Table of Contents


CH 1 - Second Thoughts

CH 2 - The Real Thing

CH 3 - Philosophical Discussions

CH 4 - Vulcan

CH 5 - Communications

CH 6 - Homebound

CH 7 - Falling Star

CH 8 - Safe Haven

CH 9 - Autumn





















































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































Other J/7 Stories by Enginerd

Chapter 4 - Vulcan

The Vulcan suns shone brightly, causing Seven and Gretchen to squint after transporting down to the planet’s surface.

“Come on, let’s find the apartment and explore,” Gretchen said with a smile, holding one hand over her eyes to block the sun as she grabbed Seven’s arm.

As they walked toward the group of buildings in front of them, Seven noted the older woman seemed to be energized to be on the planet. 

“Have you been on Vulcan before?” Seven asked curiously as they entered a shaded area between buildings that was several degrees cooler.

“Oh yes, several years ago with Edward.  I enjoy exploring planets which unfortunately means running about in a spaceship,” she noted with a wry smile, as she passed an interesting blooming plant, one of many that aligned the walkway.  “Fronis plenoia,” Gretchen announced with a pleased smile, suddenly stopping to enjoy the fragrance.

“You dislike space travel?” She asked, taking care not to bump into the older woman, who just as suddenly as she had stopped, had suddenly restarted her march towards the apartment.

“Yes.  I tend to feel cooped up.  It’s not like being on a ship on the open ocean; no fresh breeze in your face or smells of the sea.”

“One could easily simulate…” Seven offered helpfully, withholding a smile.

Gretchen glared at her.  “I prefer the real thing.  And before you ask, yes, I do prefer ships to transporters – though both are necessary evils,” Gretchen said, quickly glancing back at the pad they had transported to with a frown. 

Seven looked at her curiously, almost bumping into her as she suddenly stopped again. 

“Here we are!” Gretchen said, happily opening up the apartment door.


“. . . then Phoebe tried to jump from the tree to the roof,” Gretchen called out from her small bedroom, quickly unpacking her small bag, shaking her head. 

“Was the front door inaccessible?”  Seven asked, returning from her room, where she had finished unpacking her small duffle bag and portable regeneration unit.

Gretchen chuckled.  “No, Kathryn had just jumped and whatever Kathryn did, Phoebe had to do - and then, try to out do her.”

“Why would the Captain wish to jump from the tree to the roof?”

Gretchen chuckled.  “A physical challenge?  A thrill?  Because it was there?” she said dryly.  “I never did ask her.  Perhaps you should.”

Seven nodded absently; the list of what she wished to discuss with the Captain kept growing.  “You said Phoebe had tried to jump,” she noted curiously.

Gretchen nodded.  “She fell and broke her arm.  She’s lucky she didn’t break her neck,” she said with a heavy sigh, recalling the frightening day.  “Kathryn felt horrible that Phoebe would copy her and get hurt.  Some good did come out of it; Kathryn was much more careful about what she did and Phoebe learned how much Kathryn cared.  At the ripe old age of ten, she took command of the situation, got Phoebe medical attention, and wouldn’t leave her side.”

“If Phoebe truly knows how much the Captain cares for her, then why does she continue to deliberately irritate her?”

“Kathryn has always been an overachiever and successful in, well, anything she set her mind to,” Gretchen said, which was not surprising to Seven; Captain Janeway was tenacious and amazingly successful even when others doubted her.  “Growing up, she tended to be a bit . . . overconfident, at times,” Gretchen offered carefully, noting Seven’s optical implant rise curiously.  “Phoebe believed Kathryn needed to remember that she wasn’t perfect so she wouldn’t become arrogant.” Gretchen said.  “I suppose she still believes that a little,” she added with a wince.

“The Captain is well aware she is not perfect,” Seven countered firmly.  “Had Phoebe been in the Delta Quadrant with her, she would know what her sister had gone through to bring her crew home, the responsibility and guilt she carried with her for making the decision that stranded them in the Delta Quadrant - the only logical one to save a race.  I believe one of her greatest flaws is personally accepting the blame for . . . everything.”

Gretchen looked at the other woman, whose eyes were full of fire. 


In a small hanger off the Science Institute, Seven walked with three distinguished Vulcan scientists towards a small experimental craft.  Seven noted it was much smaller than Voyager’s Delta Flyer and clearly not built for comfort . . . or to be aesthetically pleasing.  Though if the experimental ship was slipstream capable, the passengers would not have to endure the cramped conditions for very long, she considered.

“We have conducted several trials which have had limited success,” Dr. To Pak, the head of the Advanced Propulsion department, relayed.

“May I see your data?”  Seven asked, getting a slight nod of agreement from the Vulcan, who motioned towards the computer console by the craft.  She glanced at the other Vulcan scientists who also did not appear troubled with a former Borg gaining access to their research.  The lack of concern by this accomplished group was . . . pleasing.

She examined the data-filled screens rapidly.  The speed at which she reviewed the information impressed two of the scientists, who shared neutral looks with each other. 

“Would not your assimilation tubes be more expeditious than your ocular interface?” Dr. To Pak asked, causing Seven to pause and look at him uncertainly.

“I did not mean to offend you,” Dr. To Pak offered.

“Curious,” Seven responded, earning a questioning brow.  “I refrain from using my assimilation tubes because they offend others.”

Dr. To Pak considered her words a moment.  “Why would we be offended by use of a more efficient means of data gathering?  That would not be logical.”

Seven looked at the two other Vulcans who subtly nodded in passive agreement.  With a raised ocular implant, Seven returned her attention to the computer and pointed her knuckles towards the screen before three tubules shot out from her hand and attached to the computer, beginning an upload of all the test data.

“Fascinating,” Dr. Sol Tak offered getting slight nods of agreement from her fellow Vulcans. 

“Indeed,” Seven answered as she completed her data transfer and retracted her tubules.  “Your approach to the variable transdimentional matrix coefficient is . . . quite elegant,” she offered approvingly.

Her choice of words appeared to please the Vulcans, who seemed to stand a bit taller.

“Yet insufficient to sustain the slipstream for the duration needed to efficiently transverse the different Quadrants without overheating the engines,” Dr. Sol Tak acknowledged.

