The Journey Home

A Star Trek: Voyager Story (J/7)

By Enginerd


Authorís Notes: This J/7 story follows A Fine Line.  Reading the previous story, while encouraged to understand the development of the characters, is not necessary as The Journey Home is written to be a stand alone work.

Synopsis: Recovering from dangerously poor decisions, Captain Janeway discovers that her relationship with Seven of Nine may be another casualty on her difficult journey home.

- Enginerd (April 2009)


Captainís Personal Log

Diplomatic functions used to be easy.  Well, not exactly easy, but I never used to worry about adding my own complex personal variables to the negotiations.  And Seven of Nine is the most complex personal variable Iíve ever encountered.  With Justin or Mark, I never worried.  I assumed they understood the needs of my job, whether it be the many long hours, sudden trips, or breaking dates to finish up an experiment or polish a presentation.  And frankly, if they didnít understand, I really didnít care.  But now, with Seven, I do.

When I agreed to a quiet dinner with Uttuskan Ambassador, Dre Gatta, I thought it a perfect opportunity to make a personal request of their technology.  Unfortunately, Seven didnít appreciate the way Dre Gatta was monopolizing my attention during the reception.  I know she is upset with my decision.  I tried to explain that while Dre Gatta is beautiful and intelligent, sheís not even in the same universe as her. Unfortunately, I couldnít go into more detail since Ensign Kim and Commander Chakotay chose that time to join me, causing Seven to briskly leave me to Ďdo what you think is right.í

I am doing what I think is right.  I want to get us home.  I want to use Dre Gattaís technology.  How is it wrong to try a personal plea to a willing ear to access their proven wormhole technology?  Apparently, I am the only one who thinks it a good idea.  Tuvok suggested I bring an armed escort, though I suspect it was for Dre Gattaís protection since he was well aware of Sevenís displeasure.

Commander Chakotay happily volunteered to chaperone, calling us "you two kids."  I quickly declined his Ďgenerousí offer, getting an amused smirk that I didnít like.  I had an urge to tell him that I was already quite satisfied with Seven and didnít need to pick up the first beautiful alien I saw, thank you very much.  But that would have been childish, not to mention an admission I have not been ready to make to the crew.

A few know of our relationship, and those few have thankfully respected our privacy.

I like having something of my own - something I donít have to share with the crew.  And being experienced in the art of diplomacy, I have successfully avoided the topic, neither confirming nor denying its existence.  But in Sevenís eyes I might have well denied it last night.

Damn.

Computer, end personal log.

 


Chapter 1 - Getting Ready

Captain Kathryn Janeway stood from her computer console in her stateroom.  With a heavy sigh, she turned and headed into her bedroom to change for "The Dinner."

After donning her formal, dress uniform, she looked into the mirror and nodded with satisfaction.  Impressive, if she did say so herself. The command red of her tunic complemented her hair and complexion.  She smirked, wondering if anyone had ever made a career decision based on the color of the tunic.

She could have worn civilian attire, but she did not want to send the wrong signal.  This was business and Dre was an exceptionally perceptive woman. She would understand this was not a "date."

Wouldnít she?

Kathryn suddenly looked at her reflection with alarm.  What if Dre Gatta still wanted more than dinner and conversation? She, of course, would have to refuse. But Dre was a persistent woman.  Kathryn cringed at the thought of navigating such a potentially disastrous evening with her technologically advanced host. Doubts about the wisdom of her decision washed over her.  She closed her eyes with a grimace.  When her eyes opened, she tapped on her comm badge.

"Mr. Kim, please establish a secure line to Ambassador Gatta."

"Yes, maíam," Harry responded. "You have a secure line on your console now, Ops out."

The image of the beautiful Ambassador appeared on Kathrynís screen. "Kathryn? Donít tell me the efficient Captain Janeway is running late," the woman grinned.

"I wanted to tell you I cannot join you for dinner," Kathryn said uncomfortably to her view screen and sat down.

"Is everything all right?  Is there anything I can do to help?" She asked with concern, making Kathryn feel even more uncomfortable.

"No - thank you.  Everything is fine.  I just realized how much it would hurt my partner if I went to dinner with you."

"Your partner??" Dre responded with alarm. "Kathryn, I didnít know.  I never meant to insult either of you with my attentions during the reception . . . ."

"Please, Dre, thereís no need for an apology.  If anyone should apologize, it should be me," Janeway admitted grimly.

"Why?" Dre asked.

Kathryn took a deep breath and grimaced. "I made a mistake.  I thought time alone with you would give me the opportunity to convince you we would not share your technology with anyone.  I didnít anticipate how unhappy it would make my partner."

"So you would give up the technology for your partnerís happiness?" She challenged curiously.

"In a heartbeat."

"I donít know whether to think you foolish, or a woman of great loyalty," Dre Gatta tested her curtly, eyeing the Captain with interest.

Instead of being insulted, Kathryn smiled slightly.  "You left out one other possibility - a woman with great fear of retribution," Kathryn said dryly, causing a deep laugh from the other woman.

"Politicians would call that Ďwisdom,' Kathryn," Dre Gatta corrected with a grin.

"Perhaps.  Unfortunately, Iím a bit slow at times.  I have to see Seven and set things right with her."

"Well, it seems your diplomatic skills will be exercised this evening after all.  Good luck, Captain."

"Thank you, Ambassador.  Janeway out."

***

Captain Janeway was a sight to be seen in her dress uniform, adorned with full medals that jingled as she briskly walked through the corridors of her ship with a red rose in hand. Drawing more than a few curious gazes, Janeway acknowledged each and every one with a polite smile and nod.  For the first time she could recall, she was actually amused by nosey crew members, who were dying to know why she was walking around with a rose.

Arriving at Cargo Bay 2, Kathryn paused to take a deep breath, then stepped inside.

"Computer, increase lights to 40%" she said.

"Increasing lights to 40%," the soothing feminine voice responded.

Kathryn paused and a small sigh of appreciation escaped as she watched the lovely blond regenerating in her alcove, looking so . . . peaceful. Guilt washed over her as she recalled how upset she had made Seven by accepting Dre Gattaís invitation. Slowly she approached and stepped up on the dais and looked at the young womanís angelic face. Her eyes dropped to her lips.  With a pull as fundamental as gravity, she couldnít help but lean in.  After a whisper of a kiss, she pulled back and waited.

Somewhere between a fading dream and growing consciousness, Sevenís lips curved into a ghost of a smile.

"Warning, regeneration cycle is incomplete," the pleasant computer voice announced as Sevenís eyes opened.  Surprise was evident in her eyes as they searched Kathrynís.

"Are you not late for your . . . date?" Seven asked uncomfortably.  Her eyes dropped, finding a beautiful red rose in Kathrynís hand.  Her heart clenched with sadness; until now, she had been the only recipient of Kathrynís flowers.

