Meeting Me

Copyright disclaimer: The characters and concept of Star Trek Voyager are intellectual property of Rick Berman, Michael Piller and Jeri Taylor. I'm just borrowing them and I promise to return them to the toy box, without any damage, when I'm through playing with them.

Spoiler Warning: Endgame I+II

I.

The door to my quarter chirped. I closed my book and inhaled deeply. "Come in."

The door opened and to my surprise I looked at my older self, Admiral Janeway. She eyed my with a mocking grin. She knew whom I had expected and it wasn't her.

"Do you require a philosophical discussion?" I returned the derision.

"Actually, I need to tell you something," she replied plainly.

"Is there some essential fact that I need to know about our mission?"

"It's not about the mission. At least not about tactics."

I sighed and rose from the chair. "Doesn't Temporal Prime Directive outlaw to tell me more about the future?"

She gave me a sarcastic half-smile and I shrugged.

"I have to admit I thought about it for a while. I'm not sure if I should tell you this, if it is right to change your future and yet burden you with this."

"I have the impression it can't get any worse than what you've told me already."

The Admiral went to my couch; she sat down slowly, with care. She looked less arrogant and cynical now. In fact she looked sorrow and troubled. I started feeling uneasy myself. I knew myself too well. The bigger the emotional turmoil is, the cooler and overconfident I pretend to be. And the Admiral had shown a scary aura of superiority since she arrived on Voyager. I felt it myself and I could see it in the eyes of my senior staff. Harry hadn't even dared to look directly at her. Tom had babbled nonsense to her, what he always does when someone makes him nervous. Chakotay had looked at her suspiciously. And Seven was immensely flustered by my older self. Only on Tuvok she seemed to have no such impact.

"Coffee, black, two cups." I ordered the replicator. At least she was a late night visitor who would share a cup of coffee. I returned to the couch with the two cups and handed her one. Then I sat down my self, beside her, beside me.

"Now, what is it, that you want to tell me?"

"It has to do with Seven's death. Are you sure you want to hear it?"

I smiled wryly. "Since it won't happen in this timeline, why not?"

She made eye contact with me, gazed at me intently. I looked into familiar and yet strange eyes.

"Let me begin the night before she died," the Admiral started and took a sip of coffee. I rolled my eyes, because I knew what was coming. My way to make a point by telling a story in lecture-style must be truly annoying to others. I made a mental note to try to be less dramatic and lecturing in such situations.

II.

"That night I was in my quarter, reading a book, just like you did tonight. My door chirped and Seven entered. I asked her jokingly if she had trouble regenerating and she said indeed she had. She said she needed to discuss something. Of course that was not surprising me. I ask her what it was and she said directly she wanted to discuss the means of human sexuality. Now this was surprising. I bought myself time to think by replicating a coffee. I thought about the possibility to tell her straight away that I'm not going to discuss this topic with her. Or at least I could try to distract her from the topic by asking her a question about some fancy theory of temporal mechanics."

I smiled genuinely at her. What she was telling now sounded more like me, not like the cynical Admiral. "It's futile to try to distract Seven from something, especially from a topic with which she comes to my quarter after midnight."

She returned my smile. "You're absolutely right. Moreover I thought I should just use this opportunity to assist her with whatever problem she had. I had denied her a discussion several times, because I felt it wasn't appropriate any more, since she was married to Chakotay. It became rare that we had such philosophical late night discussions. I just missed it."

I looked at my older self and saw these unspoken words in her eyes. I saw the hidden meaning behind her spoken words. It was the same what I saw when she told me earlier that Seven would die, in the arms of her husband Chakotay. The meaning behind 'You will never be the same after her death' was clear to me. The admiral might be 30 years older than me, a lot more ruthless and cynical but she was still the same coward like me when it comes to emotions. Even before me, before herself she couldn't speak what we both were thinking, what we both knew we where thinking.

