There Is Now by Djinn

You watch her while she lies sleeping. She is not as golden as you remember. Years apart must have given your memories of her a gilded edge. You touch her cheek; your hand brushes the implant, and she smiles in her sleep, her lips curving up in a graceful curve that your memories did not embellish. You may have made her more lustrous than she really is, but you did not make her more beautiful, for she is as lovely as you remember her.

More lovely, possibly, because you were never able to lie this close to her. Were forbidden by your own stupid rules on your own damn ship to touch her. Even when it was clearly what she wanted you to do.

You were her mother, you thought.

You didn't get involved with your crew, you thought.

You were an idiot, you think.

Years. That's what you've wasted. Years.

Your older self tried to tell you that, tried to make you see that Seven would be the one thing you would be willing to ravage time for. You accepted that, but you tried to spin the love that was so clearly in the older version of your eyes into friendship, into regard and respect but never desire, never lust. Never rock solid, hit you in the gut till you can't breathe, love.

You won't make that mistake again.

You lean down, let your lips trace her cheekbones. Lightly, so lightly. You don't want to wake her. You don't want this night to end. It is your first night, and you will never get it back again.

But when morning comes it will be your first morning, and you know that it will be wonderful too. You will wake up next to her, cradled in her arms. Or you will if you ever fall asleep. You don't sleep well on a normal night, aren't sure how you will ever find slumber when you have her here, next to you, with you. "With" you.

She is your lover now. You are lovers. You try the words out in as many different ways as you can. You love her. You will love her. You have loved her.

You have, god help you, always loved her. And you let her go. You let Chakotay have her and take her away and love her.

She let you let Chakotay take her. Anger fills you, but you push it back. It is not fair to get mad at her or at Chakotay. But it's okay to push it back into yourself. You will pay for your stupidity in the way your body is no longer as limber as it once was. In the gray you see claiming more and more of your hair.

You are old and you have wasted so much of the time you could have had with her. You pushed her away when you should have been loving her.

You realize she is watching you, is no longer sleeping. A small smile makes her lips slide up, and the expression is so beautiful that you have to lean in and kiss her.

She kisses you back, and you feel as if you might drown in the sensation. Her lips are firm, and they touch you with abandon. Seven does not know restraint, not in her intellectual pursuits, not in the way she loves you with all that is in her. And not in the way she hunted you down across the floor of the ballroom at your retirement party. Not in the way she insisted you talk to her, made you look at her, forced you to see her--see that she wanted you. When it was time to go, she took your hand and led you to the coat room and then outside into the night.

She did not ask where you lived, just walked you home, her arm curled around yours. She did not ask you if she could come in, just followed you into the elevator and down the hall. When you hesitated, she took your hand and held your palm up to the lock and opened your door.

It was only then that she waited. "If you do not want me," she said, "I will go away."

It was such a simple statement and, even after so many years among humans, it was said with the clipped Borg tones that you remember--that you hear in your dreams. She no longer regenerates, she no longer assimilates, but she will always be Borg.

She laughs now, and the sound brings you back to the present and your bed that is no longer filled just by you.

She laughs, and it is a throaty chuckle, and then she shakes her head as if at some foolishness. "Kathryn, has it occurred to you that you think far too much?"

She rolls to her side, and you watch the sheet's progress as it slides down her body. You suddenly are jealous of your own bed linens, and you laugh at the thought.

She sighs, but you think it is more in drowsy contentment than because of any kind of sadness. She closes her eyes, smiles again, her hand reaching out to touch your shoulder, to pull you closer to her.

When she kisses you, time stops. When her mouth opens under yours, you are in heaven. You could die right this moment, and it would all be worth it.

But you do not die, and that is nice too.

She pulls you down, her hands running through your hair as she nestles you against her soft, still-young body.

Your body is far from young. You were embarrassed at first when you watched her slip her clothes off. She is still so beautiful, and you were afraid she would see what age does to a human body and turn away from you.

She only smiled as she walked toward you, only murmured your name as she pulled you to her and kissed you, skin to skin for the first time.

You could have died at that moment too, and it would have been a happy death. But life went on and so did her kiss, only it changed to more as her tongue found yours and her hands began to claim your skin as her own. Her touch is exquisite, and you find yourself intensely jealous that Chakotay had her for so many years.

He was at your ceremony, did not appear to mind that his former wife was stalking you. Just smiled, raising his glass to you in some message that only he understood.