“True, however your sinusoidal phase shift coefficient has eliminated most of the navigational instabilities.”

“Only 98.352%,” Dr. To Pak offered with a slight sigh.

“Still, impressive . . . and satisfactorily effective for short duration travel,” Seven offered. 

“Perhaps during your stay you could assist in the refinement of the navigational and field duration deficiencies,” Dr. To Pak suggested with a questioning brow.

“Acceptable,” Seven said with a slight smile.


After dinner in Tuvok’s home, Gretchen chatted with T’Pel as they walked to the door as Seven and Tuvok followed in their own conversation. 

“I do not understand why the Daystrom Institute is not assisting with the slip stream work at the Vulcan Science Institute,” Seven stated, looking at Tuvok curiously.

“Any answer I could give would only be speculation.  However, there are concerns that there are factions . . . ,” Tuvok stated but was interrupted as Gretchen took Seven’s arm and announced “T’Pel, once again I wish to thank you for such a lovely meal.” Gretchen smiled, glancing at Seven, who eyed her arm then the older woman, still getting used to the tactile nature of the Janeways.  She had thought Captain Janeway was unusually tactile, but her mother proved to be much more so.

“I am pleased you enjoyed it,” T’Pel said.

“As am I,” Tuvok noted. 

All looked at Seven, who glanced at the three.  “It was nutritionally sound, thank you,” Seven offered, causing Gretchen to fight a smile.

“Indeed,” T’Pel acknowledged with a slight nod.

“Well, we should get going.  All this traveling is catching up to me,” Gretchen suddenly said with a smile, pulling Seven out of the house.

“Be well, Mrs. Janeway,” T’Pel said.

“Thank you, T’Pel.  Tuvok, good night.”

As they walked away from the house, Gretchen looked at Seven with amusement.  “Nutritionally sound??” she asked quietly.

“It was an accurate assessment,” Seven said, eyeing Gretchen.

“Well, I suppose that was better than saying the soup tasted like lightly salted water,” Gretchen noted, rapping her shawl around her shoulders more tightly.  Vulcan evening temperatures were notably colder than the daytime.

You said it was a lovely meal,” Seven countered, her ocular implant raised.

“It was a lovely meal,” Gretchen said a little defensively.  “And a meal is more than just food, Seven,” she added sagely.  “The company and conversation were very lovely.”

“I see,” Seven said with mild amusement. 

“I just happen to find Vulcan food a bit . . . bland.  Though I do understand their sense of taste is more acute,” Gretchen acknowledged.

“I too prefer Earth cuisine.  Especially your chocolate brownies,” Seven said honestly, earning herself a warm smile.

“Still convinced you can replicate an equivalent facsimile to my brownies?” Gretchen challenged.

“Of course.”

Gretchen eyed her with a smirk and grumbled. “Stubborn girl.”

“Confident woman,” Seven countered.

Gretchen chuckled and dipped her head in acknowledgement.  “Indeed you are.”

Chapter 5 - Communications


Seven retired to her room and programmed the portable regeneration unit on her bed.  Her first full day on Vulcan had been highly productive and remarkably enjoyable, she considered.  Her suggestions on the slipstream project were welcomed and evaluated for application, without hesitation or suspicion of her motives.  Though reluctant to admit it, she was fearful of rejection.  Yet today, the Vulcans had valued her ideas and . . . uniqueness.  Perhaps Captain Janeway was correct in believing she would be free to be a productive member of the Alpha Quadrant.  Though she wished the humans she had encountered would treat her as well as the Vulcans. 

She frowned at the emotional thought, having to acknowledge that it was not accurate; not all humans were like the senior officers and medical personnel in Starfleet Command or Chakotay’s family.  In fact, many humans she had met were remarkably unconcerned with her . . . uniqueness.  However the treatment of her by Starfleet Command, which she had little reverence for in the Delta Quadrant and perhaps even less now, bothered her.  It bothered her even more than the rejection by Chakotay’s family for Starfleet Command was important to Captain Janeway. 

Hearing a tweeping from the communications console in the living area, Seven found herself smiling with anticipation and moving with purpose to respond.

She was surprised to find Gretchen already seated and entering a decryption algorithm. “Huh,” the older woman said with irritation and quickly tried another permutation.

“Perhaps an orthogonal bezel…” Seven suggested, surprising the older woman.

“Ah!! Good Lord, Seven!” she exhaled abruptly, her hand over her pounding heart.

“I apologize for startling you.  Are you all right?”

“After my heart settles a bit,” Gretchen said with quick, pointed glare.  “Here,” she said, getting up from the console and motioning for Seven to take a seat.  “It sounds like you might have a few ideas.”

Seven eyed her, then the computer, before nodding and sitting. 

“I understand the need for caution - but this is ridiculous,” Gretchen huffed.

“The Captain seems to enjoy challenging my decryption skills,” Seven noted. 

“Ah,” Gretchen responded and smiled, knowing she shouldn’t have been surprised.

After Seven tapped in her proposed algorithm, an irritating beep sounded.

“Hmm.  Yes, an orthogonal bezel harmonic, logarithmically amplified was an interesting suggestion,” Gretchen said dryly.

Seven sighed with annoyance and tried a different algorithm.  Finally, after three tries, the decryption attempt succeeded and a familiar, smiling face appeared on the screen, though Gretchen had only seen that smile for Seven.

The small, pleased smile that appeared on Seven’s face was something that transformed the young woman, Gretchen noted. 

“Seventy FOUR seconds, Seven??” Kathryn said with disapproval, then suddenly asked with feigned concern “Are you feeling all right??”

Seven’s pleased smile faded.  “I had help,” she offered flatly, surprising Kathryn and prompting a chuckle from Gretchen.

“That would be me.  Hello, dear,” Gretchen said, leaning down to smile at her daughter on the screen.

“Mom,” Kathryn said warmly.  “Had I known Seven would need some help, I would have made the encryption more rudimentary,” Kathryn added with a smirk.

“Do what you think is best, dear,” Gretchen said noncommittally, making Kathryn laugh and Seven sigh.

“Happy to be planet side, Mom?” Kathryn asked, sipping from her mug of coffee. 