"Well, I ask Seven what her precise question about human sexuality was. She asked me if she assumed correctly that sexuality was supposed to provide pleasure, relaxation and positive feelings. I concurred with that. She then asked, why if it is this way, sexuality is such a complicate matter that causes stress within a relationship. As you might think I wanted to keep this as theoretical as possible. I really wasn't in for discussing practical stuff or about learning the more intimate details of her relationship with Chakotay. I told her that sexuality is a matter of attitude. She asked me if I meant love. I answered that was one approach, but not the only one. I didn't tell her that sometimes love was not sufficient. She then went on asking me what else might be needed. I said it was lust and desire. She stated physical desire is supposed to come along with love. I wanted to reply who has told her this, Chakotay or the Doctor, but of course I didn't. Instead I asked if it hadn't occurred to her that humans could have satisfying sex without love. She said she had concluded this from her studies. I guessed that she had done already a study of her own about the topic. She also said that her studies suggested that love induces physical desire. Well, I saw no point anymore in beating around the bush. I told her that sometimes love and desire are not coming together naturally. I told her that it had to do with chemistry between people. I went on being more specific. I explained that on the one hand even a thought or a small touch could generate desire, when there is a lot of chemistry between two individuals. In this case it can lead to a very satisfying intercourse, even if both have not much knowledge about how to pleasure each other. On the other hand even with deep love it might sometimes be hard to experience such feelings. If one wants to have sex nonetheless more sophisticated methods of stimulation might be necessary and if one or both are lacking there, it might be problematic."

"Good explanation," I applauded, but she looked at me ruefully. "Not good enough." I raised an eyebrow. "Why not?"

"While I was speaking she looked at me, her had tilted to one side. She seemed to be intrigued, but yet there must have been something she didn't understand. After I had finished my little speech I studied her. I studied the way she was looking at me, saying nothing, although her sharp mind for sure had processed already all the information. I didn't know what it was, probably the whiskey I had consumed earlier."

I looked at my older self in bemusement. I rarely drink, at least not on Voyager. It's true I used to drink whiskey when I was younger. Every Friday night I was sitting together with daddy, we would discuss and have a couple of drinks. I loved it and I loved it even more since my mother was disapproving it. After daddy's death I only drank whiskey, in rare occasions, for example after Admiral Own Paris and I had finished long tiresome reports. Subsequently he would pull out a bottle of good Irish whiskey with an impish grin. I loved that, too. But on Voyager it never crossed my mind to replicate whisky. It was just not the same like real one and I saw no point in drinking bad whiskey. Also even off-duty I kept an eye on Voyager and her crew. Therefore I needed sharp senses, always. I only drank synthehol in small doses in the mess hall, when attending a social gathering. I used to drink something funny prickling and sweet, something that was in its original version odd enough that it doesn't matter if it was original or replicated. But obviously I had changed my mind about drinking. Well, I will change or better she changed.

The Admiral looked at me. She knew my thoughts but obviously didn't care to explain what made her starting with whisky.

"As I told, I had whisky earlier. Not much, but enough to make me feel warm and sexy."

Oh no. I closed my eyes. I could imagine what was coming now. As I opened my eyes again the Admiral just gazed at me and shrugged. Obviously she also had lost a good deal of shyness over the years.

"Seven gave me this look, not readably but somehow very fascinated about what I had told her or, as I suspected, the way I had told it to her."

I also could imagine this. It wasn't as if I wouldn't be aware of how I could influence people with the tone of my voice.

The Admiral inhaled heavily. "Even in the dim light I could see her icy blue eyes fixed on me, dancing. I made a step towards Seven and pushed her gently to the bulkhead and then I kissed her. First softly, then a bit more passionate. She didn't resist." The Admiral paused. She cleared her throat, trying not to sound to raspy. "Don't look at me like that. I know you have thought about this and other things already. After all I am you."

I put down the coffee mug and crossed my armed over my chest. I felt tempted to say that she was not me, not any more and that I would have never, under no circumstances, done such a thing, but I knew at least the last things would have been a lie. "What happened then?" I demanded.

"She looked at me again. I told her she must go now. Seconds if not minutes must have passed without one of us saying something. I wasn't sure what that meant. Was she totally stunned? For sure she was. Or disgusted? Or did she hope I would change my mind and invite her to stay? Finally she left. The next morning I saw the events in another light."

"I bet you did," I remarked dryly.

III.

"I felt guilty, having put her into trouble and having betrayed Chakotay, who was somehow still my friend. I tried to convince myself that it had no meaning, that such things happen in a small isolated community. I told myself it wasn't too much different from what happened between Tom and me."

I sighed. Was this woman attempting to take out all of my demons out of the closet? "You can't compare what you have just told me with what happened with Tom Paris."

