Disclaimer: Fox and Paramount own the rights to the movie and tv-show respectively. I only play with them for fun, and no copyright infringement is ever intended.
Fandoms: The Devil Wears Prada - Star Trek Voyager
Rating: G - NC-17 (depending on which door)
Pairings: Andy/Miranda - Janeway/Seven
Summary: Post Endgame story. The year is 2379 and Voyager has been home in the Alpha Quadrant a year. Miranda Priestly, editor-in-cheif for the renowned fashion holo-magazine, Runway, intends to commemorate this by doing a fashion shoot with some of the women from the famous ship. Admiral Janeway is less than pleased, but the decision is taken and little does she know what this shoot will set in motion.
A/N: Originally written for the Janeway/Seven - MirAndy Advent Calendar 2011
Double Trouble Love
(Cross-over Janeway/Seven (STV) – Andy/Miranda (DWP))
By Gun Brooke
"Don't be ridiculous, Andrea. Admiral Janeway is waiting for us, and will not let your insecurities and incompetence stand in the way of obtaining a photo spread with her and the Borg."
"Former Borg, Miranda. Seven of Nine is not Borg anymore. If she were…" Andy shuddered and hurried after her demanding boss, Miranda Priestly, editor-in-chief of Runway. The publication had once started out as an old-fashioned paper magazine in the twentieth century, and now it was the publication, available to its subscribers as a PADD-zine. No other fashion related publication had survived that long and this was due to a long line of strong editors. The latest one the most amazing of them all.
Miranda Priestly, 51, was lethal as she was soft-spoken, and with a tendency to fire people first and ask questions later—if ever. Stunning with her trademark snow-white, short hair, she looked younger than her age, and had enough stamina to shame the fittest young assistant. She was used to getting what she wanted, and what she wanted now was a photo spread with the latest rage.
The space ship USS Voyager had come home to Earth after more than seven years alone in the Delta Quadrant. Kathryn Janeway, it's captain and now promoted to admiral, together with Annika Hansen, also known as Seven of Nine, was an ex-Borg, and Miranda deemed them Runway worthy. Andy had finally manage to arrange a meeting with the admiral and the former Borg, to discuss an interview and photos session.
"I trust that you've explained our expectations, Andrea?" Miranda asked as they hurried through the corridors of Star Fleet. Andy knew Miranda wasn't thrilled to have the meeting on someone else's turf, but this was clearly important enough.
"I didn't want to tip our hand too much, Miranda," Andy tried to explain. "I wanted them to hear it from you. You're much more persuasive than I am."
"Hm. Really. Don't sell yourself too short." Miranda removed her sun-shades and raked her eyes up and down Andy's body. She constantly did this, and so far, Andy had rationalized this as Miranda's way to make sure Andy's clothes were fashionable enough. Still, when Miranda's ears turned pink at the tips, and she ran her finger across her lips, Andy wasn't sure. But what other reason could there be?
Seven of Nine, late of the Borg Collective, but part of the renowned Voyager crew since more than three years, was close to tapping her foot while waiting outside Admiral Janeway's office. She had arrived early, this was true, but something had detained her former captain. Seven caught the glances of the star fleet officers in the headquarters building. They reminded her of that first time aboard Voyager when the crew treated her with suspiciousness and disdain. The difference now were obvious. She was no longer completely in the dark when it came to command structure and social rules and etiquette. Seven did not always abide by the rules, but it wasn't for lack of knowledge.
Seven had contemplated not showing up for this ridiculous assignment. Only B'Elanna's pleading, which was a rare occurrence in itself, had made her relent. The photo shoot even had its own designation "The Women of Voyager" and consisted of Admiral Janeway, Chief Engineer B'Elanna Torres-Paris, Lieutenant Commander Samantha Wilder, her daughter Naomi Wildman, the Delayney twins, Tal Celes and Seven of Nine. It would no doubt be about the ship, the Delta Quadrant, and Seven didn't enjoy the chance of being put back into the biosuits. After coming home, and leaving the ship, she had reinvented herself when it came to clothes. In fact, she had reinvented most of her life, and kept her distance from the rest of the crew. It simply hurt too much to be around any of them.
Seven heard familiar steps approach and had barely time to adjust her facial expression before the formidable Capt—Admiral Janeway stood before her. She smiled widely at Seven and held out both hands.
"Seven." Oh, that smoky voice, so deep and rumbling and with such allure, it sucked all oxygen from Seven's lungs. "I've missed you so much." Admiral Janeway took Seven's hands in hers, before Seven had a chance to habitually clasp them behind her. "And I like that dress. You look so different."
Seven wore a cobalt blue dress with a wide skirt and a narrow, long-sleeved top. She didn't want to flaunt the residual Borg implants if possible. Not everyone she met were so understanding about her being a former drone.
