Seven of Nine sat at the small desk in her quarters in front of the holo screen which displayed her recent messages. A smile crept across her face as scanned the inbox:

New message from: Paris Tom - Subject: "Hey! Just dropping by to see ho…."

New message from: Torres (I still won't use his surname!) B'Elanna - Subject: "Hey Ice-Queen….. How's thi..."

She smiled at the familiar warmth which oozed from the headers and giggled inwardly as she pondered the irony that even though the married couple resided in the same home they each liked to send her their separate messages. Tom would regularly fill her in on his latest holo-novel which he was working on which would inevitably involve his beloved Captain Proton, whilst B'Elanna would indulge her with updates on their kids. Miral was now an Ensign onboard Starfleet's newest ship, whilst Harry had recently entered the Academy.

Scanning further down her inbox she passed by the messages from a few of her Fenris Rangers acquaintances, deleted some irritating junk mails and ignored one from an old flame whom she berated herself for not blocking already.

Just as she was about to open her message from Tom a new message appeared at the top of her display, with a name which stopped her in her tracks.

New message from: Janeway Kathryn - Subject: empty

=/\=

Seven stood in the centre of the room in her quarters. Shoulders rose and fell as her breathing slowly returned to a normal rate. Seeing the message from Kathryn had startled her. She had shot out of her seat so fast, almost sending the small holo device crashing to the floor as she did. Her heart rate escalated to near double its normal rate with the shock and she hadn't known what had surprised her more; seeing the message, or her reaction towards it. Staring at the emitter as though it, itself, was some kind of threat to her she tentatively took the few paces required to return to her seat at the table and gingerly waved her hand above it to reactivate the display.

Instantly, the display flashed back into life and her messages were once more hanging in front of her, shimmering as they were held, suspended in the air.

Anxiously she contemplated opening up the comforting messages from Tom and B'Elanna and relishing the familiarity of their correspondence, or, biting the proverbial bullet and seeing why the woman - from whom she had had no interaction with for so many years - was contacting her out of the blue.

Both palms were damp with perspiration as her anxiety mounted. Apprehensively she tapped the floating icon with Janeway's name as she nervously clenched and unclenched her right hand - a habit which she had developed soon after being severed from the collective.

The message screen appeared and Seven was confronted with a holographic avatar of a smiling Kathryn Janeway. Older. Hair, greyer than the last time they had met. The collar of an ever pristine Starfleet uniform only just visible at her neck. To the side of the image was another face, again, Kathryn, yet this one showed her in civilian attire, hair white. Across the image was a "play message" icon.

Suddenly, Seven was bombarded with images from her past. Visions of a much younger self onboard the infamous USS Voyager. Of hours spent in Ready Rooms, deep in discussions with her treasured Captain. Velocity matches which Janeway, more often than not, would win...much to Seven's frequent dissatisfaction. Memories of herself emerging from the shell of a human which Voyager had rescued from the Borg. Her mind played her a fast-forward recollection of her own personal journey from drone to human being under the almost exclusive wing of her Captain Kathryn Janeway. She recalled that day when they disembarked back on Earth when it seemed as though the entire quadrant had turned to greet the returning crew as heroes. Entire crew, except one former Borg drone.

She thrust her hand at the display to swipe the message away. As she was about to grab the holographic text to throw it aside, she stopped. Fingertips let go of the text and it sprung once more back into the air.

She sat and stared at the 'play' button, torn between pressing it and throwing the entire screen to the side and shutting the whole thing down. The bottle of bourbon beside her bed became an enticing alternative.

Rising from the desk she retrieved the bottle and glass which had been left beside it from a previous shot and returned to her seat. Pouring a large serving she downed the measure in one mouthful. With the courage which the warm beverage brought, she quickly pressed the button.

=/\=

Kathryn Janeway.

Returning Hero.

Poster girl of Starfleet.

Seven flinched as Kathryn's face appeared larger than life on the holo display. She leaned back against her chair as though to put as much distance between herself and the face of her once-revered Captain as she could.

"Hello Seven,"

The video message began.

"Its been a long time."

Seven instinctively jabbed a finger at the pause button, leaving a frozen image of Kathryn, soft, hesitant smile on her face. Pouring a second shot of bourbon she downed it almost as quickly as the first one. She looked away from the screen, sensing her heartrate rising once more, sweat returning to her palms.

She raised a hand to resume playback of the message but pulled away, hesitantly, before slowly punching the button once more.