The Second Time Around: A Christmas Tale

Disclaimers:

This story is set many years after the episode "Endgame". It depicts a loving relationship between two adult women. It also contains grey hair, creaky knees and a few wrinkles. If any of these things offend you, this story is not for you.

In the series finale "Endgame", Admiral Janeway returned to the past, thereby changing the future. As such, the characters in this story have not necessarily chosen to follow the same paths that their counterparts did in that episode.

I have also allowed the admiral to age a little more naturally. Take a look at any current photo of Kate Mulgrew and you'll get a glimpse of the Retired Admiral Janeway. Kate is a beautiful woman, and I wanted to allow the admiral the same beauty as she aged.

I am clearly making no profit off this story, and no copyright infringement is intended.

Chapter 1 – When in Boston…

Recently retired Admiral Kathryn Janeway held onto the railing as she ascended the steps outside the lecture theatre. Not that she needed the assistance, mind you. But her body wasn't as young as it used to be and the steps were slippery with frost on this late November morning in Boston.

Inside the Harvard heritage building, she paused momentarily to get her bearings from a map on the wall and then set off for Room 101A.

Locating the room she sought, Kathryn cracked open the door. The lecture had just started. She slipped into the back of the hall and took a seat in one of the rear, topmost rows. She unwound a bright red scarf from her neck and settled in to enjoy the talk.

The lights were at one quarter and a large holographic display dominated the front of the room. Protons and electrons danced in the display as directed by the lecturer who was standing off to the left of the holoprojection.

Kathryn was already familiar with this particular piece of quantum wave theory, so she tuned out the lecture and chose instead to focus on the woman who was delivering it. The professor's presence was palpable, even from the back of the room. She spoke clearly and precisely, with a passion that was captivating to the several hundred third and fourth year undergraduate students in the room.

Which was something Kathryn all too familiar with. She too had been captivated by that voice on many occasions.

When the lecture was over and the lights came up, Kathryn held back, waiting for the professor to finish addressing questions from the students who swarmed around her. Her eyes narrowed as one young woman stepped into the professor's space on the pretext of asking a question, placing a hand on the lecturer's arm and smiling brightly up at the tall professor.

The professor took a discreet step back, slipping out from under the hand, and answered the question without giving any indication of having noticed the young woman's overture.

Kathryn grinned to herself. Hah, shot down.

The professor addressed all of the students' questions in turn, focussing on each individual and taking their questions seriously. One by one the students wandered away, satisfied and a little dazed at having that brilliance turned their way, if even for a few moments.

The professor called an end to the questions when the next batch of students began filtering into the hall. She ejected a data stick from the holoprojector, slid it into a slim briefcase, and exited the room through one of the front doors.

Kathryn hurried down the steps to the front of the theatre and slipped through the same door.

Damn her aging knees. Going down stairs always caused them to ache, especially in the damp coastal weather.

Once in the hallway, she called out after the retreating figure.

"Doctor Janeway!"

Doctor Annika Hansen Janeway turned around, a slight smile gracing her lips.

"Kathryn. I had been wondering if you were just here to watch, or if there was another purpose to your visit. Did you learn anything?"

"Nothing that I hadn't already read in one of your papers."

Kathryn took the last few steps to catch up. Out of old habit she reached out to put a hand on the professor's arm, but frowned slightly and dropped it at the last minute. She was not some young admirer fawning over this brilliant professor.

"Seven, how are you?" she asked instead.

Seven of Nine, also more recently known as Annika Hansen Janeway, noticed the aborted gesture but chose not to comment.

"I am well," she said instead. Blunt as ever, she offered, "I have a guest office. This way."

Bemused, Kathryn followed her through the maze of the old building and into a small interior office with a desk and a computer terminal. There was a packed suitcase by the desk and a long black coat hanging from the back of the door. Otherwise the office was empty.

"Since you are already familiar with the piece of theory I was discussing today, I presume you must be here for some other reason. Would you like to talk in here, or shall we go to the little coffee shop on the corner?"

"Oh the coffee shop, definitely." Kathryn studied Seven as she buttoned up the long coat and pulled on some gloves. It had been… what… at least a year since she'd seen her last? Maybe two?

