STAR TREK: VOYAGER

"A Captain's Carol"

An Original J/7 Voyager Story

2007 by Patricia L. Givens

Christmas 2007

Disclaimer #1:This story is an original work of fiction set in the pre-existing universe of Star Trek: Voyager. As such, many of the characters and references used within belong solely to Paramount Pictures. No gain, monetary or otherwise, is expected from their use and no copyright infringement is intended or should be inferred.

Disclaimer #2:All original characters and storylines contained herein belong to the author. (Like anyone else would claim them!  ) This story may be archived upon request with the stipulation that it must be posted exactly as it was written, with all disclaimers intact.

Disclaimer #3:This story depicts the relationship between two women. The scenes may be graphic, but they are lovingly so. If this bothers you, then please take the coal from your stocking and shove it up your ass. You'll have a diamond before you know it. If you are under 18 then don't read this at Christmas dinner. Your Aunt Emma might have a heart attack. If this is illegal where you live, then ask Santa to bring you a plane ticket to Vermont.

Who To Blame:Thanks must go out to Ky, for FINALLY giving up on the fucking hyphens! Now I will use them… LOL. As well as to Andrea, Annie and Ms. T for being my beta elves.

HUGE MASSIVE THANKS to kathieGOTaGUN for the incredible photomanip. She is a true artist and a sweetheart! You made this story so much more with your talent!

This story is dedicated to AW61, because things are always better than they look at first glance.

Janeway's dignity and sense of duty were not harmed during the writing of this story. However, the Starfleet issued chastity belt had to be cut off her body with a blow torch…

Merry Christmas Everyone!

DAx /\ The EverBard


.

Christmas is a time when you get homesick

even when you're home.

-Carol Nelson

Captain Kathryn Janeway sat in the senior officer's meeting, absently staring across the table at her Astrometrics officer as Neelix droned on about the upcoming holiday.

"I was thinking that a Christmas party is just what we need." The furry little man enthused. "Get everyone into the spirit of the holiday. We can have a gift exchange and put together a group to sing carols. I've researched it in the database and I think it would go a long way to raise moral."

"I think you're right." She forced a smile. "Things have been quiet enough lately and it could give some of the crew a nice taste of home while offering a new experience for others. I am all for it, as long as we can celebrate it without the religious affiliations."

"Of course, Captain." Neelix beamed at her. "From the information I've gathered, Santa Claus is a pretty non-denomination entity. Christmas Eve is just two days away, but I shouldn't have any problems getting everything set up in time."

"Alright then, I'll leave it in your capable hands." She rose. "If there's nothing else, you're all dismissed." She followed her staff out of the conference room, heading straight to her ready room for her mid-morning cup of coffee. She nodded to Chakotay on her way through. "You have the bridge, Commander. I'll be going over reports in my ready room."

The First Officer nodded at her, his eyes full of concern as he saw the weary slump in her shoulders. She was always like this around the holidays, and it only seemed to get worse every year they were stuck out here. But try as he might, he couldn't seem to figure out a way to make the Captain go any easier on herself. With a sigh, he settled into the command chair, not expecting to see her again for the rest of the shift.

Captain Janeway retrieved her coffee and walked up the short flight of stairs to stand in front of her couch, looking out at the stars as they sped by. What was this, their sixth Christmas out here in this god forsaken quadrant? Had it really been that long since she had sat down to a holiday dinner with her mother and her sister? Had it really been six years since her crew had seen their own families?

She sighed. Holidays were always the worst. It was natural for the crew to think about the people they were so far away from, natural for them to miss them with an ache as profound as her own. But her ache was as much for them as for her own loss and, not for the first time, she wondered how she would get them all through it.

The party would help, Neelix was right about that. It would ease the hurt, if only for a few hours. The crew would laugh and share their memories with each other. They would make the holiday their's, in the only way they could.

But not her.

She didn't deserve to be happy, even if just for a little while. She was the reason they were all stuck out here. Because of one spur of the moment decision, they might not see any of the people they loved ever again.

It was her fault, all of it. The hardships, the suffering, the rationing, and the losses to her crew they had experienced along the way. She wasn't just responsible for their lives, she was responsible for the lives they weren't allowed to have. They gave her their best, every single day and all she gave them back was another day thirty thousand light years from everything they held dear.

No, she didn't deserve to be happy. Not now. Not until every single member of her crew was back with the people they had left behind.

Taking a deep breath, she squared her shoulders and went back to her desk and the pile of reports that were awaiting her review.


Seven of Nine looked up, a small smile curving her lips as the doors to Astrometrics slid open.

"Naomi Wildman." She greeted the half Katarian child. "Do you require assistance?"

The young girl smiled up at her. "No, I just heard about the party and I wanted to come and see what you were going to ask Santa for."

"Santa?" Seven quirked one eyebrow. "I assume you are speaking of the mythical construct known as Santa Clause, Kris Kringle, Saint Nicholas, Sinter Klaas, or Hagios Nikolaos, the being that brings gifts to good children during the yearly celebration of Christmas or Yuletide."

"I didn't know he had so many names."

"Apparently the myth is accepted in many different cultures. The name varies, but the details are all very similar." The Borg looked down at her. "However, I am neither a child, nor am I certain my behavior could be deemed as 'good' by Starfleet standards so I do not believe 'Santa' would be very interested in anything I may wish to acquire."

"I don't think Santa Claus cares about Starfleet, Seven." Naomi giggled. She wrapped her arms around the blonde. "And I think you are a very good person. I'm sure the Captain does too. Hey! I bet we could ask Captain Janeway to talk to him for you!"

"I am sure the Captain is much too busy to engage in such irrelevant activities."

"It isn't irrelevant, Seven! Mom told me all about Santa Claus because she said the Christmas spirit is even more important way out here!"

"I see." Seven replied, even though she didn't really. "Still, I do not believe it is something that we need to burden the Captain with. Additionally, I am unaware of anything that I require that is not already easily provided by the replicators here on Voyager."

The young girl looked somewhat crestfallen. "There must be something you want, Seven. I'm sure if you think about it you can come up with something! Will you at least write Santa a letter? Mom is going to help me write mine and I'd feel a lot better if he got one from someone else too."

The Borg looked down at the plaintive expression on her young friends face and sighed. "Very well, I will compose my own correspondence and you may forward it to 'Santa' along with your own."

"Thanks, Seven!" Naomi beamed. "I'll come by and pick it up later, after your duty shift?"

"Acceptable. Now I must finish the scans the Captain requested. Meet me in Cargo Bay 2 at 18:00 hours and I will have the data ready for you."

Seven watched with a small smile as the young girl practically skipped out of Astrometrics. Now she just had to figure out what to ask 'Santa' for. Unbidden, the image of Captain Janeway popped into her head. It was her favorite among the thousands stored in her eidetic memory. The fiery red head was laughing, her head tilted back, her eyes the most incredible shade of deep sapphire blue… The young woman swallowed, pushing the enigmatic woman from her thoughts.

There were some things that even 'Santa' would not be able to give her.


Captain Janeway sighed, taking another long drink of her coffee. The liquid seemed overly bitter to her this morning for some reason.

Of course, if she was going to be honest with herself, many things seemed overly bitter this morning.

Her door chimed activated and the sound set her teeth on edge. "Come!" She growled, immediately feeling gentling her facial expression when she saw Samantha Wildman standing in the doorway.

"Ensign Wildman," She put on her most congenial smile. "Sam. How are you and Naomi doing? I don't get down to Biometrics as often as I would like, is your posting working out well?"

"Yes, I am quite happy, Captain." The blonde woman flushed. "Actually, Naomi is the reason I'm here."

