"Captain! We're going in too fast!" Ensign Harry Kim, senior operations officer of the star ship USS Voyager clung to his console as the sleek vessel they all had called home the last six years lurched beneath his feet.
"I'm aware of that, Mr. Kim." Captain Kathryn Janeway spoke through clenched jaws, her auburn hair in complete disarray as she crawled back up into her command chair. "Keep her steady, Mr. Paris. If we hit the wall of this wormhole—"
"The shields will fail and we will become space dust." Lieutenant Tom Paris didn't avert his eyes as he struggled with the controls. "Recommend going to half impulse, Captain."
"Negative. Stay on full impulse and don't take your eyes off those controls."
"Captain, reports are coming in from the lower decks. Minor casualties." Commander Chakotay frowned as he read off the console between the command chairs. "Internal transporter is offline. Bridge to sickbay. Doctor, you're needed on level six. Two crewmembers with suspected fractures."
"Aye, sir," the holographic physician replied smartly. "Let me know where else I am needed."
"Engineering to the bridge. The warp core is destabilizing. I can only give you another twenty seconds of this, Captain. I can't risk having to eject the core inside a wormhole." Lieutenant. B'Elanna Torres, chief engineer could hardly make herself heard above the blaring sound of the emergency klaxons.
"I hear you, Lieutenant. You remember what Tkarios said. It would be a bumpy ride." Janeway dug her nails into the armrests, dead set on not making another painful trip to the floor. "I will need you to squeeze everything you can out of the warp core."
Janeway stared at the view screen where green and purple lines formed a whirling pattern, depicting the worm hole they'd created by opening up a singularity using Tkarios' device. No matter what, Janeway was not going to let one of her crew disappear into a rift in time.
Especially not her.
Especially not Seven of Nine.
"I can't believe you've only been with us two months already, Annika. You're a hard worker and you blend in well with both staff and guests. I know you said you're just passing through, but I have a suggestion for you."
Seven of Nine, born under the name Annika Hansen before being taken by the Borg Collective, looked down at the man standing at the bottom of the ladder she'd just climbed. Lars Johansson was a bear of a man, his beard as blond as his hair.
"Proceed," Seven said, her hidden universal translator easily translating her English into Swedish and vice versa.
"You told me you have no family waiting for you, and that got me thinking. Why don't you stay over the holidays at least? You wouldn't have to celebrate Christmas alone at some inferior hotel, and the Ice Hotel would benefit from having you to help with the technical stuff." Lars scratched the back of his head. "Honestly, I never thought I would see the day when our electrical bill would be reduced during a winter month."
"You were not utilizing your equipment at peak efficiency—until now."
Lars laughed. "Trust you to pick up on it, fix it, and be less than humble about it. You're an amazing woman, Annika. My wife likes you a lot."
"I have Tilde in high regard also." Seven was in fact quite concerned regarding Lars' very pregnant young wife who seemed to work twice as hard as everybody else at the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi, including herself. The first two weeks while working as the janitor, Seven had thought Tilde was one of a set of twins.
"So, how about it? Spend the holidays here with us?"
Seven didn't want to show how relieved she was that he asked. She had fully expected to be long gone by now, but her own repairs to the Delta Flyer, which was her only means to get back to her own time in the Delta Quadrant, was so far unsuccessful. She knew Voyager and its captain must think she was dead, which pained her more than anything.
"You are very kind," Seven murmured. Her heart felt as cold as the surrounding walls of ice, despite her reluctant affection for the Swedish man. "Yes. I will stay."
Janeway slowly opened her eyes, trying to clear the mist that obscured her vision by shaking it. Immediately regretting the sudden movement, she moaned quietly and let her head slump back onto the deck again. The deck. This time when she opened her eyes, Janeway could clearly make out the smoking consoles and the slumped shape of a man next to her.
"Chakotay," Janeway coughed violently and tried again. "Commander Chakotay. Are you all right?"
The still form stirred and Janeway stared in horror at the deep gush dividing her friend's trademark facial tattoo in half.
"Gods, Chakotay. Lie still." She poked her head up to assess the situation. "Harry? Tom?"
"I'm here, Captain," Tom Paris said, he too coughing. "Harry is unconscious, but I scanned him quickly and he has no serious injuries. How about Chako—oh." Tom ran a medical scanner over Chakotay. "Concussion, deep lacerations to the face and neck. He's lost quite a bit of blood, ma'am."
"Janeway to the Doctor, come in." Janeway tapped her comm badge.
There was no reply and she kept trying as she hauled herself off the floor and stumbled to the Harry's console. Harry was lying on his side next to it, and Janeway relieved to see him start to move. She punched in a few commands and realized that most of Voyager's systems were down. She brought up outer sensors on the main view screen and found herself staring blankly at the screen. "Oh."
Tom Paris had stopped in mid stride on his way to the helm and now his mouth fell open. "Captain…it sure looks like…"
Janeway's fingers trembled as they flew across the controls. "It is, Tom." Absentmindedly she pushed a sweaty tress of hair out of her eyes. "It's Earth."
"Implement the sensor scrambler, Tom." Janeway moved among her fallen crewmembers, now being seen by the Doctor who'd practically crawled to the bridge via the Jeffrey's tubes. "We can't risk being seen just yet."
"Aye, ma'am." Tom Paris punched in commands.
"When you're done, help the Doctor." Janeway remained at Harry Kim's station. "I'll monitor the planet's communications. Sensors aren't showing any space ships in the vicinity. Opening audio channels." At first, they could hear only a static buzzing, but then a male voice was obviously delivering a weather report, followed shortly by a female voice reporting current news. "Now this feels familiar."
"Sure does," Tom said from the floor where he bandaged Chakotay's head. "I hope we don't run into Captain Braxton again."
Janeway had to smirk at the thought of their adventures with the illustrious captain when they'd last travelled through time and ended up in 1996. "I'll run a sensor sweep of the closest constellations to determine which year we managed to hit this time."
Harry Kim was now getting to his feet and so was Chakotay.
"Chakotay, easy there." Tom tried to prevent Chakotay from standing. "I repaired the gush on your head, but—"
"I'm okay. What's our position?" Chakotay squinted at the screen. "Gods, again?"
"Earth. December, 2008." Janeway moved over to allow Harry to take his station. "You all right, Harry?"
"Yes, Captain," the young man said through clenched teeth and Janeway knew she wouldn't get any other reply no matter how poorly her ops ensign was feeling.
"Very well. Scan for the Delta Flyer."
"You think she actually set down on Earth, Captain?" Tom asked as he resumed his position at the helm.
"Unless she chose the moon, where else would she go, Lieutenant?" the Doctor quipped as he stowed away the derma fuser and helped a junior bridge officer to her feet.
"I'm not getting anything from the Delta Flyer, ma'am," Harry said, frowning. "Scanning for Seven's biosignature." He stared at the controls, and Janeway could feel him tremble.
"Harry, I can do this," she tried, afraid he would lose consciousness again.
"Ma'am, please." Harry clung to his controls. Suddenly this tone changed. "There. Look, Captain. Seven of Nine's signature!"
I'm sorry, Seven of Nine. We have to go on without you. You were never part of our crew anyway, more like a stray we picked up along the way out of necessity." Captain Janeway smiled wryly, her narrow lips mocking her. Seven wanted to cry, to rant and rave toward the woman who'd made her almost believe she belonged with her and the Voyager crew, but she couldn't move, merely stand there with tears running down her cheeks. Janeway's face shifted, one moment the captain looked at her with devotion only to switch to dismay and contempt in a second. Seven knew she wouldn't be able to hold it together much longer. She would have to leave, as much as it would pain her to be away from Janeway.