"It is good to see you, Ca—Admiral."
"Don't worry. I get it wrong myself, constantly." Janeway smiled again and leaned in. She brushed her lips against Seven's cheek. "It's been too long, Seven. We can't let so much time go between our getting together. How are you? Enjoying Dahlstroms?"
"I am functioning—I mean, I am doing well. Dahlstroms seems to be the best place for me." Seven tried to sound convincing, but a rapid blink from Janeway made her think she was unsuccessful. "I am surprised that you have time for this fashion shoot, Admiral."
"I don't. It's more or less decided over my head by the admiralty. Goodwill and all that." Janeway waved her hand dismissivly. If it had been any other person than Miranda Priestly, I would've plainly refused. I admit I'm curious why she would be personally involved. We better get to the conference room. We have less than two minutes. I hear she hates tardiness."
Seven thought that sounded commendable and it intrigued her that Janeway knew and clearly admired this Priestly woman. Walking behind Janeway, Seven began to look forward to this meeting.
Miranda stood at the head of the table, regarding the poster sized photos of the Voyager women with critical eyes. They differed in age, the youngest being a K'Tarian/human hybrid of eight years old, and the oldest being the Admiral, age forty-seven. Normally the admiral would be too old, too short, and too compact, for Runway, but Miranda had to concede that Janeway's presence and undeniable commanding persona would entice the readers and spike the sales.
Miranda had, like everyone else on the planet, hell, within the whole Federation, been mesmerized by the lone starship Voyager's adventures and ultimately it's triumphant return to the Alpha Quadrant. Perhaps the fact that its female captain resonated with her readers more than a burly male captain would have, had something to do with it, but it was nevertheless true. Also, being the captain of sorts of the longest sustained monthly fashion magazine on earth and in the known universe, made Miranda relate to Janeway as well.
"Welcome and I hope you'll agree to participate in this unprecedented photo shoot with Runway," Miranda began, turning first to the admiral and Seven or Nine, and then the other women, present via the viewscreen on the far wall. "My assistant will hand out our suggestions for the different themes, and she and I will try to answer any questions that you might have. Andrea?" Miranda watched as Andrea distributed data-PADDs with the information and transferred it to the women on the view screen.
"How long will this endeavor take, Ms. Priestly?" Seven of Nine asked.
"Call me, Miranda, please. I have set aside three full days." Miranda moved to the view screen where the schedule was displayed.
"You won't all be working the entire time simultaneously, and some of you will work evenings on some of those days, to capture the night light…and the stars." Andrea smiled broadly as she explained further. "The themes require some time to be set aside for makeup and wardrobe, but on several shoots, you will only be required to wear your uniform."
Miranda noticed that Seven of Nine looked displeased at the last piece of information. Curious, Miranda filed that information away for future reference. "Admiral, is the schedule to your satisfaction?" Miranda wondered why Janeway wasn't more vocal.
"I'll be honest. This isn't my idea of how an admiral's time is best utilized, but since it's orders from the brass, I'm doing it. The schedule is doable unless there's an emergency."
"Naturally." Miranda sat on the edge of the conference table. Andrea came up to stand next to her, and Miranda thought she could sense her body's warmth. Having been Miranda's assistant for almost two years, Andrea was practically indispensable. Not that she'd ever tell the young woman this. The rule was: no employee ever asked Miranda any questions, nor did she rarely offer any explanations. It was just easier that way, Miranda thought loftily.
"One of the shoots is off-world," the other blonde, Samantha Wildman stated. "Naomi has school and even if her teachers are quite understanding—"
"Andrea?" Miranda waved her hand at her assistant. Such mundane questions shouldn't be directed at herself.
"We've taken that into consideration, as well as the fact that Chief Engineer Torres-Paris has a toddler. You will be within transporter range of your respective homes, and we've manage to secure a vessel which you are very familiar with to take us to the terraformed moon of Agameria Prime."
"What?" Janeway's head snapped up.
"The Delta Flyer, ma'am." Andrea spoke carefully, with an apologetic tone in her voice. "I thought it might be something you would like, Admiral. I believe it hasn't been utilized since Voyager's return."
"The Delta Flyer." Suddenly Janeway stood. "Excuse me." She strode out of the room.
Miranda turned to Andrea. "What have you done now? Clearly you've made a grave error while planning this—"
"Ms. Priestly. Miranda. I am certain your assistant did not intentionally mean to cause the admiral discomfort." Seven of Nine rose. "Let me talk to her. There is a lot of classified information unavailable to Andrea. Do not direct any critique toward her. The thought of the Delta Flyer is traumatizing for all of us." Seven nodded politely and left the room.