"I cancelled."

Sevenís eyes shot up with surprise. "Why?" She asked with amazement.

"The whole situation . . . ," Kathryn said with frustration and blew out a long breath. "Well, it wasnít comfortable and I told Dre Gatta accepting the dinner invitation made my partner unhappy, which was the last thing I wanted so I . . . ." Kathrynís explanation was interrupted when Seven pulled her into a kiss.

As their lips parted, Kathryn smirked with amusement. "I take it you finally agree with a decision of mine."

"No, I do not," Seven said bluntly.

Kathryn stared at her with confusion that turned into a frown as she waited for the explanation.

"I was wrong to limit your ability to negotiate.  You had a chance to use your considerable diplomatic skills and personal charm to obtain the technology and get the crew home.  I was selfish and did not want to . . . share you."

"Seven, there wasnít going to be any sharing," Kathryn said tersely.

"Past actions and logic would lead me to conclude that you would use whatever advantage you had to secure the technology for the benefit of the crew," Seven said evenly.

"For Godís sake, Seven, Iím not about to prostitute myself for a ride home!  I love you.  YOU.  I am a one-woman woman," Kathryn blurted forcefully.

"What if a man or asexual being . . . ?"

"I want you," Kathryn interjected, eyeing the MOST difficult being she had ever met. "Only you, Seven," Kathryn declared, firmly holding out the flower for her lover.

Sevenís eyes dropped to the red rose, which she slowly accepted. "I feel the same," she added softly.

"Good," Kathryn said with a pleased smile and kissed her quickly.  "Now if youíll excuse me, thereís something else I need to take care of thatís long overdue," she announced grandly and departed on a mission.

Sevenís head tilted curiously as she sniffed the pleasantly fragrant rose, watching Captain Janeway march out of the Cargo Bay with great purpose.

***

The appearance of the Captain on the bridge in her dress uniform surprised the crew.  Even Tuvokís brow rose high in surprise.

"Captain on the bridge!"  Harry immediately announced and snapped to attention; the bearing and dress of Captain Janeway demanded no less.

"Captain?" Chakotay said, standing from her chair.  "What happened to your dinner with Dre Gatta?"

"A change of plans, Commander.  Harry, put me through to Seven on general comms."

"Captain??  The entire crew will . . . ." Harry quickly responded with concern.

"I think I recall the communications schematics, Ensign.  Do it," she ordered briskly.

"Yes, Maíam!" He said and tapped a few buttons and nodded when done.

***

Seven smiled as she placed her flower in a vase and set it on her console in Cargo Bay 2, infinitely relieved Kathryn gave it to her . . . and not Dre Gatta.

"Kathryn to Seven of Nine."

Seven looked at her flashing console with alarm.  The link wasnít secure.

"Captain, you are on a ship-wide channel," Seven quickly informed her.

"I know," came a warm replyWith more formality, Captain Janeway continued.  "Would you allow me the pleasure of your company for dinner and a little dancing this evening?  Iíll even let you chose the destination, since I chose the last time . . . well, the last few times."

Sevenís heart pounded.  Kathryn had just told the entire crew they had been seeing each other!  An amazed and pleased smile appeared.

***

Ensign Samantha Wildman looked up from the bed-time book at her smiling daughter with surprise.

"Donít tell me you didnít know?" Naomi asked her mother.

Samantha shook her head with amazement. "How did you know?!?" Samantha challenged with disbelief.

"Iím the Captainís Assistant.  I know things," she said superiorly.

"You know things, huh??" Samantha smiled, then launched a tickle attack. "What else do you know?"

"Iíll . . . never. . . tell!!" Naomi declared between fits of giggles and squeals.

***

Chell froze in front of the pot of stew with his tray and blinked.

Nelix let out a delighted giggle and served Chell an extra big portion of the dense food that almost made him drop the tray.

Chell looked at his tray and frowned.

***

Chakotayís jaw dropped as his mind tried to wrap around the fact that Seven and Kathryn . . . that they . . . together . . . were . . . intimately.

Tuvok sighed and continued his diagnostics of the phaser bank.

Harry blinked and looked suspiciously at Tom, wondering if this was some sort of practical joke, especially since Tom Paris was quietly chuckling.

The olí gal finally let the cat out of the bag, Tom thought, wishing he could see BíElannaís face.

***

With a raised pointed brow, Vorik looked at BíElanna, who stopped her alignment of the auxiliary warp core control panel. She wasnít sure if she was hearing things or not. She certainly didnít expect Captain Janeway to ever be so . . . public.

"A logical paring, would you not agree?" Vorik noted and handed BíElanna a tricorder.

"Vorik weíre here to align the panel, not gossip," she said tersely.

"Of course."

***

"As I thought you were otherwise engaged, I had made plans."

Kathryn winced, then glanced over with annoyance to the helmsman, who was now laughing.  He was well aware of how upset Seven was with Dre Gattaís dinner invitation and more importantly, with Captain Janewayís acceptance.  With a force-ten glare, Kathryn quickly quelled the young manís amusement, which interestingly, also prompted a sudden improvement in posture.

"However, I am able to cancel them."

"How fortunate," Kathryn replied dryly.

"Indeed - as I would love to join you again, Kathryn."

"Wonderful.  Iíll meet you at Holodeck 2, at 2030?" Kathryn said, feeling an unbelievable sense of lightness.

"Acknowledged, Seven out."

Captain Janeway scanned the stunned bridge crew with mild amusement.  No one knew what to say.

"Well, Iíve got to go, donít want to be late for my dinner date.  You know how Seven is about punctuality.  Oh, and Commander?" she said to Chakotay as she dusted off an imaginary speck from her dress uniform by her impressive display of medals.

"Huh? Uh, yes?" He said, sluggishly looking at her and blinking.

"Youíve got the bridge," she said with great pleasure and left for the turbo-lift.  When the doors shut, the bridge was still silent, except for Tom, who chuckled.

***

"You look lovely," Kathryn smiled as Seven met her at the entrance to Holodeck 2.  The former Borg wore a knee-length black dress that tempted Kathryn to suggest they just skip dinner and retire to her quarters.

"Thank you.  I chose this dress because it complements your uniform."

"I think it complements you even better, Seven.  Shall we?" Kathryn said, offering her arm which the young woman smoothly took.  As the couple entered the Holodeck together, two crew members passing by the entrance spotted them.  Looking at each other, the crewmen grinned and proceeded to their stations.

***

Kathryn held out the chair for her companion, then sat down at their secluded table as a waiter came.  "Why donít you order for both of us?" Kathryn said, enjoying the desired look of surprise as she handed her the menu.