Janeway came around her desk to place a hand on the Ensign's arm. "Is she all right?" She asked with honest concern.

"Oh," Sam blushed even harder. "She's just fine, Captain. In fact, I'm really sorry to bother you with this but Naomi made me promise and…" She shrugged helplessly.

"It's all right, Sam. What can I do to help?"

The Ensign pulled a PADD from under her arm and held it out. "Naomi has written a letter to Santa Clause. She is really concerned that he won't receive it in time, what with Christmas Even being tomorrow and all. She is emphatic in the belief that only you, the Captain, would be able to get it to him in time. So she made me promise to bring it up to you. I know it's completely unprofessional but-"

Janeway took the PADD from the flustered woman. "It is completely appropriate, Ensign Wildman." She smiled expansively. "Starship Captains have long had a special relationship with Santa Clause. You just tell Naomi that I will make sure this gets to him in time."

Samantha smiled. "Thank you, Captain. That will mean a lot to her." She remained at attention.

"Dismissed." The Captain watched her go, her mood slightly brightened by the unexpected visit. Sliding into her chair, she activated the PADD and smiled to herself when she read the little girl's words.

Dear Santa,

My name is Naomi Wildman. I am on a ship called Voyager, which is lost in the Delta Quadrant. I know we are kind of far from Earth, but I was hoping that this letter might still be able to reach you.

I have tried my best to be a good girl this year. I have learned all of my lessons and I am working hard to become the Captain' Assistant so I can help her because it has to be hard to take care of everything and everyone all the time.

I hope you consider my behavior good enough for me to ask for a few things this Christmas.

I would like to ask that the ship get home as soon as possible. I would also like to ask that everyone stay safe for the upcoming year. I would also like it if people were nicer to my friend, Seven. She is a good person and I don't think a lot of people know that.

Oh, and if you have time, I'd really like a new Flotter holo-deck program.

Thank you!

Sincerely,

Naomi Wildman

She grinned as she remembered her own letters to Santa when she was girl. Always wait till the end to slip in what you really wanted!

Janeway was about to deactivate the PADD when she realized that there was another message tacked on to the end of the first. She covered her mouth, actually laughing out loud for the first time in days as she read through the opening lines.

To The Individual Known As 'Santa Claus',

I am Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct to the Unimatrix Zero One, currently serving as Astrometrics Officer on the USS Voyager, a Federation starship presently located in the Delta Quadrant.

I am unfamiliar as to the standard format for requesting your attention in regards to Yuletide matters, but I have been informed that it is customary for me to send you assurances as to my exemplary behavior, as well as a list of my demands.

I have performed my duties to the best of my abilities which, as Borg, can only be deemed as highly efficient and beneficial to my vessel and crew.

As such, I assume that I am eligible to receive the items I have listed below upon your review and acceptance of this correspondence.

A five year supply of Sumatra Mandheling Coffee beans.

An Original Sketch of Vitruvian Man

A Bottle of Erin Go Bragh Irish Whiskey

A current holo-program of Bloomington, Indiana – 50 mile radius of the Janeway Family Farm.

As you are a being that can circumvent an entire planet in a single evening, I do not feel that these demands are outside the scope of your abilities.

I will expect delivery of the above listed items on the morning of the 25th of December, as dictated by the old Earth Calendar.

Sincerely,

Seven of Nine – Tertiary Adjunct to the Unimatrix Zero One.

Janeway sat back in her chair, her face thoughtful as she reread the message over and over. She knew that Seven writing the letter was clearly the influence of Naomi Wildman, but everything Seven had requested was something that would bring her joy. None of the items would have any practical use for the Borg.

She found herself immensely touched by the intention behind the letter and placed the PADD to the side, intending to take it with her to her quarters at the end of her duty shift. She knew she should simply erase it, that her feelings for the gorgeous blonde were already complicated enough. But there was something comforting in knowing that one person on the ship put her needs above their own.

Even if she didn't feel like she particularly deserved it.


Chakotay stood outside the ready room doors. He knew what he had to do, but that didn't mean he had to look forward to it. The Captain had spent the last two days locked away from the crew, only venturing out when something warranted her attention or to come and go from her quarters.

As far as he knew, she hadn't even eaten. She was surviving on coffee and bitterness. A diet most Starfleet Captains resorted to at various times during their careers. Janeway just seemed to make it a staple.

He thumbed the door chime, waiting patiently as the seconds dragged out until she responded.

"Come in."

The Captain looked up at him, her mouth already set in a grim line, as if she knew his reason for disturbing her, and she probably did. "Chakotay. What can I do for you?"

The large man folded his frame into the chair across from her. "I just came to go over the rotations for duty shifts during the party tonight." He held up a PADD. "I've worked it out so that every station, including the bridge, is covered in three hour shifts, allowing the entire crew the chance to enjoy the festivities."

"Good work." She reached for the PADD, looking over its contents. "But you can delete the bridge rotation you put into place for me. I'll be covering the bridge until 19:00 hours."

"You came on duty at 06:00 hours." Chakotay protested.

"And?"

"That's a thirteen hour shift, Kathryn. You'll be too tired to enjoy the party."

"Then it works out fine as I have no intention of attending."

The First Officer sighed. Here we go… "The crew will be looking for you to join them, Kathryn."

"The crew will be happier if they are allowed more time at the party by my taking their shifts." She countered.

"You know that isn't true. There isn't a person on board Voyager who wouldn't gladly work the bridge so that the rest of us could spend some time with our matriarch."

"Matriarch?" She snorted. "Is that what I am? Somehow I doubt they think of me that way, Chakotay. I'm the one that stranded them here, that took them away from their family and friends and everything else they held dear. I am the reason that some of their friends have died; the reason that many more will probably do the same before we limp our way into Earth's orbit in what? Thirty years? Somehow I don't feel much like partying."

"Then do it for them."

"I am staying away for them!" She snapped. "So they don't have to be constantly reminded by my presence of how much they have lost because of me."

"You're not doing it for them." Chakotay's voice was quiet. "You're the one wallowing in bitterness, in self pity and for what? Something you can't change now and wouldn't go back to change then even if you could?"

"Oh don't be too sure of that!" Janeway waved a finger at him. "If I had it to do over again, I might just take those few extra minutes to think a little bit harder about the consequences my actions carry for the people that I am supposed to be responsible for."

"You don't mean that." Chakotay stood, his back stiff, his face closed. "You just can't see past your hurt to accept that no one blames you. Maybe if you did, you'd have to actually let some of us get close to you."

The command mask slammed into place and her voice hit its very lowest register. "Dismissed."

Without another word, he turned and let the ready room.


Seven of Nine walked calmly across the bridge, nodding a greeting to Chakotay as she strode past his command chair. She noticed he did not meet her eyes, but then so few rarely did.

She accessed the ready room doors and entered without announcing herself, only realizing her error when dark gray eyes flashed fire at her from the couch under the viewport.

"Are your fingers broken, Seven?" Janeway asked darkly.

"No, Captain."

"Then I assume you have a very good reason for entering my ready room without announcing yourself or waiting to be allowed admittance?"

The Borg took a deep breath, unhappy that she had disappointed the Captain. It was not something she liked to do and yet it seemed to happen so frequently. "I apologize, Captain. I was in error. Would you prefer for me to exit, announce myself and wait for you to allow me admittance now?"

Janeway eyed her sardonically. If it were anyone but Seven, she would think they were joking, something that would have been very ill advised at the moment. "No." She barked. "Just tell me what it is you want."

Seven frowned. The Captain was not usually so brusque with her. "I wish to acquire your input as to the festivities this evening."

"In regards to?"

"My attire."