Miranda bit back a curt remark toward Andrea, not so much because of Seven of Nine's admonishing comment, but because of the hurt in Andrea's tear-filled doe eyes. Not for the first time over the last few months, did Miranda wonder what it was about this girl, twenty-five years her junior, that made her halt and lose her train-of-thought. Sure, Andrea was stunning. Dressed in the latest fashion, nowadays-it made Miranda shudder when remembering the happy-go-lucky young woman who'd applied for the job as her assistant, looking like the long-lost cousin from the mining planets in the outer sectors of the Alpha Quadrant. Now, Andrea was transformed into an undeniable beauty, but it wasn't the reason for why she showed up in Miranda's thoughts and dreams. Miranda saw enough gorgeous women to fill her entire day, and yet, it was the softness of Andrea's gaze, and the warp-core blazing smile of her assistant that stayed with her. Very odd.
"Andrea." Miranda hissed under her breath as she muted the audio channel. "Don't dawdle. Go apologize to the admiral and get her back in here."
Janeway stood by the window, gazing out over San Francisco. Starfleet headquarters were located with a magnificent view of the city that had seen everything from complete destruction due to earthquakes, riots and war. Now it was a serene place, with lots of green parks, clean and home to the military part of the Federation. She trembled and fought down nausea. These attacks happened less often now, but she was still overwhelmed when they did. Janeway took a deep breath, hugging herself to try and stop the tremors.
"Admiral?" Seven all of a sudden stood behind her. She moved with her usual stealth, which was hardly a surprise. Janeway knew she had stormed out like a prima donna, but she also knew that the former members of her crew knew why.
"Yes, yes, Seven. I know." Janeway raised her hand. "I'll be right there."
"Are you all right?" Seven stood close, her scent, so familiar, and yet knew she she'd clearly added to it. Perhaps soap. Or lotion.
"I'm fine. I was just a bit taken aback. I hadn't thought she'd provide actual props at these shoots."
"The only reason I am participating in this superfluous endeavor is that Miranda Priestly's assistant possesses an impressive talent for persuasion." Seven reached into her satchel. "Here, Admiral." She handed over a tissue.
"Wha—oh." Feeling vulnerable, and hating it, Janeway wiped at the tears clinging to her lashes. "Andy Sachs, yes. She was so strong and self-confident via the view screen. I was surprised to see her so—nervous? I guess that when Miranda Priestly is present, most of us fade into the background." Janeway smiled. "Not you, though. You look amazing and I know very little fazes you."
"That's true, most days." Janeway gently cupped Seven's elbows, looking into her ice-blue eyes. "Seeing you again, realizing how much I've missed you, certainly doesn't leave me indifferent."
"Capt—Admiral." Seven winced visible. "I have missed you also." She looked uncomfortable in that way that only Seven could. The expression was familiar and brought back memories from Seven's first difficult transition when Janeway had severed her from the Borg collective.
"Admiral?" The young voice belonging to Andy spoke behind them.
"Andy Sachs. We will be with you shortly."
"I'm so sorry," Andy gushed. "Neither Miranda nor I realized that the Delta Flyer held such strong memories. We should've known better." She looked devastated.
"You're hardly to blame for what transpired in the Delta Quadrant, nor is your boss." Janeway had to take pity on the doe eyed young woman. She reminded her of Seven in many ways. Perhaps it was this wide eyed confusion that Seven had so often expressed in her early days.
"I'm feeling better," Janeway said. "Should we rejoin Miranda and the others?"
They walked back to the conference room. "I apologize, Miranda, for my lack of control. I hope you understand that this won't happen again."
"Admiral, I'm sorry if anything I said or did caused you grief." Miranda Priestly looked contrite, but her words sounded more rehearsed than anything.
"Don't give it a second thought. Now that I know, I—we will adapt." Janeway winked at the tall woman next to her. "Won't we, Seven?"
"Certainly, Admiral. I can see I have taught you well."
Janeway snorted, looking at new delight at Seven. The unexpected humor was yet another sign that Seven had continued to develop during her absence. Janeway found she was quite looking forward to what this Runway shoot would uncover about the woman that haunted her dreams.
Andy escorted Miranda out to the waiting hover-car. Long, sleek and silver-blue, it idled outside Starfleet's headquarters, its driver waiting politely by the door.
"Back to the office, Roy." Miranda slid inside.
Andy entered and made sure she didn't crowd Miranda. She could feel energy simmer within Miranda's body. She was drumming her fingertips against the armrest and tapped her foot, making her shoe dangle on her well-pedicured toes.
"Janeway's onboard. That sealed the deal. I said so." Miranda smiled triumphantly. "Irv was against it, you know. He doesn't think our reader relate to Janeway and the Voyager crew."