“You know I am,” Gretchen said, eyeing her daughter closely.  “You look tired, but . . . very happy,” she noted, which Seven had also observed.  “Please tell me you didn’t do anything to your sister,” Gretchen said wryly.

“Mom, I didn’t do anything to my sister,” Kathryn dutifully repeated, unable to keep the amusement from her expression.  Even Seven did not believe she was entirely truthful.

“Indirectly, perhaps?”  Seven offered.  Gretchen chuckled.

Kathryn looked at her with surprise.  “Et tu, Seven?”

“A logical deduction, Captain,” Seven said.  “Retaliation is an expected response, considering her unique ability to “press your buttons,” she explained, prompting a look of displeasure on Kathryn’s face.

“She’s not the only one with that ability, dear,” Gretchen laughed, patting Seven’s shoulder.  Seven’s optical implant rose at that observation.  “Well, it’s past my bedtime.  I’ll let you two catch up.  I’ll see you in the morning, Seven,” Gretchen said warmly, giving her shoulder a final squeeze.  “Good night, Kathryn.”

“Sleep well, Mom,” Kathryn said warmly.

Seven watched the older woman leave then returned her gaze to the small screen. 

“How are you, Captain?”

Kathryn smiled.  “Better all the time,” she said; the comment intriguing Seven.  “The Doctor has performed admirably in your stead . . . he’s done a superb job irritating Admiral Nechayev.” 

Seven frowned. 

“Though I’d expect you would have also excelled in that endeavor,” Kathryn offered with amusement.

“Captain, I am concerned with your interactions with Admiral Nechayev.  Is it wise to deliberately provoke her?”

Kathryn eyed her a moment before offering with a small shrug and smile, “Well, it makes the day pass faster.”

“That is what Chakotay said.  However, even with your repeating it, I am equally unconvinced it is prudent,” Seven said with disapproval.

“Well, you don’t have to worry about my encounters with Nechayev too much longer, Seven.  The counsel, excluding Nechayev of course . . . ,” Kathryn added flatly, briefly letting some of her irritation with the Admiral slip through “. . . declared you not a threat to human kind.  You have been granted the full rights and privileges of a member of the Federation,” Kathryn happily announced, surprising Seven.  

“OH!” Kathryn blurted with a bigger smile, if possible.  “You have also been offered several prestigious positions, some within Starfleet, if you want that,” Kathryn said, clearly happier than Seven had ever seen her.  “Just so you know - you haven’t decided yet and are currently taking all the offers into consideration,” she added with an amused smirk. 

Seven nodded absently as she eyed Kathryn curiously, her status and prestigious positions not her paramount concern at the moment. 

Kathryn looked at her thoughtfully before adding softly “I told you Starfleet would come around.”

“If my hearings are concluded, then why are your encounters with Nechayev not yet over?”

Kathryn’s eyes widened slightly before she smiled weakly and sipped her coffee. 

“Captain.  Why are they not over?”  Seven asked firmly.

“Well . . . I’m next,” she said hesitantly. 

“Explain,” Seven said tersely.

“I was the Captain of a ship that had an . . . unusual . . . tour.  It is logical I would be questioned,” Kathryn responded.

Seven frowned.  “You have already been questioned - several times.”

“Well, on the behalf of my crew and their actions.  Now?  I get to answer for my actions and command decisions,” Kathryn said, seeing the irritation in Seven’s blue eyes.

“Which were what got Voyager home,” Seven said tersely, her hands clenching into fists. 

“My methods were . . . not always by the book,” Kathryn allowed and added softly  “You know that.”  If anyone knew “the book” it was Seven of Nine, Kathryn considered, certain the woman had reviewed all the codes and regulations just to argue with her about them.

“Irrelevant,” Seven stubbornly said, clearly angry.

Kathryn frowned.  “Not to Starfleet.  They sort of care about the book,” Kathryn said wryly and added soothingly “It will be o….”

“When does your hearing start??” Seven interrupted.

“Seven…” Kathryn said with a weary exhale.

“When?!?” Seven snapped.

“In about four hours,” Kathryn answered, cringing at the angry look on her face. 

“Unacceptable!  I should be…” Seven said emphatically.

“Seven,” Kathryn interrupted, “this whole thing should be over before you could even . . .”

“I.  Should.  Be.  There,” Seven interrupted slowly and firmly, clearly upset.

“And do what, darling?!?” Kathryn blurted with exasperation. 

“I would ex…plain,” Seven immediately responded then stopped short, blinking.

“Explain what?  The questions will be designed to provoke and it will be difficult enough for me not to finally haul off and slug her,” Kathryn interjected wearily.  “Would you actually be satisfied just listening to her grill me?  And even if you could get permission to attend the hearings, which are closed by the way, she’d find a reason, anyreason, to throw you in the brig – or worse!  And she’d enjoy it - she was behind your house arrest!!”  Kathryn responded with clear frustration.

“You do not need to shelter me, Captain,” Seven said sharply.   “And I am capable of restraint.”

“Seven, you’re taking this the wrong way - having you here for my hearings isn’t necessary and would put you at risk and that is unacceptable,” Kathryn said firmly.

“Perhaps for you,” Seven said, her anger extinguished by the hurt that washed over her from Kathryn’s admission that her presence was not necessary.

“Seven, I’m sorry . . . but I did what I thought was best,” Kathryn said softly but firmly.

Seven exhaled and spoke weakly.  “I believe I understand.”

“Good,” Kathryn said with relief. 

“You do not trust me,” she said miserably.

Kathryn took an uneasy breath, feeling like she had been punched in the gut; she was not prepared for the pain that radiated from the younger woman, pain that she had caused.  “I do trust you.  I trust you completely….” Kathryn blurted with concern, bewildered that Seven could possibly think that.

Seven looked at her, unbelieving.  “Your actions indicate otherwise,” she responded unhappily as pain gave way to anger.

“Seven . . . ,” Kathryn blurted, interrupted by the upset woman.