Janeway looked up in surprise, trying to gauge if the Borg was serious. The she shook her head. This was Seven, she was always serious. With a sigh, she softened her expression. "What do you find unacceptable with your normal bio-suit?"

"Naomi Wildman has informed me that this holiday is of sufficient note that my apparel must be altered to express the tidings of the season." She glanced down at herself. "Apparently my current outfit is not 'merry' enough."

"I see." She felt a genuine smile grace her lips for the first time that day. "I would suggest a dress, Seven. In red or green. I am sure you can find one in the replicator data banks. If you have any trouble, the Doctor seems to love playing dress up with you."

Seven glanced at her curiously, her forehead furrowing at the irritation in the Captain's tone when she mentioned the Doctor. "How will you be attired this evening?"

Janeway picked up her coffee mug. "I won't be attending."

"I was under the impression that our attendance was mandatory."

"Yours is, mine isn't." Janeway smiled sarcastically. "Rank has privileges."

The Borg shifted uncomfortably. When she finally met the older woman's eyes, Janeway saw that the bright blue seemed somehow muted. "I…" The blonde began. "I would greatly prefer it if you were in attendance."

"You'll get over it." She heard herself being cruel and wanted to stop but the words just seemed to tumble out of her mouth.

Seven flinched. "Indeed."

For a moment, The Captain almost stood and went to her, almost laid a hand on her arm and asked her to forgive her for being so rude for no reason.

Almost.

Instead she turned her head away, looking back out the viewport as she mumbled, "Dismissed."

The sound of the ready room doors closing echoed in her heart.


The rest of the day was uneventful. Chakotay must have warned off anyone that came by after Seven because there were no further visitors. Even he only stuck his head in momentarily to inform her that he was leaving for the day.

The next time she saw any of the crew she was crossing the bridge on the way to the turbo-lift at 19:00 hours. She nodded to the skeleton crew still at their stations, mumbling vague wishes of good cheer as she hurried past them.

Once she reached her quarters, she removed her uniform and stiffly drew a robe over her nude form. She knew the party in the mess hall was just getting started, but as far as she was concerned, the day was over. It had nothing left to offer her.

She went to the replicator and ordered whiskey, neat, downing it in one gulp. She clenched her teeth as the fiery liquid slid down her throat and exploded into her belly, sending artificial warmth out to her limbs, allowing her to relax them slowly, in increments.

Her thoughts turned briefly to the look Seven had given her before she had left the ready room earlier. The confusion and the hurt had been enough to give her yet another reason to hate herself.

Seven had wanted her to come to the party. She had practically asked her to attend as her date.

Janeway allowed herself exactly five minutes of fantasy about attending the party with Seven on her arm, and the unwrapping of certain gifts afterwards.

Then she sighed and shut Seven out, going back to pulling the images of all the crew members no longer with them to the front of her mind.

With a small groan, she curled into a ball in the middle of her bed, wishing more than anything that she had her choices to make over again.

She wouldn't make the same mistakes twice.

Bitterly she closed her eyes and let the whiskey carry her away.


"Computer, time?"

"The time is 20:00 hours."

Janeway groaned and rolled over trying to hang on to the hard won sleep she had just barely succumbed to when she heard the noise again. It sounded like… chains? Sitting up, she rubbed her eyes and listened. There it was again. It was definitely the sound of chains rattling and it was coming from her living room. Jumping up, she grabbed her robe, wrapping it around herself as she carefully eased through her bedroom doorway.

"Hello?" She called out. Not getting an answer, she ventured further into the room. "Who's out here?" She demanded.

"OOoooOoooOO." An eerie voice came from all around her and she felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up. She reached for her phaser, but before she could grab it, she felt herself wrapped up in a strong hug, completed by a loud kiss being planted firmly on her cheek. "Miss me, Kathy?"

The Captain turned, her eyes going steel gray as she took in the sight before her. "Q!" She ground her teeth.

"The one and only!" The tall omnipotent being was dressed in a nightshirt complete with cap and slippers, his arms festooned with chains that he shook quite gleefully. "Tell me you missed me."

"If I promise to miss you, will you please go away?" She snapped.

"Now don't go getting all uppity with me. I'm here on official business. The Continuum sent me."

"Why?"

"Ever since you set the Continuum on its ear by allowing Q to self terminate they've been keeping an eye on your little ship and frankly, they're not all that impressed with your progress. They felt the need to intervene. And who better to send than moi?"

"Since when do you listen to the Continuum?"

"Normally, I don't. But how could I pass up a chance to see you again, Kathy? Besides, I kind of agree with them. Your ridiculous adherence to all those silly Starfleet principles has gotten in the way of Voyager being a good time. They want to see something interesting and all this holiday business was more than they could pass up."

"I don't give a damn about entertaining the Q!"

"Oh you should. Nothing worse that a bored Continuum! Make the Klingon's wear tutus, have the Vulcan's take up tap dance, who knows what they might do?"

"Just tell me what the hell they want!" Janeway pinched the bridge of her nose between her fingers. She could feel the headache already.

"They've sent me to remove the stick that is firmly planted up your ass, Kathy. It's Christmas time! Break out the eggnog, snog under the mistletoe…I can think of a few of your crew that wouldn't mind a smooch from their Grand Dame!" Smiling, Q picked up the data PADD containing Seven's letter to Santa. "See? Even your pet Borg is getting into the holiday spirit! How sad to think the Collective is more jolly than you are!"

"This isn't amusing, Q."

"Amusing is my middle name."

"You don't have a middle name!" She said dryly. "You don't even have a first name."

"Details, details… when are you going to learn to stop sweating the small stuff?"

"What exactly is the 'small stuff'?"

"I'm a Q, everything is small stuff." He pulled Janeway close, laying his cheek against hers. "Just think of it, Kathy. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Daniels nipping at your nose… Not to mention turkey with stuffing and all the trimmings…sounds good doesn't it?"

"Where am I going to get a turkey out here in the Delta Quadrant?"

"You still have that First Officer around here somewhere, don't you?"

"Q!!"

"All right, all right! Now, let's see. How does this go again? Oh right. You will be visited by three ghosts."

"I don't believe in ghosts."

Q rolled his eyes. "They're not real ghosts, Kathy, the Q would never do anything that prosaic. Think of them more as… sign posts leading you on the path to enlightenment."

"Sign posts?" Janeway raised one eyebrow. "I'm not interested in any sign posts unless one of them is 'Stop'."

"And here I thought I was being eloquent. Fine, you want to be that way about it, you're on your own." Q snapped his fingers and was gone.

Shaking her head in frustration, she slapped her commbadge. "Janeway to Tuvok."

"Here, Captain." The sound of the party carried over the signal.

"I just had a visit from Q. I don't know what he's up to, but I think it would be prudent to do continuous scans for his presence. He's gone now but I don't want any surprises we're not ready to handle. Let me know if he shows up again."

"Yes, Captain. Tuvok out."

Just what I needed.Janeway sighed as she pulled off her robe and climbed back into bed. Now she would never get back to sleep.

The Captain tossed and turned for an hour before finally finding herself drifting somewhere between sleep and semi-consciousness. When she felt something tickling her nose, she brushed at it absently with her fingertips until a light, melodic laughter pulled her completely from her restive state.

Janeway blinked, confusion running through her as she looked up into familiar green eyes and a very loving smile. She sat up slowly, her heart in her throat as she whispered, "Kes?"

The pretty Ocampan standing next to her bed nodded at her. "Hello, Captain."

"Kes?" Janeway's eyes widened. "Is it really you?"

"Yes it is really me." The blonde smiled as she looked down at her own body. "This form is no longer mine, but I thought it would be easier for you to accept if I came to you looking as I used to."