"Many of your actions this evening have been unexpected, Kathryn," Seven admitted, accepting the menu.  "While I had expected you to inform the crew of our relationship eventually, I did not anticipate a ship-wide announcement."  Blue eyes sparkled happily.

Kathryn chuckled then sobered up as she looked at Seven.  "I am sorry," she said with surprising seriousness.

"Although unexpected, I must commend your efficiency," Seven countered.

"No, I meant . . . I should have acknowledged Ďusí sooner.  I know I hurt you.  And for that I am so very sorry," Kathryn said, looking into Sevenís eyes with such sadness. Seven reached out and covered the older womanís hand.

"I can not say I was pleased by your silence.  Though, I do understand it."

"You do??"

"You are the Captain.  Having a relationship with someone who is considered part of your crew is something you had to get comfortable with before you could be comfortable informing the others."

"That wasnít the problem," Kathryn said softly.  Sevenís head tilted as she looked at Kathryn curiously.  "I am more than comfortable with you and Ďus,í Seven.  I have just enjoyed the privacy weíve had.  Having a wonderful secret.  Besides, people will act differently toward us when they know.  I guess, I just wanted to hold onto that secret and postpone that change."

"Do you think your relationship with the crew will be damaged as a result of knowing?" Seven asked with concern.

"NO!" Kathryn responded with alarm. "No, I just, it will be different and I didnít want to face . . . that," Kathryn concluded with a wince, knowing her explanation was horrible.

"I do not understand," Seven admitted with a frown, human relationships were irritatingly imprecise.

"Iím not sure I do anymore either," Kathryn sighed, rubbing the bridge of her nose.

"Why did you decide to share this now?" Seven asked to the relief of Kathryn, who knew she could explain that.

"It wasnít fair to you. People should act differently towards us. I brought on this whole awkward situation with Dre Gatta because of my silence.  And I am not going to let that happen again," Kathryn vowed, brining a smile to Sevenís face.  Kathryn chuckled softly and added "I am pretty sure I wouldnít have been too pleased if Dre Gatta asked you to dinner."

"I would not have accepted," Seven offered softly, quickly extinguishing Kathrynís mirth.

"I am so sorry," Kathryn said miserably.  She kept hurting Seven with her thoughtless words . . . or lack of words.

"Kathryn, you do not need to repeat your apology.  I have total recall of all our conversations," Seven said, then added with mild amusement. "Or have you forgotten?"

Kathryn felt the weight of guilt lessened by Sevenís buoyed spirit. "So you find it redundant that I keep telling you that I love you??" Janeway asked innocently.

"On the contrary.  To confirm that the assertion continues to be valid, it is essential you tell me and show me frequently," Seven countered, her optical implant rising pointedly.

Kathryn nodded at that truth. "I may misstep, or say something wrong, but I pray you never doubt how much I lo . . . ."

"Bridge to Captain Janeway."

Janeway rolled her eyes with great irritation at Chakotayís voice. "This had better be important," she said in a low, dangerous voice, causing Seven to smile with amusement. With a tap to her comm badge, Kathryn responded. "What can I do for you this fine evening, Commander?" Her voice was painfully pleasant, causing Chakotay to wince.

"Sorry to bother you, Captain, but Dre Gatta wishes to speak with you."

Sevenís amusement vaporized.

Kathryn looked into Sevenís eyes and squeezed her hand. "Would you please tell her that Iím currently having a quiet dinner with my partner and will contact her later? Iím sure sheíll understand."

***

Chakotay faced the large view screen on the bridge and cleared his throat before relaying Janewayís message.  "Ambassador, Captain Janeway is . . . busy," Chakotay said uncomfortably to Dre Gatta, whose brow rose.

"Really?" She said, imposition dripping from her tone.

"Uh . . . she is having a quiet dinner with her . . . partner," he said, stumbling on the idea.  He quickly added "She was sure you would understand" and smiled weakly.

***

After yet another wonderful meal and engaging conversation with Seven, Kathryn finished her wine, then dabbed her napkin to her lips as a preoccupied look crossed her face.

"Does something worry you?" Seven asked, keenly aware of Kathrynís moods.

"No. I . . . well, I . . . Iím sure youíll agree my timing isnít all that great," Kathryn said, then laughed sheepishly, causing Seven to eye her curiously.  "But I donít know if there is ever a perfect time," she said vaguely, looking around the holodeck simulation of a romantic restaurant.  "But I donít want to waste any more of it," she added, looking into mesmerizing blue eyes.  "Though when Iím with you, I tend to lose track of time," Kathryn admitted with a shy smile and small shrug.

"The time is 2154 ship stand . . . ." Seven said, wondering why Kathryn was acting so . . . oddly.

"No . . . I meant figuratively," Kathryn interrupted with a wince.

Seven blinked.  "Explain."  Seven said and watched as Kathryn shifted in her seat uncomfortably.

"What I wanted to say was, well, weíve been seeing each other for many months," Kathryn said, looking at Seven, who nodded slowly, though she didnít know why Kathryn needed her to acknowledge that fact. As she had reminded Kathryn earlier, she had a much more accurate memory of the total time they had spent together, as well as perfect recall of each and every detail of each and every moment. Seven wondered if Kathrynís memory had somehow been damaged, glancing suspiciously to the empty glass of supposed synthenol wine.

"Many wonderful months," Kathryn added with amazement. "And, well . . . I never would have imagined that getting lost in the Delta quadrant would have caused the best. . . ."

"Bridge to Captain Janeway." Chakotayís voice interrupted her.

"Oh for GODís sake!" Kathryn snapped, tossing her napkin on the table and tapping her comm badge roughly. "WHAT!"

Seven eyed her curiously.  While Kathryn did not like to be interrupted, her anger was much stronger than she would have anticipated.  Seven eyed the empty wine glass again with concern.

"Uh, sorry Captain. Ambassador Gatta would like to meet with you - after you are free."

"And this requires my immediate attention?" Kathryn asked incredulously.

"I thought you would want to know she was interested in discussing the wormhole technology with you."

Kathrynís jaw clenched but proceeded to speak in a painfully polite tone again.  "Thank you, Commander.  Tell her I will be available for a meeting tomorrow at 0800.  Oh, and if we should happen to have a red alert?  Feel free to interrupt me again.  Janeway out."

"Perhaps it would be prudent to see her now," Seven said softly, getting a frown.

"No.  This . . . you are more important," Kathryn said emphatically.

"More important than going home?"

"Thatís an unfair question, Seven," Janeway said with irritation, looking at the table with frustration.

"I apologize," Seven said.  "However, you should not miss an opportunity to obtain the wormhole technology."