"This my dear is absolutely true, because Tom wasn't married or otherwise engaged at that time and Tom had given clear signals that he wanted it too. It happened once under the influence of some cocktails, the sand and the waves of Sandrine's. We both enjoyed it, but knew it shouldn't happen again. Indeed it was no big thing. Just another thing that happens, when you're together with Tom Paris."

"Do you mind to come to the point of your story?"

She smirked. "Are you pushing an old woman, Kathryn?"

I exhaled noisily and shifted on the couch.

"As you might guess I wasn't sure if Seven had gotten the meaning of what happened. I feared that she would tell Chakotay with all her honesty and bluntness. But this morning, when I saw him on the bridge, greeting me cheerful, I knew she had not, not yet. Now the task of the day was to examine what seemed to be an abandoned deuterium mine. We were running low of stock and I had planned to have a look if we could get something there. I had scheduled Tuvok and myself to beam down on the planet and check if it was really abandoned and if it was safe to beam deuterium on board. Seven asked me if she could accompany us. I told her that it wasn't necessary, since I just wanted to verify our sensor readings from the day before. She insisted that she would find it rewarding to go on an away mission with the two persons who mean much to her. She knew that I couldn't deny her a request when she makes attempts in social matters. I also thought it is a good sign that she isn't pondering too much over what happened last night. I agreed because I saw no real dangers. We beamed down and took detailed tricorder readings. Apart from the deuterium mine we found anti-person mines on the planet's surface. It was no real threat, because they were easily visible and the tricorder gave further information.

Then I only remember that I was talking to Tuvok and the next moment I heard Seven screaming. We turned around and saw her laying on the ground some meters behind us. Immediately I was at her side. She was unconscious and I was holding her, very captainly. We beamed aboard. I thought not much. I thought everything will be fine, the Doctor will fix it. But after several minutes in sickbay I saw his expression. I knew him well enough. He told me that Seven had been hit by an enormous energy blast, which had caused a shut down of all of her implants. He told me her human physiology wasn't that much injured but her Borg implants were damaged beyond repair. He expected her to die within minutes. I called Chakotay and left sickbay. I couldn't bear it. After everyone had left sickbay I asked the Doctor to give me some time before he would put her into a stasis field. I sat beside her dead body the whole night. In these hours I ask myself again and again how this could haven happened. The mines were so easily visible. How she, with her sharp Borg view and her Borg concentration, could have made such a stupid mistake?"

The Admiral now stared at me. I saw the pain and sorrow on her face. Her eyes were dry and I knew she had no tears left any more. I felt my chest tighten. It had shocked me beyond words to learn of Seven's too early death and Tuvok's illness, but somehow I managed to keep the feelings at a distant, telling myself it was the Admiral's timeline, not mine. In this very moment, looking at my silver-haired counterpart emotions were hitting me full force. I tried to blink away tears, but one single tear escaped my right eye and rolled down my cheek. I was unsure for what this tear was. For Seven's death, for Tuvok's insanity or for the Admiral's grief and bitterness?

The Admiral reached out to me but stopped awkwardly in the middle of the movement. She then continued and wiped off the tear from my cheek. She smiled at me. It was the first honest smile that reflected kindness and compassion I saw on her face. It somehow relieved me that she still had a soft core, no matter how small it might be.

"And now you think it was your fault, that she made this mistake, because she was preoccupied with the events of last night and couldn't pay enough attention to the mission," I whispered.

She nodded slowly. "More precise, I think she was occupied with observing Tuvok and me. She must have thought that probably the parameters of our relationship should be adjusted, but was unsure in which way. She must have been confused by what happened, what I had told her. She must have thought observing Tuvok and me, comparing similarities and differences between my relationship with Tuvok and my relationship with her might give her conclusions about the nature of our relationship. I made two mistakes. I kissed her that night and I didn't saw the impact it had on her. I underestimated how strong her feelings have become after she decided to let the failsafe remove."

Suddenly the Admiral rose to her feet and started to walk slowly though my quarter. "Well what happened after her death…"

"Haven't you done with your story?" I also stood up.

She smirked at me. "Not yet."

"Oh great," I groaned and let myself sink back onto the couch.