"Regeneration cycle complete." The familiar voice of Voyager's mainframe computer scattered the odd dream sequences from Seven's mind. She rarely dreamed during her regeneration cycles hooked up to the portable regen-device, and if she did, the images were flighty and bypassed her eidetic memory. Now she shuddered at the cruel dream and refused any attempt to figure out why her mind would torture her like that.
Seven donned her down jacket after making sure her biosuit was not visible underneath the coverall she used while working. She wished she could have spared a moment to work on the Delta Flyer's communication and sensor arrays, but knew it would have to wait until she could sneak out next time, most likely in the middle of the night.
Outside, Seven shuddered at the freezing cold wind that seemed to penetrate her triple layered clothes. She gazed up at the starry sky, this far up north the sun set early in the afternoon. She saw the now familiar constellations and thought of Janeway and how adamant she was to bring her crew home to Alpha Quadrant. Not long ago the captain had invited Seven to dinner in the captain's quarters, and Seven was still trying to decipher what the captain could have meant by the words that Seven knew by heart at this point. Janeway had never spoken to her like that before, and now Seven wished she'd been brave enough to analyse and ask questions. Now Janeway was lost to her forever.
Now she would never know.
Janeway sat at her desk in the ready room, scanning the latest data. Repairs were underway, but so far, they had no transporters or long range communication. The replicators were finally back online, as were the short-range scanners and the warp core was back online after failing twice already. Janeway had three crewmembers monitoring the planet's military communication, and there was no sign of anyone having detected them where they circled in high orbit.
She pulled up the software that tracked Seven's bio signature, which she had done at least every tenth minute since she sat down to work four hours ago. There she was. Janeway noted the coordinates again; wanting to track the young woman's every movement. She wondered what Seven was doing so far north. She was moving within a five kilometre radius in a remote area in northern Sweden, which must be freezing cold this time of year.
The door chime rang, making Janeway flinch as she wasn't ready to finish her thoughts about Seven and her wellbeing.
"Enter," she barked and switched back to the report determining the status of the sensors.
Tom Paris stepped inside and handed over a blinking data PADD to her. "Captain, I've gone through the information I have about Earth in 2008, particularly regarding Sweden."
"Anything worrisome? Any armed conflicts in the area?"
"Not where Seven is. Granted, the world was a violent place at that time, but Sweden had sustained one of the longest period of peace among all the nations. Apparently, it hasn't been in a conflict since 1814, when they were at war with France, Norway and Denmark."
"That's good from our point of view."
"Sweden at this time was considered neutral territory, and a progressive country with high ideals of solidarity and social welfare. Seven should be perfectly safe down there unless her…eh…Borgness has aroused suspicions."
"B'Elanna says she will have audio transmission capabilities back online in a few hours."
"The sooner the better. I know we can't beam her up yet, but I want her to know that we're here. That she's not alone or abandoned."
"I can understand that. She must miss you…eh…us." Tom swallowed hard as Janeway shot him a sharp glance. "I mean, she was really finding her stride among us, and the crew had finally warmed up to her and gotten over their damn prejudice."
"I hope she's found a kind soul to help her. According to your research, the Swedes sound like an enlightened people."
"Unless they detect her 'enhancements,' I'm sure she's made herself useful."
"Yes. Seven would make that her priority. To be useful." Janeway shook her head and smiled faintly.
"All right, Tom. You are the subject matter expert when it comes to 21st century Earth. I will head up a rescue team as soon as the engineers have outfitted a shuttle with Seven's cloaking algorithms. Select other team members, make the Doctor one of them, and brief them."
The Doctor hailed Janeway as soon as the door had hissed close behind Tom.
"Captain, I'm happy to report that nobody sustained life threatening injuries and that all but three crew members have been released to their duty stations or their quarters, depending on their condition."
"Good. What about Harry Kim and Chakotay?"
"Ensign Kim is fit for duty, but Commander Chakotay needs to remain in sickbay another twelve hours. Much to his dismay."
"Thank you, Doctor. Prepare your mobile emitter. You're going on an away mission."
The Doctor's face lit up on the view screen. "Oh, goodie!"
Seven looked suspiciously at the large creature. She had made first contact with many species both as a Borg drone and as a member of Voyager's crew. Eyeing this new acquaintance, Seven wondered why the young girl Tina, Tilde's younger sister, regarded the animal with such devotion.
"Isn't he just amazing?" Tina asked breathlessly. "His name is Galahad."
"He is…impressive." The horse was huge, well above 170 centimeters tall. "And you ride this animal? Is it safe?"
Tina laughed. She was seventeen and looked a lot like her sister, reddish blond hair, green eyes, and with freckles across her upturned nose. "He's a lamb."
"I thought you said horse."
"You're just being silly." Tina held out something resembling a helmet. "Here. You will need this."
"Nobody in our family ever rides without a helmet, that's the ground rule."
"Ride?" Seven was not afraid of many things, but this situation was beyond alien to her, and she had no idea what was expected of her."
"I am not sure. I think I am too heavy for this animal."
"And I think you're stalling. I promise you, he's safe. I'd never let anyone near him if he wasn't. He takes little kiddies for long rides all the time." Tina looked so sweet and sincere that Seven found it oddly impossible to be her normal aplomb self and merely refuse.
"Very well. I will attempt to mount this Galahad of yours."
"Oh, good! Put your helmet on and I'll help you up."
Seven knew Tina would find that impossible since her body mass did not betray her weight. She looked slender, but she weighed more than most humans.
"I think I have figured out how. You place your feet in the…" Seven quickly researched her memory cells, "…stirrups, and swing your leg at approximately—"
"Are you stalling again?" Tina wrinkled her nose at Seven.
"No. Well, perhaps." Seven donned the helmet, braised herself and took hold of the back and front of the saddle. Placing her foot in the left stirrup, she inhaled deeply and pushed herself off the ground with her free foot. She noticed halfway up that she'd miscalculated the height of the horse, and that she moved too fast. At the last second, she squeezed her legs together and managed to keep from hitting the ground on the other side of the horse.
"Wow! Great save. You're stronger than you look, Annika."
"What do I do now?"
"Here. Like this." Tina showed her how to hold the reins. She adjusted the stirrups to fit Seven's much longer legs, and then started leading Galahad around the snow-covered yard outside the stable. "How does it feel?"
"Just let yourself get used to the rocking motion. Don't fight it. Sit up straight, but not rigid, just let your pelvis move with him."
After a few laps, Seven found she was starting to enjoy the feeling of the powerful animal beneath her. Galahad was obviously a mild-mannered horse, who did not seem set on throwing her off, or running amok.
"You're doing great. Now, if you want him to turn left, pull gently on the left side of the reins, and press with your right foot against his side, and vice versa. Galahad is responsive, so you don't have to use any force at all. I'll walk next to you, but you have the reins now."
Her mouth suddenly dry, Seven wanted to grip the reins tighter, but willed herself to relax since she suspected that Galahad would pick up on any such feelings in a negative way. She gently steered the horse in a wide circle and when Tina told her to pull both reins toward her, she did so, and to her surprise, Galahad obediently came to a full stop.
"You are a natural," Tina said, her face beaming. "Before long, we'll be able to ride through the wilderness together. I can borrow Tilde's horse, she's a bit less obedient than Galahad."
"I think I will need to practice more before we head out into wilderness," Seven said. "But I admit, this was more enjoyable than I anticipated."
"I'm so glad! You're a godsend, Annika. I don't know how Tilde and Lars managed before you got here." Tina's face turned serious. "Once the baby is born, they'll need you even more. You're staying, aren't you?"
Seven thought of the Delta Flyer and how slow the repairs were. "For now," she allowed.
Just as she jumped off the horse, she thought she heard a static noise from her comm badge, hidden under several layers of clothes, but when she held her breath and listened more closely, all she heard was the wind and sound of the horse breathing. "I have no other pressing engagements."
