The Journey Home

A Star Trek: Voyager Story (J/7)

By Enginerd


Chapter 4 - To Sleep, To Dream

Harry blinked, feeling the dreamscape fade.  When safe, Tuvok removed his fingers, ending the mind meld.  He eyed the Ensign with a sigh before his eyes fell to the unconscious Captain Janeway, who was in her dress uniform.  Except for the multiple tendrils from the alien device that attached to her, it almost appeared like she was just resting in an exotic reclining chair.

"What happened??" Chakotay asked looking between Harry and Tuvok.

"Our second attempt failed," Tuvok said, causing Chakotay to frown.

Harry looked troubled as he looked at his Captain.  "What happened, Harry?" Chakotay asked, curious if Harryís attempt was as . . . interesting as his own.

"I . . . I saw the Captain and Seven . . . ," Harry said uncomfortably as if he were revealing his Captainís most intimate secret. Chakotay winced sympathetically. ". . . get married on Earth," Harry added.

"Well thatís consistent," Chakotay offered, prompting a confused look from the Ensign.  "They were engaged when we melded," he offered thoughtfully.  "The Captain works fast - married in a day?" he noted wryly.

"You knew and didnít warn me?!?"  Harry blurted with irritation.

"It does appear her life events are accelerated in her dream state," Tuvok noted and added "I believe it is significant that while the Captainís dream state is enhanced by the device, the content of those dreams appears to be her own construct."

Chakotay looked at him uncomfortably.

"We have successfully made contact with the Captain twice without interference.  It would be logical to conclude that we can continue to use mind melds without it detecting our presence and the possible threat to its energy source," Tuvok stated.

"You almost make it sound like itís . . . alive," Harry said with an uneasy cringe, glancing at the ominous device at the center of the room.  Extending from its center, like spokes on a wheel, were conduits connecting various control consoles and . . . the chair, sporting vein-like tendrils that attached to the Captain, imprisoning her.

"I was neither suggesting nor ruling it out.  However, considering your experiences in Starfleet and the Delta quadrant in particular, I am curious as to why it is so hard for you to contemplate the existence of life in this case."

"Itís . . . creepy," he said, shuddering as he looked at his Captain, who had a steady, shallow breath as she stayed in the REM sleep state.

Tuvok sighed and turned back to Chakotay.  "As I was saying, if she controls the content of her dreams, I believe we can get the Captain to wake on her own."

"Great," Chakotay blurted with discouragement.  "Sheís in love, married, finally home on Earth - as a hero, no doubt. Why would she want to leave that?" Chakotay said, causing Tuvokís pointed brow to rise to ponder a valid point he had not considered.

"Did you get a chance to speak with her?" Chakotay asked Harry.

"Yes. . . sort of," he said with a wince.  "I was in the middle of the aisle, late," he said miserably, as if he had been late to her actual wedding.

"But you didnít try to get her alone to talk with her?" Chakotay pressed on.

"She was kind of busy," he said with irritation.  "Why didnít you get her alone to talk with her??"

"Uh, she was busy," Chakotay frowned.

"From each of your encounters, it would appear the Captainís dream state is not easily susceptible to outside influences. In each encounter, she controlled the circumstances of your interaction."

"And that is unusual, how?" Harry muttered under his breath.

"Her vital signs fluctuated erratically at the end of the meld with Harry, what happened?" Chakotay asked.

"I guess she saw me as we backed out of the meld," Harry explained.

Tuvokís brow rose. "She could not immediately reconcile a disappearing Harry Kim," he surmised. "Perhaps we do not need to overtly confront her.  If we provide her with conflicting information sufficient to make her question her experience, she may realize it is a dream and wake."

"That could take a long time," Chakotay said with concern.

"More direct options would likely prove fatal," Tuvok countered.

Chakotay nodded and looked at Harry. "Up for another meld?"

"Ohhhh no," Harry said with great agitation.  "I canít do it again.  Itís too . . . private. I canít," he said, deeply distressed as he got up, almost stumbling from the quick exit he made from the alien room.

Chakotay looked at Kathryn guiltily.  "Heís right, you know.  Itís an invasion of her privacy.  And we all know how private the Captain is."

Tuvok knew all too well. "Yet, if we do nothing, she may forever be trapped by this device."

"Are you sure you canít do it?  I donít think she would be as uncomfortable if her dreams were only shared with you."

"As I have explained previously, without a third, neutral party controlling the meld, I am not certain I would be able to extract myself from her dream," Tuvok said.  "I could also be trapped by the deviceís effects."

Chakotay sighed.  "I wonder if Seven is out of surgery yet.  She might have a few more ideas."

"Should she offer any new ideas, I do hope they will avoid the need for medical attention," Tuvok said.

***

"It was a wonderful day and I loved seeing everyone, but I am SO glad we are finally home," Kathryn Janeway announced with a weary exhale as they entered their apartment hand-in-hand.  "Computer, lights, 30 %."

"It has been a full day," Seven responded, getting a chuckle.  "Computer, lights, 100%," she said, getting a surprised look from Kathryn.

"So the disagreements begin?" Kathryn chuckled even though the light seemed to amplify her headache.

"We have disagreed before.  Why would marriage change that?" Seven offered, getting a thoughtful nod from the older woman, who had to agree.  "As far as the lighting, I prefer seeing you in full ambient lighting," Seven explained, stepping towards her wife and slipping her arms around her.

"You sweet-talker," Kathryn said with a smile.  "But I would prefer less light, if thatís all right with you.  I have a bit of a headache," she said with a cringe, feeling unusually fatigued.

"I will get you something for that," Seven said with concern, commanding the computer to return the light level to 30% as she turned and headed towards the replicator.

"Iím sorry, darling," Kathryn said guiltily as she rubbed her temples.

"You have no reason to apologize," Seven said, quickly returning with a hypo-spray and waited for a nod before applying it.

"Ahhh. Thank you," Kathryn said, feeling much better as she stepped into a hug.