"What… how did you get here?"

Kes smiled. "Q can be very persuasive. I admit when he first approached me, I was wary as to his intentions. But after he explained who it was that needed my help, there was no way I could refuse."

"I don't understand. Help with what?"

"That's exactly it, Kathryn. You do not understand, and you desperately need to." She took the stunned Captain by the hand. "Are you ready?"

"For what?"

"To truly see…"

The room spun dangerously out of control. When it righted itself, they were in a large, brightly lit chamber. All around her there were Ocampans going about their daily lives.

"Your home world."

"Yes." The blonde smiled. She turned and pointed to a large area that was covered in lush green vegetation and growing vines. "The Ocampans have started growing their own food. They have learned to harness the power of water to increase their energy reserves, to augment what was left them when the Caretaker died. They are flourishing in a way that would have never been possible without your 'interference'."

The Captain was astounded. The underground facility had almost doubled in size and much of the population that surrounded her was made up of children laughing and playing. There was no sickness or malnutrition that she could see. "This is amazing."

"Yes it is. My people have advanced beyond my wildest dreams. And it all started with you, and the decision you made. You made it possible for the Ocampans to thrive." Kes took her hand again. "Come, there are many other things you must see."

The world swam again and suddenly they were on the bridge of Voyager, only it was a scene she didn't recognize. The ship was destroyed. The entire front section of the bulkhead had been sheared away and only a thin force field between the bridge and the vacuum of space remained.

Something moved in the wreckage strewn about the floor and she was shocked to realize that it was her! She was battered and covered in dirt, one side of her face badly scarred, yet still she crawled her way over to the command chair, pulling herself into it as Tuvok's voice came from somewhere over the comm..

"All our ships have been disabled, Captain. Do you have weapons?"

"Negative." She checked her console. "Torpedo launchers are down. I'm setting a collision course. Janeway to the Fleet. Take your temporal shields offline."

Tuvok sounded confused. "Captain, we won't be protected."

"Exactly. If that ship is destroyed all of history might be restored. And this is one year I'd like to forget."

The other Janeway stared out the hole ripped through the front of her ship. Her lips peeled back as she snarled, "Time's up."

Kathryn watched in horror as she steered Voyager into a much larger vessel directly in its path. Voyager crumpled on impact, the resulting explosion destroyed the other ship in a bright flash of fire that blocked out the stars. She closed her eyes, not willing to watch anything more.

The silence was overwhelming. Then, out of nowhere, she heard people talking.

"When can you bring it online?" She heard herself say. Cracking one eye open, her confusion became very apparent when she saw she was standing on the bridge again. There was no destruction, no debris. The other Captain was sitting in her command chair, smiling at her Astrometrics officer.

"We just did." Seven replied calmly.

"In fact," Harry Kim interjected with enthusiasm. "We're in the process of charting a new course home."

Her other self smiled. "Well I'd say this is cause for celebration."

The sounds of the conversation faded out as she turned to Kes. "What just happened?"

The Ocampan smiled. "You just destroyed the Krenim Timeship. It was a vessel responsible for the decimation of dozens of worlds and the murder of millions. They were attempting to restore the Krenim Empire to power by removing outside influences completely from time. You do not remember it because when you destroyed the ship, the entire timeline restored itself and all of those worlds, and Voyager, received a second chance."

Janeway was speechless. She desperately needed some time to work through everything she was seeing but Kes did not give it to her. Instead, the small blonde took her hand again as the scene around them shimmered out of existence.

When her world solidified, she was standing in a cave, the walls around her dug out of brown rock. Everywhere she looked, there were bodies, bloody and torn. Sounds of fighting carried down towards them from an opening to their left and when she turned, she saw B'Elanna run into the chamber, followed closely by Chakotay and several others she did not recognize. They were all dressed in dirty, ripped up Maquis uniforms. The small unit took shelter behind an out cropping of rock as they leveled their weapons behind them.

"How much time do we have?" B'Elanna grimaced as she squeezed her shoulder where a steady stream of blood was flowing from an open gash.

"Not much." Chakotay said quietly. "They were only a few minutes behind us."

"Chakotay." The Klingon turned to him. "I want to say.."

"I know." The man's dark brows knitted together as he studied his friend. "I know. And I'm sorry."

Then there was no more time for words as a full contingent of Jem' Hadar stormed into the chamber. The small band of Maquis fought bravely but they were just no match for the stronger forces. One by one the Jem'Hadar picked them off until only Chakotay and B'Elanna were left.

"NO!" Chakotay yelled and jumped in front of a laser blast meant for the Klingon. He was struck in the center of his back and slumped lifelessly over the rock floor. B'Elanna grabbed him by the shoulder and shook him, tears streaming down her face. "No…oh no." She dashed her tears away angrily with the back of her hand. "I love you, Chakotay."

Jumping up, she rushed the contingent, firing madly into the well armed group, but she never got to see if any of her shots hit their mark. Three laser blasts struck her in the chest; she was dead before she hit the ground.

Janeway stared at their lifeless bodies as the scene faded, replaced by the dank grey environs of what could only be a prison. She looked around, seeing dozens of different species fighting over space and food.

Confused, she watched as a familiar form moved down a nearby hallway to enter the larger chamber. He was carrying a bag with him, pulling pieces of food out of it, eating as he walked.

"Tom?" She whispered. She took one step towards him, only to stop and watch in horror as a group of three men jumped him from behind. The struggle was brief. The tallest of the three slid a long, sharpened piece of metal from his boot and slammed it into the helmsman's side. One of the others grabbed the bag and they ran off, leaving Tom lying on the ground, blood flowing from his mouth as the life drained from his eyes.

"No more." Janeway crossed her arms over her chest, trying to steady her breathing and keep the tears from flowing down her face.

Kes raised one hand and gently placed her palm against the Captain's cheek. "I am sorry, Kathryn, but there is one last thing that you must see."

The room seemed to spin again and when it stopped she was surrounded by dark metal and an eerie green glow. A Borg cube.

"Follow." Kes said quietly, walking down the narrow corridor.

Janeway followed her automatically, flinching when drones passed on either side of her.

"They cannot see you." The blonde whispered gently.

Taking a deep breath, the Captain nodded and silently continued.

Kes led her to a larger chamber where the glow seemed to intensify. There were a dozen alcoves along the wall, some filled, some empty. They came to stand before the very last one and when Janeway looked up she felt her heart constrict painfully as it broke within her chest.

Standing in the alcove, covered in exoplating and Borg implants, was Seven of Nine. The drone was twitching slightly as she regenerated. Her one human eye was closed and Janeway watched as a single tear escaped to slide slowly down her cheek.

Falling to her knees, the Captain bent over, her anguish pouring out of her as she lowered her head. She felt her shoulders shake uncontrollably as the image of that one tear seared itself indelibly into her mind.

"Kathryn." Kes' voice seemed to come from a long way off. A whisper lost in the pounding of her own heart. "Kathryn, open your eyes."

"I can't." She bit the words off forcibly, speaking through teeth clenched together in pain.

"Open your eyes." The voice said gently.

She finally complied and saw that she was back in her quarters. She looked around quickly and then raised her head to stare at the Ocampan.

Kes knelt down in front of her, taking Janeway's face between her palms as she whispered, "You may have stranded your crew here, but they are alive. They may be far from their families, but their families will eventually get them back. By staying, by the very nature of who and what you are, you have affected millions. Most are beings you don't even know. But many are those you have come to love and cherish. Knowing that, would you truly change… anything?" She wiped the tears away lovingly. "Rest now, but do not ever forget…"

"Kes!" Kathryn reached out to grab the Ocampan but her form was already fading. "Wait!"