“You have managed to manipulate me ever since we arrived in the Alpha Quadrant,” Seven accused heatedly, causing Kathryn to blink with surprise.  “You treat me like a mindless drone.  No.  No, you treat me worse.  You treat me like I was an ignorant, incapable child needing supervision; You send me off to Vulcan to avoid complications for you - but that was too far away for your direct control so you sent your mother to monitor and curb my actions,” Seven said, her anger clear and strong. 

“No!  No, I thought . . . ,” Kathryn blinked, nearly dizzy from the angry and erroneous conclusions Seven was accusing her of.  “No, I . . ,” Kathryn blurted helplessly, finding herself unable to defend her actions.  Had she gone overboard?  She quickly began to doubt herself with rising panic.  She had acted, several times, without really giving Seven a choice.

“Do you consider me a friend, Captain?”  Seven suddenly asked in challenge.

The blunt, accusing question startled Kathryn.  “Y . . . yes.  Of course,” she sputtered, wondering how this communication could have deteriorated so quickly from sharing joyful news to an all-out attack.  A deserved attack, Kathryn concluded, growing sick with the thought of controlling events without allowing Seven any real say.  Good God, she hadn’t even thought twice about it, she considered as her dread grew.

“Then why have you never asked me to call you by your first name, as a friend would?”  Seven sneered.

Kathryn took an uneasy breath.  She had desperately clung to that title - to remind herself of her limited place in Seven’s life, to help maintain the needed boundary that grew blurrier the longer she was in her presence.

“I believe it is quite clear how you still view me as a subordinate, how little you value my friendship, how little you trust me to act appropriately,” Seven blurted on her righteous rampage.  “How truly . . . irrelevant . . . I am to you,” Seven added, stumbling over the words as the pain of that thought stabbed at her heart.

“No!” Kathryn exhaled, taken aback by how wrong Seven was.  “Never irrelevant. Never!  I just wanted . . . ,” Kathryn said then stopped herself, again.  Her gaze dropped as she fell silent, unable to continue. 

“What did you want, Captain?”  Seven barked with frustration, seeing Kathryn once again censoring herself.  “Or do you not trust me enough to tell me?” she accused bitingly, making Kathryn wince.

“I never meant . . . ,” Kathryn said, flustered and unable to defend herself, well aware of all the things she had withheld from Seven and why. 

She had accepted Seven’s choices and unexpected relationship with Chakotay, but Kathryn could not accept losing her friendship too.  She had been determined to be a part of her life, determined to help the younger woman adjust in her new, frightening environment, determined to aid her however she could.  But her overbearing actions to accomplish her goals had undermined her very selfish need to still be important to the younger woman, she thought miserably.  Now she had lost her friendship and trust, Kathryn concluded; the pain in her chest too much to bear.

“I’m sorry,” Kathryn said weakly.  “I’m so sorry I . . . I wasn’t a better friend.  I’m sorry I violated your trust,” she whispered, her voice cracking.  With a silent look of sorrow, Kathryn ended the transmission.

Seven stared at the now black screen with surprise.  After a stunned moment, she attempted to reconnect.  If she had thought to analyze her response, she would have considered it highly illogical given her anger, which still churned within.  But the Captain’s apology and palpable anguish resonated within her, managing to push out the anger and leave behind a disconcerting emptiness… an emptiness that could only be filled by Kathryn’s presence. 

After several rapid attempts and failing to reconnect, she let out a frustrated growl and slammed her fist down on the console; the metal buckled into the shape of her fist releasing a small shower of sparks.  She took several long, ragged breaths, which did not help to calm her stormy emotions.

“Seven, are you all right?”  Gretchen asked with concern.  From the loud accusations that drew her to the living area and impressive deformation of the console, she suspected nothing was all right at the moment.

Seven stared at the black screen a long moment before shaking her head no.  “I should be there with her, but she does not need me,” she said in a pained voice. 

Gretchen frowned in sympathy.  “What she needs is to know you are safe, Seven,” she countered gently.

Seven looked up sharply.  “You knew.  You knew the Captain was going to go through this . . . absurdity, judged by people who could never have even contemplated accomplishing what she had,” Seven accused, desperately grasping onto anger like a life raft in the maelstrom of emotions swirling within her; anger was so much easier to understand.  She abruptly stood up and put distance between herself and the only other woman she had put her complete trust in.

“Of course I did,” Gretchen said wearily, surprising Seven.  “The Captain of the ship is accountable for everything that occurs while she is in command,” she lectured.  “It was just a matter of time before they got around to Kathryn.”

Seven hadn’t been thinking that far ahead to recognize that logical eventuality, she considered with great irritation.  She had allowed herself to be pre-occupied with . . . everything about the Alpha Quadrant, she thought derisively.  

“You really didn’t realize the Maquis and your hearings were only a prelude to the main event, did you?” Gretchen asked softly, understanding her frustration.

“I . . . failed to recognize the obvious,” Seven said with disgust.  “Had I realized . . . ,” she said then fell silent as she clenched her fists.  “Why are you not there for her?!?” Seven suddenly accused.

Gretchen sighed.  “Kathryn asked me to be with you.”

“She thinks I am a child, incapable of being alone!” She said angrily, causing Gretchen to wince and shake her head no.  “She thinks I am incapable of controlling my . . . ,” Seven said tersely then frowned, the righteous wind quickly taken out of her sails as she glanced to the recent, destructive results of her anger.  “. . . temper,” she whispered in defeat.  “Perhaps I am a liability,” Seven said despondently.  “Perhaps she should not trust me.”
“Oh Seven,” Gretchen gently admonished, wincing.  “You must know that’s not true.”

“Then why would she push me away?!?” Seven countered heatedly then added in a small, dejected voice “Why does she always push me away?”

Gretchen cringed, knowing Kathryn made them promise not to meddle.  But meddling was subjective, wasn’t it?  She had to do something to make the poor girl understand. 

“You’re right that she wants to protect you, Seven.  And she wants you happy, more than anything,” Gretchen said confidently.

“Your arguments are unsupported,” Seven countered tersely.  “I would be happy being by her side when she faces Admiral Nechayev, yet she denies me,” Seven countered.  “I can only conclude from her actions she does not trust me - that I am a liability,” she said with a pained wince, her gaze drifting over to the damaged console before dropping guiltily.