"Super." Tina hooked her arm around Seven's, and led both her and Galahad toward the stable.
Janeway sat next to Tom Paris who was piloting the small space shuttle. Behind her the Doctor, Samantha Wildman and Harry Kim shared the cramped space.
"You sure got used to the Delta Flyer when it comes to comfort," Harry Kim muttered, elbowing the Doctor.
"Would you mind?" the Doctor huffed. "I may not feel pain the way humans do, but just because I'm a photonic life for—"
"Gentlemen," Janeway said warningly. "We're not going on a fourteen day away mission and I expect you to endure any potential discomfort with patience. Remember our objective."
"Sorry, Captain," Harry said.
"You're correct, Captain," the Doctor filled in. "We have to keep our eye on the big picture, the poodles' nucleus, the main attraction, the thing that makes the world go 'round—"
"Eh, yes? Oh. Yes." The Doctor made an emphatic gesture that made Harry choke and cough and Janeway rolled her eyes at Tom who took the radar scrambled shuttle into a low orbit as they headed for their coordinates.
"ETA the Nordic circle in ten minutes, Captain," Tom said. "I could go faster, but it may worry the natives if we made too much noise within the atmosphere."
"I don't understand why we cannot just beam Seven into the shuttle when we're within distance." The Doctor leaned forward, nearly cheek to cheek with both Janeway and Tom.
"Because we don't know in what setting she is, and if we beam her out while she's observed by many of the 'natives,' we could draw too much attention to it, and thus pollute the timeline." Janeway shot the Doctor a meaningful glance which made him retract instantly.
"I see. Good point." The Doctor sat down again, elbowing Harry back in the process.
"I have our landing area in sight, ma'am. No life signs other than small furry creatures." Tom punched in a series of commands.
"Good. Set us down, Tom."
As the shuttle swept down in Tom's trademark elegant manoeuvre, Janeway checked short range sensors. A muted bleep on the screen showed how Seven moved around not far from them. Finally. I thought you were lost to me forever, but here you are. She had no way of knowing if Seven had been as distraught for being separated from her, and the crew, as Janeway herself was. All she knew was that for her, Seven's absence had been like an open wound.
Seven closed the door to the small vehicle Tilde had lent her. It had taken Seven a few moments to figure out its ancient propulsion system, but once she tapped into her memory files of Tom Paris' favorite holodeck program, which entailed similar means of transportations, she found it quite easy to drive.
"Annika, you're just in time!" Tilde stood in the doorway to her house. Constructed of wood only, it was painted red with white corners, and with the snow-covered roof, it looked like something out of Naomi Wildman's story books. The thought of Naomi hurt and Seven pushed it quickly to the back of her mind. Not now. Not when everybody expected her to participate in the festivities surrounding this year's opening of the Ice Bar. She was supposed to collect Tina and Tilde and bring them to the Ice Hotel where Lars was overseeing everything. Several famous artists had participated in creating the ice artwork in the Ice Bar and the unveiling would soon be underway.
"Oh, God, Annika, you're not wearing that, are you?" Tilde exclaimed and regarded Annika's attire with utter shock.
"I am aware this is a festive occasion, but I do not have access to anything more appropriate than this." Seven gestured toward her jeans and sweatshirt, which was immaculately clean, but too casual, Seven realized.
"We can fix this really quickly. My friend Marie is about your height. She'll have something, I'm sure." Tina walked into the house, gestured to Seven to follow her. Soon she was on the phone with her friend and had arranged for her to come to Tina's house with a few potential outfits. "She lives ten minutes from here, so we have time."
Seven wasn't entirely comfortable with borrowing a stranger's clothes, but knew she had to or she would embarrass her friends.
Marie was a tall, lanky brunette, who looked Seven over appreciatively. "Yum, where have you been keeping this gorgeous creature, Tina?" Marie wiggled her eyebrows. "You know I'm a sucker for blondes."
"Stand down, woman," Tina said and snickered. "Annika is off limits, you brat. You will have to wait until you get to the Ice Bar before you go on the prowl for you next prey."
Seven had no idea what they were talking about, but saw the naked desire in Marie's eyes as the young woman looked at her. She accepted the paper bag filled with clothes from Marie and excused herself before going into the bathroom to try the clothes on. She disregarded a skin-tight cocktail dress, not wanting anything that revealing, before favoring a black trouser suit with a white cotton shirt. She found the clothes fit her quite well, only straining slightly over her full breasts, but she solved that by allowing the top buttons to remain open. She decided to wear her hair down, remembering how the Doctor had suggested this when she went on her first date, disastrous as it had turned out to be. She combed it through with her fingers, surmising it was impolite to use somebody else's hairbrush.
Seven stepped back into the hallway and the complete silence from the others made her think she had misjudged the event and that she needed to change into something different. "I can change," she said and put a hand on the bathroom door.
"Stop!" Tina laughed and took Seven gently by the arm. "Annika, you look fantastic! I could never have imagined you looking like this."
"You clean up well," Marie purred and only backed up after a raised eyebrow from Tina.
"You're beautiful, Annika," Tilde said softly. "Now, we need to get going. Jackets on, everybody."
Seven took her parka and exited the house with the others. She held up the door to the car for Tilde and helped her pregnant friend to sit down. Driving toward the hotel, she couldn't keep the thoughts of Voyager and its crew away. She missed them so much. Most of all she regretted not being more forthcoming toward the captain. Now Janeway would never know Seven's true feelings.
The away team landed behind a thick shrubbery and quickly covered as much as they could of the shuttle with dead branches and snow. Janeway scanned the area again with her tricorder. Only small animals populated the immediate area around them, which was a good sign. The last thing she wanted was for someone to stumble upon the shuttle.
"That's good enough, people," Janeway said and clipped the tricorder to her belt. She closed the collar of her jacket, shuddering since it was blisteringly cold. "We need to start moving toward the town's perimeter."
"Ready, Captain," Tom Paris said. "Seven's biosignature?"
"She's somewhere close to the river, moving about."
"She must be okay then, ma'am," Tom said, his voice kind.
"Let's hope so." Janeway was a bit taken aback at the obvious attempt at comforting her on Tom's part. Was it so obvious how big a toll Seven's absence had taken on her? She squared her shoulders and began walking in the direction of the town Jukkasjärvi.
The scenery was breathtaking and at any other given moment, Janeway would have taken the opportunity to admire how Sweden looked before it was covered with residential and commercial structures. The mountains in the distance rose majestically around them and the air was clean, nearly stinging her lungs with its crispness.
Jukkasjärvi was a small town, and soon they came upon what was obviously a residential area. The houses were small, but well-kept and she could see some children playing outside one of them.
"They're building a snowman," the Doctor said from behind. "I did that once on the holodeck with my holo family." He sounded wistful.
"Sorry, Doctor, no time for any snowmen," Janeway said. "Once we find Seven, we will head back to Voyager."
"What if Seven can't help us recreate the singularity?" Harry asked. He had been very quiet until now. "What if we're really stuck her this time?"
"Let's cross that bridge when we get to it," Janeway said shortly. First things first. Find Seven.
Darkness was already falling and Janeway switched on her flashlight. She pulled out her tricorder and scanned the area. "This is unexpected," she murmured. "I was unaware that there'd be so many people in this small town." The tricorder showed a large crowed congregating by the river. Right where Seven was? What was going on?
Janeway heard the large group of people before saw them. Voices, mainly laughter and singing, blended in the cool air, and traveled toward her like ghosts in the eternal night of the Nordic winter.
"At least they sound happy," the Doctor mused. "What is that? Songs saluting drunkenness?"
"Drinking songs," Tom Paris said with a smile. "No doubt they need something powerful to stay warm in this part of the world. This must be before they installed regionally tempered zones."
"Can't imagine Earth without them." Harry Kim shuddered. "How else would Earth have coped with the overpopulation?"