She slumped over onto the floor as everything went black.


Captain Janeway sat bolt upright, wildly glancing around her darkened bedchamber as her heart hammered painfully in her chest. "Kes?" She whispered.

There was no answer.

"Q?" She tried again.

Still no answer.

"A dream." She took a deep breath. "Just a dream. Get a hold of yourself old girl."

Sliding from the bed she pulled on her robe and headed for the replicator. Whatever demons Q might have stirred up with his little visit, she knew the perfect thing to quiet them down again.

"Whiskey, double, no ice."

As she waited for it to materialize, her door chime sounded. She frowned to herself. Everyone was supposed to be at the party. Well, everyone but her. "Come in!" Her eyebrows furrowed when she saw the tall blonde form of her Astrometrics officer framed in the doorway. The woman was stunning in a knee length deep green cocktail dress with matching sandals.

"Seven?" Janeway turned back to the replicator to get her whiskey. "Why aren't you at the party?" She started violently when she felt warms hands slide around her waist.

"I heard the party was here." A soft voice breathed into her ear.

The Captain spun around, staring at her in shock. "What do you think you are doing?" She studied the face just inches from her own. There was something… not quite right about it.

The Borg smiled, the tip of her tongue darting out to moisten her upper lip.

That was it, Janeway realized as her eyes flew open wide. There was no Borg in the woman standing before her. No ocular implant, no starburst below her right ear. And the left hand that came up to lovingly caress her cheek was definitely devoid of the mesh that had always been present. "What did you do to yourself, Seven?"

"I believe," The blonde advanced towards her, causing her to step back quickly. "That you have mistaken me for someone else."

The smaller woman swallowed. "You're her, aren't you? The ghost?" She moved away quickly, trying to keep the gorgeous woman at arms length but she did not seem to want to cooperate. Instead, the blonde moved like mercury, flowing around the furniture in a sensual dance that kept Janeway fighting for every inch there was between them. Eventually she miscalculated, however, and ended up pressed tightly between the wall next to the bedroom doorway and six feet of long, lanky curves. The glass fell from her nerveless fingers as clear blue eyes looked deeply into her own, seeing past the anger, the fear, and the sense of duty to find the flesh and blood woman trembling underneath.

The full, red lips descended and captured her own, sliding a velvet tongue inside to taste the shadows of her mouth. Janeway tore her lips away a few moments later to whisper breathlessly, "Aren't there rules of some kind? Something that separates the corporeal from the ethereal?"

The blonde smiled. "I'm not that kind of ghost."

"Then who are you?" Kathryn breathed, trying to get her heart rate under control.

"I'm Annika Hansen. I'm the woman you watch regenerate, the woman you stare at from across the conference room table when you think I'm not looking, the woman you hunger for, who makes your hands tingle and your palms sweat. I'm the one in your dreams that makes your fingers wander and your mouth go dry. I'm your want, your desire, your muse…" She leaned forward and ran her tongue along the Captain's lower lip. "I am all things. And I am all for you."

Janeway felt her knees go weak and realized she was only standing upright because of the body pressed so tightly against her own. "I can't do this." She said weakly.

Annika's laugh was sultry, sensual. It wrapped around her like a caress and drove all rational thought from her mind. "You say that as if you had a choice in the matter."

It suddenly struck the Captain that this wasn't Seven It wasn't the woman-child she so worried about taking advantage of. This was Annika, fully grown, sprung from her mind like some goddess of ancient Greek myth. With a low moan, she wrapped her arms around the blonde's neck and pulled her head down to devour her lips, giving in to the passion she had denied herself for so long.

Annika didn't hesitate; she opened her mouth beneath Kathryn's and allowed her tongue to enter to play wetly with her own. Her hands moved possessively down the silk covered back before sliding around her waist to untie the sash holding the robe closed. With an almost negligible motion, she flicked the garment away, watching with a smile as it puddle at the ground around Kathryn's feet.

The redhead flushed slightly and Annika took her chin between her thumb and forefinger, drawing her head up so that she could look directly into her eyes. "You are beautiful to us. Every part of you has been stored in our eidetic memory and every memory has been revisited more times that we can count. And we can count very high." She smiled. "We are Borg. We have witnessed every emotion of every species we have ever assimilated. And yet… we were not truly prepared for longing. Watching you, every day; catching your scent in passing, hearing your voice in our thoughts. Wanting… wanting so much from you and not having the ability to put the need into words. Now I can for both of us, both Seven and myself. We desire you. We wish to feel your skin beneath our hands, taste your essence on our tongue, feel your legs tighten around us… We wish to love you, and be loved by you. Now." The last word came out as a growl and Janeway shivered as the blonde picked her up and carried her to the bed.

Lying her down gently, Annika reached to her side and unzipped her dress, allowing it to fall to the floor. She wore nothing underneath. Stepping out of her sandals, she approached the bed, six feet of creamy white skin and bright azure eyes.

In one graceful motion, the blonde slid onto the mattress and settled on top of her. As the full warm weight of her body came in contact with Kathryn, the older woman's senses swam in the scent of the form on top of her.

The pale golden mane smelled of peaches and cream, the skin of cinnamon and nutmeg. Her breath smelled faintly of champagne and strawberries and an image of Seven at the Christmas party floated briefly through her mind. A moment later, it was gone as Annika bit her lower lip gently, sucking it into her mouth before sliding her tongue between her lips to taste the recesses of her mouth. The blonde's hands slid across the Captain's flesh, touching every part of her that they could reach.

With a smile, Annika whispered, "I can do slow, I can do soft; I can do lingering and languid… I can do anything you need… you just have to tell me what you want."

Kathryn moaned as smooth hands slid up to cup her breasts before flattening to brush the palms across her nipples. "All of it." She whimpered. "All of you."

Chuckling softly, the younger woman dipped her head to take a nipple between her lips. She rolled her tongue across it firmly, before grazing it with her teeth. As she brought her fingers to the Captain's other breast, she slid her thigh between the older woman's legs, her eyes rolling back slightly as the moisture she found there coated her skin.

"What is in your thoughts, Kathryn," Annika whispered. "That has made my leg so wet? Tell me…"

"Your touch…" The Captain shook, her voice barely more than a low moan. "The feel of your lips… How soft they are, how full they look…"

"But not just my lips…" The blonde began to grind against her, sliding her knee firmly against the older woman's sensitive flesh. "Who else has captured your mind…your heart? Who else have you dreamt was touching you?"

Janeway swallowed. "Seven… always, Seven." She breathed.

"And in your dreams, did we do… this?" Annika slid her hand down Kathryn's stomach to scratch lightly in the light auburn curls between her legs. "Did we do this?" Her fingers slid into the cleft, circling wetly around the engorged bundle of nerves at the top of it. "Tell me…"

Kathryn wrapped her arm around the long, gorgeous neck, her teeth sinking absently into one elegant clavicle. "Yes…"

"What else did we do?"

"You… She… would go inside me…"

"Like this?" Annika slid two fingers deep inside Kathryn, her eyes closing as the velveteen muscles clasped them firmly.

"No… more…"

Smiling, she added a third finger, reveling in the whimper it evoked from the beautiful woman beneath her. She began thrusting in and out while curling her fingertips, rubbing against the rough spot high up inside of her. "What else.." She bit one nipple roughly as she waited for a reply.

The Captain swallowed, her hips beginning to push up against Annika and her breath coming in pants. "Her mouth…"

"Seven's mouth?"

"Yes…"

"And what would Seven do with her mouth?"

She began to shake.

"Look at me, Kathryn."

Janeway opened her eyes and found herself staring into blue orbs filled with love and desire.

"What would Seven do with her mouth?"