"Are you hungry?" Seven asked, not hearing but feeling her wife chuckle in her arms.

"After the wedding dinner mother prepared, I donít think Iíll be hungry for days," Kathryn said with amusement, pulling back from her embrace to look at her.

"She seemed very happy," Seven said thoughtfully.

"Why wouldnít she be? Look at the addition to her family - someone who actually wants to discuss mathematics with her!"

"Thank you," Seven said softly and placed a gentle kiss on the older womanís lips.

"Why thank me? I should thank you," Kathryn responded with amusement, pecking Seven on the lips in return.

"I enjoy talking with your mother and your sister.  Phoebe is . . . ," Seven paused to think of an adequate word.

"Phoebe," Kathryn filled in with a grin.

Seven nodded in agreement.

"So . . . did today meet with your expectations, Mrs. Hansen-Janeway?" Kathryn asked with a grin, taking her hand to lead her to the bedroom.

Seven considered her answer as she followed.  After a curious moment, she responded.  "I had not anticipated the range and strength of the emotions I would experience. It was . . . amazing."

Kathryn smiled, immensely pleased.  "I know what you mean."

"Were you nervous?" Seven asked curiously.

"Oh yeah," Kathryn said as she opened the bedroom door and stepped back for her wife to enter first.

"As was I. But I do not understand why," Seven admitted honestly and turning towards the older woman with a curious look.

"Sometimes, when you want something so much, you worry it wonít happen.  Or wonít happen the way you want it to. Or you worry . . . ."

"Worry is inefficient," Seven interrupted.

"It is an unproductive use of energy," Kathryn allowed with a smile, stepping towards the taller woman with a much more desirable use of energy on her mind.

"Agreed," Seven said with a slight smile as she pulled Kathryn into a heated kiss.

***

"How is she?" Chakotay asked as he entered sickbay, looking at the Doctor and his Chief Engineer, who was assisting him.

The Doctor looked up from his unconscious patient with a sigh. "Her attempt to assimilate the alien technology proved nearly fatal," he said disapprovingly. "The device countered her intrusion with a high-frequency, interspersion pulse. It is fortunate Sevenís nanoprobes were able to absorb the energy. A normal human would have suffered brain damage or death. Even so, she was very lucky we got to her in time to replace her damaged nanoprobes before her bodily functions failed and permanent damage occurred."

"Dre Gatta warned us against tampering with the machine," Chakotay said quietly.

"Like Seven was going to listen to anything Dre Gatta had to say," BíElanna spat, then winced, worrying she said too much. She glanced down uncomfortably to monitor Sevenís implants on the bio-panel.

Chakotay nodded, better understanding Sevenís surprisingly rash reaction after the mind meld with the Captain. The Captainís feelings were returned.  "Are we done scanning their databases for schematics of this thing?"

"Yes, but Vorik found nothing useful.  The Ambassador may have been telling the truth about that too," BíElanna said with a frown.

"Maybe.  But it is amazing to believe this civilization has been blindly using technology without understanding it," the Doctor said with disapproval.

"Well, Doctor, if youíll review a bit of Earth history, youíll find itís not entirely unheard of," Chakotay offered, causing the Doctor to frown.

BíElanna looked at Chakotay curiously.  "How did the mind-meld work?" BíElanna asked, causing him to wince.

"Harry and I tried to talk to her, but she seems to be resistant to outside interference - not that I can blame her.  Where she is right now is pretty good," Chakotay said thoughtfully.

BíElanna glanced uncomfortably at the Doctor, who also elected not to comment.  "If only we could get the schematics of that damn device," Chakotay muttered.

"If only our scanners could penetrate the damn plating," BíElanna added, prompting a nod from Chakotay.

"When you are comfortable leaving Sevenís side, Doctor, I would like you and Tom to return to the Captain and finish your medical scans of her.  Maybe we are missing something," Chakotay said, getting a nod from the Doctor.  Turning to Voyagerís Chief Engineer, he said "You keep working on that protective plating.  Thereís got to be something that can penetrate it to give us a look inside."

BíElanna sighed, worried she had exhausted all her leads.

***

Tuvok returned to the Voyagerís brig, nodding to the guard to allow him access to the Ambassadorís cell.  From the way she sat, it appeared she was not the least bit concerned to be in the brig of a starship.  In the cells on either side of her were two robed men who had tended to the device.  They had refused to talk and would just stare at the Voyager jailors angrily.  This visit by Tuvok was no different than the others.

"Mr. Tuvok, you havenít given up, have you? " she said knowingly, still acting as if she were holding court, Tuvok noted.

"No, we have not."

She looked at him with convincing compassion, he noted, acknowledging that was a key skill for any diplomat. "Iíve already told you, I know of no way to release the Captain from the Provider without causing her harm.  Once the Provider links to the dream realm, any interference to that link will cause brain damage . . . or death."

"Has anyone ever woken after they have been linked?"

The question surprised her. "Not that I know of.  The dream state is enhanced by the Provider and not so easily abandoned.  It is . . . addictive," she said thoughtfully.  Looking at him imploringly, she continued "Mr. Tuvok, why donít you just accept that she is happy and healthy and living the life she desires while enabling our small population to thrive?  Her energy will support and protect my people for many years . . . ."

His head tilted as he contemplated her words. "How many years, Ambassador?" Tuvok asked.

"Most Uttuskans who sit in that chair only provide enough energy for a year or two.  With her human physiology, we predict Captain Janeway will provide six, maybe seven years," she said, obviously pleased.

"After six, or maybe seven years, what happens to Captain Janeway?"

"She will be given a heroís funeral and be remembered as one of a long line of noble providers," she said as if that were truly an honor.

"Then you will need another sacrifice," he surmised.

"Isnít it the Vulcan belief that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, Mr. Tuvok?  It is how we survive."

"We could help you to find another way," Tuvok offered.

"Why?  We have lived this way for over a millennium.  And those who provide live the life they have always wanted," she countered.