Janeway listened only with half her mind, the rest of her focused on what situation they might be up against when they rounded the next corner. The sight made her stop cold.
"A structure of ice." Paris scanned the building in front of them where all the people were apparently lining up to enter. "I mean, entirely of ice, practically."
"Even I know that they knew how to build with a multitude of components in the 21st century." Janeway raised an eyebrow at Tom, their history aficionado. "They built and igloo—this size? It's enormous."
"Might be a museum, perhaps?" the Doctor suggested.
"That melts away in the summer? Hardly." Tom snorted.
"Well," Janeway said and made sure her thermos-jacket covered her phaser, "only one way to find out. According to my tricorder, Seven's inside this place, and no matter how joyous everybody seems on the outside, God knows what goes on inside that cold hell hole."
"Cold hell hole, Captain? Isn't that a paradox?" the Doctor asked only to back off at her level ten death glare. "Understood, Captain. Cold hell hole it is."
Nobody seemed to pay attention to them or mind that complete strangers merged with their group. Instead, a young woman handed out free warm beverages accompanied by an equally warm smile. Janeway thanked her, carefully sniffing the drink. In the corner of her eyes she saw the Doctor do a stealth scan of the beverage.
"What is it?" she murmured as she moved toward the entrance.
"Something fashioned from lingon berries. Non-alcoholic. Harmless."
Janeway sipped her lingon berry drink and was pleasantly surprised at the sweet-tart taste and found it quite refreshing.
A man at the door let them inside, he too was smiling broadly. As soon as the door closed behind them, Janeway found her theory of this being a hell hole was confirmed. A thunderous sound came from the speakers, people's bodies writhed in spasmodic movements and it was clear that they were under the influence of something. Some were laughing hysterically, others were sipping odd looking drinks from tiny glasses, and Janeway wondered if this was part of a social anthropological experiment gone awry.
She stared at the obviously mass hypnotized people at the far end of the room, and that's where she first spotted Seven of Nine.
Janeway stared at the unexpected—no, incredible—sight before her. Seven of Nine was moving like an electric blue flame to the pulsating music. A large bear of a man moved right along with her, his body amazingly agile despite his size.
"What the hell…?" Tom Paris' incredulous tone summed it all up.
"Hey, Annika! Those are some moves you've got!" An excited female voice to Janeway's left made her do a double take. "I knew they were just being idiots when they called you the Ice Queen."
Seven, formerly known as Annika Hansen, turned her head, and looked at the girl, and now it was her turn to do a double take as her eyes immediately darted back to Janeway.
Not taking her eyes of her astrometrics officer, Janeway saw Seven stop in mid stride, say something to her dance partner, and then stride toward her. She all but ran to Janeway and stopped when she was about five steps away. Seven's ice blue eyes raked over Janeway's body, over and over, as if she was trying to determine if she was a mirage, or something.
"Kath—Captain." Seven's voice was barely audible through the pounding music, but it wasn't hard to read the full lips. She was dressed in a trouser suit, certainly vintage looking, and her hair hung in deliciously tousled tresses.
"Sev—Annika." It felt oddly reassuring to use Seven's human name, and Janeway crossed the last of the distance between them. Without any misgiving regarding who was witnessing their reunion, Janeway gently cupped Seven's shoulders. "Are you all right?"
"I have been functioning within acceptable parameters." Seven's eyes shone brightly in the glittering lights from the ice walls. "As of now, I am quite 'all right'."
"I'm quite all right too, Seven," Janeway said huskily. She was about to ask her about how she sustained her Borg implants when Seven suddenly wrapped her arms around Janeway's neck in a fierce embrace.
"I thought you were forever lost to me," Seven murmured in Janeway's ear. "I thought I would never lay eyes on you again."
'You' as in me, Seven, or 'you' as in the crew'? "I know what you mean. I—eh…we—were all going a little stir crazy for losing you. We had no way of knowing if you were dead."
"And still you came after me?" Seven blinked rapidly. "It was not entirely a safe maneuver, Captain. The singularity damaged the Delta Flyer quite extensively on the route to the Alpha Quadrant."
"We know. Voyager is in high orbit, but we have some major repairs to conduct."
"I will assist." Seven was swaying now, and it dawned on Janeway that she must be exhausted from forgoing proper regeneration cycles.
"It can wait until tomorrow. Right now, we need to whisk you away to the shuttle and go back to Voyager. Naomi Wildman's been housekeeping your regeneration alcove for you."
"Thank you, Captain—"
"Friends of yours? Hi, I'm Tilde." A cute girl in her late teens, or early twenties, walked up to them, making Janeway suddenly aware that she was hugging Seven in public, and in front of her crewmembers. "Isn't this a surprise?" She held on to Seven's arm and squeezed it as she smiled warmly at the Voyager away team. "And in matching ski suits! You belong to a band?"
"A band?" Janeway blinked.
"Like a rock band…or pop…or maybe folk?"
Janeway had no idea what the young woman meant and looked pointedly at Seven.
"Tina, these are my—friends. They decided to surprise me," Seven said quickly.
"Oh, great!" Tina clapped her hands. "Isn't it the coolest that Tilde saved three suites just in case any of our guests decided to stay last minute? I'll tell her that you will need the rooms."
"No, that's not necessary—" Seven tried to intervene, but to no avail.
"Aw, anything for your friends, Annika. You've done so much for us, and I know that Tilde and Lars are just dying to do something for you. At least you and your friends will have the Ice Hotel experience to remember." She danced away through the crowd, apparently on her way to find this Tilde and Lars.
"Actually we must go," Janeway said.
"What?" Janeway frowned.
"I want nothing more than to return with you to Voyager, but I have given my word to help Tilde and Lars with the 'tech stuff'."
"So, you mean we need to stay here tonight? In this freezing—" Janeway stopped before she called the Ice Hotel—a hotel, no less—a hell hole again.
"Actually, I think you will find the experience exhilarating." Seven's eyes challenged Janeway. "Sleeping on reindeer skins in a room of ice is not something I would have thought remarkable—but it is."
Suddenly mesmerized with the opportunity to experience something Seven considered remarkable, Janeway relented. "All right. Since Voyager is undergoing repairs anyway…why not. We won't risk meeting too many natives while cooped up in an icy room, so that's a plus."
"A plus," Seven said matter-of-fact and nodded. "A most definite plus."
Tilde showed them to their rooms, her eyes darting back and forth between the members of the away team. "This is great," she said, beaming. "Annika never said a word about having so many friends coming here."
"We surprised her," Janeway said, the low purr of her voice sending tremors down Seven's back.
"You sure did. Not that Annika is the most talkative person in the world, but you seem to have her at a total loss for words." Tilde elbowed Seven in a friendly manner. "I'm so glad Lars and I saved a few rooms. Otherwise the cold rooms are booked solid through the season, more or less."
"The ice art work is amazing." Janeway seemed genuinely appreciative of the fantastically chiseled ice blocks. "And you do this every year?"
"Like clockwork. Guess it's a way of life, and every year means new challenges, and as you can tell, new beauty." Tilde motioned to her left. "If you get a chance, stop by the chapel, it's almost ready."
"People get married in there?" Tom Paris asked.
Seven walked next to Janeway, not wanting to be too far away from her. She was still reeling from when she saw her standing across the room. She'd actually enjoyed dancing with Lars, since he was her friend and not a potential suitor or love interest. When she'd looked up, the woman who inhabited every single dream of hers, merely stood there, looking wide-eyed at Seven.
"Here you go. Three rooms. I trust you're wearing thermo underwear? If not, we have some for sale."
"We're sufficiently dressed. Well, all except Sev-…Annika, perhaps." Janeway raised an eyebrow at Seven.
"I will not be cold." It was true. Her cortical node kept her body at a comfortable temperature unless extreme circumstances.