"She would taste me…"

"Ahhh…" Annika began to slide slowly down the compact form, her tongue flickering out against the Captain's skin as she went. "Here?" She teased. "Or maybe here?" The tip of her tongue disappeared into the older woman's naval. "No? Where then?"

Kathryn whimpered, her voice no more than a whisper. "Lower…"

"Ahh…here?" The blonde relented as her thumb move aside so that her lips could close on the swollen nub with abandon. She suckled it firmly, circling it with her tongue as her fingers kept up their movements within the Captain's body.

Annika pulled her mouth away for a moment to whisper, "And what did you sound like when you came for her, Kathryn?"

The Captain moaned, her back arching high off the bed as her thighs began to shake, Annika's velvet words and velvet tongue pushing her beyond any level of pleasure she had ever known. Her orgasm grew like heat within her blood, carrying itself to all points of her body as it exploded out from everywhere the blonde was connected with her.

"Oh… Sev…SEV…OHMYGOD… SEVEN!!" Her vision darkened as she collapsed back onto the bed, vaguely away that Annika was still licking her softly. Without warning, a second orgasm shot through her, causing her entire body to go rigid and her toes to crack before she fell back, finding herself cradled softly against Annika's full breasts. Her head was spinning, her thoughts were in chaos and she whispered quietly, "I love you, Seven."

Then she passed out.

When she awoke Annika was standing over the bed, looking down at her with infinite gentleness. "She isn't some china doll, Kathryn; that you need to be afraid of breaking. I'm in there, sharing space with the rest of who she is. And she loves you, just as I do. You gave us back our humanity. Can you really deny us the right to choose who we wish to share it with?"

The tall form faded away and Kathryn sank back into her mattress, her body tingling softly as her eyes slowly closed.


What was that smell? It was familiar… multiple scents mixed together. It smelled like coffee and… sex?

Janeway sat up, her eyes flying open to blink rapidly at the shadows in the darkened corners of her bedroom.

Yes, there was definitely the scent of coffee, but more pervasive than that was the thick smell of sex that hung in the air. It wasn't the scent of a single person either. She had grown very familiar with the particulars of self gratification. No this was the scent of sweat and sex, of exertion, energy expended by more than a single person.

With a groan, she dropped her head into her hands.

"What the hell have I done?" She whispered.

"Oh, calm down Katie." A familiar voice chuckled from the doorway. "You're going to give yourself an ulcer… I should know."

Kathryn looked up, her jaw dropping at the sight that greeted her. She blinked once, twice, and then rubbed her hands across her eyes but the image did not change.

Standing in the doorway to her bedroom… was herself.

It wasn't exactly herself though. No, this Janeway was much older. There was no more red in her hair, and the lines on her expressive face were so deep they seemed to be cut in stone. The uniform was different too, as was the insignia. The visitor was… an Admiral?

"Ok," Kathryn held her hand up. "I'm not going to do the whole "Oh my god is it you' thing. I am going to assume since you are here that you are the third ghost and since the other two weren't quite ghosts, then neither are you. Why don't you take it from there?"

"We always were too smart for our own good." The Admiral laughed, holding up her coffee cup. "Why don't you put on a robe and come join me for a cup of joe? Then we can talk."

With a sigh, the Captain found her robe by the bedroom door where it had dropped when… her pulse began to rise and she pushed the image aside, focusing on the mug of coffee her counterpart thrust into her hand. "So what's on the agenda this time?"

The Admiral laughed. "Leave it to us to treat something this unique as banal." She sighed. "I'm here to show you our future."

The Captain pursed her lips. "Some of it I can make out on my own." She smiled dryly. "You're an admiral, so that means we made it home in at least several large pieces. That's all I care about."

"Is it?" She set her mug down. "I beg to differ."

"Excuse me?"

"No I don't think I will and honestly, I don't have to since I am the one living with the consequences of your choices. You think all that matters is getting this ship home, well I am here to tell you that you couldn't be more wrong."

"How can you say that?"

"Because I did it your way. I know what's coming and I know what it will do to us."

Captain Janeway sat down on the couch, looking at the admiral thoughtfully. "How old are you?"

"A lady never tells." The Admiral sat down beside her, her expression going stony. "Don't look now…"

The room seemed to vibrate slightly and when it stopped, the Captain saw herself sitting just a foot away, reading a book. When the door chime was activated, she did not even glance up, merely called out "Come in."

Seven of Nine walked into her quarters. There was something about her that seemed off somehow, as though something was agitating her.

"Seven," Her counterpart smiled, setting the book down. "You're up late. What's up?"

"Captain," The Borg sat down next to her, something else that was extremely unusual. "I have come to request your advice."

"All right, tell me what's wrong."

"It is Commander Chakotay. Captain, are you aware that the Commander and I have embarked on a relationship of a personal nature?"

The surprise on both Captains faces made the Admiral chuckle under her breath.

"No, I wasn't aware of that." Janeway responded evenly, her eyes carefully neutral.

"He has asked me to join with him in marriage. I do not know what I should do." Seven continued.

"What do you want to do?"

Janeway could feel the pain in her counterpart's voice echo in her own chest.

"I am unsure."

The other Captain placed a hand on the Borg's arm. "Chakotay is a good man. He is kind and gentle. You could do a lot worse."

Kathryn felt her temper rise, she wanted to slap her other self. What the hell was wrong with her?

"In any event," The Captain continued. "This is a decision you have to make on your own. I know I have always been there for you, Seven, as your mentor, and I will always be your friend. But I think it's time you started taking responsibility for your own choices, which means making them independently."

The Borg nodded her face somewhat crestfallen. "I am sorry I disturbed you, Captain. I will not bother you with matters of this kind again."

The other Captain watched as Seven left. Then she allowed two silent tears to roll down her cheeks before dashing them away with her hand and going back to her book.

The scene faded out and Captain Janeway stood up, glaring down at the Admiral. "What the hell were you thinking?"

"Why are you yelling at me? That was you too you know."

"Yes, but since it hasn't happened yet it's more you than me!"

The Admiral shook her head. "You don't get it yet do you?" With a sigh, she took the Captain's hand. The room around them disappeared to be replaced with the mess hall. Colorful streamers festooned the entire room and the tables had been moved to one side to accommodate a long white carpet. All of the senior staff and a healthy portion of the crew were stuffed into the small room.

As the Captain watched, she saw herself come into view. She was wearing dress whites, standing at the furthest edge of the carpet. Music started playing and she turned to see Seven enter the mess hall.

The Borg was a vision in white and silver. Her hair was flowing freely around her face and she was garbed in a beautiful silken wedding dress, a light veil across her face that did nothing to hide her striking features.

For a moment, her counterpart smiled, almost as if she were the one that Seven was walking towards. Then Chakotay stepped up and Seven stopped beside him. They turned to face the Captain and she proceeded with the ceremony. Fifteen minutes later, her counterpart watched her First Officer walk away with the only woman she had ever loved. With the only person she had ever truly loved.

The other Captain stood for several moments when everyone else had gone, her thumb running across the four pips attached to her collar. Squaring her shoulders and raising her jaw, she walked out of the mess hall.

"That hurt." Captain Janeway whispered.

"You have no idea… not yet." The Admiral answered. "Come on."

They wandered through the ship, taking the turbo-lift down to deck five like they were on a leisurely stroll. None of the crewmembers that were running through the corridors paid any attention to them. Neither did the people gathered in Sick Bay when they arrived.

Captain Janeway stepped towards the far end of the room, recognizing herself, Chakotay and the Doctor huddled close to a figure lying prone on a bio-bed. Both her other self and Chakotay were crying.

