The Second Time Around: A Christmas Tale

Chapter 6 – Look What Santa Brought

Kathryn woke slowly, feeling refreshed and content. Her cheek was resting on something soft and she sighed happily.

Slowly it dawned on her that she was not alone in bed. And not only did she have company, but her company was holding her tenderly. The softness she was nuzzling under her cheek was Seven's shoulder, clad in flannel pyjamas.

Well well, looks like Tom was right! she mused happily. Santa did come while I was sleeping.

And he had brought her almost six feet of sexy ex-Borg.

Lucky me!

Kathryn brought her hand to the younger woman's stomach and gently rubbed the material she found there, luxuriating in the feeling of the soft flannel under her fingertips. Slowly her fingers spread, tracing gentle circles on Seven's belly. Through the pyjamas she could feel the ridges of metal implants and the softness of flesh.

She traced the edge of an abdominal implant, up and then back down again. Her circles widened, and she skimmed her fingertips over Seven's hipbone.

A sharp intake of breath informed her that her bed mate was awake.

She propped herself up on an elbow and looked down into Seven's sleepy eyes.

"Good morning," she murmured. "Not that I'm complaining, but what are you doing here? Couldn't sleep?"

"Something like that." Seven's voice was amused.

She dropped her head back onto the younger woman's shoulder.

Slowly, her fingers resumed their exploration. They circled a hipbone, then wandered down the front of a thigh, pausing on a kneecap. They reversed course, skimming the inside of a thigh.

"Stop." Seven's voice was gravelly with sleep, gently pleading.

Kathryn paused, judging the sincerity of the request. Then she trailed her hand up, tracing another implant, back onto warm flesh, and around the side of a soft breast. God, her breasts.

She reached the neck of Seven's pyjamas and paused there, fingering the edge of the material. Then she brushed her fingers along the soft skin of Seven's neck.

She smiled, pleased to feel the ex-Borg's pulse fluttering rapidly under her fingertips.

Gently, she caressed the delicate skin on Seven's throat before skimming down and dipping lightly under the flannel to trace a collarbone.

Her fingers paused in the dip between two collarbones, then retraced their path. Sliding out from under the fabric, she caressed her way downwards again, relishing the curve of Seven's breast beneath her fingertips. She skimmed across a nipple, eliciting another gasp, before moving her hand lower to circle a hipbone again.

"Kathryn," Seven gasped. "You must stop. It is nearly oh-seven-forty-five."

"Hm," Kathryn mumbled, neither agreeing nor disagreeing.

Her fingers continued on their path. Down the outside of a thigh, circling the knee once, then slowly, ever so slowly, skimming up the inside of that thigh, brushing closer and closer towards...

Suddenly Kathryn found herself on her back, nearly six feet of ex-Borg on top of her breathing heavily. Smouldering blue eyes flashed at her in hunger.

Kathryn's legs fell open automatically and the younger woman settled herself firmly between them.

With a soft growl, Seven captured the admiral's lips, bringing their bodies together. Kathryn surged up into her, wrapping her legs tightly around the younger woman's hips.

It had been so long since Kathryn had been with someone like this. The sensation of the warm body between her legs was exquisite and she moaned deep in her throat. She dug her heels into the back of Seven's thighs and pulled the other woman closer, grinding up into her.

They rocked together, kissing deeply.

She was wet, so wet. She needed more.

Kathryn reached up and fisted a hand in the back of Seven's short hair, tugging firmly.

The younger woman broke the kiss and tipped her head back with a moan, granting access to her sinuous neck.

Kathryn nuzzled roughly into the younger woman's throat, inhaling the familiar scent of her, then nipped her way down to a collar bone.

One hand stayed tangled in Seven's hair, the other slid under up under back of a flannel pyjama top. Crushing the professor's body to hers, Kathryn dug her nails into Seven's bare back before sliding down to cup a firm buttock.

She captured the other woman's lips again and tangled their tongues together.

She was reaching for the edge of Seven's pyjama top, intending to tug it up and off, when a feminine, computerized voice startled them both.

"The time is oh-eight-hundred hours," it announced politely.

Their bodies froze. Slowly, Seven rose off of the retired admiral and blinked down at her with unfocused eyes.