"Captain Janeway would not choose to live the rest of her life in a dream," Tuvok countered with certainty.

"But she is doing just that, Mr. Tuvok. Every day she doesnít wake up, she chooses to remain where she is," the Ambassador said righteously.  The attendants in the cells on either side of her nodded emphatically. "She is a noble soul, Mr. Tuvok. Captain Janeway has already sacrificed much for others.  Let her finally find that happiness she deserves while continuing to serve, as she was destined to do."

He eyed them, uncertain if it was an honest belief or sinister motive that drove her misguided and illogical arguments.  It was most perplexing.

"As I am sure was not your intent, you have helped," Tuvok noted and nodded to the guard.

"Really?" She challenged with a smirk, not believing.  She expected they would try for a while then give up.  They all did . . . eventually.


Chapter 5 - Family Business

Seven of Nine silently looked across the candle-lit table at her wife, who was enjoying the roast chicken and wild rice dinner she had cooked.  Glancing down at her food a moment, her eyes drifted up to Kathryn once again.

"Something on your mind, Seven?" Kathryn said with a warm smile, having felt her wifeís silent gaze for a curiously long time.

"Are you happy, Kathryn?" Seven asked bluntly, surprising the auburn haired woman, whose fork stopped, mid way between her plate and mouth.

Kathryn blinked at her, surprised by the question and answered. "Yes . . . why?"

"We have committed to each other; however, do you not think it is time to modify the parameters of our relationship?"

"Parameters? What parameters?"

"Expanding our collective and sharing our love with another."

"Another?" Kathryn croaked with trepidation as she set her fork down on the plate.  She did not share well.  But what would she do if Seven seriously wanted someone different?  Someone younger?  She thought they were happy.  She thought she was enough for the former Borg.

"My research indicates that a relationship can be enhanced if we add a third and I would hope a fourth to our collective."

"Fourth??" Kathryn blurted, then suddenly had a clue and looked at her cautiously. "Are you talking about children?"

"Of course, what else . . . you thought I was interested in having another lover?" Seven surmised with surprise.

"I . . . ah, well.  We had never really discussed it . . . but not all marriages are monogamous," Kathryn said with a wince.

Sevenís eyes widened with alarm at that disturbing notion.  "Do you doubt my commitment to you?" she asked, insulted.

"NO! Itís not that," Kathryn said quickly. "Uh . . . Itís just that . . . well, you are so young and I am . . . not so young.  I guess Iíve wondered if you would be satisfied being exclusive sexually and I wouldnít want to . . . ," Kathryn said, her voice strangled, but was interrupted when Seven swiftly stood, leaned over the table and possessively captured her lips.

Pulling back from the kiss, Seven said firmly "You should not wonder, Kathryn. I will tell you.  I have no desire to be physically intimate with another.  I have no desire to experiment."  Seven pulled her wife to her feet, then amended "outside of our relationship."

Experiment? Kathryn blinked.

"I have you.  You are what I need and what I want.  And, as you once told me in Cargo Bay 2, I am also a one-woman, woman," Seven said.

"Even if a man or asexual be. . . ." Kathryn countered with amusement, once again interrupted by a passionate kiss.

"You are the only one, Kathryn.  If need be, I will spend the rest of my life proving it to you," Seven said, caressing the older womanís smiling face.

"Acceptable," Kathryn said, before being led into their bedroom. "Uh . . . what was this about experimenting??" She asked hesitantly, though with inordinate curiosity, feeling rather warm.

***

The Doctor held out his hand and Tom Paris, the part-time medic, promptly handed him the medical tricorder.  "Hmmm," he said, noting a slightly elevated pulse.

"Why canít we just inject her with a stimulant and wake her up?" Tom asked, looking at the sleeping Captain, then BíElanna, who shook her head as she reviewed her newly modified tricorder, attempting to scan the device again.

"If you had bothered to read my previous report, you would know our experiments determined that the device senses the chemical change and compensates to strengthen the link.  The stimulant strength needed to actually wake her would provoke compensation that could cause brain damage," the Emergency Medical Hologram answered tersely.

"Oh," he said with a frown and took a look around the exotic looking room. "So if she naturally wakes up, the device shouldnít interfere?" He asked.

"That is the current theory," the EMH responded uncomfortably.

"Great," Tom growled under his breath, not comfortable they only had a theory.  He migrated to some interesting looking control panels.  The room was full of them and so far, BíElanna could not figure out how they worked.

"Howís the Captain?" BíElanna asked, looking up from a console on the far side of the room, frustrated with her lack of progress.

"The device is providing her with all needed nutrients.  However, without activity, her muscles will atrophy and bone density will decrease.  Iíve successfully attached muscle stimulators to mitigate the atrophy but theyíre not as good as actual exercise," he said.

"Are you finding anything?" Tom asked BíElanna as he leaned against a control panel.

"Nope," she said with irritation, kneeling down by another panel, looking underneath with her tricorder.

He sighed and shifted his weight, causing something to stab him uncomfortably in the butt.  With a frown, he looked back at the panel to see a display lit up that wasnít a moment ago.  Curiosity outweighing caution, he touched a blinking button.  A hidden door slid open, startling him.

"What did you do?!?" BíElanna hissed in panic, quickly at his side with her tricorder to assess the damage.

"I . . . opened a door??" He said with a wince.

"Tom, you KNOW better than to play around with things you know nothing about," BíElanna scolded, turning towards the EMH. "Doctor, did you get any unusual readings from the Captain?" BíElanna asked worriedly going to Kathrynís side as Tom sulked and retreated into the previously hidden room.

***

"Oh man," Tom said reverently as he entered what appeared to be a bedroom.  If he could have torn his eyes away from the erotic spectacle before him, he would have noted the bedroom was in San Francisco from the familiar lights shining through the apartment window.  However his eyes were riveted to the two women - an almost nude Seven and Captain Janeway, who was in the process of being undressed by the former Borg.  He knew they were lovers and had even thought it was hot, but he could never have imagined how hot!