Feeling awkward in the silence, she blurted out, "You cut your hair."

"Indeed. It's much more efficient this way." The corner of Seven's mouth curled up. "And," she allowed, "I felt like it was time for a change."

Kathryn, who had always loved Seven's long, flowing hair, was dismayed to discover just how sexy she found the professor with her new short haircut.

Seven's hair, which was in the process of going grey, was softly falling about her face. It looked mussed but perfectly elegant at the same time. When Seven turned around to exit the office, Kathryn caught herself staring at the back of her neck, exposed by the sort haircut.

The back of Seven's neck had always been a weakness for Kathryn. Soft and elegant, and yet strong at the same time.

Kathryn shook her head in an attempt to dislodge the thoughts and memories. She was not here to gawk at her lost love, and she was far too old to be acting like a besotted teenager.

Even if Seven could still take her breath away.

xxxxx

The coffee shop was only half full, so Kathryn and Seven settled into two side-by-side armchairs near the window. Kathryn had a large mug of dark roast coffee, while the professor was holding a cup of hot chocolate topped with whip cream and cinnamon. Seven had insisted on paying.

"They gave me credits for my meals on the campus as part of my lecture series," she'd explained. "I'm leaving today, and yet I haven't utilized even half the credits yet."

She had expected a disagreement – Kathryn had always insisted on paying when they were together – but today she had accepted the courtesy without any fuss.

They chatted about inane things for a few minutes, such as the weather and the traffic in Boston, before Seven decided that she had had enough small talk.

"Why are you here?" she asked abruptly. Her often straightforward nature could at times be off-putting to others, so she was glad when Kathryn, knowing her well, took no offense.

"Phoebe had some pieces in an exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts."

"Really?" Seven allowed herself to be impressed. "That is a very prestigious museum. Why didn't you inform me? You know I've always been a fan of your sister's work."

"The exhibit is still on for a few more days…" Kathryn shrugged sheepishly.

"Then I will delay my transport home and attend the exhibit before I leave." Seven did a few quick calculations, pleased to determine that she could spend an hour at the museum and still be back on the west coast in time to attend a work event in the evening.

"But that doesn't explain why you're here," she continued. "Why did you seek me out in Boston? It would have been easier to find me in Palo Alto or San Francisco."

"I know. I…" Kathryn paused, as if unsure how to continue. "Seven, did you get an invitation for Christmas from Harry's wife?"

"I did," Seven replied. "I had not planned on attending. This guest lecture series has put me behind on my latest research project."

Seven paused for a moment, and then decided that she owed the other woman the whole truth.

"In addition," she admitted, "I still find the holidays to be… awkward."

"There's something you should know." Kathryn leaned towards Seven, her face serious. This time she gave into the impulse to rest a hand on Seven's arm.

"Harry was injured in a battle with the Cardassians last month," she said quietly.

"I had heard on the news that a Federation starship was ambushed. There were only a few survivors. Was that Harry's ship?"

"It was. He's alive, but badly hurt. He lost both his legs, and there was damage to his spine as well. He suffered severe burns over most of his body. The skin grafts are taking, and the dermal and nerve regeneration sessions seem to be working, and he's undergoing an operation next week to receive artificial limbs... He's going to be okay… But…"

"But?"

"Well, he has a long convalescence ahead of him. And the worst thing to happen to a captain is to lose his ship and most of his crew. Harry's always loved Christmas. Beth decided they should have a party… take his mind off his injuries, help him to heal. It would mean a lot if you were able to come, even for a few days."

"I understand. Harry has always been happiest with friends and family around him."

Seven could relate. She herself had always been happiest around Kathryn Janeway. But that was a long time ago.

"Exactly." Kathryn nodded.

"I will see what I can do."

"Thank-you." Kathryn squeezed Seven's arm and then released her. "I'd best be going. Perhaps we'll see you at Christmas, hm?"

She tossed the red scarf around her neck, and with a last, inscrutable glance back at Seven, stepped through the doors and was gone.

Several minutes later, Seven found that she still missed the warmth of Kathryn's hand on her arm.