Gretchen sighed heavily at Seven’s stubbornness.  But given Kathryn’s command decisions on Seven’s behalf and her daughter’s inability to speak what was truly in her heart, she could understand Seven’s insecurities.

“That is so far from the truth, Seven.”

“The truth?” Seven said derisively.  “That is something I am apparently given only when it suits her,” Seven declared angrily.

Gretchen pinched the bridge of her nose.   “Damn,” she muttered.

A familiar gesture, Seven noted.

“Kathryn’s actions, whether you agree with them or not, are all based on a very simple premise, Seven,” Gretchen offered tiredly.  “She cares for you.”

“She severed me from the collective.  She only feels obligated to care for me,” Seven replied coldly.

“Only feels . . . obligated?!?” Gretchen sputtered incredulously.  “For God’s sake, Seven, my daughter is in love with you!” she finally blurted with great exasperation. 

Seven sucked in a surprised breath. 

“And after you reanalyze every interaction, every word she’s spoken, every gesture she has ever made in your presence, and finally acknowledge what I am telling you is, in fact, true, the question you have to ask yourself is - what are you going to do about it?” Gretchen said firmly and waited.

After a stunned moment, as Gretchen expected, Seven reexamined every interaction, every word spoken . . . and unspoken, every gesture, every touch, every smile, every look from the Captain . . . then cross-referenced her only other source of comparison - every interaction, word, and gesture and touch of Chakotay’s. 

The contrast was . . . disturbingly stark.  

What was more telling were her own reactions; she had not considered the absence of communication from Chakotay upsetting, yet she needed to hear from the Captain or her day was not complete.  Her experience of physical intimacy with Chakotay had satisfied her curiosity - yet she did not long for it like she had longed for the presence of the Captain.  She had not even considered being by Chakotay’s side for his hearing . . . yet she felt significantly distressed that she was not given the chance to be by the Captain’s side . . . and worse - deemed “unnecessary.”

But Captain Janeway had not actually done anything to make her feel unnecessary or unwanted, she considered.  She had always supported her, even when Seven felt there was a certain distance between them - a distance that seemed to grow after the initiation of her relationship with Chakotay – a distance the Captain kept to protect herself, Seven concluded with disturbing clarity, recalling how the Captain would constantly refer to Chakotay during her visit.  It wasn’t to remind her family it was to remind herself, Seven thought worriedly.

Gretchen felt bad for the young woman who was clearly struggling with her emotions.   

“I have erred,” Seven said gravely, looking at Gretchen uncomfortably.  “I have injured her,” she added, tears forming in her crystal blue eyes.

“Yes,” she responded, causing Seven to wince.  “And she has injured you.  Love doesn’t protect you from that.  But trust me, Seven, love can heal those injuries,” Gretchen offered gently.   “After all, love is the most powerful thing in the universe.”

Seven’s gaze dropped as she considered Gretchen’s hopeful words.  “For most of my life, I had thought love irrelevant.”

“And now?” Gretchen asked, placing a gentle hand on Seven’s shoulder.

Seven looked into the face of the sympathetic older woman who had been a stranger to her only weeks ago.  Yet today, Seven could not imagine her life without Gretchen Janeway in it. 

“It is inefficient, disconcerting, and . . . inconveniently relevant.”

Gretchen barked a laugh. 

After taking a deep, fortifying breath, Seven announced “I must speak with her.”

A knowing grin formed but faded when Seven proceeded with great purpose to her room.  “Seven?  Where are you going?” Gretchen asked curiously, glancing at the broken communications terminal, having expected Seven to leave the apartment in search of another terminal.

Seven stopped and turned towards her. 

“Earth,” Seven stated simply, then proceeded to her room to pack her things.

“Of course you are,” Gretchen mumbled, pinching the bridge of her nose with a heavy sigh.


Phoebe watched Kathryn sit and stare at the dark communications console for several silent minutes.  She hadn’t meant to eavesdrop, well she had, but in her defense, her perfect sister had never acted so stupidly about anything or anyone before and she was naturally curious if she would finally stop being an idiot and just tell the woman how she felt.  After the angry and utterly ridiculous accusations from Seven, she wondered if Kathryn would ever get a chance.
Drawn by the need to comfort, Phoebe quietly approached her distraught sister, even though all previous attempts to help had been soundly rejected by the fiercely independent woman.  With an uncertain hand, as if it might be lost if she moved too suddenly, she reached out and squeezed Kathryn’s shoulder.

“It will be all right, Kathryn,” Phoebe said softly, startled to see watery eyes glancing up at her.  She had never seen Kathryn cry.  Well, not without a painful physical injury, Phoebe recalled.  Her lips pursed as she considered it was a physical injury – Kathryn’s heart was actually broken.  The stream of tears that finally fell also surprised the younger sister, who instinctively engulfed Kathryn in a fierce hug as her sister let out a muffled sob.

After a few minutes of their teary embrace, the tears slowed and emotions calmed. Phoebe kissed Kathryn’s crown.  “Bet you’re thinking the Delta Quadrant was a piece of cake right now.”

Kathryn let out a small laugh and wiped the tears from her cheeks.

Chapter 6 – Homebound


“Seven, dear, I don’t mean to be picky but . . . isn’t this stealing?” Gretchen said in a hushed tone, clutching her luggage against her as she looked at the lone and very small craft, then around the darkened Vulcan Science Institute hanger.

“I am merely borrowing the craft,” Seven said, tapping her access code into the computer console.

“Uh huh,” Gretchen blurted with a wince.  “And just so I’m clear, this is the experimental craft,” she said weakly as the hatch of the small craft opened.

“Yes,” Seven said, taking their bags and placing them within the small craft as she explained.  “However, most of the navigational instabilities have been eliminated using a sinusoidal phase shift coefficient.  I had not yet considered that,” Seven noted with appreciation and sat in the pilot’s seat.

As she began to tap the startup sequence commands, Gretchen winced.

“Uh, dear?  As interesting as the sinusoidal phase shift coefficient sounds, what do you mean “most” of the navigational instabilities have been eliminated?” Gretchen asked with a wince, poking her head in the small craft to inspect it.

“98.352% of the instability has been eliminated,” Seven readily offered. 

