta team at the time."
"I see." She looked around. "Who took charge of the sleeping arrangements?"
"Skon" The Captain's smile almost turned to a smirk.
"Of course he did. I'll go find him then." The young lieutenant pointed the way where the Vulcan was last seen and the Captain walked off to find him, leaving the two younger women alone.
It was less then an hour later that they had claimed a three person's tent in the third circle. It was the one furthest from the fire pit, and seeing as most of the tents around were still unoccupied - the Captain knew that the privacy she'd crave at the end of the day could easily be found there. She took the rest of the day to relax and get to know the immediate area around the site with Seven never straying from her side and Lieutenant Russom playing the role of their tour guide. She occasionally tried to prompt Seven into smiling or playing a game with the other crew members, with little luck. Kathryn was glad she didn't try the same tactic with her as she had no idea how to explain Seven forbidding her to do anything strenuous, as she knew the blonde would if she would show interest in any of the games that involved running, jumping, or any other form of activity that would cause her to sweat. So she kept her expression schooled and opted for a short hike to get to know their surroundings, sending Seven a force three glare when the third woman in their party wasn't paying attention. The glare hit its mark and Seven was mostly silent during their walk.
"Alex." It was getting dark and the trio were retuning to the campsite when something dawned on the older woman "What do you do here at night?" The lieutenant laughed.
"Most people don't like to stay the night and prefer to return to their quarters, but those of us who stay find ways to entertain ourselves." At the Captain's raised eyebrow, the raven haired woman threw her hands level with her shoulders her eyes wide "I didn't mean that!" The surprise on her face turned to contemplation as she added "I wouldn't be surprised though... But to answer your question - some of us looked up the old Terran and Bajoran ways of having a bonfire, and we adapted them both. So we're cooking potatoes in it, and barbecuing some meat that we managed to get from Neelix, though he was appalled that we wanted it raw until we explained. After dinner, there will probably be singing if Tom Paris found the music to some of the songs found in the databases, or we'll improvise. Then head to sleep," she shrugged. "Do you sing Captain?" She asked with a gleam in her eye. Seven raised her eyebrow at the woman's tone of voice. The Captain chose a short laugh as an answer and shook her head.
"I don't sing." She couldn't help but laugh again at the younger woman's proposition of twisting her arm once the gathering started to pick up. Not long after that, they were back at the camp and parted ways so that the lieutenant could help set up dinner. The other two women made their way to their shred tent.
"You were very quiet today, Seven."
"I was enjoying the view."
"It is beautiful here, isn't it? But you are still a terrible liar, dear." The woman looked at her captain in surprise.
"I am Borg, I do not..." she was stopped with when the woman beside her shook her head sadly.
"Seven, you don't need to tell me anything, and if you don't want to talk about something just say so. But please don't insult my intelligence."
"I... I'm sorry, Captain."
"It's alright, Seven, just don't do it again." She motioned at the tent. "I'm going in to get my knife. Do you need something from inside?" After replying she didn't, the older woman went inside. Pulling out the two sleeping bags they replicated before leaving, as well as her fathers old hunting knife, she quickly set up the sleeping bags, placed the knife in her pocket and left. "I set up the sleeping bags," she explained when stepping out.
Dinner was a loud affair, making Captain Janeway and Seven both step back slightly and observe more them participate, each due to reasons of her own. As the boisterous affair of dividing the food began to die down, the two found a seat on a log across from most and ate quietly. Seven, trying to understand the purpose of the behavior of the people around her but knowing what she did about what was considered polite, chose to file some of her questions away for a more appropriate time. Kathryn, on the other hand, was enjoying herself and trying not to show it too much. And they said they found a coffee plant not far away. Thank heaven for technology, she could enjoy it today.
When the 15 crewmembers that remained on site had had their fill, the plates were taken away and they settled back down with either cups of coffee or hot cocoa. Taking a long sip of her brew, she nudged Seven, "Try it. It tastes much different than coffee, I think you'll like it." She watched as the woman tasted the beverage carefully and smiled as ice blue eyes, turned almost purple in the firelight, widened as the taste registered. They fluttered close as the woman indulged herself by taking another long sip. "Just don't moan, Seven, people might take it the wrong way." With that, Kathryn sat beside her, burying her smirk in her mug as conversation started around them turning Captain Janeway's focus to the others.
"Alex!" an ensign called from the other end of the fire pit as the raven haired lieutenant managed to bring herself to sit with the Captain and the Borg, pulling her attention from the auburn haired woman who was explaining the purpose of marshmallows to the former drone. "You said you wanted us to sing around the fire. Why don't you start?" His tone was one of playful challenge, and the woman raised her head slightly as she thought for a moment.