"Seven, you are infinitely more important than a meeting with Dre Gatta," Janeway said, holding up her hand to forestall Seven from countering. "And you are jumping to conclusions about this discussion she wishes to have.  They are very protective of their technology and while she has considerable pull in her government, thereís no guarantee she will be able to hand over the wormhole technology in its entirety, even if she was inclined to. And anything less, as you have noted from your scans, would take a considerable amount of time to understand, if we ever understand it."

"Even if the probability is low, should you not meet with her now? Dre Gatta does not appear to be a patient woman and I believe we will not get the technology without her help."

"Seven . . . she is the type of woman who manipulates others for a living. She constantly tests others, to see what they are made of and how she might use that information. She knows I chose you over an evening with her. If I jump through hoops to talk with her now, interrupting my evening with you, letís just say, she would not find me worthy of the technology."

"So your desire to be here is based on her opinion of you?"

"What??"

"If you thought she wouldnít lose respect for you, you would go speak with her now?" Seven pressed.

"Seven! My desire to be here is based on my need to be with you!" Kathryn said with amazement.  Her eyes dropped again with frustration.

"I did not mean to upset you," Seven said uneasily, realizing her jealousy was causing Kathryn distress.

"And I did not mean to hurt you," Kathryn said, looking up miserably.  "I love you," she said, hoping Seven would never doubt that fact.

"And I love you.  The thought of another pursuing you makes me . . . emotional," Seven admitted with a pained expression. "I am s..."

Her apology was interrupted by a warm hand that covered hers and squeezed.  "I feel the same way, Seven."

The comment and touch eased Sevenís heart.

"Which is why we should get married," Kathryn suddenly blurted, surprising Seven and herself.  It wasnít exactly the way she envisioned asking, but it was it a logical progression to the conversation - something Seven should appreciate. "I have a ring!" Kathryn added as if needing to sweeten the deal and fumbled a moment before pulling it from a pocket beneath her tunic.  She looked at it and laughed with mild embarrassment.  "Iíve been carrying it with me ever since. . . ."

"Shore leave on Jallai," Seven interjected with surprising certainty as the recalled passion flickered in her eyes.

"Yes," Kathryn said in a surprised whisper, then smiled warmly, pleased with the shared romantic memory.  Her smile faded when she realized Seven glanced at the ring with consternation. "There is a lot to consider," Kathryn blurted quickly. "Thereís our age difference, living arrangements - it wonít be easy to live with me," she joked uncomfortably and blurted quickly. "You shouldnít answer right away. . . ."

"You have not yet asked a question for me to answer," Seven said absently, still staring at the ring.

Kathryn blinked. "Oh. Youíre right. . . ."

Sevenís eyes rose to meet hers at that clearly obvious observation.

". . . of course," Kathryn added with mild amusement at the raised optical implant.  Her amusement faded as she was about to ask the most important question of her life.  "Will you marry me, Seven? My heart is yours.  Completely.  I donít expect an answer right away - I do want you to think about it, but . . . if, someday, you decide that marriage to me is what you want - Iíll be here. Waiting."

Sevenís heart pounded as her eyes lowered to the ring.  "I can not wear it," she said uneasily, causing a stab of pain as Kathrynís breath caught at the outright rejection.

Why did she think this was a good idea, Janeway silently criticized herself.  Seven was still so young.  She was still developing and learning about humanity.  Just because she was highly intelligent and passionate in debate, as well as in bed, didnít mean she would want to be saddled with an older Starfleet Captain, who couldnít devote the time to her she deserved.  She should be happy that Seven was with her now and not try to press for anything more than Seven could or should give.

"It will not fit over my mesh," Seven explained with concern, prompting Kathryn to expel a strangled "oh" as she tried not to be overwhelmed by the relief that washed over her.

Gathering her wits, she knew she needed to address Sevenís concern.  "I was thinking weíd wear our rings on our right hands.  Many Earth cultures, including your ancestorsí, wear the ring on the right hand.  But if you wish to wear it on the left, Iím confident I can alter the size adequately to fit," Janeway said with a warm smile.

"I will wear it on my right hand," Seven said definitively, then stared at it as if it were the Omega molecule. "It is . . . beautiful," she said reverently.

Kathryn smiled happily and asked "If you wish to wear it, will you allow me to put it on you?"

Seven nodded silently as Kathryn took her right hand in hers.  "You havenít answered yet and I donít want to assume.  Will you marry me, Seven of Nine . . . Annika?"

"Yes," Seven breathed with amazement. She watched as a beaming Kathryn slipped the ring on her finger.

"Thank you," Kathryn whispered and kissed Sevenís knuckles.

***

In the far corner of the restaurant, two robe-cloaked Uttuskans watched the happy couple with great interest. "She is providing us with much energy," one said appreciatively.

"More than any other," the other added reverently.

 


Chapter 2 - Home 

Kathryn attempted to extract herself from the possessive limbs of her lover without waking her.  But Seven growled with displeasure as her warm pillow shifted and tightened her grip.

"Darling, Iíve got to get up," she said, trying to sit up in her bed.

"Your shift does not begin for another 81.24 minutes."

"I know but I still have to get up."

"Explain," Seven demanded, holding onto her lover, not intending to release her without a compelling reason.

"Uh . . . I need to go to the little Captainís room."

"Oh," Seven said and immediately let go, having learned the importance of that particular idiom.

As Kathryn walked to her ensuite, she looked over her shoulder to see Seven stretching slowly and sitting up.  The covers fell, pooling at her waist, revealing her magnificent nakedness.  Kathryn smiled with appreciation.  The crew could never have imagined how relaxed the former Borg appeared.  But no one had the privilege of seeing her naked in bed after an amorous night with her lover.  And no one had better, Kathryn considered.  While she suspected Seven wouldnít be the least bit embarrassed and perhaps find it even amusing if someone had, Kathryn knew she would have no other choice than to push the briefly fortunate crew member out an airlock - which would be highly unfortunate for her.  Finding good crew replacements would be difficult, especially in the Delta quadrant, she considered wryly.

When Kathryn returned to the bedroom, tying her robe sash, she found Seven staring at her right hand, and in particular, her engagement ring.  After a silent moment, Kathryn offered.  "I wasnít sure you would want to wear jewelry."

Seven looked up into warm eyes, tilting her head thoughtfully.  "I had thought jewelry irrelevant. But this . . . ," Seven said, looking back at her ring, "pleases me," she finished honestly, bringing a delighted smile to Kathrynís face.

"It pleases me to please you," Kathryn said, looking at Seven with a sparkle in her eyes as she approached the bed.

Her eyes locked on Kathrynís as she reached out to the sash and slowly pulled on one end.  The robe freely fell open.  "That is fortunate for both of us.  You would please me now by showing me you love me," Seven informed her, freely exploring the bare flesh beneath the robe.  Kathrynís eyes shut as she enjoyed the feel of the caress.

