The room was full on people. Almost a hundred previous Voyager crewmembers had come in order to celebrate Tom Paris' birthday. It had been over four months since their return to Earth and during that time the crew had failed to organize reunion party. Tom's birthday, however, had given them a good reason to correct the situation.
Seven Of Nine had come as well, even though she had been less than enthusiastic to attend. First months on Earth had been more challenging for her. Being in a public eye was especially something she found difficult and which she resented deeply. After living onboard Voyager millions of strangers around her were a lot to take. She had felt unsure many times, which was not typical of her, at least when they were still on Voyager. But that part of their lives was unquestionably over and uncertainty had more or less labeled her post-Voyager life so far.
Seven hated uncertainty and doubts. And she hated the fact that she was known among thousands of strangers, even though she tried not to give it too much value. But the fact was that adapting to this new era in her life had proven to be quite difficult. Luckily she had not been alone. The Doctor, for instance, had been a great help, and Aunt Irene too.
Being among the familiar people now should have been a pleasant experience for Seven, but it was not. She had realized that the time was not right for her to be here. Suddenly Seven halted once she saw the very person she had wanted to avoid. She turned around to hide her face and wondered what to do next. Yes; another burst of unwanted uncertainty took her over once again.
Seven didn't want to face him, at least not yet. He was still a reminder of the things she would have rather forgotten already. But the 1,3 seconds of him in her sight had been enough to invite certain memories from her first weeks on Earth to emerge. She didn't want to remember them, but it seemed that she had no choice now.
It had happened so quickly and almost unnoticed. After just one week on Earth, Seven had started to notice changes both in Chakotay and herself. She had first tried to deny the impact Earth had on her. She had tried to belittle the magnitude of it, trying to convince herself that live on this planet was better than being on Voyager. She had appreciated that she had had Chakotay. His warm and caring presence had made the change in her life more tolerable. His embrace had made the outside world disappear.
But it wasn't long before she had started to see a change in him. She had reasoned that it was their circumstances; the court martial was on its way and therefore he wanted isolate himself a little in order to prepare for it. But there had been a change in her as well. When she had finally started to feel at home in Aunt Irene's house, she had realized that their relationship was not the same and it most likely never would be. The fact was that the circumstances had changed drastically and what had been certain and clear on Voyager, like her devotion to their relationship, seemed not to be so simple and straightforward anymore. So she had decided to tell him that she wanted to terminate their relationship for the time being.
She had expected him to object, to convince her to consider like he had already done once. But without any resistance he had agreed. It had puzzled her, left her somewhat confused. Wasn't it him who had told her not to give up on them when she had already wanted to end their relationship onboard Voyager? Wasn't it him who had told her that he wanted always to be in transporter range of her? Wasn't he the man she would eventually marry? But where had that man gone? Had he been honest then or had he lied? What had their relationship meant for him? That day had brought more uncertainty in her life, which she did not appreciate at all.
Seven walked away from them, trying to get lost in the crowd. She did not know exactly where to go, but she decided to keep on moving. She certainly didn't want to start a conversation with anyone, at least not yet. Not before she had cleared her mind from these useless memories of hers, which made her human emotions fluctuate. But inevitably that one rainy night kept coming back to her, even though she tried her hardest to block it out.
It had been the night when she had faced the truth. Until then she had ignored a lot or pretend that certain things didn't exist, but that specific night had made her acknowledge the real state of affairs. She still hated that night, but it was part of her now. She had tried to deny, ignore, diminish, and repress all the things the night had made her feel, but it had been difficult. It was still hard to even breath sometimes, because all of the anger was tormenting her. It was a human flaw, no doubt about it. She didn't like these feelings and she often wondered how people were able to live with them. She disliked the very idea of wasting her time and energy for something so pointless and useless. But most of all; she hated the end result of feeling so small.