“Oh,” she said flatly, eyeing the craft distrustfully.

“You are worried,” Seven noted.

“Well, I normally wait until an experimental craft has at least 98.723% of its navigational instabilities eliminated before riding in it,” Gretchen muttered wearily, adding “but what the hell,” as she sat down next to Seven, looking over the controls curiously.

Seven eyed her with amusement for a moment, then grew concerned.  She did not want Gretchen to be troubled.

“I do not believe there is need for worry.  However, if you are uncomfortable with this craft, I am certain Tuvok can help you secure a regular shuttle back to Earth,” Seven offered.

“Oh no.  In for a penny, in for a pound, my dear,” Gretchen said with a smile and patted Seven’s shoulder. 

Seven looked at her curiously.  

“Shall we?” Gretchen asked, taking a fortifying breath and forcing a smile.

“Indeed,” Seven said and tapped on the helm controls, bringing the engines to life.


Kathryn emerged from her room dressed for the day.  She still found it awkward to wear the updated uniforms, missing the command red that was replaced by a bland grey upon her shoulders.  She supposed she was a creature of habit.  Seeing another, disheveled creature of habit awake so early in the day, she asked with surprise “What are you doing up?”

“I’ve gone insane and have become a morning person,” Phoebe mumbled, rubbing her eyes before returning her gaze to the coffeepot.

“Replicator would be faster,” Kathryn noted with a yawn, joining Phoebe’s side to stare at the brewing coffee.

“You have time for a decent cup.  And breakfast.”

“Phoebe, I’m not hun . . . ,” Kathryn started to protest but her sister interrupted firmly.

“You’re never hungry when you’re depressed.  But you’re eating.  You need your strength for that bitter, blood sucking bitc…”

“Phoebe,” Kathryn interrupted tiredly.

“… battle-ass,” Phoebe amended with an unrepentant smile.  “I do so love alliteration.”

“I think you mean axe,” Kathryn rolled her eyes.

“Stop hovering and go sit and catch up on Federation News or something.  I’m sure there’s something of interest to distract you,” she said, then noted Kathryn’s hesitance.  “Sit!”

“Yes ma’am,” Kathryn said wryly and sat at the communications console.  She stared at the black screen an uneasy moment, remembering her last disastrous communication.  After a few minutes, Kathryn concluded she really didn’t care to catch up on anything, certain if it was important enough, she’d find out about it at headquarters. 

She returned to the kitchen and sat at the breakfast bar to watch Phoebe finishing up with the bowl of fruit.  “Here you go,” Phoebe said, placing a bowl in front of Kathryn, and poured her a cup of coffee. “Bon appetite!”

“Merci,” Kathryn said weakly, picking up a fork and eyeing the bowl that looked fine; but she wasn’t hungry.  To avoid an argument, she stabbed a piece of strawberry as Phoebe sat down next to her with her mug of coffee and a plate that caught Kathryn’s attention.

“You are having a brownie for breakfast?” Kathryn asked with a smirk on her lips. 

“Your point?”  Phoebe said, and bit a corner off and sipped some coffee, making noises of great pleasure.  “Not bad for a replicator brownie,” she said, still chewing.

Kathryn rolled her eyes.  “A brownie.”

“Will you shut up if I give you some?” Phoebe said with a glare.

Kathryn eyed her, then the brownie thoughtfully.  Phoebe sighed and broke her brownie in half and unceremoniously plopped it onto Kathryn’s bowl of fruit.

Kathryn picked up the piece.  With her eyes firmly fixed on the chocolate breakfast she grew thoughtful and softly said “Phoebe?” gaining her sister’s curious attention.

“Thank you,” she said sincerely before taking a bite. 

A small, pleased smile filled Phoebe’s face before she took a sip of coffee.


During the lunch break, the Admirals emerged from the conference room, followed by several other senior officials.  When Kathryn finally emerged, she was dead on her feet.  As she rubbed the back of her tense neck, a gentle voice startled her.


She turned to find Chakotay, wearing civilian clothes – the Starfleet uniform happily abandoned after the successful conclusion of his hearing and start of his civilian archeology career.  “How is it going?”  he asked, though he could tell from the dark rings under her eyes and look of exhaustion it wasn’t going very well.

She gave Chakotay a weak smile as he joined her side.  “As expected.”

“I’m surprised you are still standing.  You’ve been doing battle since you’ve returned home,” he said, troubled by the exhaustion that radiated from the normally vibrant Captain.  She had not been this exhausted during the Maquis ’ hearings.

“Not exactly since I’ve returned; I did have a nice break in Indiana first,” Kathryn said wistfully, often drawing upon those memories to get her through the day.

“How long do you have?” he asked, glancing back at the conference room.

“An hour.”

“Can I buy you lunch?”

Kathryn nodded with a small smile. 


“Nechayev still as pleasant as ever?”  Chakotay asked, getting a snort from Kathryn, who shook her head wearily and sipped her coffee.

“I’d be in there if it wasn’t a closed session,” Chakotay offered with a small wince. 

His comment hit a nerve.  “Thank you.  Did you know Seven’s session was not closed?  B’Elanna and Harry were there,” Kathryn noted conversationally, eyeing the man whose surprised look answered for him. 

“Well, I’m sure the Doctor was too busy deflecting Nechayev’s barbs to notice my absence,” Chakotay smoothly joked with an uncertain smile.

“He noticed because Nechayev noticed, and mentioned it.  I’m glad Seven didn’t have to explain why her . . . what are you to her, Chakotay?  I’m having a really hard time coming up with the right definition,” Kathryn asked with a tight smile, eyeing him as she sipped her cafeteria coffee.

Though her voice was still conversational, Chakotay knew when Kathryn was not pleased with him.

“Look, Kathryn.  I know I have not been as attentive to Seven as you think I should be, but I have a family who doesn’t approve.  You understand how important family is,” Chakotay said with an earnest look.

“This is not about what I think, Chakotay.  It is about what Seven deserves.  Will she always be second to your family?  Will she always be shortchanged of your time and attention because of your family’s disapproval?”

“Kathryn, Seven has never complained,” Chakotay rebutted with mild annoyance.  “She is very understanding.”