"I set the alarm last night." Kathryn's voice was deep and gravelly. She ran her hand down Seven's back, smoothing the bunched pyjamas back down over skin and implants.

She released the grip she had on Seven's hair and trailed her fingers along the younger woman's cheek, cupping her jaw to gently draw her in for another kiss. Seven rocked her hips between Kathryn's legs, eliciting dual gasps of pleasure. The kiss deepened.

Several minutes later, the polite feminine voice announced, "The time is eight-oh-five."

Kathryn broke the kiss and dropped her head back onto the pillow with a frustrated groan.

"Damn," she cursed. "We're supposed to be at Harry's at oh-nine-hundred."

They were both panting heavily, and the lust shining in Seven's eyes almost undid her. She was on the verge of saying 'to hell with it' and finishing what they'd started when Seven took a deep steadying breath and pushed up onto her knees.

"I warned you to cease your activities," the professor scolded gently. But there was still a molten heat in her eyes, and a wicked smile curled the corner of her mouth.

Seven climbed off the bed and shook her body out gently. "I'm going to have a quick shower," she announced somewhat shakily.

"Need any help?" Kathryn was slightly mortified by the pleading in her voice.

"I think that would be unwise at this point in time." The wicked grin was back. "But perhaps later...?"

Seven exited the room with a slight bounce in her step, only to turn around and poke her head back around the doorframe.

"Oh and Kathryn? Merry Christmas."

Kathryn just groaned.

xxxxx

Outside Harry and Elizabeth's house, the retired admiral brushed wistful fingers over Seven's optical implant. She wasn't feeling much like being around company, or at least any company other than that of the gorgeous woman standing in front of her. What she wanted was to be back in bed, exploring every inch of that beautiful body.

The younger woman looked at her knowingly, grabbing the admiral's hand and planting a light kiss on her fingertips before turning to open the door and let themselves in.

At the top of the stairs they were met by Christmas mayhem. Chairs and cushions packed the room, which was overflowing with people. Stacks of merrily wrapped presents occupied every empty space, and the two young boys were tearing circles around the room with a pair of miniature starships.

Kathryn took a deep breath and put on her game face.

A light breakfast had been laid out, and plates with fruit and cinnamon buns were scattered on any available flat surface. A chorus of greetings rose as they entered the room and added their armload of presents to a pile spilling out from under the tree.

There was one person conspicuously absent.

"Where's Harry?" Kathryn asked Elizabeth.

"He said he's not feeling up for this," she shrugged in disappointment. "He chose to stay in his room this morning."

"And where is his room?" Kathryn asked.

"Down the hall on the right..." Elizabeth trailed off as the retired admiral brushed past her, heading for the hallway.

"He said he didn't want to be disturbed!" she called out to the admiral's retreating back.

"He doesn't have a choice," Kathryn tossed back over her shoulder.

All the doors on the right side of the hallway were standing open apart from one. Kathryn took a brief moment to school her features, settling into her familiar mantle of command. She knocked firmly three times, then without waiting for an answer she opened the door and let herself into the room.

Harry was lying on top of a made bed, back propped up on pillows against the headboard and a light blanket over his outstretched legs. His face was turned away from the door.

"Captain Kim," she snapped.

He turned his head slowly. "I don't feel like talking right now, Admiral," he replied bitterly.

"You don't have a choice." Kathryn shut the door behind her and approached the bed.

"What's happening here, Captain?" she asked him.

"I'm not a captain anymore," he replied, anger tinting his voice.

"Did I miss your demotion?" she asked mildly.

"No. But how can you be a captain without a ship?" he demanded.

"Is that what this is about?"

"How could it be about anything else? A captain is supposed to go down with his ship," Harry cried out. "My ship is floating space debris on the edge of Cardassian space, and most of my crew are with it! I shouldn't be here."

"You'd rather that you died?" Kathryn asked.

"YES!" he exploded. "All of those people were under my command. I was responsible for their safety. And now they're dead. Their families are celebrating the holidays without them. I should be with my ship and crew."

"I read the report, Harry." The admiral allowed her voice to soften. "You were responding to a distress signal when you were ambushed by a fleet of Cardassian warships. You fought, but you were outnumbered.