He bit his lip as he watched Seven get rolled over on her back by his demanding Captain, who slowly kissed her way down the blondís chest to her ample endowments.

***

"Just a slightly elevated pulse and temperature increase; however, Mr. Parisí little exploration does not appear to have adversely affected the Captain."

"Youíre lucky you . . . ," BíElanna scolded as she turned toward Tom, finding he had entered the room.  She growled and followed after him.

***

"Oh Kathryn," Seven exhaled, moving into the welcomed touch, causing Tom to once again exhale "Oh man" reverently.

"You pig!!" BíElanna blurted as she found him ogling the women - women she knew very well and was getting to know much more than she wanted to at the moment.

"Shh!" He said with worry, knowing the Captain would kill him if she thought he saw them.  He quickly realized the women were oblivious to their presence and smiled.  "Hey! They donít even know weíre . . . ." he declared happily before he felt a painful tug. "Ow! Ow!" Tom cried out as BíElanna yanked him out of the room by the ear.

"I canít believe you!" She hissed.

"What did he do now?" The Doctor asked as they returned to the main room.  Tomís mouth dropped at the accusatory tone.

"Heís a peeping . . . TOM!" BíElanna blurted with exasperation.

"Hey, itís not like I tried to see something," he said defensively.

"What did you see?" The Doctor asked, his curiosity piqued.

"The Captain and Seven - being intimate," she said uncomfortably.

"Ah," the Doctor said with understanding.  "That explains the increased respiration and heart rate," he said clinically, reviewing his medical device more closely.

She scowled at the Doctor before turning her ire to her lover.  "You! I canít believe you! Donít you have a shred of decency in your body?!?" the Klingon Engineer blurted.

"Come on BíElanna, it was an accident," Tom said, shrugging.

"Which you took advantage of!"

"Well, yes. But who wouldnít?" he admitted with a smirk, which quickly faded when he saw the murderous glare in her dark eyes. "Uh, let me rephrase that. . . ." he added with a wince.

"NEVER MIND!" BíElanna said, stomping off to another corner of the room to continue her scans.

"BíElanna," Tom called out and started for her but felt a hand on his shoulder.  "Mr. Paris, do you know what a tactical retreat is?" The Doctor asked helpfully.

Tom frowned.

"If you think sheís mad, just wait until the Captain finds out," the Doctor said with a thin smile.

Tom blanched.

***

Finally finished her regeneration with all Borg and non-Borg systems back to 100%, Seven joined Chakotay on the transporter pad with a tool kit and a clear mission.

"You are aware of our attempts to date?" He asked.

She looked at him sharply.  "I have read the away team reports as well as the interviews with Dre Gatta.  You do not need to be concerned, Commander.  My previous impulsive action will not be repeated," she said crisply, expecting suspicion or skepticism.  However, she was surprised to find a look of acceptance as he nodded.

"Energize," Chakotay said.

***

"Why is the observation room guarded?" Seven asked as they materialized, noting one of Tuvokís men standing at the entrance.

"To protect the Captainís privacy," the Doctor said, looking at Tom, who rolled his eyes then continued his medical monitoring. Seven nodded, well aware of Kathrynís almost obsessive need for privacy.

"LT, I have not read your completed report on this room," Seven noted, glancing at BíElanna.

"I havenít finished scanning it," the Chief Engineer said uncomfortably.

"It could be the key to Kath . . . the Captainís freedom," Seven said tersely.

"You should scan it," BíElanna offered quickly, surprising the former Borg.

"Would it not be more expedient if we worked together, LT?" Seven asked, perplexed by the odd behavior by her crew mate, who winced at the question.  Seeing Chakotay standing across the room, the furthest point from the observation room, Seven questioned them with concern.  "Do you suspect the room to be dangerous?"

"It could be," BíElanna muttered cryptically, eyeing Tom, who frowned.

Sevenís head tilted. "Explain."

"Kahless."

"It has been uncomfortable for CDR Chakotay, Ensign Kim and LT Torres to observe her dreams," the EMH offered. "But Iím sure Mr. Paris would be more than happy to volunteer," he added with a thin smile for his medical assistant.

"Over his dead body," BíElanna snarled, causing Tom to cringe.

"I didnít mean to see anything!" He responded, feeling unfairly attacked.

"Is it not more uncomfortable to see her unconscious in that chair?" Seven asked with irritation, glaring at the Chief Engineer, then looking at her lover, who still wore the dress uniform she had donned for that ill-fated dinner date.

BíElanna frowned, opened up her tricorder, and headed towards the observation room, sighing in defeat.  Seven followed with purpose.

When she stepped inside, Seven immediately recognized the location from Kathrynís holoprogram.  It was the Janeway Indiana farm house, Seven noted. BíElanna silently eyed Seven, who curiously took in the sight.  It was as if they were actually standing in the living room, though unlike the holodeck, not all of Sevenís senses were engaged.

"Darling, would you like a lemonade?" Kathryn called from the kitchen, startling the two observers.

"Kathryn," the visiting Seven called out automatically, but was not heard.  Pain flickered across her face as she recalled their argument just before Kathryn left for that dinner date with the handsome and suave Dre Gatta. . . .

"You are being unreasonable!" Janeway barked, buttoning up her dress uniform in her stateroom.

"I am not! I am concerned you are being seduced by that woman!"

"Seduced!?! Good God, Seven.  You sound like you expect me to prostitute myself for a ride home!" Kathryn turned towards her, anger radiating.

"She knows very well she has what you want - a technology to get home.  And you have what she wants - you," Seven argued emphatically, frustrated Kathryn refused to see the truth.  "If you took Tuvok, you could still discuss . . . ."

"I am only going to explain this one last time," Kathryn said tightly.  "Ambassador Gatta has the ability to get the technology released to us.  I have to convince her of my integrity and fortify her trust in us.  How can I possibly convince her to trust us if I bring a security guard to a private discussion because I donít trust her?!?"