"Alright. When I was little, my parents took me camping once." Conversation stopped as the woman told her story. "My mother taught me this old Terran song then. I know most of you know it, and if you don't join in I'll stop after the first verse." She threatened, her smile taking away the potency of her words. When she opened her mouth again, a clear and strong soprano started the words to 'Where Are All Those Girls'.
A quiet gasp from the woman beside her caused Seven to turn her head in direction of her captain and saw her openly staring at the Lieutenant, her mouth slightly open in amazement. It wasn't long before nearly all the people sitting joined the in song, but true to her word - the older woman stayed silent throughout the evening, reverting attention away from her when someone asked her to sing with grace and ease in a way that most didn't even notice what she was doing.
The happiness around her was infectious, but Kathryn couldn't help but pull herself slightly back. One of the guidelines she was taught when learning command was not to fraternize with her crew. In her wish to be on solid ground, with fresh air and trees around her she had forgotten that staying the night meant she would have to do just that, especially with the atmosphere around the fire. Taking a moment to thank heaven for keeping the people in the campsite from drinking alcohol, she turned her attention once again to the woman at her side as she called up another song from memory, leading the crowd until they were comfortable enough in each others company to suggest songs themselves.
But it was that voice, the beautiful clear soprano that struck a cord in her heart and wound itself around her mind and sent it reeling. It was almost as though the woman had operatic training, and if she did then Neelix's upcoming talent night was going to be all the more interesting if the woman entered it. As a thought took shape in her head, she couldn't help but smirk. I will just have to find out if it's doable. Her thoughts let her from their grasp well after a plan formed in her head, and Captain Janeway noticed that she hadn't noticed when the song they were singing now had started, or what were the previous few songs. Deciding this was as good a time as any, she rose to her feet, bid her people goodnight and headed to the tent for the night.
She was standing on a hill, gentle wind blowing around her, making the grass bow down in waves that rolled into the distance towards the setting sun. Feeling calmer than she had expected, she turned too look at her surroundings, the evergreens, grass and sky soothing away any remains of the burden she always seemed to carry these days. At the edge of the forest, partially hidden in the shade, stood a lone figure, her long hair and the hem of her dress, 'or is it a skirt,' swaying gently in the wind. Smiling gently to herself, Kathryn made her way to the woman who kept herself shaded enough so that she couldn't see the woman's face. Standing in front of her, Kathryn smiled. "It's been a while."
"It has." The woman agreed and turned, gesturing for Kathryn to follow. Smiling gently, she did, and the woman she trusted so took her through well lit paths, while keeping to the shadows, her face never in view.
"Wait..." the other woman stopped, and Kathryn did her best to try and see her face. It was a blur "I..." huffing in her frustration she tried again "Why can't I see you?" The woman seemed saddened
"I suppose it is because you are not ready."
"But..." The sentence died on her lips.
"Tell me what it is you desire Kathryn." the name coming from the woman's mouth felt like a caress against her skin. She closed her eyes, savoring the feeling of it before remembering that the woman had made a request. Opening her eyes to answer, she was surprised to see that the other woman was no longer in front of her. "Kathryn..." The name was whispered from behind her by the familiar velvet-soft voice. "You enjoy it when I say your name..."The woman's tone was nearly one of wonder. Closing her eyes again, she could only nod her assent. She felt the comforting presence come closer, stepping so close that the front of her body molded into Kathryn's back. She could hear the wind in the trees as it passed through branches. In the distance there were birds, but as the contact between their bodies increased she could sense those sounds less and less, her body focusing on the one behind it. The soft swell of breasts pressed against her upper back made her shiver and the woman encircled her with her hands. "Better?" Warm breath blew by her ear and she sank back into the embrace not trusting her voice. Feeling warm, protected, and loved, she let her head rest against a nearby shoulder and inhaled the woman's sent as she breathed. It was familiar, and right at the edge of her consciousness, but for some reason it kept evading her.
It was seconds or hours later that the woman behind her moved slightly, making the smaller woman open her eyes at the sudden loss. "You are tired Kathryn, you must rest." Picking her up ever so gently, she took the few steps from where they stood to Kathryn's bed and gently placed her cargo in it, covering the woman with her blanket.
"Stay with me?"
Ice blue eyes locked onto hers with a tender smile. "As you wish."
Waking up seconds, or hours, later she turned in her bed, almost surprised to find it empty. Sighing sadly she got out of bed and got ready for her shift.
When the alpha shift began, the Captain was already sitting in her chair, her second sitting to her right as she gave the command to break orbit two days after having woken up on the surface of the planet. Talent night was scheduled for three days from now and she hoped that conflicting schedules wouldn't cause her plan to backfire.
