Sevrn paced the length of his receiving hall. He hadn't grown accustomed to it yet. He was used to seven strides bringing him to a turn in his office…in the Prince Future's office. In the hall, he could complete more than twenty before turning to go back.

Mitus arrived in the hall. "We have received a hail."

It wasn't stately for a Supreme Ruler to run, but he did increase his pace in the direction of his communications area. "Did they agree to our request?"

"Unknown, sir," Mitus hedged. He did not believe it would be granted, but it was not yet his place to speculate.

Entering the office, Sevrn centered himself at the Supreme Ruler's desk and nodded to his aide to open the transmission. The screen in front of him changed in view from the emerald green of his homeland to the sophisticated bridge of the starship. He had seen it several times now in communications, but this was his first time to see the ship with her captain.

An unseen burden was removed from his shoulders at the sight of her and her commander seated in front of him on the viewscreen. He smiled. "Kathryn. I am pleased-"

"Forgive me for interrupting, Supreme Ruler, but I'd prefer you address me as 'captain'. It's a title I have earned through many years of training and sacrifice."

Her voice was hard and lacked any of the laughter and warmth he'd heard in it before. It saddened him, but he did not fault her. "My apologies, Captain." He inclined his head to her. "I'm relieved that our communication finds both you and Commander Chakotay recovered."

"We have an excellent doctor," she stated, offering nothing.

Sevrn swallowed, knowing before she officially answered that his original request would be denied. He'd hoped, perhaps foolishly, that she'd understand. He knew they would be leaving the planet, but he'd hoped to talk with her more as equals than they ever had been before.

He watched as she pushed herself gracefully to her feet, seemingly unable to remain sitting for any longer.

"I've reviewed the generous amount of supplies you've sent, but I'm afraid we won't be able to meet in person again." One hand rested on her hip while the other remained fisted at her side. "I hope you understand."

"I do." And he did. "I'm grateful that, at minimum, the supplies were accepted as you have our gratitude." It was a slight movement, but he noted how her facial expression seemed to tighten at his words. If he had to guess, he would have to say that words of departure were the only thing she would welcome from him at this point. He smiled faintly. It was the least he could do. "Good faith on the rest of your journey, Captain Janeway."

She hesitated before replying. "Rule your planet better than those who've come before you…Sevrn."

He watched her turn away as his viewscreen returned to the colors of Erowid. "I will try, Kathryn."


Chakotay waited until she poured the wine in both of their glasses. He'd already waited until she had finished off at least one glass; a few more seconds didn't bother him. He watched her relax into the cushions of the couch and look in his direction.

"It's really a good thing you didn't grant his request to come aboard."

Her eyes hardened and he wondered if he shouldn't have waited a bit longer.

"Did you really think that I would ever let that bas-" she cut herself off from what she'd been about to say, pursing her lips together. "Did you really think I would have let him set one foot on my ship?"

"Nope," he agreed easily. "I was simply stating that, as your first officer, I'm glad you made that choice."

She continued to eye him warily. "And why is that, First Officer?"

"It's more difficult than one might think to get B'Elanna's bat'leth away from her," he explained, "and locking Seven in the cargo bay? Forget it."

She sipped her wine.

"I'd have to monitor Tuvok closely because he can be sneaky and I'm not entirely sure what method he would employ. Poor Harry would have to be sedated, but at least that would keep the doctor occupied."

"I see," she said. "You're not worried about Tom's reaction?"

"Tom's a pretty simple guy. He'd probably just find a way to pass Sevrn in the corridor or something and then deck him with a good right hook." He drank more of his wine. "I wouldn't really need to prevent that. I might even take him off night shifts for a while as a reward."

She finished her glass. "And what about me? No worries about how I might be compelled to treat the Supreme Ruler of Erowid?"

"I'd reroute control of all airlocks through my command codes."

"I can overrule your command codes."

"Guess it's a good thing you didn't allow him on the ship, then."

She laughed, and it was the sound he'd been waiting to hear. Watching her stew on the bridge for the past four hours since they'd left the planet behind had been tiring. He knew she was still frustrated about the entire situation: how it had happened, how completely it had been out of her realm of control. He also knew that if he didn't get her talking about it, she'd keep obsessing about it until they reached the Alpha Quadrant.

"I wouldn't have blown him out an airlock," she said, refilling their glasses.

"No?" He liked the smirk she had on her face. It meant she had already come up with alternatives.

"No, I could be much more imaginative than that."

"Do tell."

"I could have taken him down to sickbay, strapped him to a biobed, and had the doctor show him his entire collection of holo-essays."

Chakotay winced.

"I also think he would have enjoyed dining on leola root casserole while listening to Tuvok recite one hundred twelve sonnets of Vulcan poetry."

"Personally, I'd prefer the airlock."

"Wouldn't we all?"

Stretching his legs out in front of him, he decided to test the waters. "The trip wasn't all bad."

She sat up and looked at him. "What part of that could you have possibly enjoyed?"

"The massage wasn't bad."

She threw a pillow at him.

He caught it easily and put it behind his head, leaning back on it. "I liked waking up in sickbay," he admitted softly. "I knew before I even opened my eyes that you were there. It felt really good."

"It felt like home," she replied just as quietly. "Like I was warm and safe and would always be loved."

A comfortable silence built on the admission for several minutes.

"Do you miss it?" she asked. "That…connection?"

Knowing she was looking at him now, he sat up. "We've always had a connection, Kathryn."

"Not like that."

"No," he agreed, "not quite like that."

She toyed with her wine glass, rolling it between her fingers. "If I could have that feeling and leave out all the other stuff…"

Her voice trailed off, leaving the thought unfinished, but he knew what she meant. "Do you remember the other stuff?"

She set the wine glass down and pulled one leg up to her chest, resting her chin on her knee. "Not really. I mean, I remember everything up until Sevrn emptying that vial down my throat. After that, it's kind of a blur. An emotional blur," she admitted, "but still a blur."

He leaned forward in the chair, his elbows on his knees. "What emotion?"

Her blue eyes met his. "Fear," she said simply. "I was scared for you. Scared I was going to lose you."

It wasn't their way but he moved, leaving his chair and sitting down next to her on the couch. He took her hand in between his. "You could never lose me, Kathryn."

She smiled at their joined hands and then lifted them over her head, draping his arm around her shoulders so she could lean in against his side.

He laid a gentle kiss on the top of her head. "And you will always be loved."

"What about you?" she asked, her voice almost directed into his chest. "Do you remember that last night?"

"No," he said, surprising her. "I barely remember Sevrn even showing up. I think it was that blow to the head I took."

Kathryn winced, sorry she'd asked.

"I did finally remember our first night on the planet though."

"The first night?" She could feel the laughter building in his chest and sat up so she could see him. He was grinning like a Cheshire cat and remembering, she gasped. "You know how we ended up in bed together!"

"Not only that," he laughed, "but I know how you ended up in nothing but your underwear and my shirt!"

The End


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