"I will not allow you to go without one!" Seven declared stubbornly, causing Kathrynís fiery anger to turn to ice.

"You will not allow?" Captain Janeway slowly responded in a dangerous tone.  "It is my decision, not yours.  Step aside or I will use Tuvokís services this evening," the Captain said evenly, the threat clear.  Seven reluctantly complied and the Captain headed towards the door.

"You are letting your desire to get this crew home blind you," Seven said sharply, causing Kathryn to stop and turn back towards her.

"Actually, I am seeing things quite clearly.  I am seeing that I have yet to gain your trust or convince you of my integrity," Kathryn said bluntly and left for the transporter room.

"Kathryn . . . ." Seven called out miserably as the doors slid shut.

Guilt washed over Seven.  If only she had handled the situation better, without jealousy causing her words of warning to be caustic and provoking.  She should have anticipated how her words would make Kathryn react.  Self-blame was in abundance as she considered how she accused Kathryn of the very thing she was guilty of - being blinded by her emotions.  If she had only been less myopic, she could have fully assessed the real danger and provided a better, less emotional warning. . . one that would have not made Kathryn so angry with her. One that would have prevented all of this.

*

"Just water, please. My stomach is upset," the dream Seven said, carefully descending the stairs with one hand on her protruding belly and the other on the railing.

*

"Kahless! Youíre huge!" BíElanna said, seeing a very pregnant Seven of Nine.

The visiting Seven just watched her dream self in wonder.  Having read Harryís account was one thing, but actually seeing it was a more . . . emotional experience, Seven noted.  Even after everything, Kathryn actually dreamed of them together, having a family, she thought, her eyes dropping, heavy with shame for letting her fear cause her doubt.

*

"What do you think you are doing!?! The Doctor doesnít want you exerting yourself," Kathryn said, rushing to her side.

"My pregnancy has not incapacitated me, Kathryn," she said as they approached the couch.

"Please darling, humor me and take it easy?" Kathryn said, helping her sit down.

"Very well," the dream Seven capitulated, earning a big smile and a kiss on her knuckles.

"You said your stomach was upset," Kathryn suddenly recalled with concern. "Is the baby all right? Are you feeling feverish? Should I call the Doctor?" Kathryn rattled off, placing a hand on Sevenís forehead.

"The baby is kicking, I am not feverish, and calling the Doctor will not be necessary," Seven responded efficiently as she gently pulled Kathrynís hand from her forehead, her optical implant rising pointedly.

"Iím doing it again, arenít I?" Kathryn winced.

"Yes. But I still love you," Seven said warmly, then suddenly frowned at the discomfort. Seeing Kathryn wince with worry, Seven explained "She is kicking again."

Kathryn carefully placed a hand on Sevenís stomach, feeling a healthy kick for herself. "I think she has your temper," she said with a smirk.

"We can only hope," the dream Seven countered, causing a chuckle from the older woman, who leaned in and gently kissed her.

*

"Seven? Are you OK?" BíElanna asked softly.  The former drone had remained still as she watched the scene.

"She is happy," Seven noted, watching the tenderness shared between Kathryn and her pregnant form.

"Well, you make her happy," BíElanna said, curiously looking at the quiet woman.

"Not always. When she left for the dinner with Dre Gatta, we did not part on the best of terms," Seven said uncomfortably.

"Seven, you two are very intelligent, passionate, and stubborn women. You are going to argue," BíElanna offered firmly.

"I was angry she accepted the dinner invitation.  I was angry she never told Dre Gatta she was involved with me.  I was angry she was still reluctant to tell the crew about us after ten months of intimacy.  I was angry she blindly trusted this woman she did not know," Seven confessed.

"And the Captain thought you were telling her what to do," BíElanna guessed with a cringe.

"She does not respond well to that," Seven acknowledged with a heavy sigh.

"Really?" BíElanna snorted. "Well, you were right about Dre Gatta.  When she does wake up, you can have the pleasure of telling her "I told you so."

"The only pleasure I will have when she wakes is telling her that I love her."

"Well, weíve got a lot of work to do before then," BíElanna reminded her, holding up her tricorder.

"Indeed," Seven said, tearing her eyes away from the happy couple to begin their investigation.

***

As their analysis of the room progressed slowly, Seven frowned at her inefficiency.  She found herself frequently stopping to observe Kathryn and her dream self.  Even BíElanna stopped her exploration to look when she heard a pained cry.

"Kahless," BíElanna blurted with surprise, frowning at the bloody bundle emerging from the former Borg. "Incubation chambers are looking better all the time."

Seven looked at the Chief Engineer curiously.  "There are a number of studies that indicate significant benefits with carrying the child full-term in both emotional and physical development."

"Youíve read up on this?" BíElanna asked with surprise.

"I have researched all aspects of human relationships, including children," Seven said distractedly, finding her attention drawn to the newborn and the joy on Kathrynís face.

"Seven, take a look at this," BíElanna said anxiously, holding her tricorder over an interesting section of the control panel.

***

Chakotay looked up from the Captain as the women returned from the observation room with guarded expressions.

"I think we have a way to get her to wake," BíElanna said uncomfortably, glancing at Seven, who glanced at her lover with unease.

"How?" Chakotay asked.

"There are controls in the observation room to affect the dream state.  They had more control than they led us to believe," BíElanna answered as Seven silently turned over her tricorder to the Doctor, who studied the data as she moved to be near Kathryn.

"Doctor?"

"Her positive dream experiences are reinforced by the current device settings.  If we change them, the device will provoke negative brain activity - she will experience what essentially will be nightmares," he responded.

"But will she wake?" Chakotay asked.

"I believe she will be more inclined to," the Doctor offered.

"You believe? Doctor, BíElanna, we need to understand what will happen before subjecting her to our experiments," Chakotay said tersely. "What if she doesnít wake?  How will these nightmares affect her?  Will we be ruining whatís left of her life?" he asked with worry.