"I assumed we would give Seven a Starfleet funeral service and would send her coffin into space. I thought it would not only be appropriate because she served six years on a Starfleet vessel, but also because she loved the stars. She had lived her whole life, Human and Borg in space, among the stars. The artificial environment was her home, the only environment she knew. Last but not least she was Voyager's Astrometric Officer. It gave me some comfort to think that she would like the idea of floating though the wide open space. But Chakotay had other ideas. He wanted to keep her in statis, to bring her back to earth and bury her in his family grave. I told him it was not what she would haven wanted. I told him as his Captain that keeping her in stasis would cost us a lot of energy, which I didn't like. Chakotay just told me that it wasn't my turn to decide this. He reminded me that he, as her husband had the last word about it. I was furious. I yelled at him, called him selfish, only thinking what he wanted, not was Seven might have wanted. I called him worse; things like he never really knew her and a marriage certificate hadn't changed that fact. He then started screamed too, telling me that I never allowed Seven to become independent from me and that her dependency on me stood between him and Seven, that I always had stood between him and Seven.

Later he apologized. I think he meant it. I apologized and didn't mean it. I whished I could, but it wasn't possible. The wounds in our relationship from the Scorpion-Disaster and the Equinox-Disaster had heeled, but this was too much for me."

IV.

"Why are you telling me all this? Do you want my absolution? The absolution of your younger, less cynical self, who hasn't experienced all this?"

She turned to face me. I saw a sarcastic remark coming out of her mouth, but suddenly her features softened and she smiled again. She came back to the couch and sat beside me again. "I know you Kathryn. I know, no matter how this will end, you will be awake at nights when you should sleep. You will ask yourself what you have done. Was it worth it? I don't mean what you have done, but what your older self has done, what I have done, what I have become. You deserve to know all of my reasons why I have done this."

I looked at the woman in front of me, who was me. I felt pity for her, for her losses and her guilt. She had lost her father and Justin, the both people she loved most at this time of her live. She had lost her former life and with it Mark. She had lost Seven and finally Tuvok. How sickening it must be to visit an insane Tuvok, week after week. A man that looked like Tuvok, but wasn't Tuvok any more. A man who's sharp intellect she had adored for decades and who's mind was now shattered to pieces. Her dear old friend, who wouldn't recognize her any more. She had lost her friendship to Chakotay, who had been a source of strength for years, despite all their dissensions. Probably the Admiral would spend much time with B'Elanna, Tom and Miral. The Paris-Torres family would always love her in their way and always had. But after all it wasn't her family. Suddenly I realized that I felt pity for myself and I hated it to be pitied. Again the Admiral read my thoughts. She knew perfectly how it was to be me.

"That's why I'm here," she said surprisingly softly. "The future is not chiselled in stone. You don't need to become me."

"Did I hear remorse?" I couldn't resist a half-smile.

"It doesn't matter. It is not yours," she said in a demanding tone that I knew all too well. "Good night Captain." With these words she rose and left me on my couch in my quarter.

I walked over to the replicator. I ordered a glass of whisky, pure no ice, no water. With one big swig I emptied the glass. Not that I would start drinking, but that was definitely necessary now. I could see now where the Admiral was coming from. Why was it that Seven would still turn to her, to me, when she was engaged with Chakotay. It was not as if I hadn't thought about that already. When I learned about her affair with Chakotay I wondered how this would affect my relationships with both of them. Slightly surprised I found that it would probably not change much between Chakotay and me, but I wasn't sure about Seven. Would we continue our routine of breakfasts, velocity games and occasional late night talks? Would I feel awkward when she would visit me late at night in my quarter to discuss something she was infatuated about? More important would she still do that? I had caught myself already to feel uneasy when I squeezed her arm and found Chakotay watching us strangely.

And again, why was she visiting the Admiral in that night? Why did the Admiral mention that she had turned down seven's request several times? Probably she wanted to tell me that I was still the centre of Seven's life and probably always will. It was unsettling and yet exiting, but not pleasing as I thought it might be. Tomorrow the Admiral was going to die for it. Knowing me I knew what that meant.

Tomorrow we would reach earth, if the plan would work out. Once I told Seven earth will be her biggest challenge. It is true. I also told her I would take her to Bloomington, Indiana, my home town. I meant it. I would do it and I looked forward to it. Probably she would ask me to show her earth, the Grand Canyon, earth's biggest ditch, the monsoon rain in Bangladesh, Sahara, Antarctica, Himalayan range probably. I got the feeling she would love all that ice. I would show her San Francisco, Paris, Kinshasa, Calcutta, Beijing, and Manaus. I would show her my world, because she has left everything behind. She has nothing to call her world. I was bound to be there for her, because I would be the only thing on earth that she really knows. Seven of Nine was my biggest challenge.