DISCLAIMER: Paramount owns all things Star Trek. I'm just borrowing them.
By BC Bones
I wade through the crowd, finding a seat along the edge of a fountain in the center square just beyond the entrance to Starfleet Headquarters. The morning sky is overcast, the sun hidden shy, but the early fog had already dispersed by the time I had gotten off the shuttle transport from Saturn's Lunar station. I haven't been back here in San Francisco for nearly three years, not since Voyager had arrived back in the Alpha Quadrant and the crew had spent nearly four months being debriefed, "decontaminated", and dispersed.
Glad though that I remembered the weather at this time of year. I brush off the crumbs of my blueberry muffin from my long grey skirt and wrap the front of my fleece coat around me tighter as a cold wind seems to blow in my direction. I grip my coffee tighter and absorb the welcome heat through my frozen fingers while the steam rises to do the same for my face. I had forgotten my gloves.
Funny, I'm not really a coffee drinker. All those years on Voyager, I preferred raktajino more to last me through the days in Engineering. It's Janeway who loves coffee, the aroma from her mug always wafting its way to my sometimes occupied station on the bridge. Maybe I want something reassuring this morning to calm my frayed nerves. I'm going to see them all again today and it's going to remind me how much I miss them, every day, every hour. Voyager was being added to the Honor Fleet, a port which held ships of historic significance including Cochrane's Phoenix and Archer's Enterprise as well as reconstructions of honorary ships that were no more.
Even Tom is going to be there. I'm not sure how I felt about that. I'm trying hard not to think about it at all. Our break up wasn't really bad, wasn't really good either. It really wasn't much of anything which made it worse actually. What was once hot and heavy fizzled physically and emotionally, especially after we ended up on Earth. Tom began working for an up and coming private company, designing and flying the latest commercial starships. Once the Dominion War had ended, private companies rose to fill up the void of space travel while Star Fleet licked its wounds. It was such an exciting time for him, so mine seemed dull in comparison. After a brief stint at the Academy as a guest lecturer on such topics as Adaptive Engineering for Deep Space, I drifted from one job to the next never really finding another niche until I settled at Starbase 185 on Kessick IV in a civilian position as an engineer. Even though many starships passed through our sector, I never ran into Harry or the others I knew from Voyager. I guess I wanted at least something familiar in my life after having been gone for so long. Tom and I just never managed to be on the same page once we started living as a family in the Alpha Quadrant.
Our divorce was predictable. Tom had apologized over and over again for not being the husband he had promised me he would be. He was still a father at least to Miral. I don't blame him though. If it weren't for Miral, we wouldn't have even tried so hard. We had joint custody which meant she stayed with one of us each month. Sometimes I wonder what kind of life I am providing her as I move her from one place to the next with each job. Thankfully she was only a baby for most of the changes. But sometimes when she's playing by herself while other children are around, I wonder if I have led her down a similar path to my childhood. And maybe, just maybe, she might have as difficult a time making friends and fitting in as I did.
The bitter taste of cold coffee on my tongue hints at the amount of time I've sat here musing. I am anxious to see my family again. Yes, that's how I think of them. I have never been as close to any people as I was to those whom I served with on Voyager. Even though I hold my Maquis friends close to my heart, I was never able to open up to them as I did with Tom, Harry, and the others. When you're in a war, you never let your guard down. I think I was lucky to have ended up on Voyager. I might have grown bitter, or rather even bitterer by the end of the war. Worse yet I might have wound up dead. Chakotay may have saved my life, but I think Janeway saved my soul.
A bunch of cadets find a bench near me and I overhear their excited chatter, drowning in their youth and enthusiasm. They talk about where they're going and under whose commission. Some of the names sound familiar, and I smile discreetly. With distraction I swirl the sedimentary contents of my cup around as I recall the faces of those who changed my life. Chakotay taught me discipline and loyalty, but Janeway taught me leadership and focus. For them, I could channel my passion toward work. I had also been at different points in my life attracted to them once. I literally shake myself out of my Oedipus-like thoughts; best not to dwell on apparitions of old daydreams.
I get up from my seat, resolved to square my shoulders and take the long walk to the hall where the first of several ceremonies were to be held. But then I startle to see a particular figure in the crowd, standing in line for the stand where I had gotten my coffee, looking so much the same and yet different too. The hair is the same color, perhaps even the same length. The stiff suit was gone, replaced by a turtleneck, slacks and trench coat still severely fitted however to her slim form. The damn heels were gone though.
Out of the corner of her eye, she must have sensed my stare, for a second later our eyes meet and we can't turn away. I break out in a sweat under her scrutiny and mentally curse myself for my weakness, but I can't help however feel like a short, squat, gnarled troll again next to her beauty. I know… I still can't believe I think she's just so absolutely gorgeous. Just couldn't image that underneath all that Borg hardware was a young woman like her but with as much personality as a computer. Well, okay, I realized a long time ago how wrong I was.
She turns briefly to accept her cup and then heads in my direction only to stop after a few steps. We are separated by a few feet, but it had always felt like a few miles. But that wasn't always true. I remember a day in Engineering when she had come; scared, sad, and vulnerable although you'd have been hard pressed to see it. But I did, I really did. I could sympathize. I felt the same way the day I approached Janeway about the Chief Engineer position. I was fighting for a life I wanted even though I hadn't realize it at the time.