"I donít . . . ugh . . . know if we have. . . . oooh . . . enough time for . . ," Kathryn said, struggling to speak as the tactile exploration drifted up to hardened peaks. "Uhgn."

"Then I would advise you not to waste your remaining 75.31 minutes with superfluous discussion," Seven said with challenge.

Kathryn quickly grabbed Sevenís hand, halting her arousing touches.  Answering the curious look, Kathryn claimed Sevenís mouth.

***

"Yes, Ambassador, Captain Janeway knows she had an appointment with you.  Sheís just running a little. . . ." Chakotay said, stalling.

"My apologies, Ambassador," Captain Janeway blurted as she burst onto the bridge from the turbolift.  "I am running a bit late," she noted, appearing a bit flushed as she straightened her uniform jacket and smiled at the image of Dre Gatta on the large view screen.  Seven quietly, but ever-purposefully, emerged from the turbolift and took her position on the bridge.

Chakotay winced as he thought of what had likely caused the Captain an uncharacteristic delay.

"So your Executive Officer said," the Ambassador said evenly, then added "I trust your diplomatic skills were exercised successfully last evening?" Dre Gatta could not help but notice the cold glare from the statuesque blond standing behind Janeway.  Dre Gattaís eyebrow lifted with interest. The blondeís lack of concern about protocol or challenging someone of such a high position was quite . . . attractive.

Kathryn glanced back at Seven with a warm smile, her eyes dropping to the ring she now wore.  "Yes, extremely. If it is still acceptable to you, Iíll be beaming down for our meeting?"

"I look forward to it.  Dre Gatta out."

"Wish me luck," Kathryn said to the bridge crew and headed to the turbolift.  Seven smoothly joined the Captain just before the doors shut.

"So tell me Chakotay, have you ever performed a marriage ceremony?" Tom said with a huge grin.

"Uh . . . no. Why?" Chakotay asked with confusion.

"You didnít see that ring?" Harry offered with amazement.

"What ring?"

Tuvok sighed, unsure which was more irritating, the gossiping or Chakotayís obliviousness.

"Yeah.  It was practically glowing - almost as much as the Captain," Tom said with amusement.

Tuvok finally looked up from his console.  "I am certain the Captain would not appreciate your gossiping about her, especially while on duty."

Harry cringed.

"Ah come on, Tuvok.  Sheís happy.  Itís just really good to see," Tom responded, swiveling his chair towards the Commanders.

Tuvokís brow rose thoughtfully. "Indeed."

"Captain Janeway was wearing a ring?" Chakotay asked with confusion.

***

"Youíre upset," Janeway said to Seven after the lift started to head towards the transporter room.

"My feelings are irrelevant."

"Computer, halt turbolift," Janeway said with irritation, turning toward the tall blond.

"Turbolift stopped." The pleasant computer voice responded.

"Your feelings are always relevant to me, Seven."

Sevenís hard face softened.  "I donít trust Dre Gatta," she admitted.

"Yesterday you were upset I was going to dine with her.  Then last night, you were practically pushing me to the transporter room to see her.  Now you are worried again??" Kathryn said, confounded by Sevenís changing attitude.

Seven started to respond but exhaled heavily and dropped her eyes in frustration.  "My feelings are making me . . . illogical. I apologize."

Kathryn exhaled heavily.  "Seven, Iím sorry too. And feelings are rarely logical," she said, taking Sevenís mesh-covered hand and squeezing.

"Unfortunate," Seven said somberly.  Kathryn had to smile.

"Well, I donít want you to worry.  Iíll be back before you know it.  I just need to see if we can get this technology," Janeway said with determination.

"I know," Seven said with soft disappointment. "Computer, resume turbo lift," she said.

***

Seven returned to the bridge and stood at her post, well aware of the eyes on her.  She chose to ignore them.

Chakotay paced on the bridge, occasionally peeking over the shoulder of Tom or Ensign Venditto to check their console readings.  He migrated his way up to the upper level. Seven looked over to Tuvok, who sighed at how transparent the executive officer was being.

"So Seven . . . how are you?" Chakotay asked with a friendly smile.

"I am well, Commander," she said crisply, not returning the same question as her etiquette classes would recommend to facilitate the expected cordial "small talk."  She was not feeling particularly cordial nor in the mood for any form of conversation - not to mention she was on duty.

"Good. Good. So . . . I see you are wearing a ring," he said with an uneasy smile.

"Correct," Seven said bluntly, hearing a distinct snort from the helm.  Although looking in that direction, she saw no outward indications of anything less than professional behavior from the pilot.

"Hmm.  Youíre not one to normally indulge in . . . jewelry."

"Correct," Seven said again, now hearing a strangled cough from Harry, whose eyes were fixed on his OPS panel.

"Commander, perhaps it would be more expedient to directly ask the question you wish to be answered.  I do not predict your current line of questioning will extract the desired answer before the end of the shift," Tuvok said, getting Chakotay to blush with embarrassment.

"Or before we reach the Alpha quadrant," Tom muttered.

"Youíre right. Iím beating around the bush," Chakotay admitted sheepishly, scratching the back of his neck uneasily. "So Seven, does that ring mean youíre engaged to marry Kathryn?" he asked, glancing at the striking ring.

His use of Kathrynís first name irritated her.  However, his sincere interest and small smile squelched her desire to throttle him.

"Yes. Captain Janeway asked me to marry her last night and I accepted," she offered, proudly standing taller.  It felt good to be free to share this with the crew.  Even Chakotay.

"Woo Hoo!" Tom whooped.  "I bet itíll be one hell of a wedding!"

"Have you picked a date?" Harry asked excitedly.

"Whoís going to be in your wedding party?" Tom blurted before Seven could respond "negative" to the previous question.  He added with a grin "Iím available."

"Youíre volunteering to be the brideís maid?" Harry asked with a smirk.

"Noooo.  Iíd be the best man," Tom said as if it were obvious.  His brow furrowed as he looked at Seven.  "Whoís going to be the groom?"

"Seven, of course," Harry quickly interjected with certainty.  "Sheís taller."

"So tell me Harry, if you marry a taller woman, does that make you the bride?" LT Paris smirked smugly.

"Of course not," Harry said with irritation.

"Well, then why would Seven be the groom?  Besides, donít you think the Captain is more . . . groom-ish?" Tom offered.

Tuvok sighed and reviewed the sensor logs.  Chakotay winced, wondering who really was more "groom-ish."

Seven glanced between the two young men as if she were observing a spirited velocity match, wondering if the question had any relevance.

***

Seven, flanked by Tuvok and Chakotay, stood at the transporter pad with anticipation, waiting for the Captain to return from her first day of negotiations.  It had been a long, frustrating day for the crew, not having received one word from the Captain during her periodic check-ins on how it was going.