The events, which had led to the rainy night, had already started after her first week in Starfleet's think tank unit. During those days the first rumors started to circle and naturally the Doctor had kept her updated. Seven had dismissed those rumors altogether then. The mere idea of Janeway being intimately involved with Chakotay was simply ridiculous and absurd. Such a thing had to be something the media had made up to entertain the public, she had informed determinedly then. And she had been so sure that she was right.
Because Janeway, who had just been promoted to vice admiral, must have certainly had more important and relevant things in her daily life than pursuing a personal relationship with someone. And with Chakotay? Never. Seven had never seen anything between them, which could have been interpreted romantic by its nature. Their relationship had been platonic and professional. Captain Janeway had been the last person to get involved with someone from her own crew. She had certainly been unique among their group of 150 and surely she would have remained similarly detached from her crew, even though they were on Earth now. So whatever the Doctor had tried to insinuate must have been based on false assumptions, which had no basis in reality.
In addition, she had difficulties to imagine Chakotay being romantically involved with Kathryn Janeway. The idea was simply impossible. If he had been in love with his captain, he would not have started dating her in the first place. He was not the kind of man who seek female companion just to entertain himself. And it was unlikely that he would have developed feelings toward Janeway this quickly, just after their romantic involvement had ended. It wouldn't have made sense, so therefore the speculation had to be poorly written fiction that was fed to them by the media. Being romantically involved with each other would simply be too uncharacteristic from both of them. Chakotay she had learnt to know more intimately during her relationship with him was not someone who wanted to pursue his close colleague. And Kathryn Janeway was not a woman who ran after men, seeking their attention.
But the rumors had succeeded the plant the seed of doubt in her mind. She had not been able to resist speculating about the reason why Chakotay had given up on their relationship so easily. Had he had some specific reason? So once Seven had visited her Aunt Irene back on Earth during her first days off, she had decided to pay a visit to Chakotay. She had been curious, but she had also missed his presence in her life. They had agreed to be friends so therefore her arrival to his house would not be entirely unexpected.
Seven sighed. Even now the memories of that rainy night months ago made her extremely exasperated. She had spent too much time fighting the memory, but she was out of options now. She had seen him before her eyes with her, so she knew she couldn't help herself reliving that night again now. So she wanted to get out of sight, disappear somewhere for a moment. Therefore, she entered the ladies room and locked the door. She needed to be alone, until this intolerable moment of weakness would pass and she would be normal again.
Seven looked her reflection on the mirror and closed her eyes. She gave herself a permission to go there again, hopefully for the last time. She was done spending her time on thinking about the past. Soon she was almost able to feel the raindrops on her face and hair again.
It had been almost a midnight when she had transported herself near to his house. It had been, but she assumed that he would be still awake. It had rained already when she stepped out from the transportation station, so she didn't waste time walking around. But when she had been nearly there, she had suddenly halted when someone materialized in a transporter beam near the house. And then she had seen her – Kathryn Janeway – running in the darkness towards his door. He had opened it before she had even reached it, and let her in without saying a word. So it had been obvious that he had been expecting her.
All of the sudden, she had sensed uncomfortable feelings in her. She had been stunned, upset even. Later she had concluded that she should have left right then and there. But the curious, irrational and weak side of her overrated humanity had driven her closer to the house and made her utilize her Borg side when she walked through the force field, which protected his privacy. She had been the one who helped him to install it; she knew the force field modulation. Her nanoprobes did the rest so slipping behind the force field into his garden had been both painless and effortless.
She had walked behind the window of his living room. And there they had been, touching, undressing, and kissing each other. The sight of it had made Seven's feeling sick to her stomach, but she had been unable to leave. Something had kept her behind the window watching them.