"You managed to get most of your crew into escape pods. The Cardassians began picking off the pods one by one, but you created a diversion with a shuttlecraft. You rammed the lead warship, destroying both the enemy vessel and your own shuttle. Your second officer risked her life to transport you out of the burning wreckage moments before the warship exploded, destroying your craft along with it.

"Despite being critically injured, you took a shot of adrenaline and continued to direct the retreat, managing to save twenty-eight of your crew members before finally passing out from blood loss."

She looked at him kindly. "No captain should ever have to lose his ship, nor people under his command. But it happens Harry. How many did we lose in the Delta Quadrant? Twenty-three? I felt each and every loss. But I had to keep going. It's the only way."

"It's not the only way. Over one hundred people died that day because I decided to respond to a distress signal on the Cardassian boarder. I should still be out there with them."

"Enough with the self-pity, Captain!" Kathryn snapped at him. "You were doing what you thought was right. We can only do our best each and every day. I'm very sorry for those people, and for their families. But what of the twenty-eight who lived? And what of your own family?"

"What of them?"

"You may as well have died. Then they could start getting on with their lives. Instead you're in here, wasting away, while your grandsons are celebrating Christmas without you and your wife is pacing the hallway, desperately torn between her family out there and you in here."

"She should let me be and join everyone else," Harry said bitterly.

"She should," Kathryn agreed, keeping her voice hard. "But she can't. You know why?"

"Why," he sighed.

"Because she loves you. Because she thanks God each and every day that you made it back to her."

The retired admiral lowered her voice. "My daddy didn't make it back one day, and I would give anything – anything, Captain – to have one more day with him. Don't waste this time."

Captain Kim's body began to tremble.

"I understand Harry." Kathryn grabbed his hand and held on tight. "I made a decision that stranded my crew in the Delta Quadrant for seven years, including a very young ensign who was desperate to return to his family. So believe me when I say that I understand.

"But out there, your friends and family? They don't understand. They just want their grandfather back. Their dad, their husband, their friend. Don't punish them just because you're trying to punish yourself."

Harry's tears broke. Kathryn pulled him into a hug, dropping her rank and returned to the role of an old friend. He buried his face in her shoulder and she wrapped her arms around him tightly.

She held him for long minutes as the tears dried up and he slowly regained control over his breathing. Finally he pulled away and cleared his throat.

Kathryn moved back, giving him a respectful distance.

"I've been an ass, haven't I?" he asked sardonically.

She chose not to answer. "Are you ready to join the party?" she asked instead.

Harry looked trepidatious, but he nodded.

"Be right back," she smiled at him. "Oh, and Mr. Kim?"

He looked up at her.

"Good to have you back."

Kathryn slipped back to the living room, tossing a reassuring wave to Elizabeth who was watching her with concern. She gestured discreetly for Seven and Chakotay to join her in the hall.

"I need a hand," she informed them in a low voice as they moved quickly and quietly to her side. "Harry has decided to join the party, but I think he could use some assistance getting here."

A few minutes later Harry appeared, flanked on either side by Chakotay and Seven who were bearing most of his weight.

Two little boys cried out "Grandpa!" and ran to throw their arms around his legs. He reached down to brush their heads awkwardly, a smile rising to his face unbidden.

A space was hastily cleared and Harry was settled on the couch, his legs propped up on a footstool.

As his friends and family swarmed around him, Elizabeth flashed Kathryn a teary smile and mouthed the words 'thank you', before wrapping her arms around her husband.

Kathryn was standing on the threshold of the living room, pleased to be watching the joyful scene unfold, when she felt a presence at her side. She turned to find Jon standing close beside her. He had a gentle smile on his face.

"Well done," he complimented her. "What did you say to him?"

"Nothing really," she replied quietly.

"Well, good job anyways," he repeated.

"I saved a spot for you," he continued. "Come join me?"

"Actually..." Kathryn trailed off, her eyes meeting Seven's hopeful gaze across the room. "I already have a spot. Thanks though."

As she made a beeline for the ex-Borg professor, Jon nodded a little sadly to himself. She'd made her choice then.

Kathryn picked her way around piles of unopened presents, plates of food and mugs of coffee, winding up in front of Seven who had scored a place on the end of large sofa next to Chakotay. The younger woman rose to offer her the seat, and Kathryn squeezed in next to her former first officer.