Finally, the expected energy beam appeared and transformed into the solid, pleasing form of Captain Janeway.  Seven searched Kathrynís face for any indication of how things went. Seeing Kathrynís guarded expression, Sevenís heart dropped, knowing how much Kathryn hoped this Uttuskan technology would get them home.

Kathryn looked at the trio and sighed heavily before offering a grin.  Turning towards her love, she held out a data crystal.  "Seven, I think this is everything we need.  I want you and BíElanna to review the technology and report to me your findings," she said, holding out a data crystal.

"I did not anticipate you would get possession of the technology so quickly," Seven allowed, stepping towards a beaming Kathryn to receive the crystal.

"Nor did I," Tuvok agreed, joining Sevenís side.

It wasnít often when she surprised both Tuvok and Seven, Kathryn considered with a satisfied smile.

"Well, I for one, am not going to look a gift ride home in the mouth," Chakotay said delightedly.

"Weíre not home yet, Commander.  Weíve got a not-so-little issue with hull stresses to overcome," Kathryn cautioned, attempting to restrain her own excitement.  "Seven, you and BíElanna should also scrub the Uttuskanís recommended hull modifications," Janeway said.

"Of course," Seven said, sounding offended that Kathryn would believe she might place her trust in the Uttuskans or their calculations without a thorough evaluation.

"Of course," Kathryn repeated, withholding an amused smile as Sevenís ocular implant arched as she looked at the crystal skeptically, then her, before leaving to accommodate her Captainís request.

As Janeway watched Seven depart, her face lit up with a warm smile that Chakotay couldnít help but notice.

"So . . . you asked Seven to marry you?" Chakotay asked Kathryn, who was startled at the question, not used to discussing her love life.

"I did," she responded as a very pleased smile formed. "And she actually said yes."

"Itís the talk of the ship," Chakotay said with amusement and added with a smirk "Of course, Nelix is more excited than Iíve ever seen him."

Captain Janeway looked at him with alarm.

***

Kathryn Janeway sat anxiously in her Captainís chair, checking the readings on her console one more time.  Like the crew, she had a nervous energy which caused her to triple check everything she had already double-checked.  Finished with her checks, she got up to pace, almost colliding with Chakotay.  "Sorry," he said awkwardly and migrated over to BíElannaís station.

Kathryn looked over to Seven, who had an amused sparkle in her eye, causing her to frown and sit back down to quadruple check readings she had just triple-checked.  She looked up to the viewscreen where bright blue tendrils of energy seemed to wrestle each other within the orbiting gate as the planet-side device tried to align them.  After many anxious minutes, a coherent blue-white tube, woven from the energy strands, formed.  It was beautiful, Kathryn noted.  She blinked when that image was replaced by the familiar face of the Uttuskan Ambassador who hailed them.

"The worm hole has been established and is ready for your transport," Dre Gatta announced authoritatively.

Janeway stood and stepped towards the screen. "The crew and I thank you for your help, Ambassador Gatta," she said with a heartfelt smile.

The attractive Ambassador returned the smile with a small nod. "Good journey to you," she said before the transmission ended.

Kathryn briefly glanced back to Seven with a wary "here we go" expression before returning to her seat and ordering crisply. "All right, Mr. Paris, lets go home." Captain Janeway looked at the screen again and after a deep breath, gave her order.  "Warp 7, engage."

"Aye, Aye, Captain!" Tom said with great enthusiasm.

This was it, she considered anxiously.  Hopefully.  Either they would be home shortly, or she and Mr. Nelix would have some major morale issues to deal with - including her own.

The ship vibrated as Voyager soared through the electric blue opening of the artificial wormhole.  Everyone quickly grabbed hold of something, struggling against the unexpectedly violent ride.

"Report," Captain Janeway barked, concerned with the shipís shuddering as the view screen became a blur of electric blue and white streaks.

"Shields holding. Engines steady at warp 7!" Harry said excitedly, steadying himself with one hand as the other tapped through the various screens.

Janeway couldnít blame his excitement.  Her heart was racing so fast she almost thought of calling for the Doctor.  She glanced over to Seven of Nine, who looked up from her screen. "The ship is operating within normal parameters, the elevated hull stresses are well within calculated values."

"LT Torres, canít you do something about the inertial dampener to smooth this ride out??" Janeway said impatiently.

"Captain, I am increasing power to them, but I will not be able to completely eliminate the vibration."

"Very well," she responded then muttered irritably "Dre never mentioned the bumpy ride."  Vaguely wondering what else Dre Gatta failed to mention to them, Kathryn returned her gaze to the large, uninteresting screen of blurred light as they progressed through the worm hole.  She sighed and looked down at the computer console by her armrest, scanning for any unusual reports.  With the exception of physical comfort, the ride through the wormhole appeared to be going smoothly.  She couldnít help but frown, wondering if it was going perhaps too smoothly.

Her troubled eyes drifted back to Seven.  She wished she could step into her warm embrace and hear, once again, how thorough their preparations had been - how the probability of successfully arriving in the alpha quadrant was 87.46 %, with a 3.34 % chance they would prematurely exit but still be significantly closer to Earth.  But Kathryn didnít have that luxury right now, she sighed. Wondering when she might get the chance to be alone with Seven in the foreseeable future, she became more depressed.

Looking forward, she caught Chakotayís curious gaze. "Youíre worried," he guessed.

"Thatís my job, isnít it?"

***

After the longest 63 minutes Kathryn could remember experiencing, Voyager emerged from the wormhole.  The jostling suddenly stopped and the blurry viewscreen quickly filled with crisp, distinct stars.

The crew fell unusually quiet, as if they expected the familiar constellations to disappear if they uttered a sound.  Even Tuvok looked up from his console, mesmerized by the familiar display of stars.  The only sound filling the bridge was the soft hum of the engines, randomly punctuated by various tweeps and chirps from the computer consoles.

"Seven?" Kathryn exhaled as her heart pounded.  "Where are we?" she asked, looking at the stars she would know anywhere.  She just needed confirmation from the woman she trusted above all others.

"We are in the Alpha quadrant, 2.7 light years from Earth.  Assuming we take no detours, we will arrive there in one day, 12 hours, and 3.6 minutes at our present speed of warp 7," Seven said plainly, without any emotion befitting the monumental occasion.  When Kathryn looked at her with stormy eyes, a small smile filled Sevenís face.  "You did it, Captain," she offered softly to Kathryn.

The only outward indication of Janewayís struggle to control her emotions was the need for her to blink a few times and clear her throat before giving her next order.

"LT Paris, set a course for Earth, warp 7" Janeway said, the words so familiar yet so oddly surreal.  They were actually home.