Tilde looked surprised, but didn't object. "All right. Please rejoin the party once you've caught up. I can imagine you have a lot to talk about."
"Perhaps." Janeway smiled. She thanked Tilde once more before turning to her team. Pushing her hood back, she stood in the muted light, and she had never looked lovelier. "I suppose we should get some rest while we can. Divide the rooms in whichever way you want. Seven, you're with me."
Relieved that she was going to spend some time alone with Janeway, Seven opened the door to the closest suite. "I think you will find this sufficient."
Inside an ice platform held a bed dressed with reindeer skins and sleeping bags and pillows. Intricate patterns and sculpted ice gave the room an ethereal ambiance which never ceased to amaze Seven. She glanced at Janeway who seemed just as enthralled.
"And this is where you've spent the last months." Janeway sounded choked up.
"I arrived before the first snow. I have been part of this project from the start and I found it quite intriguing. Lars and Tilde have been very good to me."
"I can tell." Janeway closed her eyes briefly. "I'm grateful for that. I have been very worried." A catch in her voice betrayed more than her words.
"I have been very lonely." The truth left Seven's lips before she knew what she meant to say. "Your presence now…is difficult to grasp."
Janeway turned and placed her hands on Seven's hips, pulling her closer. The gesture felt more intimate than a firm hug, their bodies barely touching. Their breaths mixed in the cool air, and Seven slowly raised her human hand. Cupping Janeway's cheek, she felt the warmth of her skin and it made the new situation feel real for the first time.
"Captain…Kathryn…" Seven swallowed hard. "I have missed you."
"Oh, Gods, Seven." Janeway moaned and turned her head, pressing her lips into Seven's palm. "I've been so worried, so devastated without you."
"I am sorry."
"Don't be. It wasn't your fault." Janeway traced Seven's lower lip with her thumb. "We found you."
Closing her eyes briefly, Seven felt as if her body grew heavier, and her heart pounded despite the nanoprobes trying to maintain an optimal heart rate.
"Seven, I just want to hold you."
"Call me Kathryn, like you did."
"May I kiss you, Seven?"
Seven's heart leaped, and she pressed Kathryn close to her in a full body embrace. "Yes!"
Seven felt as out of place, and bewildered, as she had that day in the brig three years ago when Kathryn had severed her from the Borg Collective. She had stood there, gasping for air and so angry, so afraid, she couldn't think straight. She had missed the other Borg voices, and she'd lost the only home she remembered…and Kathryn had more or less forced her to face her lost humanity, and regain it.
Now Seven was outwardly more composed, she was a little breathless, but she carefully hid the rampaging emotions and clasped her hands behind her back.
"Aren't you cold?" Kathryn asked, hands on her hips. Seven wondered if Kathryn knew what a telltale sign that was. She usually assumed that stance when she was either defiant, or unsure.
"No. My core temperature is thirty-seven point six degrees Celsius, as always."
"I'm a bit cold." Kathryn shrugged. "That darn human frailty."
"It is only normal for a human without a cortical implant to freeze in subzero temperatures." Seven wanted to offer the comfort of shared bodily warmth, but was uncertain if that was within the boundaries between her and her captain…her Kathryn? Feeling her cheeks warm, Seven decided she could not witness this woman being cold, or in pain, or any such discomfort, without acting. "Kathryn. I can help you elevate your temperature."
"What?" Kathryn blinked and her hands slid off her slight hips.
"I do not wish for you to be cold."
"Oh, Seven, I'm not that cold." Kathryn smiled and tucked her hair behind her left ear. "Just a little."
"But we might as well get ready for bed. I think this place has everything sorted for us, it's quite luxurious despite its unusual business idea."
"So…" Kathryn gestured toward the bed. "We better get some sleep. We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow, with repairs."
"And I have obligations toward Tilde and Lars."
"I realize you made promises when you thought you may be stuck in this century…"
"A promise is still valid, no matter why it's given." Seven frowned, not wanting Kathryn to misunderstand. "They took me in, almost like family."
"We're your family." It was Kathryn's turn to frown. "You belong with us."
"I do." Seven thought she heard a mix of panic and pain in Kathryn's voice. Had she been as fearful of never seeing Seven again as she had been of losing Kathryn forever? "I belong with you," Seven said softly. "I am fully aware where my duties lie and to whom my heart belongs."
Kathryn stared at her with darkening eyes. "You do?"
"And so do you, I think." Seven held her breath as Kathryn stepped well within her personal space.
Janeway couldn't stop looking at the stunning beautiful features of Seven of Nine. She was suddenly taken back in time to when she first saw her physical beauty in all its glory, in cargo bay two, after the Doctor had removed the last of her more disfiguring implants. She had stood there, rigid, reluctant, and all dressed in her first bio suit—all sleek and silvery.
"Seven…" Janeway said huskily. "It's been more than three years."
"I am aware exactly how many hours and minutes and seconds since I was severed from the Collective."
"I know. But want I want to say is, we've had out fights over the years, we've disagreed, and sometimes had to resort to agreeing that we disagree."
"Capt—Kathryn?" Seven shifted barely noticeably from foot to foot.
"You and Harry built the astrometrics lab, which has shaved years off our journey, and is also the reason we've been able to avoid trouble by plotting the most favorable course." Janeway heard herself sound way too formal for what she was about to say. She took a deep breath. "So, add that to the fact that I find you endlessly intriguing—"
"You do?" Instead of Seven's normal low infliction of tone, she spoke with an underlying breathlessness and tremor that tore at the barricades Janeway normally erected around her aching heart.
"I do. Of course I do." Janeway smoothed the already impeccable lapels of Seven's jacket. "And beautiful, and attractive, and so many other things. Being without you for three months—"
"Ninety-six days, four days, eight hours, and four minutes." Seven's eyes shimmered with unshed tears. "I could specify the seconds, but I will not."
"I have counted seconds too." Janeway remembered staring at the collapsing singularity that had carried Seven away to an unknown fate. "If you only knew how many times I cursed the fact that I allowed you to go alone."
"It was the logical thing to do. Only I could open the singularity, sustain it, and it was not necessary to risk any other crew members when all they could do was observing my actions."
"I know. I know all that." Janeway drew a couple of deep breaths, willing her racing heart to calm down. "But, don't you see…I wanted to be there with you!"
Seven surprised Janeway completely by suddenly hugging her close. "I wished for the same thing. I could endure being marooned anywhere, or reside in any alien setting, if you were there with me."
"Oh, Seven." Janeway knew she couldn't resist any longer. Those lush lips, now slightly parted as the tip of Seven's tongue moistened them, beckoned her, drew her in. She stood on her toes, closing the distance between them and adding a couple of inches to her size. Janeway framed Seven's face with her hands and pulled her closer. This was it; she couldn't wait a moment longer to finally kiss Seven of Nine.
Seven could hardly breathe. Something was amiss with her cortical node, or perhaps her nano probes had ceased to function properly; it was impossible to saturate her red blood cells with enough oxygen when Kathryn looked at her this way. Seven tried to determine whether Kathryn's gaze was predatory or smoldering, and came to the confusing conclusion that it was either—and both.
"Kathryn?" Seven whispered, apparently her larynx and vocal cords were affected as well.
"I know." Kathryn's voice was a soft, velvety murmur, so unlike her normal way of addressing the crew. "It rattled me more than I ever thought, the thought of having lost you. I admit I've been quite intolerable toward the crew at times…especially when I thought everything took too long." She shrugged and stepped even closer, so close their bodies nearly touched. "They took it well—probably because they understood more than I gave them credit for in the beginning."
"What did they 'understand'?"
"How devastated I was." Kathryn slowly raised both hands and cupped the back of Seven's neck and head. "How not having you near me, onboard Voyager, drained me. And I wasn't the only one missing you, but I think I was the one who handled it the worst."