As she came around the Doctor, the patient came into view and her breath caught in her throat as her heart stopped beating. Seven of Nine lay on the bed. Her body was battered and bloody, her left hand implant ragged and torn. Her breathing was labored and she watched as the Doctor took a final reading, closing the tri-corder with a small shake of his head.

Chakotay became hysterical, thrashing out wildly until the EMH injected him with a sedative, causing him to slump against the bio-bed.

Her counterpart only stared down at the dying form of her Astrometrics officer. After a moment, she cleared her throat and whispered, her voice heavy with emotion, "Annika…"

The Borg reached up weakly, the backs of her fingers barely grazing the Captains cheek. "I know…" She whispered. Her hand dropped and Seven turned her head away.

For a moment, their eyes locked and Janeway would have sworn the blonde had seen her, had known she was there!

And then the life in those bright blue eyes drained away, leaving nothing but the empty husks of three people behind.

The Captain blinked at the tears that were spilling from her eyes, surprised to find herself in her ready room. She turned on the Admiral. "Why show me that?" She screamed. "Why are you torturing me?"

The Admiral only looked at her kindly as the doors burst open and the other Captain appeared, followed by a very irate Chakotay.

"She is my wife. My family burial ritual is very specific. What right do you have to do this?" He shouted.

"I am her Captain." Her counterpart bit off slowly. "I have every right. And I am telling you that I am not going to shoot her off into space inside a torpedo casing so she can float around this quadrant for the next millennia. Or, god forbid, be picked up by some species like the Kobali, to be recycled into someone else. I am taking her home, Chakotay. End of story."

"It isn't your decision!" He pressed.

The other Captain turned on him, a look of coldness in her eyes that none of them had ever seen before. "I passed on helping her make a decision once. It is something I will regret for the rest of my life. I can't do anything about that, but I can make sure that she spends the rest of this trip with her family. And that she is buried with family when we reach Earth."

"Your family." Chakotay's face lit up with understanding. "You're still in love with her. She was mine, Kathryn. And she's dead now. She won't ever be yours!"

The Captain moved faster than either of them were prepared for, her palm flying out to strike him across the cheek with such force that his head spun around.

Chakotay turned his head back to face her as he rubbed his cheek with his palm. He didn't say anything, merely looked at her for a few moments and then walked out, but they both knew that whatever friendship there was between them, it had just ended. She stood her ground until the ready room doors slid shut, and then she collapsed, her anguish spilling out of her in a flood that did not seem to have an end.

The scene faded away and they were back in her quarters. The Admiral went to the replicator and ordered them both double whiskies. She pressed the glass into the Captain's lifeless hand before leading her to the couch.

"I haven't shown you these things to torture you." She said gently. "I have merely shown you the things that have tortured me for the last thirty years. The choices I made are the same choices you are spiraling down to. And they will come at you faster than you can ever expect."

"But if I change it, then what?" Kathryn downed the whiskey. "So I tell Seven I love her and I get what? A couple of years with her before I lose her?"

"Katie, don't play the fool with me. You change a piece of the puzzle, you change the whole landscape, you know that. That's why the TPD is so strict, because one little difference can cause an effect on such a broad scale."

"And what about the TPD? You're no ghost. So that means Q brought you from the future and you are knowingly violating the Temporal Prime Directive!"

"I know I am." The Admiral said proudly. "And I would do it again. I would do it a thousands times if it meant that I would get to spend even one year with her." The Admiral sighed. "You can do just what you've been doing, Katie, and you get to be me. You get everything out of your career that you could ever want; rank, prestige, honor and accolades. You can go home and be the hero if you do what Starfleet says is right. Or you can be with her and you can be happy. Do you know what the difference is between being right and being happy?"

The Captain shook her head.

"You never have to prove you're happy."

Kathryn sighed. "I don't think I remember how to be happy anymore."

"It isn't something one forgets. Isn't that why you won't tell Seven how we feel about her? Because you know she'll have some very definite ideas about how to make you happy? Don't forget, Katie my dear, we share the same mind and I know how filthy yours can get." She breathed in deeply. "If I am not mistaken, you've already had a taste of how things could be… so you tell me. Is it worth it?"

The Captain thought about the time she had spent with Annika, weighed it against all the things Kes and the older version of herself had shown her. Slowly, a smile crept onto her face.

"That's my girl!" The Admiral laughed. "If you're going to be stuck out here, at least you can be stuck with Seven."

"Yeah." She sighed. "I just wish I could do something about the being stuck part."

"Well… keep your mind open to possibilities and keep your welcome mat out for visitors. I'm working on it from my end too you know. And if by some fluke of nature we luck out and Seven's there with me this go 'round… Hell, you should be home by next Tuesday." The Admiral smirked.

"What about the TPD?"

The older woman shrugged. "In for penny, in for a pound." She set her empty glass down on the table and looked around. "Guess I'm done here. Q didn't tell me how the hell to turn this off."

Kathryn laughed. "I think I need to close my eyes. That's what worked every other time."

"Well, do it would ya? I left the Doctor watching the roast in the oven and he doesn't even have a sense of smell!"

The Captain didn't bother to thank her; that would just have been embarrassing for them both. Instead, she closed her eyes, enjoying the feeling of weightlessness that came with it for the first time.

When she opened them again, she was once more sitting in the middle of her bed. She was alone, but the familiar scents still lingered, bringing a smile to her face.

"Computer, time?"

"The time is 20:01 hours."

Janeway blinked. One minute? She laughed out loud. There was still time.

Going to the replicator, she overrode the rationing system and programmed in an assortment of items for her senior staff, all wrapped in bright festive paper. Then she went to her data console and sent out a system wide message.

"This is Captain Janeway to all members of the crew. As my Christmas gift to you, I am happy to extend everyone's holodeck privileges by an additional four hours this month. Also, we will be stopping for a ship wide shore leave at the first friendly planet we come across. Merry Christmas, to all of my family."

She tried to ignore the way her voice choked at the end of the message, but all around the ship, the members of her crew wiped their eyes and cheered.

When Kathryn danced into the mess hall fifteen minutes later, wearing a Santa hat and laden down with packages, the members of the senior staff all stared at each other, matching looks of wonder on their faces.

All except for one.

Seven of Nine stood apart from the group, watching the Captain hand out the gifts, bestowing kisses on the cheeks of Harry and Tom as she did so. Her eyes lit up when Naomi opened her present and found a PADD with the Captain's outline for a new Flotter holodeck program that Tom immediately volunteered to write.

When the Captain's arms were empty, she looked around the mess hall, her eyes finally falling on her Astrometrics officer. With a smile, Kathryn stepped up next to her and took her hand, leading her towards the counter. When they stopped, Seven looked up, knowing that a sprig of Mistletoe had been affixed to the ceiling directly above them.

"Captain," A small smile curled her lips. "Am I to assume that you have maneuvered me under this piece of dying vegetation for a reason?"

"Yes, Seven."

The Borg's eyes sparkled. "State your intentions."

"Oh, I'll do better than that.." Janeway stretched her head upwards, catching the full red lips in a soft kiss.

They broke apart for a moment to look at each other, and then Seven lowered her head, capturing the Captain's mouth possessively. Janeway's tongue slid out to flick playfully at the Borg's bowlike lower lip before she moved away.

The room was silent for a moment as the new development slowly sunk into the minds of all those present. Then a low cat call emanated from somewhere in the vicinity of Tom Paris and the entire room broke into cheers and whistles.

Janeway grinned at them all good naturedly until the mood returned to its more normal festive state, then she took Seven by the hand and led her to the kitchen area behind the counter. It was the only quiet spot she could find.