Seven dropped cross-legged onto the floor by Kathryn's feet and draped an arm possessively across the older woman's knees. The retired admiral's hand automatically found its way into the hair at the nape of the professor's neck.

Seven passed up a mug of coffee which she must have obtained while Kathryn was down the hall with Harry. She smiled at the younger woman fondly.

Abruptly her eyes snapped up to meet Chakotay's which were watching her with gentle amusement. He gave her an approving grin before returning his attention to his breakfast.

Kathryn glanced around the room, spotting her former crew members who all smiled and nodded in her direction. B'Elanna gave her a discreet thumbs-up. The admiral rolled her eyes.

Once Harry was settled with a plate of food and cup of tea, Elizabeth enlisted the help of her sons to sort through the mounds of gifts and begin distributing them around the room.

B'Elanna received one of the first presents. Tearing into the paper, she uncovered a gaudy red, orange and green scarf.

"Oooh, I love it!" she exclaimed. "Thanks Seven, thanks Admiral!" Pleased, she wrapped the wool scarf around her neck.

Kathryn rolled her eyes again as Seven turned to look up at her with a smirk.

xxxxx

An hour later, Seven and Kathryn were surrounded by a generous pile of items, including several holonovels, a beautiful throw blanket sporting a Salish Native American design, and a two pairs of matching earmuffs.

The admiral had been perplexed by the number of gifts addressed jointly to Seven and herself. Had everyone known what was going on before she did?

In addition to the small items she and Seven had picked out for their friends, Kathryn had made donations on behalf of each of her former senior staff members to the Ocean Rehabilitation Foundation.

After the gift giving was complete, the admiral helped tidy the living room before wandering outside to where Harry, bundled up and seated on a sturdy chair, was watching his two grandsons play in the snow.

Noting his joyful expression, Kathryn chose to leave him be.

Many of his other guests were outside as well, mingling in the fresh air and sipping cups of hot tea or cocoa. Putting on her diplomat's face, the retired admiral made the rounds, greeting each of the other guests in turn and engaging them in some light conversation.

Seven had chosen to remain inside, offering her assistance to Elizabeth and her two sons who were busy preparing a Christmas feast. The main meal was to be served at lunch, presumably to allow the Kims to get their house back at a reasonable hour.

Working contentedly, Seven peeled and chopped mounds of potatoes, prepared a salad, and laid out the deserts.

Christmas lunch was served buffet style. It was a traditional holiday meal with turkey, potatoes, squashes, vegetarian lasagne, cooked vegetables, salad, glazed carrots, freshly baked rolls with butter... Elizabeth had outdone herself.

After eating way too much food, and indulging in a few too many chocolate desserts, Kathryn nodded discreetly to Seven who immediately came to her side.

They found Harry on the floor playing with building toys with his grandsons. After taking turns kissing his cheek they gathered their presents, thanked their hosts, and slipped quietly out the door.

Back in their little cabin, Kathryn was sorting through their gifts while Seven stood at a window, gazing out at the snow and trees.

After a few minutes the retired admiral joined Seven at the window. There was a bird flitting about, pecking at seeds that someone from a neighbouring cabin had tossed into the snow.

"Perisoreus canadensis," the younger woman named the bird softly. "Whisky Jack."

Her voice was distant and she continued to gaze idly out the window.

"Why so melancholy, love?" The endearment slipped easily from Kathryn's mouth.

Seven sighed. She allowed her eyes to linger on the bird for another moment, then turned and moved to a spot on the couch. The retired admiral settled onto the other end and lifted her feet, tucking them between the cushion and Seven's thigh.

The younger woman was still looking off into space, so Kathryn allowed her the time to gather her thoughts.

Finally, Seven turned to meet the former admiral's deep grey eyes. "I'm worried this won't last," she admitted.

"What do you mean?"

"We are in a ski cabin in the woods. It's Christmastime. We're both on vacation," she observed. "What happens in a few days when this ends? Do we end too?"

"I hope not," Kathryn husked softly. "I can only speak for my own feelings, but they're not going to change. I want to be with you."

"But we live in different cities." Seven's voice was plaintive.

"I'll move," the ex-admiral stated promptly.

"I have Mr. Moo and Ana."