Kathryn's touch was intoxicating. Seven had the odd feeling that her blood was humming where it coursed through her veins. "Kathryn. Your close proximity makes me feel very odd."
"In a good way, I hope?" Janeway raised her eyebrows, her stormy blue.
"I would have to guess, which is not something I'm comfortable doing, but yes."
"Why do you have to guess?"
"I have never felt this way before."
"And how do you feel?"
"Light-headed. Trembling. Breathless. Warm. Cold." Seven took a gentle hold of Kathryn's shoulders. "Confused."
With a smile that made Kathryn's narrow lips impossible luscious, she leaned forward and pulled Seven closer. Brushing her lips over Seven's, once, twice, Kathryn moaned softly, and the sound, just as much as the arousing touch of her lips, made Seven whimper and cling harder to her.
"Kiss me back, Seven…please."
"I am sorry, Kathryn. I am not sure I can reciprocate properly."
Kathryn became rigid and pulled back slightly, her eyes suddenly slate grey. "Oh."
"I want to kiss you. I merely do not have enough practical experience to aim for perfection. I have wanted to engage in physical pleasure with you for approximately two years, four months, six weeks, two days, five hours and—"
"Approximately?" Janeway's eyes transformed into brilliant blue again and she pressed her body against Seven's, making full contact. "Well, trust me, darling, teaching you to kiss will no doubt become my favorite pastime."
"Indeed." Kathryn pressed her lips softly to Seven's, released contact, only to resume it again, over and over. The repeated caress, so sweet, so arousing, created complete havoc with the rest of Seven's systems. She felt her knees start to buckle and it was shocking how she suddenly needed to sit down, preferably lie down.
Kathryn then slid the tip of her tongue along Seven's lower lip, which nearly became her undoing.
Janeway couldn't stop tasting the sweetness of Seven's mouth. She kissed her, over and over, pulling Seven close and melding their curves together through her thermo-wear. Suddenly it wasn't enough. She needed to feel Seven even closer.
A muted whimper emanating from deep inside Seven caught Janeway off guard, and she pulled back slightly to make sure it was a whimper for the right reason. Seven looked dazed, but not confused, and she was trembling and unsteady.
"I think we need to lie down," Janeway said with a broad smile.
"I think you are correct."
"Then why don't we get out of some of our clothes and see if we can join the sleeping bags together." Janeway reluctantly let go of Seven and checked the sleeping bags. "Look, I think these can be locked together."
"They are called zippers. And yes, they can zip together."
Janeway turned to comment on the cleverness of the old-fashioned fastening method when the sight of Seven in a state of undress stole her breath. "Oh, my."
"Is something wrong?" Seven had her white shirt open and half off one shoulder when she froze half way.
"On the contrary. You're very, very right." Janeway yanked off the thermo-wear and stood in her skin tight, Star Fleet issue under-armor. It revealed every single one of her curves and Janeway knew she might as well almost be naked.
Seven looked her over. And then did so twice more until Janeway nearly squirmed. "Seven? I'm getting cold here."
"Forgive me." Seven moved quickly, removing her shirt, and held up the top part of the sleeping bag to help Janeway inside. Only dressed in a tank top and panties, Seven looked so sexy in an innocent sort of way, Janeway had to reel herself in, not to simply devour her. She was supposed to be the experienced lover here, and the truth was, Janeway had never had a female lover before. She'd always found her own gender quite attractive, but the men in her life had always had a great impact on her, sometimes too much.
Now, however, all she could think of was Seven, and how she tasted and felt under her hands. Janeway knew she needed to be fair, and keep in mind that Seven really was so innocent that she may not know that it was all right to say no to any of Janeway's advances.
"Darling." Janeway saw a muted glitter in Seven's eyes at the term of endearment. That was reassuring. "I can't tell you how lovely it is to feel you next to me like this." She held Seven closer and stroked her back. "It's every bit as wonderful as I've imagined so many times." Janeway colored faintly. "Still, I need to tell you something…or, rather, ask you something."
"Proceed." Seven's voice was as aplomb as usual, but the timbre was new.
"I can tell that our kisses affected you much in the same way it did me. But, that said, you can still say no, if something doesn't feel right, and I promise I will understand."
"You are afraid that I will surmise it is my duty to satisfy my captain?" Seven asked matter-of-fact.
"Eh…no…well, yes, but when you put it that way…" Janeway wondered how she'd managed to paint herself into this particular corner.
"What if I told you that I cannot think of any other duty I would rather perform? I would cherish 'serving' you in any way you can think of. When we go back to Voyager, I will research the database so I can 'service' you adequately."
It took Janeway a few seconds to realize that what Seven said was at least half tongue-in-cheek.
"You…" Janeway sighed and shook her head with a wry smile.
"I was being facetious, up to a point." Seven pulled Janeway closer and gently tipped her head back as she towered over her. "I am however not facetious now. I want to learn everything you can possibly teach me."
"I'm not all that knowledgeable." Janeway swallowed audibly as Seven pressed her lips against her thundering artery on her neck. "Oh."
"You are not?"
"No. I mean, I haven't had any female lovers."
"You are a woman. You have achieved physical satisfaction at least once."
"Eh, quite a few times." All alone, the last seven years. Suddenly the long lonely nights where the only pleasure came via her own hands, or the guilty pleasures with a character on the holodeck, seemed very far away.
"Then does not logic dictate that the same would work for my body?" Seven frowned. "Or is my physiology so different, because of my Borgness that it will not apply to me?" She shuddered and Janeway knew it was time to take control again.
"There is nothing wrong with your physiology, Seven," Janeway said huskily. "Other than the sight of you drives me crazy." She rolled Seven onto her back and kissed her again, this time slipping her tongue inside Seven's mouth in what had to be viewed as a sign of sweet dominance.
Seven accepted the gentle, but insistent, intrusion and met Janeway's tongue with her own. They kissed for long seconds, Janeway moaning in delight, and Seven held her even tighter then.
"You're perfection," Janeway murmured. "You're perfect for me."
"And you are…amazing. So beautiful, and you make me feel the most unusual sensations." Seven stroked along Janeway's back, pushing her hands up under the under-armor shirt. "You are very hot."
"I'm hot?" Janeway supported her weight on her elbows.
"Your skin is hot and slightly damp. I find this very arousing." Seven blushed. "And voracious."
"Oh, my." Janeway's arms gave in and she lay on top of Seven, her bunched up shirt leaving her hot and damp skin pressed against Seven's tank top. "Voracious, huh?"
"Then taste me. Please."
"Are you certain…?" Seven sounded unusually hesitant.
"If you don't, I will self-combust."
"We must certainly prevent such a thing." Seven smiled tremulously and then it was her turn to roll Janeway over.
The under-armor proved no barrier of importance as Seven impatiently pushed it up and off Kathryn's abdomen. She had envisioned the pale skin, but not the faintly dusted freckles across Kathryn's chest. Intrigued, Seven ran her fingertips across them, the ones of her human hand, but detected no elevation of the skin where the freckles were located. She shifted and let her Borg-enhanced hand feel, all the time keeping a subtle eye on Kathryn's reaction to being touched by the implant. The only feeling on the elegant, beautiful face of the woman in her arms was utter bliss.
"I take it this pleases you." Seven tried to keep her voice matter-of-fact.
"It pleases me all right. And teases me."
"You're touching me so lightly. I would love a firmer approach once you're through exploring me like this."
"Ah." Seven wanted nothing but to satisfy Kathryn in any way she could. "Like this?" She took a handful of Kathryn's left breast, holding it gently, but massaging it with more insisting movements. She kept her focus on Kathryn, at first, carefully gauging her responses. Eventually, the stimulant of touching Kathryn's silken skin took over and Seven realized that you did not just touch your lover… Lover! …for the sake of their pleasure, but also because it felt so very good to the person doing the touching. Kathryn's skin pebbled in some places, developed 'goose bumps' in some, and was impossibly like satin or velvet in some.