“For now.  She gave you a precious gift, Chakotay - herself.  And in return, what are you giving her?”  Kathryn challenged. 

“She’s the one who approached me,” Chakotay said defensively.  “And I’ve never promised anything more than what we have.”

Kathryn shook her head in disappointment and stood.  “I’ve got to go back.  Thanks for lunch.”

As she started to walk away, Chakotay finally spoke.  “You never did approve of us.  Why is that, Kathryn?”  He challenged, causing her to stop her departure and turn to him.

“You two are my friends and I truly wish you both happiness with your lives,” Kathryn said honestly and started to walk away, but something stopped her.  Something compelled her to slowly turn back towards him and continue. 

“I will say though, I find it . . . remarkable that youcould overcome your instinct to jettison her out an air lock and look past your long-standing distrust of her when she joined our collective,” she said pointedly, oddly satisfied to see him flinch.  “. . . to finally appreciate the amazing individual beneath those Borg implants and ample…,” she said with a pleasant smile, adding pointedly “aesthetics.” 

Chakotay nodded uneasily, knowing Kathryn found it hard to believe he could really love Seven.  She wasn’t alone, he considered thoughtfully.

“Perhaps there is hope for your family too.  Thanks again for lunch,” she said and finally left for the hearing.


Phoebe returned to Kathryn’s San Francisco apartment with an arm full of purchases.  She had bought a few things for Kathryn that she hoped she would like.
As she started to place them down on the table, she jumped, seeing Seven of Nine standing in the kitchen. 

“Ah!” Phoebe blurted, placing a hand on her heart.  “What the HELL are you doing here?!?” Phoebe snapped angrily, marching over to confront the unwanted guest.  “You didn’t think it was enough to accuse her of being a manipulative bitch and crush her over a communications link?” Phoebe ranted with a righteous finger pointing at her. 

Seven flinched with guilt. 

“You just had to come here and finish her off in pers …”

“Phoebe!  Enough!!” Gretchen commanded as she came out of the bathroom.

“Mom??” Phoebe said, growing confused, finally realizing it was impossible for them to be there.  “How did you get here so fast?”

Gretchen sighed and pointed to Seven, whose ocular implant rose.  “She commandeered the Vulcan’s experimental craft.”

“It will be returned,” Seven said a bit defensively.

“Of course, dear.”

Phoebe turned back to the blond and crossed her arms over her chest, glaring at her.  “Whatever,” she said dismissively, trying not to be impressed.  “Unless you intend to apologize to Kathryn, you should leave,” Phoebe said stubbornly.

“Phoebe,” Gretchen said tiredly.

“Interesting.  You have no reservations about tormenting your sister, yet you vehemently protect her against me now,” Seven said, looking at Phoebe in challenge.

“She’s my sister,” she explained with exasperation.  “So are you?” Phoebe asked bluntly.

“I am not your sister,” Seven responded.

“Good God!”  Phoebe said with frustration at the literal answer, pinching the bridge of her nose.  A familiar response, Seven noted with interest.

Gretchen chuckled.

Phoebe looked at her mother with a frown, then Seven who tilted her head slightly and offered.  “I hope Kathryn gives me the chance to apologize.  We have much to discuss.”

After a moment sizing up the blond, who had never been less than brutally honest, Phoebe let out a long, relieved breath.  “Good.  I was wondering how I was going to kick you out of here.”  

“Unsuccessfully,” Seven answered.


“Seven, sit down and join us,” Gretchen said, motioning to the round dining room table where she and Phoebe had been playing cards.  “Your pacing isn’t going to bring her home any quicker.”

“It is late.  She is not here,” Seven said impatiently, continuing to pace.

“It’s only seven twenty.  The hearings have never wrapped up before seven, Seven,” Phoebe said, then snorted with amusement.  “Have you ever thought about going by your given name of Annika?”

“No,” Seven said tersely.

“Hey, it’s just a question, Annika,” Phoebe said innocently as her mother shuffled the cards and glared at her daughter disapprovingly.

“What?” she said, unable to hide the amused smirk. 

Phoebe would have to taunt a former Borg drone, Gretchen considered wryly, hoping that if she did get herself assimilated, Seven would know she really was a good person underneath it all.

The door chime sounded and the women looked at each other curiously before Seven went to the door.  It slid open revealing Chakotay.

“Doctor?”  he asked with surprise.

“Why are you here, Chakotay?” Seven said with a belabored sigh, attempting to ignore her irritation with his inability to tell her from a hologram.

His eyes widened.  “Seven, how did you get here so….” he asked with confusion.

“I suggest you enter - unless you wish to have this conversation in the hallway,” Seven said briskly.

“Oh, yeah,” he said sheepishly and entered with a small smile.  After an awkward moment, he said “It’s really good to see you, Seven,” and took a step towards her.  He found her hand firmly at his chest, preventing a hug.

He blinked with surprise then noted Mrs. Janeway and the Captain’s sister join them.  Chakotay graced Seven with an understanding smile, knowing she was not demonstrative in public.

“Explain your presence,” Seven demanded impatiently as she retracted her hand.

“What’s going on, Commander?”  Gretchen asked pointedly.  Her penetrating gaze was so familiar, he noted.

“Why are you here?” Phoebe questioned more firmly.  Her demanding tone was eerily familiar, he considered.

Chakotay looked between the three intimidating women uncomfortably, knowing none of them were going to be happy with what he was going to say.

“Uh,” he said with a cringe.  “The hearings concluded and there’s a rumor that Kathryn left Headquarters without her comm badge and pips,” he said with a wince.

“What!?!” Phoebe spat with disgust.  “FUCK!”

“Oh no,” Gretchen said with dread, knowing how much Kathryn would be hurt, even after her apparent acceptance that it might happen.

“Unacceptable!” Seven said angrily.  “Who made that decision?!?  I.  Must. Speak. With. Them,” Seven ground out.

“Seven,” Chakotay said soothingly, surprised at her vehemence and reached out for her arm.

She glared at him, causing him to wince and wisely retract his hand.

“Starfleet bastards,” Phoebe spat, sharing a glance with Seven, who agreed with that assessment.