"Yes, Maíam!" Tom said, snapping out of his own stupor.

"Mr. Kim, let Starfleet know weíre . . . here," Kathryn said awkwardly, glancing around her bridge before slowly sitting in her chair.  They were finally home, she thought, swallowing down the emotion that continued to bubble up. It wouldnít do for the Captain to break down and cry like a baby on her bridge, she reminded herself.

"Captain? I think they know. Iím getting a few dozen hails," Harry said with amazement. "From outposts, starships, commercial ships, and Starfleet command . . ." he rattled off with delight.

"Only a few dozen?" Chakotay said with amusement.

Kathryn looked at him with a smirk. "Donít worry, Commander. I suspect we will be getting more attention than we know what to do with."

 


Chapter 3 - A New Beginning

Captain Janeway smiled.  Even after seeing so many amazing sights in the Delta quadrant, she couldnít help but think the current sight filling the mess deckís viewports was the most beautiful - the bright blue oceans of the planet they now orbited, Earth. Turning towards the crowd, she immediately spotted Seven of Nine, who always stood out in any gathering.  Kathryn had to amend her conclusion of what sight was the most beautiful as she smiled at the most beautiful sight of all.

Raising her flute of champagne to the group, the excited murmur settled and Janeway spoke.  "Starfleet crews are expected to seek out new civilizations, to venture where no one has gone before," she said, then grinned.  "Though I suspect no one assigned to Voyager could have anticipated how true that was going to be." The crowd responded with a friendly chuckle.

"We have faced both amazing and frightening things - including the unprecedented and necessary merging of a Starfleet and Maquis crew.  Iíll leave you to decide whether that was more amazing or frightening," Kathryn said, glancing at Chakotay, who grinned as others murmured with amusement.

"But we succeeded in becoming one crew.  A crew that thankfully added a few valued members," she said, smiling at Nelix, then Seven before continuing "and tragically lost far too many in our journey across a too-often, hostile galaxy.  We were tested to our limits, and sometimes, beyond what we thought our limits were.  But we succeeded. Together. I am honored to have known you and have been privileged to be your Captain."

Raising her flute higher. "To the fine crew of Voyager!" she said with great respect and love for the men and women who surrounded her.

"Here here!" The crew members cheered and started their long-awaited and well-earned celebration.

Kathryn sipped her champagne and started towards Seven but was interrupted.

"Captain!" Chakotay said anxiously, immediately at her side.

"What is it, Chakotay?" Janeway said a bit impatiently as she looked through the crowd.  Seven and she had to receive a shuttle of VIPs that were expected to arrive any moment; two of the VIPs were Kathrynís immediate family.

"I need to talk to you . . . on the bridge," he blurted awkwardly; the gathering was incredibly distracting and he thought someplace quieter would help.

"Why? Harry has the conn.  Whatís wrong?" Kathryn started to grow concerned with her first officerís demeanor.  Before he could answer, a ship-wide announcement was made that caused a new swell of excitement onboard.

"ETA of Shuttle Oceania is five minutes. Honor guard, report to shuttle bay stations."

Kathryn looked towards Seven with a smile of anticipation.  Her family would finally meet the most important person in her life.

"Uh . . . this isnít what you think it is," Chakotay said uncomfortably, looking around the full room of celebrants, realizing he was not going to be able to speak with her in private.  Kathryn grimaced at his annoying vagueness.

"What are you talking about?" Janeway demanded with annoyance, not appreciating the delay with so much to do.

Before he could answer, Seven spoke, placing a hand on Kathrynís shoulder.  "Kathryn, it would not be prudent to be late to the receiving line," Seven said with some urgency. Kathryn smiled, taking the blondeís hand and kissing it.  Chakotay looked between the women with surprise.

"Youíre right, darling," Kathryn said warmly, then turned to the confused first officer.  "Chakotay, tell you what. Iíll talk with you right after I introduce my fiancťe to my mother."

"Introduce your fiancťe?" Chakotay said with surprise, looking at their clasped hands again, this time noting a stunning ring on Sevenís finger.

"Thatís priority number one.  If I donít introduce Seven immediately, trust me, there will be hell to pay," Janeway said with amusement.

"I didnít realize . . . ." Chakotay said absently, looking between the two women with confusion.

"How many glasses of champagne have you had, Chakotay?" She said with a frown.

"Kathryn? Your mother??"  Seven said with agitation, causing Kathryn to smile.

"Donít be nervous, Seven."

"Why are you assuming I am nervous?  My elevated heart rate and tension in my abdominal region could be due to Mr. Nelixís pasta surprise or a number of other . . . ." Seven argued.

"Sheíll love you," Kathryn interjected.

"I hope your assessment is correct," Seven said, unconvinced.

"If anything, sheíll respect your courage for being with me," Kathryn joked.

"Respect is an acceptable foundation for a relationship," Seven said thoughtfully.

"Seven, donít worry," Kathryn stressed, squeezing her hand.  Turning back to Chakotay, she found him holding an extra glass.

"Hereís a refill," Chakotay said, as he handed her the champagne.  "Thought you could use it - itís not every day you introduce your bride-to-be to dear olí mom," he laughed.

Kathryn looked at him oddly for a moment, feeling something was off.

"Whatís wrong?" He asked.

"I thought you thought something was wrong," she responded with a frown.

"Well, itís really nothing that important and nothing that canít wait, Captain," he said smiling. "Donít you have someplace to go??" He said innocently.

"Yes," she said absently, then glanced to Seven of Nine, who raised an optical implant pointedly.  "Yes we do," Kathryn said with conviction, grinning.  "Iíll catch up with you later, OK?" She said, handing back the full flute of champagne.

"OK," he said with a shrug and easy smile.  "Good luck with Mom."

"No luck needed.  Mom will love her," Janeway said, turning to Seven.  "Come on, darling," she said with a joyful smile.

***

Harry looked around with surprise as he found himself standing in the aisle of a house of worship.  He immediately recognized the old Starfleet Academy chapel.  He hadnít realized Captain Janeway was religious; although, he acknowledged, the private Captain never really divulged anything deeply personal about herself, which shouldnít be surprising - she was the Captain.

Looking around the congregation, he found many familiar faces in their dress uniforms, looking at him with amusement.  His eyes darted to the altar where an Admiral and Captain Janeway stood, looking impressive in their dress white uniforms with full medals.  He swallowed hard when he realized they were staring straight at him.

"Nice of you to join us, Mr. Kim," she said sternly, causing many to chuckle and Harryís face to turn crimson with embarrassment.

"S. . sorry, Iím late, Captain," he said with a cringe, quickly taking a seat in the last pew.

"Thatís quite all right, Harry. Iím glad my family is all here now," she shared a warm smile with him that filled him with mixed emotions.  He had never seen her so happy.