And the things she had done in her provocative undergarment for his pleasure had quickly made Seven feel disgusted. She knew the concept of oral sex, for instance, but once seeing her kneeling in front of him performing this questionable act and jerkin his sexual organ with her other hand, she had felt profoundly nauseated. She had started to see Janeway in a new light, which had not flattered her, and the first word that had popped into Seven's mind had been…
'Whore' was a usual term among human females and it was used to express contempt, even though the word's original meaning was something quite different. Do during that moment whore had been the first word Seven had found for Janeway. Was all that really what Chakotay wanted? Was that what he had been after when being with her as well? Chakotay had never even insinuated anything sexual when they had been together. He had always been so polite and caring. He had never expressed those kinds of urges. Their relationship had been perfect when everything had been fully functional. At least she had thought so. Had Chakotay been unhappy with her?
Hadn't she been good enough for him? Hadn't he wanted her like he obviously wanted Janeway now? Was it because she was party Borg? That she still needed her alcove to function properly? She had always assumed that her exterior had been adequate, that many men had found her attractive. Even Chakotay. Had he not trusted her sexual abilities? Or was it that he never even thought about undressing her like he had just undressed Janeway? Seven still had Borg blemishes on her skin, which she had learnt to hate. Were those the reason why Chakotay hadn't wanted her like that?
Then she had seen how Janeway had proceeded from giving oral sex to placing herself against the table. It had irritated Seven. Why was Janeway so submissive all of the sudden? Why did she do all those things for him willingly? Why would she place herself to those grotesque positions in order to copulate with him like some animal? Seven still didn't understand how that could be possible. Why had Janeway changed so much? Why had she started to demean herself like that?
But she had. She had performed one provocative and perverse act after another with him while he had been enjoying it. The warm and caring Chakotay had vanished and there was a stranger in his place. Seven hadn't seen that side of him before and she was not sure if she even wanted to know him now.
Around that time she had seen enough. She had turned around and left, walking through the force field again and continued walking in the rain to the transportation station. But what she had just seen kept haunting her on every step she had taken. Why had they been doing such abnormal things? Wasn't it enough just to perform sexual activities without expecting the partner doing these disgusting things? Why had Chakotay wanted to pour what seemed to be a syrupy liquid of some kind, on her stomach and inner thighs before caressing her vagina with his mouth? Was that the way he had always preferred to mate? Had he always preferred his sex partner to obey such perverted quirks of his? And what purpose had her uncivilized language served while he was penetrating her? And why had she kept yelling him going harder when she obviously had been aware that he was already putting all of his effort in his bestial movements. He must have hurt her already, but she had been willing to let him continue. He treated her like an object instead of a person, and she had let him.
Then the anger had arrived once she had realized that there was a possibility Janeway had already been in his mind during the last days of her relationship with Chakotay. He had been different. He had been distant. Had the importance of sexual eruption become so great that it had affected on his decision to let go? It was a possibility. But Seven had decided right there and then that she would not ever allow him into her life again. Never. She would never care for him anymore. She had thought she knew him, and Janeway too, but she had been mistaken. Both of them were twofaced hypocrites. They pretended to be so wise, noble and honorable, but they both were liars.
Janeway. There hadn't been many things in her life where she hadn't been a part of. She had had to conquer all the aspect in her life. Why? Why had she kept invading her privacy, made herself as her guardian when they were not even related? She didn't need her; she hadn't needed her in years, but Janeway had kept invading her privacy nevertheless. She had treated her like a little child. She had even made the Doctor report every little insignificant thing from her weekly maintenances. She was an individual, an adult. Janeway had no right to intervene. Not then and certainly not now. Not ever again.
And now the glorious Janeway had gone after the only man with whom Seven had wanted to form a relationship with. She must have known about her and Chakotay. If the admiral from the future had told her about them, surely Captain Janeway had also been aware of them. And now she had accepted a role as his personal toy of pleasure. It disgusted Seven. Janeway had never even looked Chakotay twice during their years in Delta Quadrant and now she all of the sudden wanted him and only him? He was so different than she was. They had nothing in common. But Janeway had still chosen him as her personal mating companion.