Gretchen went to the communications console and tapped in an address.  The screen activated and the face of a woman came up.  “Alma, dear, is Owen in?”  Gretchen asked pleasantly.

“Gretchen!  It’s so good to see you,” Mrs. Owen Paris said with a smile.  “I’m afraid Owen isn’t home from work yet.  Perhaps you can get him there?” she said helpfully, clearly not aware of their concerns for Kathryn.

“Thank you, Alma.  We should have lunch sometime after this hearing business is all finished.”

“I’d love that.  Take care, Gretchen.”

“You too.”

The screen went dark again as she entered a few commands.  When Gretchen attempted to contact Admiral Paris at his office, she only got to his aide, who politely brushed her off.  Shaking her head, she called up a screen and tapped a few keys, bringing up several security pictures of Starfleet Headquarters.

“Mom?” Phoebe asked curiously.

“I didn’t know we could access the security cameras,” Chakotay said with surprise as they huddled behind Gretchen, looking at the screens as the older woman accessed the video feed of Starfleet Headquarters.

“Once you bypass the security codes,” Gretchen offered, getting a look of concern from Chakotay.

“Very nice, Mom,” Phoebe said with amusement, glancing over to Seven, who remained silent, tensely staring at the screen.  Phoebe’s amusement faded as concern for her sister and Seven grew.

“Thank you, dear,” Gretchen said absently, scrolling through the video feed, carefully watching the Starfleet Headquarters hallways for an auburn haired officer.

“There!” Phoebe called out, unnecessarily pointing to Kathryn.

Seven took in a sharp breath and watched as Kathryn stormed out of an office and marched down the hall.  To her surprise, an older man rushed out behind her, jogging to catch up with her.

“Admiral Paris,” Chakotay noted with interest.

The two stopped and started to talk.  “Where’s the sound?”  Phoebe asked.

“Let’s see,” Gretchen said, tapping a few more keys and scrolling back to the Admiral jogging up to her.

“Kathryn, please!  Be reasonable!”

“Reasonable?!?  For God’s Sake, Owen!  What did you expect me to do??  Jump up and down for joy that you offered me her JOB?”

“Look, I know the timing was poor…” he said with a wince.

“Poor?!?  It was beyond poor it was . . . reprehensible!” she spat.

“It was poor judgment,” he allowed.  “We weren’t thinking, we were just relieved to have Starfleet finally acknowledge she had to go.  And you are exactly the kind of officer we need, Kathryn.  You should be proud that …”

“Proud?  Proud?!?” She blurted, enraged.  “I pushed a fellow officer over the edge in a horribly humiliating way, Owen.  I don’t feel proud, I feel like I need a shower!” she spat. “You could have dealt with the situation earlier.  And you should have,” she said heatedly, pointing an angry finger at him.  “But neither you nor Stockdale had the spine to do it.  You waited for a convenient opportunity so you didn’t have to actually confront her or anyone who supported her.  You exploited the situation.  You exploited me!”

“She was always paranoid and always scheming.  And she had too many powerful friends.  Anything we did could have easily backfired. . . .” Owen blurted, trying to explain.

“And I walked right into the middle of it.  Too eager to help my old friends and mentors get her erratic behavior on record, too damn arrogant to realize it could have backfired on my crew!” Kathryn said with disgust, pinching the bridge of her nose.

“But it didn’t backfire and you and your crew have bright futures!  You did the right thing for Starfleet.  For god’s sake Kathryn, we are all indebted to you.  And you shouldn’t beat yourself up over this.  We didn’t know she had severe psychological problems,” Owen said consolingly.

“No.  We didn’t,” she said in resignation, getting Owen to exhale with relief.  “But we should have,” she said with self-loathing, reaching up to her pips and taking them off.

“Kathryn?!?” Owen said in shock as she took off her comm badge.  “What are you doing?!?”

“The only thing I can do,” she said hoarsely, grabbing his hand and placing her pips and comm badge in it.  A stunned Admiral Paris stared down at his hand in disbelief.

He looked up again to see her back as she walked out of Starfleet. 

“No!  Kathryn, be reasonable!”

“Well, Fuck,” Phoebe exhaled as Chakotay rubbed the back of his neck and nodded.

“Phoebe,” Gretchen softly scolded her and shook her head tiredly.  She glanced up to Seven, finding her staring at the screen with tears in her eyes. 

Chakotay looked at Seven uncomfortably, having never seen such emotion from her before.  He reached out and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. 

“The only comfort I desire is to know Kathryn Janeway is all right,” she said, briefly glancing at his hand with irritation.

His eyes widened as he awkwardly retracted his hand.

Phoebe and Gretchen looked at each other.  “I’ll start packing,” Phoebe quickly said, heading to the guest room.  “I’ll join you, dear,” Gretchen said, following her daughter.

“I will arrange transport,” Seven announced, giving Gretchen pause. 

Seven noted the older woman stop and look at her with unease.  “A hovercar,” Seven offered with a sigh.

Gretchen smiled with relief.  “Yes, dear.”

Seven nodded and went to the communications console to accomplish the task.

“Transport . . . to where??” Chakotay asked.

“Home,” Seven said, glancing up to find a confused wince.  “The Janeway farm,” she amplified.

Chakotay looked down thoughtfully, a niggling suspicion he had always held bubbled up.  He nodded with a small, self-conscious smile.  “I never really was your first choice, was I?”

Seven eyed him.  “Given I had not considered the plausibility of considering the Captain until very recently or that love was relevant, you were my first choice of possible mates.”

Chakotay could not help but let out a strangled laugh at the thorough decimation of his ego.  “Ouch.”

“I did not mean to offend.”

“So, I guess this means our relationship is . . . terminated,” he joked weakly.

“I believe it was terminated once we entered the Alpha Quadrant,” she noted matter-of-factly.  “Though neither of us recognized it.”

He nodded guiltily.  “I suppose you’re right.  I’m sorry I couldn’t have been . . . better for you,” he said. 

“Do not be sorry.  Our relationship has given us both insights on what we require in a mate.  You require someone who can fit into and be accepted by your collective.  I am not that someone.”

“And you require….?” Chakotay asked, though he really didn’t need to.

“Kathryn Janeway.”