"I'm alright with kids, and I'll learn to like your cat. Maybe we could get a dog too..."

"I still work very hard. My research is important to me." Seven's voice was insistent.

"Are you saying that you don't want to move forward with this?" Kathryn inquired, somewhat taken aback. That thought hadn't occurred to her before and her heart squeezed painfully in her chest.

"I do want this. I want to be with you." The professor's voice was firm, certain.

The older woman let out a sigh of relief. "So what's the problem then?"

Seven paused. Admitting her insecurities had never come easy to her, but she recalled the promise she had made the day before.

Human emotions were often challenging to articulate. Taking a deep breath, she tried her best.

"I am worried that you are interested in resuming your relationship with the Annika Hansen that you knew before. But that person no longer exists. I have changed. I am worried that I will disappoint you, that your feelings will not be sustained once we return to our regular lives."

Ah. That made sense. Kathryn nodded, thinking carefully before answering.

"We're always changing, Seven. That's life. You pointed out yesterday that I'm no longer the person I was before either."

The younger woman nodded.

Kathryn continued, "After our marriage broke up I moved on with my life. I got over you. It was hard at times," she admitted, "But my life carried on."

"The person you are now... I know you're not the same as who you were back on Voyager, but believe me when I say that I do know who you are today.

"I know you love animals. You don't eat meat, you cry at the sight of whales, and you keep a cat for a pet. You care deeply about others, going above and beyond to support a friend. You care about your students and treat each of them with respect. And you get people. You know what things they like and what they need and what makes them happy. You know what makes me happy.

"Yes, your work is important, but you've learned to take time out..." Kathryn paused. "As far as I know you haven't picked up your research in two days now."

Seven was startled to realize that the older woman was correct. Her eyes strayed to the stack of PADDs sitting neatly on the edge of the coffee table, completely forgotten. She had made an aborted attempt at work the previous afternoon, but had let the equations go with no regret.

Preferring never to be idle, the professor used work as something productive to fill her time. Eyeing the woman beside from her on the couch, Seven realized that there were other things in life that she would happily substitute for PADDs and theories and equations.

Kathryn watched the younger woman's eyes slide over the stack of PADDs and then dismiss them. Seven's gaze returned to hers with no regret.

The admiral tugged her toes out from under Seven's leg and leaned toward her intently.

"You're playful and kind and caring," she continued.

Just say it. You know it's true, and she needs to hear it. Kathryn sucked in a steadying breath.

"I know who you are, Seven. And I love you."

Upon hearing the last words Seven choked on a sob. It was real. This was really happening. With dismay, she realized that she was shaking again.

Noticing this, the ex-admiral took Seven's hands in hers. "I love you, Seven," she repeated lightly, reaching out to wipe at the tears which were forming in the corners of gentle blue eyes.

"I love you too," Seven whispered back in a choked voice.

Kathryn leaned forward to capture sweet lips in a gentle kiss. The younger woman's hands came up to cup her face.

As the kiss deepened, Seven felt her confidence return and her touch grew steady. She ran an eager hand down the older woman's torso, appreciating the soft curves under Kathryn's sweater.

As their exchanged became increasingly heated, the older woman broke off to gasp out, "Bed!"

Smiling in agreement, Seven scooped the retired admiral into her arms and carried her into the bedroom.

"Seven," the admiral scolded, tapping her on the shoulder. "You know I hate it when you do that!"

"You do not hate it," the professor stated, eyes twinkling. "You like to protest, but you do not mind being carried off to bed at all."

"Alright, I suppose I don't," Kathryn admitted with a smile as Seven set her gently down on the sheets.

Raising her arms above her head, she allowed the younger woman to grasp the edge of her sweater and draw it up and off her body. Suddenly feeling self-conscious, she crossed her arms on her chest, trying to hide beneath her light chemise.

"Kathryn, you are beautiful," the younger woman stated.

"I'm old, Seven," she complained, her insecurities rising abruptly to the surface.

"Kathryn, you are beautiful," Seven repeated.

"I'm fat, I'm wrinkly, I'm saggy..."

In front of this unbelievably beautiful, sexy, younger woman, Kathryn suddenly felt each and every one of her years. She felt the extra weight that had settled onto her body despite her best efforts at fitness. In her mind's eye she could practically see each and every wrinkle on her face.