Had Janeway started to pursue him because she knew he had been involved with her poor half-Borg? The mere possibility of such a thing was disturbing. Seven was not an expert of all the aspects of the humanity, but she was certain that such behavior was not normal. There had to be something really wrong with Janeway and her mental health, if her speculation had any truth in it. Either way one thing had become clear to her: the woman she had held as an ideal model of the individuality and humanity for a long time had finally showed her true colors. Janeway was pathetic. How could Chakotay even be with someone like her? Perhaps Chakotay was pathetic as well.
All those questions and thoughts had tormented her many days after that night. And they still did more often than she was ready to admit. Seven was so tired about it all, but she couldn't deny the nasty feeling of being insulted. Everything she had seen that night had felt like an insult toward the feelings she had had for Chakotay. As a Borg she wouldn't have cared, but she had human emotions now, and they had been in her for him, for Chakotay. She should have realized more quickly that someone she had prioritized would see her just as one option, that his true desires were somewhere else. That he had wanted things he knew he most likely wouldn't get from her. It bothered Seven deeply that he had moved on so easily. It was like she had never even existed in his life. The thought of it made her feel insignificant, irrelevant even. Anything but unique and appreciated.
And Janeway… Seven didn't know what to think about her. Janeway seemed to be just another wanton woman after all. While rest of the Alpha Quadrant looked up to her, called her living legend, she knew what she really was. Not larger than life in any means. She surely had been a good captain, but her personal life was something Seven found abnormal. Going after Chakotay was almost pathetic. Perhaps they did deserve one another.
Seven sighed. She knew without saying that her presence in this birthday festivities served no purpose at all. She was not ready to face those two just yet and her current state of mind did not make her pleasant companion to the rest either. Most of all she wanted to avoid seeing Janeway. She did not want Janeway to even touch her. And what came to Chakotay, she had nothing to say to him. Therefore, there was only reasonable option was that she should leave. The Doctor would most likely complain about it tomorrow, but at the moment such a possibility was irrelevant. The Doctor was irrelevant. She had felt stupid long enough and therefore she wouldn't let those two make her feel like that again. She did not want their pity.
Seven opened the door of the restroom and left. She walked determinedly to the nearest door without looking back. But instead of ending up in a hallway, she found herself in a patio of some kind. She frustrated and sighed. When she was about to turn back and leave, a voice interrupted her.
"Ensign Kim", she replied.
"How are you Seven?"
"I am good", she informed and tried to leave.
"I see", he said in a manner, which told Seven that he did not believe her.
"Is there something you want?" Seven asked bluntly. Like usual, she had no desire to start fraternizing with him now either.
Harry sighed. "No. I guess I am not in the best party mood tonight", he told.
Seven didn't know what to say or if he even expected her to say anything. She hoped that he would realize her unwillingness to continue their discussion before he took the liberty to start explaining the reasons behind his current mood.
"What's wrong Seven?" he asked and by doing so he succeeded surprising her.
"Nothing", she informed immediately.
"In another words, you don't want to talk about it", he said. "Well, that's okay. We all have these moment when we just don't want to explain."
"Perhaps you should educate the Doctor about it sometimes", Seven suddenly said and a faint smile appeared on her face.
"That was a joke", Harry stated surprised and a little amused. "How is it over there in think tank anyway?"
"It is a challenging place to work", Seven told.
"I'm sure it is."
"What about you?" she asked then without even knowing why. Just a moment ago she had wanted to leave, but all of the sudden Kim's familiar and kind presence had made her feel slightly better.
"I am a lieutenant now", he told. "And I have been offered a position on USS Helsinki."
"Congratulations", Seven said and sat down next to him on the stony step. "But I assume the offer cannot be the reason why you have chosen to be here alone."
Harry sighed. "You are right. It's just that… well, let's just say that at them moment I feel like the most stupid person on this planet."
"Stupid?" she asked and suddenly she felt a sense of empathy. "In what way?"