As he looked around, he noted a most curious absence from the "Voyager family."  As he wondered where Seven was, an organ played the surprisingly familiar music.  The congregation, including the confused Ensign, stood and turned to see the wooden doors of the church open.  His mouth dropped when an elegant vision of white appeared on the Doctorís arm.

He had never seen Seven of Nine so beautiful.  He had never seen Seven of Nine smile like that. She . . . glowed, Harry thought with amazement, unable to think of any other way to describe it.  Her cool Borg exterior was replaced by a woman very much in love.  Her eyes were focused on one thing - Captain Janeway.  Seven proceeded down the aisle in time with the march on the arm of the Doctor, who seemed like the proud father in his dress uniform, smiling and holding his head up high.

As they got to the altar, Kathryn held out her hand, smiling broadly as Seven took it and joined her.  Harry watched the handsome pair with amazement as the ceremony began.

The Admiral smiled. "Family and friends, please be seated for this most joyous occasion," he said in a thick Irish accent.  As he spoke, his friendly voice rolled over each word, enrapturing the congregation with his melodic speech as they eagerly waited to hear more from this fatherly figure.

"I knew Katie Janeway before she was a Captain.  Before Starfleet.  Before she was even potty trained," he said with a grin, causing the congregation, including Harry, to chuckle and Kathryn to wince with a heavy exhale.

Seven squeezed her hand and eyed Kathryn with amusement.

"When I had heard she and her ship, Voyager, were lost in the Delta Quadrant, I was concerned like everyone else.  We knew it would be a hard and dangerous journey back. But I also knew one thing with certainty - that Kathryn Janeway would move heaven and hell to get her crew back home," he said, prompting murmurs of agreement.  "So it wasnít so much such a surprise to hear she had actually made it back," the Admiral said smugly, causing a few knowing chuckles in the congregation.  "But what I didnít expect was that during this difficult journey, our stubborn and independent Katie would find someone.  Someone she would actually let help her.  Someone she would actually let love her.  And someone, by miracle of miracles, she allowed herself to love.  And I canít help but believe that it was this love that helped guide our Katie home so quickly."

Kathryn looked at Seven and nodded, whispering "amen."

"Today I am delighted to be part of this declaration of love in front of Katie and Annikaís friends and family.  Now letís get down to business, shall we?"

"Amen!" Kathryn declared more enthusiastically, causing a few chuckles.

"Did I mention she was an impatient child?"  The Admiral said to Seven conspiratorially, causing a few more chuckles that became hearty laughter when Seven tilted her head curiously and questioned "Impatient child??"

Kathryn looked at her with narrow eyes.  Seven just raised her ocular implant in response.

"Seems like youíre not going to get away with much around her, eh, Katie?"  The Admiral joked.

"Yes.  In spite of which, Iíd still like to marry her, preferably sometime today," she said tightly, eyeing the Admiral pointedly.

"Well, no time like the present," he joked, then cleared his throat with a smirk as Kathryn rolled her eyes.  "Turn towards each other," he instructed softly.

"Do you, Kathryn Elizabeth Janeway, take Annika Hansen, to be your wife? In good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to laugh and to cry with, from this day forward, until death do you part?"

"With all that I am, I do," Kathryn vowed, pouring all her love into her response.  Harry took an uneasy breath.  He really had no idea....

"Do you, Annika Hansen, take Kathryn Elizabeth Janeway to be your wife? In good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to laugh and to cry with, from this day forward, until death do you part?"

"Y...Yes," Seven uttered with difficulty, her emotions making it difficult to speak, let alone answer as eloquently as Kathryn.  Though from the joyful smile it produced, Seven concluded her answer was adequate.

The Admiral smiled. "It is a common Earth custom for a couple to exchange symbols of these promises.  Kathryn and Annika have chosen rings.  Kathryn, please repeat after me."

Kathryn took Sevenís right hand and poised the gold band over her ring finger.  "With this ring, I thee wed," he said.

"With this ring I thee wed," she repeated and slipped on the wedding band that fit perfectly against the engagement ring.  Kathryn looked up to find Seven take an uneasy breath.

"Annika, do you have a ring for Kathryn?"

"Of course," she said, quickly holding out the ring for his unnecessary inspection, producing an amused murmur in the congregation.

"Annika, repeat after me," the Admiral said warmly.  "With this ring, I thee wed."

Seven took Kathrynís right hand and poised the ring over her ring finger.  "With this ring, I thee wed," she said and slipped on the ring, looking up at Kathryn almost uncertainly but found a bright welcoming smile, prompting her own.

"By the powers vested in me, I now pronounce you married," the Admiral said with great authority.  He looked over to Kathryn with a grin. "And this is the part I know youíve been waiting for, Katie.  You may kiss her now," he added with a wink.

"I donít think she waited," Kathrynís sister, Phoebe, yelled out, causing the congregation to laugh.

"Phoebe!" Gretchen scolded her, slapping her arm.

After sparing her sister a glare, Kathryn turned her gaze to her amused wife.  The congregationís chuckling faded as they watched the two woman look at each other.  The mirth in Sevenís eyes faded as Kathryn reached out and reverently traced her fingers over Sevenís optical implant to her chin.

Harry sat mesmerized.  A part of him felt he was intruding, yet he couldnít look away from this tender intimacy.  He had never seen such love shared with so simple a touch - and they had not even kissed yet, he considered with amazement.  He had no idea of the depth of Captain Janewayís love.

Cupping Sevenís cheek, Kathryn leaned towards the younger woman, who closed the gap until their lips gently met in a sweet, welcoming kiss.

When their lips parted, the Admiral announced happily. "May I now present Captain and Mrs. Hansen-Janeway."

The couple beamed as they linked hands and started down the aisle as rice was thrown at them.  Looking at the many happy faces in the congregation, the couple continued to be pelted by the rice as they progressed towards the door.  Getting whacked with an entire bag, Kathryn called out "Watch it, TOM!" Hearing a surprised Ďhowíd she know?í from the officer in question, Kathryn grinned as she progressed down the rice gauntlet with Seven.

Kathryn caught a glimpse of Harry in the last row, fading away.  She suddenly stopped, almost causing Seven to collide into her. "Kathryn?" Seven asked curiously.

Kathryn blinked as she stared at the empty spot where Harry Kim had been, unable to shake the feeling that something was wrong. "Kathryn?" Seven asked again, squeezing her hand.

She chuckled awkwardly, refusing to let this interfere with their day.  "I think Tom and Harry are playing a practical joke . . . or Harry had somewhere he really needed to be," she said shaking her head with a smirk.  "Come on darling, weíve got a reception and then a honeymoon to get to," she said, getting a big smile.

"Acceptable."

Kathryn grinned.


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