"Look at me." The professor's voice was affectionate but firm. When the older woman's eyes tentatively rose to meet hers she smiled, allowing her love and desire for the other woman to creep into her gaze.

"Kathryn," she purred, "You are beautiful. You are perfection."

Looking up into her love's electric blue eyes, Kathryn saw nothing but honesty reflected back at her. Slowly she uncrossed her arms.

"Better." Seven nodded her approval. Not wanting to give the older woman any further chances to start worrying, she crawled onto the bed and pushed Kathryn down onto the mattress.

With the ex-Borg looming over her, lust and need shining hotly in her eyes, the admiral let go of her insecurities.

"Nuh uh, I'm on top this time," she murmured with a smile, flipping them over and straddling lean hips.

She pushed Seven down onto the bed and rocked back onto her heels to regard the woman beneath her. Seven's eyes glinted at her hungrily but she lay back patiently, allowing the former admiral to set the pace.

With a wicked smile, Kathryn tossed her hair out of the way and continued the exploration she had begun that morning.

Light fingers traced Seven's rib cage and ran gentle circles around the edges of her breasts. She counted the implants on the younger woman's abdomen, brushing each one in turn, before flicking her fingertips against nipples that were hardening under Seven's shirt.

"I had forgotten what a tease you are," Seven growled, grabbing one of Kathryn's hands and bringing it to her lips to plant an open-mouthed kiss on the palm.

Kathryn merely smiled. Suddenly desperate for Seven's skin, she retrieved her hand, grasped the edge of the younger woman's shirt and drew it off over her head. Her simple bra followed quickly.

Seven settled back into the bed, allowing the retired admiral to trace reverent fingers over the exposed Borg metal on her stomach.

As those same fingers brushed over her nipples again and squeezed gently, Seven moaned and grabbed Kathryn's hips, impatiently pulling the older woman into her.

Suddenly needing to feel skin, Kathryn whipped her chemise over her head and tossed it vaguely in the direction of her suitcase. It landed forgotten on the floor as she sunk down onto Seven, groaning at the feel of soft skin on skin.

Making love to the younger woman was easier than she had imagined. Their bodies fit together naturally, and the echo of their past together lent the knowledge of how to please one another.

Making love to the younger woman was also harder that she had imagined. The experience was overwhelming, and she struggled against her natural instinct to pull away, to protect herself by keeping some distance.

Seven had clearly had other lovers along the way, her touch more experienced and confident than it had been all those years before. She brought the older woman to the edge and held her there, revelling in the feel of Kathryn's body writhing against her own.

When Kathryn finally let go she exploded with a sob, Seven's fingers buried deep inside her. She felt her entire being get blown apart and then reassembled, and she knew she would never be quite the same. She belonged to this woman, heart and soul.

As she went over the edge Kathryn's fingers curled, involuntarily fisting inside the younger woman who immediately followed her lover over the edge with a loud cry.

They clung together for long minutes, heart rates slowing, sweat cooling on their skin.

Annika Hansen Janeway watched her lover return to earth. She snaked out the tip of her tongue to taste the sweat in the hollow of the older woman's neck.

Kathryn pulled back to look into her love's eyes.

"So, you think you might want to be a Janeway again?" the retired admiral murmured.

Narrowing her eyes, Seven retorted, "I am already a 'Janeway'."

"Ah... that makes it easier then, doesn't it?" Kathryn mumbled, smiling sheepishly.

The younger woman paused, regarding her carefully. "If you are attempting to ask me to marry you, you aren't doing any better than the first time around," she said mildly.

"Oh..."

"But the answer is still 'yes'." Seven reassured her.

"Oh." Kathryn smiled in relief. "Well, good then. Phoebe will be pleased."

"I am pleased," the professor stated, a smile quirking the corner of her lips.

"As am I!" exclaimed the former admiral. "Very pleased." The last two words rolled off her tongue, warm and smooth, and she leaned for another kiss.

xxxxx

The stewardess checked their reservations as they boarded the transport back to San Francisco. Recognizing the famous figure, she nodded politely. "Admiral Janeway, I hope you and your wife had a good holiday?"

Kathryn Janeway smiled indulgently. "We did," she confirmed. "We definitely did."