"Is everything all right, Captain?" Chakotay turned to her and asked in low tones, knowing how she preferred to keep some distance from the rest of her crew.
"I am Chakotay. Why do you ask?"
"You just seem a bit distracted in the past couple of days." She smiled to him and patted his hand.
"I'm fine Chakotay. I just have some things on my mind. I'll get answers to them today though."
"Okay..." He fumbled for a moment before taking a deep breath and adding, "Captain, will you be going to the talent night?" She quirked an eyebrow at the man
"I might make an appearance. Why do you ask?"
"Well," he shifted slightly under her gaze and turned a glance at Seven who was busy at her console before looking back, "B'Elanna, Tom, Seven, and I will be going together and we thought that maybe you might want to come with us?" Over at her console Seven's fingers stopped moving momentarily as her eyes locked on the two commanding officers of Voyager speaking in quiet tones. Knowing it was improbable that anyone other then herself heard the two, she resumed her work, not sure whether she wished the woman would accept or decline.
"I can't give you a definite answer just yet, Chakotay." Captain Janeway replied with a small smile that she knew would drive her second mad as he would undoubtedly try to figure out why.
"A date, Captain?" he asked, trying to keep the surprise out of his voice. Her response was a hearty laugh as she got to her feet.
"Not hardly. Just something I want to look into." Nodding her head at him, the command mask once again fully in place, she turned the bridge over to his command. "I'll be in my ready room." Just as the woman turned to the doors to her ready room, the doors leading to the bridge swished open and Lieutenant Russom walked in, stopping abruptly when seeing the captain. "You're early," the auburn haired captain said casually and motioned to her ready room leading the way in.
"Anyone know what that's all about?" Tom asked from his station. "I don't think I've ever seen Russom here."
"Indeed," came the reply from Tuvok, and Seven fought hard against the urge to stop working or enhance her hearing to the best of her capabilities in hopes of hearing the conversation. Deeming the act inefficient as the room was soundproof, she returned to her tasks. The raven haired lieutenant stepped out twenty minutes later, trying to hide the added spring in her step. Two members aboard the bridge noticed, and said nothing.
Inside the ready room, an elated Kathryn took a long hard look at the stack of PADDs awaiting her in order to summon back the Starfleet Captain that had left the room along with the other woman, leaving her alone to celebrate. Celebrate what exactly? What do I hope to achieve in this? Not sure she knew or wanted an answer yet, she rolled her shoulders and set to work. There were still quite a few hours before she could send the rest of her plan to motion and she just hoped that the younger woman was game. Time will tell Katie, only time will tell.
When the end of duty shift came and the Captain left almost immediately heads turned. It was easy to tell she was hiding something, that she knew, but there was a big difference between knowing she was hiding something and knowing what it was, and Kathryn hoped she could keep the second part of that equation unknown for as long as she possibly could. The question was how. They were confined to the ship and she and the lieutenant would have to meet and rehearse if they were going to sing together. Hopefully she'll agree to my suggestion. This way we can log in the characters names instead of ours. I would really rather people wouldn't know I sing, this could end up all over the ship! Entering the holodeck, she nodded at the woman already waiting for her. Starting the program, she showed the other woman her plan and was happy to see the woman accept. Ordering the computer to send a copy of the sheet music to the song to both their personal PADDs, she moved the program forward to give the other woman more insight into the workings of this old story.
When it ended the younger woman was near tears. "That was beautiful..." she smiled up at her captain who was still looking at the tombstone. "But the ending was... creepy." The other woman turned to face her.
"I thought the same the first time I saw it."
"I'm not sure. In a way, it's sweet that he had kept loving her all this time. But then again, I'm not sure if this was love or an obsession. But our time here is almost up, we should head out, we can continue this conversation later."
"Another minute, Captain? I was thinking about clothes, and I think I found something that would be... uh..." she tried her best not to blush "fitting." Her response was a raised eyebrow, but instead of explaining the younger woman asked the computer to show them two characters from the vid. "I was thinking about this for me, without the cape, though. And this one for you. But maybe in different colors..." she mused. "Forest green and mustard might work in this setting and with the blonde hair, but... it's ugly." The Captain nodded her assent with a smile.
"Well, there's always the classic black with red trim, unless you're getting tired of the combination." she added with a small smile. "Blue or green trims can work out well, too, as long as the trim stands out. Alexis blue and white can work too, but maybe not with your hair..."
"Alexis blue? Not named after you I presume..." the Lieutenant had the grace to blush.
"After an old friend of my mother's, actually. She'd wear that color so often that the name just caught on in my family... Most know it as royal blue."
"I see." she pondered the thought. "I'll think about it and we'll work it out. Same time tomorrow?" Alex nodded and they shut down the program, each making her way to her own quarters.
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