Seven stared at Kathryn as the Commander expressed the same concerns she had.  She felt ill at the prospects of condemning Kathryn to a nightmarish existence for the rest of her life.

"Chakotay, the device has defensive mechanisms.  These are the only controls that are not connected to them," BíElanna countered, looking back to the room.

"But the negative brain activity will likely produce more energy for the device.  There is no way to know whether the device will resist changing the settings back if the Captain does not wake," the Doctor offered with a heavy sigh.

"Seven, do you think we should provoke the nightmares?" Chakotay asked softly, surprising the former Borg, who looked up with a haunted look.  Her heart cried out to say Ďnoí and protect Kathryn from any more harm, but her emotions had failed her in the past.

"Do you have any other ideas?" Chakotay asked with a wince, hoping for some Borg ingenuity.

 


Chapter 6 - Decisions

"Still at it, I see," Dre Gatta smiled as Tuvok entered the brig.  To her surprise, Seven followed him. "Are you feeling better, Seven?" Dre Gatta asked with genuine interest, never before having seen someone directly attack the Provider and survive.  Seven answered with only a cold look.

"Is there a reason you didnít mention the observation room?" Tuvok asked, arching a pointed brow.

"It is not important," she responded easily.  "Why canít you just accept that Captain Janeway will serve my people and be happy doing so," she asked tiredly.

"We have learned we can change the deviceís settings to provoke negative brain activity," Seven said evenly, ignoring the womanís question.

The Ambassadorís eyes widened with alarm. "You wouldnít!  That would be cruel," Dre blurted with what appeared to be actual concern.  Seven tensed.

"I find it odd you have never provoked negative brain activity in any of your "volunteers," Tuvok stated curiously.

"Of course not!  What sort of people do you think we are!?!" the Ambassador responded indignantly.

"Parasites," Seven answered coldly, drawing a sharp glare from all the captives.

"Negative brain activity would provide you with more energy," Tuvok offered.

"It isnít necessary to condemn someone to a horrific life!"

"It will wake her," Seven responded with more confidence than she felt.

"No!" One of the attendants injected with panic, finally breaking his self-imposed silence. "The device will just feed off of her negative energy!"

Seven glanced over to the upset man in the adjacent cell.  "We could return the device to the initial settings," Seven countered, feeling ill.

"It wonít matter.  Negative thoughts can not be extracted," the other attendant spoke up this time, looking equally uneasy.

"Youíll just condemn her to a miserable existence or death - is that what you want?" Dre pleaded.

"You are lying," Seven said evenly, though her heart clenched at the thought.

"Are you willing to risk Kath . . . Captain Janewayís future?" Dre Gatta said, trying to avoid provoking the ire of the formidable woman any further.  She knew Seven was not pleased that Captain Janeway had told her to call her Kathryn.  She found it fascinating that for such a diplomatically astute woman, Kathryn Janeway could be so blind to Sevenís displeasure.  That blindness had proven to be most helpful, she considered.

"We will find out the truth," Tuvok said, causing the Ambassador to shake her head.

"As I have said before, I will not agree to your mind techniques!" She said with irritation.  Tuvokís brow rose.

"A Vulcan mind meld will not be necessary," Seven responded.  "I can extract the needed information more efficiently and my code of ethics does not require your agreement," Seven said clinically, stepping towards the Ambassador as Tuvok nodded at Seven, stepped back and started to leave.

"You canít be serious.  You are going to rough me up to get me to talk?" The Ambassador asked incredulously.  "Is that the type of treatment Captain Janeway would condone?" She said, growing more uneasy as the tall woman approached.

"You will not be roughed up; you will be assimilated," Seven explained evenly, raising her mesh-covered hand menacingly. "The pain will be excruciating at first; however, once the nanoprobes take over your bodily functions, you will find pain . . . irrelevant."

"What??" Dre asked, gasping when frightening tubules suddenly jutted out from between Sevenís knuckles.

"Surely you must have discussed the Borg with Kathryn during your many conversations," Seven said.

The Ambassadorís eyes widened as she tried to recall everything Kathryn had said.  They had discussed so much, but she had been focused on finding the womanís vulnerabilities and exploiting them.  She suddenly remembered something about the Borg Kathryn had mentioned.  Something about assimilation, she recalled as she stepped back, attempting to hide her rapidly growing fear.  "I do not agree to this!" She spat, looking at the tubes with panic.

"Your agreement is irrelevant."

"Captain Janeway would not approve of this," Dre Gatta argued indignantly.

"Regrettably, we are unable to confirm your assertion at this time.  But I will be sure to ask her once we free her from the device," Seven responded tightly, placing a strong hand on the Ambassadorís shoulder and lowering her snaking tubules to the womanís neck.

"You wouldnít dare!" she spat as she tried to pull away, unable to break free from the powerful grip.

"Resistance is futile," Seven said with dangerous satisfaction.

"Mr. Tuvok! I expected more from your people," she called out in panic as she felt the strangely warm tubules graze her neck.

"We have all experienced disappointment in others, Ambassador," Tuvok stated sagely, finally seeing fear on the manipulative womanís face.

***

"BíElanna?" Tom called softly as he entered the observation room, wondering what had kept BíElanna away for over an hour.

"I thought you understood this room was off limits to you," she snapped, turning with annoyance.  "Do I really need to keep a guard posted here??"

"I just wanted to tell you Iíll going back to the bridge," he said with frustration, holding his hands up in surrender and stepping back. "Iím going."

He hesitated when he noticed a blond-haired toddler playing catch with the Captain and Seven in the front yard of the Indiana farm home on a beautiful spring day.  "What do you know," he said softly with a smile at the family scene.  His eyes drifted to the young girl who bore the most attractive features of her parents.  "What a little cutie," he said with a grin, somehow not surprised the child of the Captain and Seven would be so beautiful.