"More…" Kathryn's husky voice commanded as much as it pleaded.
"If you don't touch me further down, I'll end up doing it myself and I've done that for way too long."
"Ah." Seven filed this piece of information away for future reference. She tried to picture Kathryn touching herself in the most intimate of places, seeking satisfaction. A flood of wetness soaked her white cotton panties, and embarrassed, she pressed her legs together, which had the opposite effect that she had hoped. The friction of her strong thigh muscles massaged her center, and Seven squirmed and moaned involuntarily.
"Seven? You all right?" Kathryn raised her head and looked at her worriedly.
"I…I am 'fine'."
"Hm. You're moaning. And squirming. What's the matt-…? Oh." Kathryn pushed a hand into the double sleeping bag and touched Seven's stomach. "May I investigate?"
"You might dislike your find." Seven knew that lubrication was part of the sexual act, but she was sure her physique was malfunctioning. Surely this much was not required? The Borg had invaded every single one of her systems, and the Doctor had carefully restored her reproductive organs—but even the brilliant medical hologram could not perform miracles.
"What? Why do you say that?"
"I am very…wet."
"You are?" Kathryn's eyes grew wide and then she smiled a full, wide eyed smile that told Seven everything was all right. "Mm…sounds delicious."
Blushing fiercely, Seven felt Kathryn's hand move, first up to the hem of her tank top, and then down to the waist band of her panties.
"May I?" Kathryn asked as her hand returned to the tank top. "I have tried to imagine what your breasts look like, so many times. I have seen you naked in sickbay, but that's not the appropriate place to ogle someone."
"You have ogled me?" Seven raised an eyebrow.
This time it was Janeway's turn to become flustered. "Yes. Many times. Too many times, but I couldn't get enough. I'd even visit you in cargo bay 2, and watch you regenerate."
Kathryn blinked. "What for? It was clearly a case of your captain violating your privacy."
"It was not. It feels comforting to know you were watching over me. I have on occasion felt on display, and also found crew members present when my regeneration cycle was completed." Seven had never brought the issue up, mostly because she had not cared until lately about not having her own quarters.
"I'm so sorry, darling." Kathryn caressed Seven's stomach and the pushed her hand up under her tank top. She didn't hesitate, but took one of Seven's breasts in her hand and flicked her thumb over the painfully taut nipple.
Arching, Seven's groan turned into a whimper at the exquisite pleasure. She pressed Kathryn's hand harder against her with her own hand outside her tank top, wanting the touch to intensify and last.
"No need to worry, Seven," Kathryn whispered hotly in her ear. "I don't intend to stop touching you until you beg for mercy.
"You…should know by now…" Seven panted as Kathryn pushed the tank top up and over her breasts. "You should know, that the Borg do not beg."
Janeway's heart fluttered erratically in her chest. "You keep telling me what the Borg don't do. So…what do they do?"
Seven looked regal as always, but there was a new softness to her lips and something resembling tenderness in her eyes. "We strive for perfection—thus, we act."
Seven held her closer, and Janeway's hand pressed firmly against Seven's breast. The puckered nipple prodded her palm and she wanted to roll it between her fingertips, pinch it.
As if she read Janeway's mind, Seven eased up on the tight grip, allowing Janeway some space to maneuver. Janeway pushed Seven's tank top up over her head and off, tossing it onto the icy floor. "You sure you're not cold?" she asked hoarsely.
"Very sure." Seven moaned.
"Mm, yes, you're right. You're not cold at all." Janeway lowered her mouth onto Seven's right nipple. The puckered skin had a faint taste of metal to it, but it only enticed her into sucking it deeper into her mouth, her tongue working it relentlessly.
"Oh!" Seven arched, pressing against Janeway, sobbing her name. "Kathryn, Kathryn."
"Seven…" Janeway licked, long languid caresses across both breasts. She was in heaven, or so it felt, and she wanted nothing but to keep on pleasuring Seven like this.
Seven however seemed to have similar plans in mind. She caressed Janeway's hair with soft strokes, allowing her hands to travel down Janeway's back. Feeling how Seven pulled her shirt up, Janeway moaned against a slick breast. She felt the cold air whisper against her skin, but just as it felt like way too cold, Seven covered them both with the blankets and sleeping bag. She held Janeway close and nibbled down her neck, which both tickled and aroused her at no end.
"You are shivering," Seven said.
"You are driving me crazy."
"I have no such intention."
"The Borg do not lie."
"Oh, yes they do, if it serves their purpose."
"And what would my purpose be in this case?" Seven asked, kissing down between Janeway's breasts.
"I…I don't know."
"I must admit you are correct." Seven kissed all the way over to the right breast and hovered over the nipple, her breath warming it. "And my objective is the same as it has always been."
"And perfection in this case be?"
"In this case…the sound of your voice when I do this." Seven closed her lips over Janeway's nipple.
Janeway arched at the exquisite pain and gave a short cry that turned into a muted groan.
Seven heard Kathryn breath hard and moan over and over as she assaulted her nipples. She knew how it had thrilled her when Kathryn mouthed them and tried to emulate the movements of the tongue, and judging from Kathryn's vocal response, she was doing it right.
Holding onto Kathryn's waist, Seven kept her in place as she devoured her. When she determined that Kathryn couldn't take anymore stimulating of her breasts, Seven decided it was time to move on. She kissed a new trail, this time toward Kathryn's belly button.
Seven dipped her tongue in the small indentation, surprised at how Kathryn jolted and started shivering even more than before. She kept up the caress for another one point six minutes, and then kissed further down. When she reached the small triangle of soft auburn hair, she stopped, looking bewilderedly up at Kathryn.
"I wish to kiss you all over, but I am afraid of hurting you, of…failing."
"You won't do either. But what if we change places, darling? I can't say I know all that much about loving a woman, but together we can learn."
"Very well." Seven found her arms and legs oddly uncooperative as she slid across Kathryn and lay down. She made sure the sleeping bags covered both of them, since even she was beginning to feel the cold get to her a bit.
"So, you were lying like this, I think," Kathryn said, an amused look, coupled with something dark and molten, in her eyes. She placed herself between Seven's legs. "It's a little tricky with the sleeping bag. Good thing that it's so big.
"Viking," Seven said dreamily once Kathryn cupped her hips and blew gently at her sex.
"Vikings. The Scandinavians. Tall and big. Tall and big sleeping bag. Logical."
"Ah…yes…logical…" Kathryn pushed gently at Seven's legs, parting them as much as it was possible inside the Viking sleeping bag. "Comfortable? Here, they have tons of pillows ready for us." She pushed pillows up around Seven until she could relax completely and stay as exposed as Kathryn desired.
Seven knew now that even if Kathryn could not see very well inside the sleeping bag, she still had access to every intimate part of her. She would realize just how wet Seven had become as soon as she touched her, which worried Seven a little since she had no idea what was considered normal or not. What if something in her Borg physique made her abnormal and repelling?
Kathryn chose this exact time to dip her tongue into Seven's sex, following her inner labia up to the bundle of nerve endings at the front. "Mm," Kathryn purred and repeated the movement. "So wet…and all for me…I'm flattered."
"I was unsure."
"Don't be." Kathryn found a slow rhythm where she managed to cover everything of Seven's sex from the clitoris to her anus, and not miss a thing. "You're…perfect."