"We need to talk, Seven. Something happened to me tonight…" Her eyebrows furrowed in confusion. "… or maybe it didn't…" She shook her head. "It doesn't matter, what I am trying to say is…"

The Borg took pity on her. "I am aware of what transpired this evening, Kathryn." Her voice was low, almost sensual yet shy at the same time. "Did I perform adequately?"

Janeway blinked. "I beg your pardon?"

"When Q approached me and requested the he be allowed to separate the part of me that is Annika Hansen, I was originally appalled. But when he explained why, I admit I was intrigued. I allowed him to do so. And, as he promised, she was returned; unharmed and very satisfied."

"That was actually… you?"

Seven nodded. "A part of me. However, I do believe the other side of my personality has begun to feel somewhat…slighted."

"Does she now?" Kathryn's smile was brazen. "What would you suggest we do about that?"

The Borg looked around and then stepped closer, pressing the smaller woman into the rack behind her. She brought her hands up to slide around her waist as she kissed her passionately, her tongue demanding entrance to play. They remained in the kitchen, locked in a heated embrace, for nearly ten minutes. Then B'Elanna coughed loudly from right outside, announcing that she was just going to step into the kitchen to retrieve a few more bottles of champagne.

Janeway laughed and took Seven's hand, leading her back out to the mess hall.

Their hands remained tightly linked throughout the rest of the party.


Kathryn woke up slowly, a smile easing its way across her features at the scent that permeated the room.

She was lying on her stomach and there was a heavenly weight draped across the small of her back and her upper thighs. Turning her head to the left, she saw the angelic facial features of Seven of Nine resting on the pillow next to her. Her eyes were closed and her breath was moving easily through her finely chiseled nose. The weight on her back was the Borg's human arm, the weight on her thighs, that of Seven's legs, both of which had been thrown possessively over her sometime during the previous evening.

Rolling onto her side, she moved closer, fitting herself against the soft, nubile curves as her lover's eyes blinked open.

Seven looked at her from across the pillow, her eyes full of love and wonder as she whispered, "Am I dreaming?"

Kathryn reached up and used her index finger to brush the hair from the Borg's eyes. "No, Seven." She smiled and kissed her on the nose. "This is very real."

Seven wrapped her arms around that smaller woman, breathing in her sent, existing in the sound of her heart as it thudded heavily in her chest. "I love you, Captain Janeway."

"I love you too, Seven. And I think it is more than appropriate for you to call me Kathryn."

The Borg's forehead furrowed in confusion. "But last night you were quite insistent that I call you Captain."

"Oh isn't that naughty!" Q giggled from the doorway, sending Kathryn scrambling to find her robe while Seven merely wrapped the sheet around herself. "Now that's what I call a show! Brava! The Q send their best regards, Kathy." He reappeared behind Seven. "You practically sent the entire Continuum into cardiac arrest. Now everyone wants an implant or two… Are there any that are…hidden?" He peered down at her chest, wondering if he could get away with snapping the sheet out of existence.

Janeway, meanwhile, had found her robe and her sense of dignity. "Q!" She snapped.

The incorrigible being sighed heavily and laid down with his head in Seven's lap. "You're going to have to work on the prudish side of her. You know she has all the pent up passion of six lonely years in there, somewhere. Ooh lucky you! If I wasn't a married man…I would probably be a lot happier…"

Seven pushed him off, standing to draw her own robe over her nude form. "I assure you the passion is no longer 'pent up'. At least," She gave Janeway a smoldering look. "For the moment…"

"Well, as much as I would love to stay and bathe in the pheromones I really must fly. The wife and son are waiting dinner on me. You know how women can be, Kathy... Well… I guess you do now. I left a little something for you in the other room. I demand you name your first born after me. It's spelled Q. Ta!" He snapped his fingers and was gone.

The Captain and Seven approached the door warily, they eyes going wide as they took in the spectacle that awaited them in the dining room.

The table was covered with a green and red cloth, on top of which was every type of Christmas dish you could ever want or imagine. From a huge steaming tom turkey, to dishes heaped with stuffing, mashed potatoes, yams, green beans, cranberry sauce, wild rice, salad, rolls, dumplings and ambrosia. On the breakfast counter was a punch bowl full of eggnog sitting right next to a large bucket filled with several different types of beer.

In short, it was a Christmas Dinner that could feed an army.

And that wasn't all. On the far end of the couch, there was a large, real Douglas fir, done up with lights, ornaments and tinsel, the bottom of the tree hidden by four large brightly wrapped packages.

They both approached the tree and Seven handed her all four of the gifts one by one.

Kathryn opened the first one, her smile of confusion becoming one of joy as she held up an original rendering of the Vitruvian Man. Laughing, she tore through the other presents, knowing what she would find.

She wasn't disappointed. When she was done, twenty five pounds of Sumatra Mandheling Coffee beans, a bottle of Erin Go Bragh Irish Whiskey and a brand new holodeck program of her family farm were sitting on the floor next to DaVinci's incredible sketch.

She looked at Seven, the love in her heart shining through the sadness in her eyes.

"What is troubling you?"

"I don't have a present for you. I'm sorry… I was just in such a hurry…"

Seven smiled. "Kathryn, Q asked me what I wished to receive for Christmas."

"What did you ask for?"

The Borg leaned closer, snuggling her face into the Captain's neck. "You."

Janeway sat very still, swallowing over and over until she was certain she was not going to burst into tears. Then she kissed Seven gently and looked back at the dining room table. "There's no way we can let all that go to waste…"

The blonde nodded and Kathryn hit her commbadge. "Janeway to the senior staff. Please report to my quarters in thirty minutes. That includes you too, Doctor."

They showered quickly, with promises from Janeway that they would take a longer one together later when Seven began to explore the slipperiness of her skin with rapt fascination.

They had just finished pulling on some quickly replicated jeans and t-shirts when the door chime sounded.

"Come!" Janeway called out.

B"Elanna and Tom walked in first, followed by Harry and then the doctor. All of their eyes went wide as saucers as they took in the feast laid out on the table before them.

Tom grabbed a beer, popping the cap off and tilting it back with a huge smile. "Where the hell did all of this come from?"

Janeway smiled softly. "A couple of unexpected friends." She looked up at Seven as she squeezed her hand. "All right, grab a chair and let's get to eatin' while the food is hot!"

As they seated themselves, she looked around, realizing the Chakotay had not arrived yet. She frowned. "Computer, locate Commander Chakotay."

"Commander Chakotay is in the Captain's Quarters."

She tapped her commbadge. "Janeway to Chakotay."

A commbadge chirped from the direction of the dining room table.

The Captain stared at the large bird at the center of the table in horror, her mouth going dry.

"Oh!" Harry reached into his pocket "It's his commbadge! I forgot he dropped it at the party last night!"

The doors to her quarters slid open and her First Officer walked in, a sheepish grin on his face. "Sorry I'm late."

Janeway was so relieved she felt as though she might faint. When the sensation passed, she picked up her cup of eggnog, holding it out over the table.

"To the family and friends that we can't be with this holiday season, to the members of the crew that we have lost along the way, and to the family that surrounds us each and every day, I offer these words from one of my all time favorite authors, Charles Dickens."

"Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!"

"I'm not sure when we'll get home," Janeway knocked back her entire glass and leveled a brilliant smile at everyone present. "But I promise you… we will."

Her senior staff drank with her, amazed at the confidence in her tone, the playfulness in her attitude.

They had never doubted that their Captain would eventually lead them home.

But for some reason, right at the moment, home felt a lot closer than it had in years.

DISCLAIMER

Chakotay was not stuffed, cooked, and eaten for Christmas dinner. He was however chopped into small pieces to keep the fire going while they roasted chestnuts. (Hey, at least he served a purpose!)