"Sheís a bit young for you, Tom," BíElanna said flatly.

"Hey!" Tom said, insulted.

"Sorry."

"Why do you keep attacking me?"

"Iím Klingon.  Itís what we do."

"Not unfairly."

The Klingon looked at the pilot a long moment before her eyes drifted to the child.  "She made us Emmaís God parents."

"She did??" Tom asked with surprise.

***

"It is unfortunate they do not know more of the technology they use," Tuvok said, handing Seven a tool kit to place in one of the two transport crates they were filling in Cargo Bay 1.

Seven exhaled heavily.  "If she does not wake, I do not think I would be strong enough to. . . ." she said with difficulty, unable to finish the thought as her eyes dropped guiltily.

"The Captain will not suffer long," he vowed simply.

"Thank you," she whispered with profound gratitude, getting a nod from the Vulcan as well as another compact power cell for the transport crate.  With a sigh, she continued to pack, adding flatly "I should have assimilated the Ambassador."

"As you had predicted, she agreed to a mind meld. Assimilation was not needed."

"No, but it would have been more satisfying."

***

With one of the crates at her side, Seven materialized next to the device and indulged a silent moment to glance at Kathryn, who still sat motionless in the frustratingly impenetrable contraption.  In a few hours there would be a change in the situation, she thought with little comfort.  She always had Kathryn to go to for counsel, where she found clarity - even when they disagreed. But now, all she had was fear.

"LT Torres, I need your assistance," she said, prompting the Chief Engineer to join her as she began to unpack.

"Youíre expecting success," BíElanna said with a hopeful smile, eyeing alternative power sources.

"This will be needed either way," Seven said evenly, quickly wiping the smile from the engineerís face.

"You are a better person than I am, Seven," BíElanna said, almost not caring whether the leeches on this planet survived or not.

Blue eyes focused on the engineer.  "Kathryn would expect no less," Seven replied, tired honesty overwhelming any thought of sarcasm.

"Even when unconscious, sheís one hell of a task master, isnít she?" BíElanna joked weakly.

"At times, it is difficult to comply with her wishes," Seven allowed, getting an absent nod from the Klingon.

"So when is Tuvokís team going to be finished on the surface?" BíElanna glanced at the Captain.

"The power generators should be finished in approximately six hours," Seven noted.

"Why so long??"

"The processing of the planetís natural materials will be performed with a limited number of shipís assets and crew to minimize our risk.  Chakotay agreed with Tuvokís precaution.  As do I," Seven said, causing BíElanna to frown.

"I know we donít know how this damned Ďdeviceí will react, but. . . Kahless! Six hours is an eternity!" BíElanna groused, getting a curious look from Seven. "Sorry," BíElanna said with a wince. "I canít imagine what you must be going through."

"I am afraid of causing her pain and losing her," Seven said with distress.

"We all are," BíElanna admitted and frowned.  "Why couldnít they have just asked for help instead of abducting the Captain?" She grumbled rhetorically, shaking her head as she started to attach the remaining conduits to the grid.

Instead of arguing the point that Captain Janeway was not technically abducted, Seven placed a hand on the Chief Engineerís, preventing the attachment and prompting a startled look.

"Connecting prematurely may cause the device to . . . respond," she said with a wince at the painful memory.

"Gotchya," BíElanna said, carefully setting down the conduits.

"Once the device is bypassed, the Uttuskans will no longer be dependent on living beings for their energy," Seven said without emotion, looking at Kathryn.  It was as if she was reporting to Kathryn, BíElanna noted, then considered perhaps she was.

***

Stepping into the observation room, Seven found herself in a bedroom of the farm house.  Her optical implant rose with interest when she spotted Kathryn and her dream-self approaching their bed, tenderly kissing.

"Is she asleep?" Seven asked between kisses.

"After two chapters of the Young Musketeers . . . ," Kathryn responded and kissed her neck.  "And her enthusiastic account of Ryan Delaneyís disastrous lab experiment. . . ," she continued, kissing her way to Sevenís inviting ear. ". . . complete with sound effects, I should hope so," Kathryn said, suckling Sevenís ear as she pulled down the covers with one hand, unwilling to relinquish her grasp of Seven with the other.

The room was aglow with candle-light as the couple savored each caress and each kiss, unhurried in their intimacy.

Seven recalled a similar time, on the M-Class planet Jallai, where the lovers celebrated their sixth month together by indulging in three wonderful but short days of shore leave without the burdens of command or survival - three wonderfully decadent days where they got lost in their love.

Her thoughts of that time were interrupted by the flash of lightning that briefly lit up the room.  A deep rumble followed, vibrating the house. Her eyes refocused on the lovers, who were oblivious to the storm outside as they continued their slow, intimate dance.  Her dream-self laid back on the bed, slowly pulling Kathryn on top of her, renewing their unhurried kisses.  Sure hands started to pull Kathrynís nightshirt up with familiar confidence, then suddenly stopped.  After a brief moment of surprising hesitation, Seven quickly pulled the nightshirt down and abruptly pushed a startled Kathryn off and onto the side of the bed.

Kathryn blurted "wh...." just as the bedroom door flung open and a six-year old blond blur bolted in, launching herself towards the couple and landing in the center of the big bed. "E...Emma?" Kathryn sputtered as if a cold bucket of water was splashed on her. "Whatís wrong, honey?"

The next lightning strike answered for the child, who stubbornly muttered "nothing" and squirmed beneath the covers and nervously pulled them up to her chin.

"Ah. Itís the storm isnít it?" Kathryn said unnecessarily and made a more comfortable spot on the bed for the child between her parents.

"I just wanted to sleep here tonight, OK mom?" Emma responded stubbornly, slipping further beneath the covers, which now were pulled up to her nose.

"Itís only lightning. Nothing to be afraid of," Kathryn said warmly with a small smile, caressing the childís forehead lovingly.

"I know," Emma said defiantly, then jumped and clung to her mother when more thunder rumbled, causing the house to shake again.