You remember why you once loved him. You wonder now if you could have chosen him if you had never stolen Seven from the Collective. You think maybe you could have. But you never felt this strange, feverish happiness with him. You're not sure you ever would have.

They say there is one person for everyone. You think Seven is yours. And you wasted so many years pushing her away, even more watching her make a life for herself with someone else when she lost patience.

Even that powerful Borg tenacity has its limits. She didn't wait forever.

Or maybe she did. Maybe she did the only thing she could. She adapted. She did not resist.

She waited--in her own way.

It's not very nice to Chakotay to think that Seven was just biding her time with him, was just using him to experience some part of the life that you had denied her. It's not very modest of you to think Seven would have been that calculating, or that you would have been that important to her. But then, you're not always very nice. It is something you have learned with age. You know yourself better than you want to at times.

You sigh.

"What is it?" Seven asks.

"Did you love him?"

"Yes." There is no emotion in Seven's voice. No warning not to pry, or invitation to delve deeper. She answers the question. Nothing more.

"Why did you leave him?"

"We left each other."

You smile. Seven is not making this easy. You glance up at her, see that she is smiling slightly too.

"Why?" you ask.

"It was time." Seven pushes you to your back and begins to kiss her way down your body, disappearing under the sheets and making you giggle as she brushes a spot where you are ticklish.

"How did you know it was time?"

Seven reappears, her expression resigned to more questions. "I just did." She smiles. "How did you know it was time to let me in?"

You smile. "I just did."

"See." Seven disappears under the sheet again.

How did you know when she stood at your door holding your palm to the lock that you would let her in this time? What were you thinking as you watched her waiting for your answer, as you pushed her inside your apartment and kissed her even before the door had a chance to close?

Were you even thinking? Or were you finally, thank god, acting without thought?

"I love you," you say, your hand stealing under the sheet and finding her. She is soft, everywhere you touch is soft. Hair, skin, but then your hand brushes the warm metal of an implant, and you smile as you revise that statement. Almost everywhere you touch is soft. And that's all right too. Makes her more like you.

"Why do you want me?" you ask her.

You hear her sigh and she gives up on your body, moves back up so you are lying close. The look she gives you is stern. "I was busy down there."

"I know. You can be busy later." You grin at her.

She cannot hold the sternness, begins to smile.

"Why do you want me?"

"I love you." She looks at you as if she does not understand why you need more than that.

But, of course, you do need more than that. "Why?"

"Because I do."

You sigh.

"Does that make you unhappy?" She nuzzles your neck and you laugh. "I would not want to make you unhappy."

She is teasing you, and you hear Chakotay in her tone. He has taught her to love. She has imprinted on him and to some extent he is here in your bed too.

The thought makes you jealous, but you find it soothing as well. And a bit arousing.

You sometimes wish you were a less complicated woman.

"I'm not unhappy. In fact, I'm very happy right now." You kiss her and the moment stretches on forever, into the future and back into the past when an old woman who looked more like you do now than like you did then, showed up and tried to make you see sense.

You think she knew you wouldn't listen to her at first.

You wonder if she had any idea how breathtaking it would be when you finally gave in.

"I pushed you away," you whisper.

"Yes," Seven says. "You did." She lies next to you, watching you.

"I'm sorry."

She does not tell you it is all right. She does not berate you either. She waits, as if a sorry should be followed by more.

"I wasted our time," you say. "It's gone and we'll never get it back."

"If it is gone, and we did not share it, then it was not our time."

That thought takes your breath away--Seven takes your breath away. It is all so simple, so Borg. She lives in the now. There are no regrets, just what is.

And you are what is. She is what is. Together, you both are what is.

"I love you," she says. "I would have waited forever."

"You've waited long enough. We both have." You smile, feel the old Janeway grin finally.

Her face lights up, and you realize that perhaps she is not as composed as you thought. Perhaps she was scared that you would never let her in, and she really would have to wait forever.

You are glad she showed no fear. You are not sure you would have let her in if you had not believed that resistance was futile.

"I love you," you murmur as you kiss her.

This moment, this woman, this life, they are yours. They are now.

You realize you are happy. And very sleepy.

As you yawn, she smiles. "Can you sleep now?"

You nod. You wonder if she understands the gift she has given you. The peace that seems to surround you is because of her, and you want to tell her, but a lifetime of sleepless nights is making your eyes close. You turn to her, curl around her.

Her arms pull you close, hold you safe. "Sleep, Kathryn. Tomorrow is a new day. And we will enjoy it together."

You smile, a drowsy half smile.

And finally fall asleep.