Janeway couldn't believe that she was caressing Seven of Nine this intimately, and that the beautiful young woman not only let her, but she was beside herself with arousal as well. Moaning her name over and over, Seven was undulating now with ever lick of Janeway's tongue, and the sweet taste was taking its toll on Janeway as well. The burning sensation between her own legs was driving her insane and she wanted to rub against Seven or have her bury her fingers inside her. None of her former male lovers had ever affected her like this. Some of them had been more about their own satisfaction, and some had been really sweet, but eventually impatient when she'd found it hard to relax and let herself go. On more than once occasion with Mark, had she satisfied herself after he fell asleep with his back toward her.
Now, her thoughts were mostly with Seven and wanting to pleasure her, but when her thoughts strayed to her own wantonness, it nearly scared her how much she wanted this woman.
"I wish to kiss you now," Seven whimpered. "I do not know why…but it feels important."
"I think you're ready to come for me, with me, darling." Janeway crept up along Seven's body and held her close. "I want to kiss you too." She lowered her lips to Seven's and at first the kisses were gentle and so romantic Janeway ached. Then they altered, and grew deeper and hotter.
Janeway slid one hand down Seven's body, pushed gently through the folds and then waited just outside the opening. "You will have to tell me to go inside." Janeway looked intently at Seven.
"Please, Kathryn. Go inside. I wish to share myself with you."
The beauty of Seven's words made Janeway loose the last of any residual hesitation, and she carefully pushed a finger inside Seven, meeting no resistance, but instead silken textures and enough wetness to make it painless for her lover. My lover!
"Oh. Ohhh…" Seven arched again, and when Janeway began stroking her clitoris while she took up another steady rhythm, moving her finger in and out, Seven whimpered repeatedly.
Janeway pressed her pelvis into Seven's hip, now so turned on, it was impossible to keep still.
"Let us turn on our sides so I can touch you as well," Seven managed to say between gasps.
Janeway nodded eagerly, pulling back a bit without losing contact. She bent her left leg and pulled it up and out, nearly desperate now for Seven's touch.
"Like this, Kathryn?" Seven plunged in between Janeway's folds. She rubbed back and forth; much like Janeway had done to her, and then positioned a finger at her entrance.
"Two fingers, Seven. Maybe even three. I'm so ready for you, so wet," Janeway whispered hotly in Seven's ear.
Seven was not hesitant at all when she added more fingers before entering. Janeway groaned aloud at the intrusion, but forced herself to relax and savor the moment. She didn't want to come before Seven.
Soon they'd found a joint rhythm that seemed to drive them both toward the precipice, and it all felt so right, so good, and still so unfamiliar. Janeway knew it would break her heart if she had to go back to being merely Seven's captain, friend and mentor again. Now that she'd finally let her guard down and let Seven know how she felt…or had she? Janeway stopped moving, which in turn seemed to break Seven out of her rhythm as well.
"Capt…Kathryn?" Seven frowned. "Is something…did I do something wrong?"
It wasn't like Seven to stutter, which showed Janeway how easy it would be to hurt her, inadvertently or deliberately.
"It just dawned on me, darling…" Janeway cleared her throat gently and began a slow movement of the hand which index finger was buried inside Seven. Seven jerked and trembled.
"I haven't been completely honest."
"I see." It was clear Seven didn't see. Her eyes darkened and she blinked repeatedly.
"I've missed you these three months, but that's not the only reason they were pure hell." Janeway hugged Seven closer with her free arm and looked into her eyes, not wanting to miss a thing. "It was living hell because I realized I love you, and probably have for a long time." Janeway smiled and felt her lips tremble.
"You…" Seven apparently lost her voice for a moment, but cleared her throat and tried again. "You love me?"
"I love you with all my heart and all my hopes and dreams."
"I love you also." A simple, concise and oh, so Seven'ish statement that held all of Janeway's happiness in its power.
"Oh, Seven…" Janeway felt the first stirrings of a monumental orgasm and doubled her efforts to pull Seven along with her. To her surprise, Seven gasped loudly and squeezed her legs closed around Janeway's hand. Her sex contracted around her finger in a fast rhythm and Seven whimpered and broke into tears.
This sent Janeway into a low orbit, and she followed Seven into orgasmic bliss. Strong currents of flooded her system, and thought she was going to lose consciousness for a moment. Once she'd struggled for the surface did she realize that her finger had dislodged from Seven.
Nuzzling each other they snuggled down in the warm cocoon of the sleeping bag. They were tired but both seemed reluctant to let sleep overcome them. Finally, Janeway acknowledged how tired she was and let her eyes close and her body give in to sleep. Seven was stroking her back and when her movements slowed down; Janeway knew she was falling asleep as well. Smiling, Janeway knew she had never felt saver or more loved in her life.
"A girl!" Lars was positively bouncing as he ran toward Seven and Janeway. "The first baby born in a cold room in the Ice Hotel!"
"Tilde has given birth already?" Seven shone and if Lars guessed it was for any other reason than the good news of him becoming a father, he didn't let on.
"Congratulations," Seven said, beaming.
"Congratulations," Janeway echoed. She was eager to get going. Her crew had repaired Voyager and it was time for them to leave after spending two weeks on a rotating roster of low key R and R's at the Ice Hotel and its surroundings. Janeway knew they had to visit with Tilde and the little baby girl, so Seven could say goodbye, which she knew would be hard on her lover.
"Opening the singularity, Captain." Seven of Nine's matter of fact voice drowned out the whining sound from Voyager straining to reach the optimal velocity.
"Good. All hands braise for impact. Jumping to high-tide velocity." Janeway turned her head back and looked at Seven. "Love you," she mouthed and saw how her words created the softest of expressions on Seven's face.
"We're on our way, Captain," Harry Kim reported, his eyes glued to the screen.
"Full impulse." Janeway clung to her armrests as Voyager lurched. "Steady as she goes."
"Steady?" the Doctor muttered. "I wouldn't call this steady, exactly."
"Quit complaining, Doc. At least the crew's back together and we're underway," Tom Paris muttered.
"All right, all right. It's just that I have a tendency to motion sickness—"
"We're over the threshold." Seven punched in a few commands. "Diagnostics show we should be back at our point of origin in twenty point six four seconds."
"All right." Janeway wanted to pry her eyes off the view screen where the flickering lights streaked by like fireworks.
Voyager lurched once and then Seven spoke again as she clung to the railing behind the command chairs. "We are on the other side of the singularity."
Everybody stared at the large view screen on the bridge.
"Oh, no," B'Elanna Torres. "We're back where we started from. Earth."
"How the hell did that happen?" Janeway stood, hands on her hips.
"Eh, ma'am. Not quite where we started. Well, where we started is correct…but look, Captain." Tom Paris whispered the last words.
Janeway stared at eh screen. She saw the same outline of the blue orb that was her home in another time, but this time something was different. Suddenly a vast space crusader entered the view screen and passed them less than two kilometers away.
"Audio?" Janeway asked, her voice huskier than normal.
"Star Fleet and other agencies are all there." Tuvok looked as stunned as Janeway felt, for once.
"Which year is this?" the Doctor wanted to know, obviously expecting the worst.
"It's our time. Stardate 54973,4, ma'am." Harry Kim's voice was barely audible. "We're home? Really home?"
"We are." Seven was rounding the command chairs and now she took Janeway's hand in hers. "You made it, Kathryn."
"We. We made it. All of us." Janeway blinked and blinked, but tears kept running. "We did this. The crew of Voyager." She squeezed the hand of the woman she loved more than anything. "Guess we better hail Star Fleet. Harry, open a comm channel." Janeway smiled up at Seven. "Star Fleet command, this is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Star Ship Voyager…do you read me?" Janeway waited until she heard a stunned voice.
"Ensign Rodriguez here, Starfleet command. But...Voyager? Ma'am? The Voyager is thirty-thousand some light years from here...in the Delta Quadrant."
Janeway grinned broadly and kissed the back of Seven's Borg enhanced hand. "Well, Ensign Rodriguez, we're back."