"It is perfectly acceptable to be afraid, Emma," Seven countered, causing Kathryn to frown.

"Is it?" the six-year-old asked with curious suspicion.

"Yes. Lightning is dangerous and has killed many people throughout Earthís history," she elaborated.

"Darling, youíre not helping," Kathryn said tightly with a glare for her wife, as the child burrowed deeper against her.

Seven ignored the comment and continued.  Emma listened attentively. "However, there is less risk today than centuries ago due to preventative technologies which dissipate the energy.  As there is still risk, you should not go out in a lightning storm without appropriate protective clothing.  However, inside buildings, you will be protected from the energy strike."

"I know that too, mother," Emma said distastefully, rolling her eyes, causing a perplexed look on Sevenís face.

It was truly amazing how their child could turn the word "mother" into an insult, Kathryn considered withholding a grin.  "Emma, be nice," Kathryn scolded.

"Sorry, mom," Emma said with a small frown.

"Why are you afraid?" Seven asked more concerned about her childís fear than her behavior.

"Iím not afraid!" She argued with exasperation, cuddling against both her mothers.  Emma barely jumped at the next lightning strike and subsequent rumble.

"Very well," Seven said, kissing her childís head and settling in under the covers. "You will be safe with us, Emma."

"I know that too, mother," Emma said softly, through a tired yawn and quickly succumbed to sleep.

After a quiet moment, Kathryn emitted a soft, throaty chuckle, looking up at her with a grin.

"She is stubborn," Seven softly offered with exasperation.

"And proud," Kathryn added, with a loving look for her child and wife.

"And willful," Seven added, with a raised ocular implant.

"No doubt our daughter," Kathryn concluded with amusement, gently brushing the blond hair from the childís brow.

Doing what the visiting Seven ached to do, the dream Seven leaned over, careful not to disturb the sleeping child, and kissed her wife tenderly. "Indeed, our daughter," she repeated, pulling back with a satisfied smile.

*

Hours passed as Seven waited in the observation room, greedily watching the happy life that Kathryn dreamed of - a life that included her.  The events jumped, somewhat disjointedly, from scene to scene.  Yet in each moment, she could feel the love Kathryn had for her and their child.  Years passed and their child grew.  Emma was an interesting, intelligent, and a delightful being, she thought with an odd sense of pride.  But she would be, of course, Seven considered logically.

"Seven?" BíElanna called softly as she joined the former Borg in the observation room. "Weíre ready."

"So soon?" Seven said with surprise, only 3.9 hours had passed. "Tuvokís estimates are usually more accurate," she noted with growing concern.  She watched the happy parents on the porch holding hands as they looked at their daughter, who was now a few years older, riding a horse.

"Well, he got some unanticipated help.  It seems not all of the Uttuskans are thrilled with the Device.  Some of the Uttuskans were very willing to do what they could to secure their independence.  Guess thatís something else Dre Gatta failed to mention," BíElenna said with a frown.

Seven looked at the scene again with mixed emotions.  They may have a chance to free her from the device but they may only be ending Kathrynís happiness and her life. Tendrils of fear gripped her heart.  "She is so happy . . . ," Seven whispered, glancing back to Kathryn and her family.

"Youíre not getting cold feet are you?" BíElanna said with concern.

"I do not want to cause her pain, yet our actions will do just that."

"Yes.  They will.  But the Captain will understand.  You know she would agree with this.  You know that, donít you?"

Seven nodded weakly.  "She dreams of having a family with me," she softly said with wonder, watching their daughter dismount and rush over to Kathryn and grab her hand. Kathryn laughed as she was pulled towards the horse.

BíElanna glanced at the dream family, then at Seven curiously.  "Does that really surprise you?"

"Yes," Seven said simply.  "I did not expect her to want that," she said absently as she watched Kathryn mount the horse and lean over to pull up Emma, who sat behind her.

"Because sheís a busy Starfleet Captain?" BíElanna guessed as Kathryn galloped to the porch, where the dream Seven stood.

"No.  A child would make it significantly more difficult to keep our relationship . . . private. " Seven said, watching Kathryn lean over towards the dream Seven, who closed the distance between them and kissed her. Emma rolled her eyes at her amorous parents. "She does not want anyone to know about us."

"I . . . Iím sure she had her reasons," BíElanna said with a sympathetic wince, not understanding it herself.

"I attempted to be understanding; but it is . . . frustrating to not understand why she did not want anyone to know."

"What did she tell you?"

Sevenís eyes dropped with mild embarrassment. "I never asked her."

"You should talk to her, Seven. Itís not good to just let something fester and assume the wor. . . ." BíElanna said sagely, then abruptly stopped with a soft, disgusted groan.

Seven looked at her curiously.

"Iím a hypocrite," the Engineer explained with irritation.

Sevenís head tilted thoughtfully. "You do not talk with Tom Paris about what concerns you," she stated correctly, causing BíElanna to frown and reluctantly shake her head no.

"Why?"

"I guess Iím worried about the answer."

Seven looked at her friend thoughtfully. "Understandable, yet we each remain distressed not knowing.  It would seem logical to communicate and not let things . . . fester," Seven said, getting a weak nod from BíElanna. "I regret I had not mentioned my concerns to her before the situation with Dre Gatta arose.  If I had, I could have prevented this situation and . . . ." Seven admitted uncomfortably.

"Hold on. Dre Gatta caused the situation - NOT you or your silence," BíElanna interrupted firmly. "Look Seven, youíre not the only one who feels guilty about this.  We were all tricked."

Seven looked at her a pensive moment. BíElanna was right. Guilt over this situation was a waste of energy, even if it was incredibly easy to give into that particular human emotion.

"Go to her, the sooner we start . . . ." BíElanna said briskly, turning towards the controls, not needing to finish her sentence.

With an absent nod, Seven started to leave the observation room but paused. Glancing back she said softly "Thank you, BíElanna."


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