"Well", Harry began, until sighed. "Oh, never mind. I feel so stupid just to think about it, let alone talking about it loud."
"Very well", Seven said.
"You must have never felt like this, huh?"
"I have", Seven told. "I do know how it feels and I didn't enjoy that sensation."
"Who would? But learning individuality after being a Borg drone for decades doesn't really count in this case", Harry said and smiled.
"I did not refer to that particular point in my life", Seven informed.
"Well what then?"
"There have been occasions", Seven said, "where I have become aware that some people do or say harmful things that affect me."
"I' m sorry", Harry said immediately. "I can imagine that being in a public limelight must be very difficult for you. But I know it will be a temporary thing. Give it some time, Seven. Once the people on this planet have better things to do than remembering our Delta Quadrant trip, they must give you more space as well."
Seven nodded. Harry Kim had assumed wrong, but she did not want to correct him. Not this time. No one from the crew of Voyager knew about her and Chakotay and she wanted to keep it that way. If his involvement with Janeway would be exposed someday, she would prefer if her name was never connected to him. But as quickly as she realized that Chakotay had once again invaded her thoughts, she tried to get rid of it.
"Lieutenant Kim", she said then in very formal manner. "I am aware that Tom Paris is your close friend. Therefore, you should be over there celebrating with him tonight instead of being here and feeling stupid."
"You are right Seven", Harry agreed, "I just needed a brief moment to clear my head."
"Such moments can be useful sometimes."
"They surely can."
"Perhaps you should talk about it", Seven suggested next. "To someone."
"How about you?" Harry asked then. "Care to hear how stupid I have been?"
Seven thought for a moment. She hadn't exactly meant that he should open up to her, but on the other hand she had nothing better to do either.
"Very well", Seven said then. "But I should inform you that I do believe you are over exaggerating with that claim of yours. You do have a tendency to "dramatize" sometimes."
"Maybe", Harry said and smiled to her bluntness. "But on the other hand there is a chance that I have been extremely stupid."
"There is such a possibility, yes."
"Alright", Harry said then. "Here it comes. I don't know if you have been aware that there has been a girl named Libby in my life. And I mean before we got lost in the Delta Quadrant."
"I have heard you mentioning such a name in some occasions, but you have never described the nature of your involvement with her in detail."
"Right. Well, when we got back, I was very much looking forward seeing her again. I had missed her so much and all I wanted was to take her in my arms again and go back to where we left things. So I did see her and it felt almost like I had seen her just yesterday. That is typical feeling with some people with whom you have been close to, you know."
"Well, it was great, Seven. For a moment it was just like the old times. And I was so thrilled that I had her back in my life again. I started to plan things like our house, making babies, and such. But yesterday, out of the blue, she informed that it was over between us. Just like that. When I demanded an explanation, she confessed that she had seen this other guy last six months and that she wants to be with him now. I asked what about us, you know? If she has had feelings for this other guy, why the hell didn't she tell about him sooner? Why did she let me imagine that we would actually have future together?"
Seven listened carefully and se quickly became to realize the similarities in his situation with hers.
"She told me that seeing me again confused her that for a moment she actually thought that we could continue our relationship again. But now she has come to realize that there isn't that much between us anymore, that she has changed during the last seven years and that either of us are not the same persons we used to be. In another words, she doesn't want me anymore. And I feel stupid Seven. Why? Because I was actually so naïve that I imagined that she would have waited for me all these years. Like… come on! How freaking stupid is that? Who would wait someone for seven years?! Of course she had let go of us a long time ago."
"I am sorry", Seven said. "But that does not make you stupid Lieutenant Kim."
"Well, that is the way I feel anyway. But thanks. I just cannot believe that I was so blind? Why the hell didn't I see this coming?"
"Perhaps you trusted her."
"But I should have seen the signs that there was something wrong."
"And that is the reason you feel stupid now."
