Raffi continued her vigil in the kitchen. Rios and Agnes had checked in with her, collected mugs of coffee, and retreated back to their room while Elnor and Soji had returned from their vineyard stroll and left to relax in their respective bedrooms. Picard had remained, insisting on keeping her company, and had taken his position at the sprawling table with his book of Shakespeare's Sonnets. He had attempted to soothe her apprehension by reading to her but she had quickly shushed him, insisting that she had no idea of what he was reading, that she would much rather sit and worry in silence.
She rubbed the palm of her hand across her forehead once more, desperate to alleve her apprehension.
"What the hell is taking so long?"
"They will come out when they are good and ready, Raffi," Picard replied, not lifting his gaze from his book.
"Ya think? They've been in there for hours JL, I mean, what the hell can they-"
The doors abruptly whooshed open and the two women entered the large room.
Raffi jumped to her feet, instantly consumed with a desire to run to Seven and envelope her in her arms, instead, she breathed deeply, laced her fingers and slowly made her way around the table towards the women.
"Everything ok?" she asked sheepishly.
Seven glanced towards Kathryn, who gently reached out and gave her augmented hand a soft squeeze.
"Everything is fine," she replied, earning a sigh of relief from Raffi and arms which were thrown around her shoulders, pulling her in tightly.
"Ladies." Picard rose from his chair, "can I make up all some tea?" he offered.
"Ahh Jean-Luc," said Kathryn, "that would be lovely"
"So?" Raffi probed, anxious to know what had transpired between the two.
"We talked. About many things." replied Seven, "i believe that things will be … okay." she said, breathing deeply and nodding her head.
Raffi reached up a hand and gently stroked Seven's face. "Babe," she said softly, "I'm so pleased." placing a soft kiss on full lips.
"Raffi Musiker." Raffi turned towards Janeway.
"Admiral." she responded, almost pulling to attention.
"Ah, just Kathryn, please." Janeway laughed, "we didn't get much chance for introductions earlier."
"Honoured to meet you Adm - Kathryn. I've heard so much about you," Raffi smiled. She turned her eyes toward Seven casting her a dry smirk, "although, almost nothing from this one here." she patted Seven's chest playfully.
Seven drew a breath and straightened her back.
"Tea, ladies." Picard announced as he placed a large pot on the table, and gestured, "please?"
Raffi clasped Seven's hand in her own as she led her to the table and took a seat beside her.
"Kathryn?" Jean-Luc addressed the now white haired woman as she drew back a heavy wooden chair for her, gently pushing it in as she sat.
The group sat in comfortable companionship and shared various tails. Kathryn regaled them with stories of a younger Seven of Nine, careful not to overstep her boundaries and risk their newly rekindled relationship, mindful of its fresh fragility, frequently offering her warm smiles as she spoke.
They recounted memories of the Romulan crisis, shared personal high and lowlights. Picard and Janeway spoke of their Admiralties within Starfleet.
Seven sat quietly listening to the conversations around her. Smiling and the moments which Kathryn shared about their times on Voyager, remembering her fond memories, all the time with Raffi's hand holding hers, gently fingers softly stroking her own, a silent demonstration of her love for the blonde who now began to show signs of fatigue.
"You ok babe? You look tired there." she asked with a squeeze to her hand.
"Hmmm?" Seven looked at her with tired eyes, "I'm fine, its just been a long day." she returned the squeeze.
Kathryn sat quietly watching the warm exchange between the two women. Whilst she had been talking with Seven, the younger woman had spoken about Raffi. Janeway's heart had warmed as she saw the reaction that speaking of Raffi caused. Seven appeared happy. She talked of how the other woman accepted her, how she made no judgements of her. Kathryn listened as she spoke of their shared moments, and watched, as blue eyes lit up and Seven smiled. A smile which Kathryn didn't quite think that she had seen before. If Kathryn were a betting woman, she would place a generous amount of latinum on the fact that Seven of Nine was in love.
- - - - - - - - - =/\= - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Laris and Zhaban cleared the remainder of the evening meal's dishes as the others shared some after dinner drinks. Agnes laughed as she watched Chris "fan-boy" over the famed Admiral Janeway as he eagerly interrogated her. Elnor eventually excused himself, lost amongst the Starfleet recounts and left in order to engage in some meditations, soon followed by Soji.
"Well, much as i have enjoyed my evening, I must head." Kathryn announced to the rest.
"Already?" Seven asked, her face falling.
"I'm afraid that i have a class to teach in the morning. Those cadets wont teach themselves." Kathryn explained as she rose from the armchair.
Raffi watched as Seven's face fell., "Now?" she said, with and almost childlike disappointment. She stood from her place on the couch beside Raffi and stepped towards the older woman. "I," she hesitated, "i don't want you to go." She reached for Kathryn's hand.
Janeway smiled at Seven, taking the hand which reached for her, "Sweetheart. Now, there is nothing to stop us keeping in touch, yes? I expect to hear all about what your and this wonderful crew of yours is getting up to." She smiled fondly.
Seven grasped the smaller hand, "I will, I promise." she opened her mouth to speak, pausing momentarily, "i am happy that you came." she could feel the sting as tears threatened once more.
Kathryn glanced behind Seven towards Raffi. "You have a wonderful woman there. She makes you happy, yes?"
The smile returned to Seven's lips as a faint tint of red crept into her cheeks, "She does." she replied, turning to look into warm brown eyes.
"Hey… you two talking about me?" she laughed standing and moving to join them, wrapping an arm around Seven's waist as she drew close.
Picard keyed in the relevant information to the Transporter console as Kathryn, Seven and Raffi walked slowly towards the pads.
"Yes, I will let you know when i am safely back at my apartment Seven, i am a big girl you know." Janeway laughed, as they approached the transporter.
"Babe, she'll be fine, shes done this before ya know." Raffi laughed.
Seven signed, "i know, i just…"
"I know. "Kathryn smiled softly at the tall blonde, "I'll miss you too sweetheart. However, i would love for you to come visit soon," she took hold of a metal laced hand, "both of you." she smiled warmly.
Seven bowed her head, averting her gaze from Janeway.
Karthry regarded the two of them, "Look after my girl." she smiled at Raffi.
"Yes Sir" she said. "I fully intend to." She turned her gaze to the tall woman by her side, "i don't know why the universe gave me Seven, but I'm beyond thankful."
Janeway glanced between the two women and paused.
"The universe its a lovely place, and it knows when to put people together." she said.
She leaned forward, wrapping her arms around the two women before stepping up onto the transporter pad.
With a flicker of blue light Janeway disappeared from the transporter pad.
Raffi gently pulled Seven into her side, wrapping a warm arm around her waist.
"She's right about the universe, babe."
Slipping her hand into Seven's they walked back to their quarters, knowing that things would be a little better now.