But that wasn't the only time. For weeks after Voyager's arrival, Chakotay, I and the rest of the Maquis as well as Seven were detained until Star Fleet could determine our status. I wasn't worried since we had Janeway, Tuvok, Admiral Paris and Barclay on our side, but the first two months drove me crazy. I recovered from giving birth pretty quickly under the Doctor's care. And despite motherhood occupying much of my day, I still had moments of sheer boredom as I had been accustomed to the minute by minute problems solving in Engineering. Seven was the same way. She couldn't stand being idle as much I could. Though she argued logically with our Star Fleet hosts daily to allow her to work in some fashion, it was useless. One day, in the lounge of the compound we were held at, we started talking about unfinished projects we had planned for Voyager. It was about the only thing that stimulated both of us intellectually and for the rest of our confinement we spent many an hour just talking, sometimes debating, as we each helped the other refine our ideas despite the fact they would never come to fruition. There it hit me just how much we did have in common, from what we thought of some of Neelix's cooking to our observations of what would have really ticked Janeway off. The day we were all released, I was shocked to a feel stab of pain; you know that sharp twinge you get when strike a nerve just right, thinking I may never see that ex-drone ever again.
Now here she is, right in front of me, and words fail me. Finally she closes the distance, but still hasn't said a word. Her eyes, downcast, shift as if reading a text, and I smirk, knowing she's scanning her mental database to find a way to address me.
"B'Elanna Torres," she settles for.
So close to being fully human perhaps, but she's still Seven of Nine…
"Hello, Seven, or is it Annika now?"
"I have not yet reclaimed that name. Only my aunt calls me by that designation."
I nod in understanding, but not really.
"Are you walking over to the Hall of Ceremonies?" the ex-Borg asks.
So we start moving in that direction, our heels clicking against the pavement as we stroll in silence. Both of us take in the architectural surroundings with some wandering interest.
"How have you been?" I inquire politely as I step along side her closely while the pavement packs with opposing traffic.
"Well," she answers. "And you?"
"And Miral Paris?"
She doesn't ask about Tom, so I think she must know we are no longer together.
"She's fine too. She's as thrill seeking as her father and she's got a bit of a temper like her mother. But she has more discipline than either of us ever did," I say with a little pride.
"I was unaware that Commander Tuvok resided with you," Seven quips.
It took a few seconds for me to register that she had just made a joke, and I halt just in time to catch my jaw before it hits the floor. She clearly has a smirk on her face, but her eyes tell me she's stunned herself, to find that she had just said that aloud. The cat is out of the bag. Seven of Nine, former tertiary adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One, is in fact human after all, and with a dry, sarcastic wit to boot. Though I can't say I'm surprised with her having spent as much time as she did with the Doctor.
"He doesn't. But he likes to send my daughter Vulcan holoprograms," I answer back, once I get my mouth to work.
We walk on, though I can't stop myself from peering back at her over and over again. If I didn't know better, I think she's enjoying this. Leaving it to the ex-drone to get a rise out of me. I delight in the exchange however.
As we progress, I observe the way people are taking note of us. At first, I jump to the assumption that they are looking at me, a Klingon among the crowd. But I relax, recalling that I am no longer a rarity in Star Fleet. There are many Klingons now serving proudly for the Federation. Rather it is our notoriety as being members of Voyager that is causing such a stir. Even Seven is rolling her eyes.
"I'm sorry things didn't work out with Chakotay."
Now why did I bring that up? I'm sure she doesn't want to even discuss it. Seven and Chakotay ended their relationship about six months after we arrived. Things were finally settled and life could go on. But then entered Janeway. The Captain had been dear to both and remained in close contact. It seemed that in the end even her biological clock finally started to alarm. I always knew Chakotay had a weak spot for her, but I didn't think it fair that Seven became a casualty. Chakotay fell back very much in love with Kathryn Janeway when the opportunity once again rose, and Seven suffered. When I had heard of the news from Chakotay himself, I couldn't help but feel sorry for the ex-Borg. Heartbreak was the last human lesson I thought she'd have to learn.
"I adapted," she said, unconvincingly.
How can anyone when you get your heart ripped out? I guess I might not be the only one not looking forward to meeting up with an ex.
"You deserved better," I murmured, as we came around the corner of the last building, the ceremony hall just beyond the courtyard.
Switching topics, I mention, "I hear you're working for the new Daystrom Institute at Nora Prime." Which was only one giant leap from the Delta Quadrant.
"That is correct. However, it is only a temporary position that's terminating soon."
"Freelancing…impressive," I concluded.
"And you? Are you content where you are?"
Frankly, I didn't know what to reply so I answered. "Yes."
Before we make it to the double doors of the Hall, I notice a recognizable object looming in the distance. It was Voyager, gleaming brightly in the shipyard not more than a hundred meters away, and I am pulled.
"Let's go take a look," I suggest eagerly.
Seven almost rejects but she sees something in the expression on my face, and changes her mind. We head towards the ship that brought us together, as crewmates, as coworkers, as rivals, and even as friends. We come up short on the gangway when a security officer blocks our path. And I turn on my charm. He realizes who we are and, sheepishly, steps aside.
"We will be late," Seven reminds me.
"Come on, Seven. Only for a few minutes," I try to persuade, but I can't keep the roguish grin from my face. "I'll even let you in my Engineering Room."
Brazenly, she looks me up and down with those baby blue eyes of hers and smiles back. I think I blush and her smile grows even bigger. Then, in a few long strides, she's already ahead of me.
"I suppose resistance is futile," she throws back as I dart to catch up to her.
If we agree on one thing alone, Voyager was the only home either one of us ever really knew.
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