"Yes. That and that I actually thought she would have waited for me, even though everyone else in the galaxy would know otherwise."
Seven wondered for a moment. Harry Kim had his flaws, but at the moment he seemed honest and sincere in a way Seven had already decided no human man was able to be. It surprised her that she was able to see him like that.
"Do you experience… anger because of her?" Seven asked then.
"A little", Harry told. "Why do you ask?"
"I have wondered for some time now how people overcome some of their unpleasant feelings, which are caused by these complex personal relationships. How long it takes to forget them?"
"The relationship or the feelings? It depends", Harry said. "Everyone has their own way of dealing these kinds of things."
"Why do you feel stupid?" Seven asked then. "Why would you feel like that because of her?"
"I don't know, Seven", Harry said. "I guess it's because of me and my expectations. Libby is not a bad person, I know that, but she just does not want me anymore and that ruined my vision of us. Rationally I can see that she has the right to continue her life without it being an insult towards me. It is just that when we have these emotionally charged expectations, the failure feels simply… bitter. But I will adapt", he added and smirked.
"How long does it take for you to get over these unpleasant feelings of yours?" Seven asked then.
"I don't know, Seven."
"In what extent are you letting these emotions disturb your daily activities?"
"I don't know", Harry told and looked her with a smile. "I guess there will be moments when I think about her more and then there will be moments when I'm not thinking about her at all. And one day…"
"I won't think about this any longer. I will remember Libby, of course, but the emotions have cooled down and I can be truly happy for her."
"There is no way to speed up the process of this… cooling down the unpleasant emotions."
"Well, some deny their emotions, pretend that they don't feel a thing at all. But eventually unresolved feelings will come back to you, one way or the other. So personally I prefer admitting that they exist."
"Would you be willing to meet this Libby person now?"
"Now? No way. I think it would be better if I wouldn't see her for awhile."
Somehow Seven was relief by his answer. "Why?" She asked then.
"I guess I need time to accept this. At the moment I understand what has happened in my head, but my heart has not yet accepted it. Heart takes its time, Seven."
"But it is perfectly natural to feel anger sometimes", he added. "And feel stupid, too. But talking about it helps."
"So I have heard."
"Well, I feel a lot better now, thanks to you."
"I am glad I could help", Seven said.
"And in the end of the day", Harry said. "This was just another lesson learned."
"Lesson learned?" Seven asked. "Surely there have been other occasions where a woman has terminated her affiliation with you."
"I simply meant that…"
"Yes", Harry cut in. "Why would there be anything new to learn from a situation that has already happened to you before."
"Each case is its own, Seven. Each person you meet is a unique one and therefore the relationship is unique as well. But the point is to accept that no matter what happens, every cloud has its silver lining. There is always a change to learn something. And feeling these "unpleasant feelings" is only human. It's the risk we take when pursuing the most amazing emotions we can feel when letting someone near and loving them. And being loved back."
"So what you are saying is that even though you have felt stupid tonight because of Libby, you are willing to take the risk again?"
"Definitely. Someday. Not today, no, but someday. It is worth it. And perhaps that is the greatest lesson of them all, Seven. To dare to do it all over again, not losing your faith to people, even though you have been hurt. "
"Perhaps you are correct", Seven said.
"And perhaps you just helped me seeing this situation more objectively", Harry said. "I don't feel quite that stupid anymore. And what you asked about feeling angry before; well, usually in situations like this, we tend to feel angry, because we might be too proud to feel sad."
Seven nodded. Then a comfortable silence filled the space between them. For the first time in months Seven felt how the unpleasant emotions she had been struggled with started to get significantly lighter.
Perhaps this was lesson to be learnt. Perhaps she had just taken her first step towards the better days. Perhaps there would be a day when she would want to face both Chakotay and Janeway again. Perhaps her anger would let go of her for good someday.
And perhaps Harry Kim wasn't so bad after all. Perhaps he was much wiser than she had ever given him credit for.