"I think you're right." Andy spoke carefully, since she knew that Miranda was quick to scorn if she thought for a second that someone was sucking up. "Voyager's been on everyone's lips ever since they made contact several years ago. The Pathfinder project put it on the map, and the fact that they had their own Borg on board, and that it was such a small crew, alone without backup…I admire their tenacity." And yours. Andy wisely kept that last part to herself.
"Yes, exactly." Miranda nodded, looking pleased. "You're brighter than the Elias-Clark president."
"Uhm. Thank you?"
"Ah. Well, I suppose it's some form of compliment." Miranda managed to make it sound like an insult instead.
"Want me to contact Nigel and set everything in motion, Miranda?"
"Don't bore me with those details, Andrea. You know better. If you don't, then I know of a million girls who would jump at the chance to work at Runway."
"I know, Miranda." Andy felt her ire soar, and without considering the consequences, she went on. "Not a million girls would be able to hold this position without getting fired one single time for two years. I would challenge anyone to find one single woman who can anticipate your every move and meet every one of your needs like I do." Pressing her lips together, Andy knew that if she wasn't fired and thrown out of the hover-car in mid-air.
Miranda slowly turned her gaze on to Andy. "Excuse me?" As frosty as the color of her hair, Miranda's voice was even lower than usual.
Andy wasn't going to fall for this technique. She knew Miranda's ways so well by now. When Miranda wanted to catch someone off balance, she all but whispered, making them lean in to hear her every word. Andy wasn't sure what had tipped the scale today, or all days, but she had worked herself to a pulp to help arrange the photo shoot of the decade, if not the century. "It wouldn't hurt if you began treating me more like an equal."
"Equal?" Miranda hissed. "Whatever for? You're my assistant."
"I'm not talking pay grades. I mean as an equal human being." Not falling into the trap of sounding whiny, Andy kept her hands loosely on her lap, on top of her data-PADD. "I do a lot that most employees would never do for anyone else, no matter who they're boss is. I do it because I want to, I enjoy my work, and I…care…about you." Andy cursed herself for stumbling over the most significant word in the sentence, but kept going. "That said, I don't like it so much that I will settle for being you addressing me like that. Not anymore."
"Is this your way of saying I should look elsewhere for an assistant?" Miranda's voice didn't give anything away.
"No. It's my ways of saying, treat me professionally and I'll keep trying to make miracles happen for you."
"Tell me, why on earth would you care for me?" Studying her nails, Miranda then lifted her icy gaze back on Andy. "Clearly I would not deserve such devotion, according to you?"
Andy had to smile. Miranda would hate it if she knew just how transparent she was to her. "Miranda, whether a person cares for you or now, is beyond your control."
"So, to deduct what you mean is, 'treat me better or I'm out', and 'I care, therefore I'm leaving' or perhaps 'nobody else would be able to stand working for you'."
Wanting to thud her forehead against the data-PADD, Andy sighed. "I would never presume to argue with your power of deduction, so I guess your first suggestion is the most accurate. I'd hate to leave, even if I've had tons of offers from other holo-zines." It was true. She was constantly headhunted by other publishers.
"You can't leave." Miranda straightened her back, and there was fire in her eyes. "I won't allow it."
"Wh-what? I don't want to—"
"I'll double your salary."
"Miranda. That's not what I meant."
"You cannot leave."
"All right." Andy forced her breathing to be even and her lips to merely give a calm smile. "All right."
"Well, then." Miranda smoothed down her skirt. "Yes. Contact Nigel and get the ball rolling."
Inside, Andy trembled. What was the matter with Miranda? Never had Andy seen her react that way, and so openly. Nag, ridicule, harass newcomers, complain and bitch, yes, all that were Miranda's M.O. Passionate fury, not so much. Opening her comm link to Nigel, Runway's fashion director, Andy began carrying out her duties. This was the easy part. Trying to figure out what the hell was the matter with Miranda, was going to be the hard one.
Seven fastened the chin strap to her slender aluminum helmet after placing her bag into the side compartment on her hover-bike. She straddled it and normally she would have enjoyed the feeling of riding such a powerful vehicle out in the open, the potential danger a thrill in itself. Right now, Seven couldn't think of anything but Janeway and the way the captain had fought through her demons right just before.
The Voyager crew were all fiercely protective of their commanding officer. Seven knew this, and also knew that this didn't even come close to how she felt about Kathryn Janeway. The woman had saved Seven from the Borg, stuck with her through any challenge, risked her own life many times to save Seven, and even disregarding that, Seven would willingly take on every single hostile species anywhere, in any quadrant, to keep Janeway safe. Even such a formidable person as Miranda Priestly.
"I was going to ask if you wanted to share a ride home, but I see that's redundant." Janeway suddenly stood next to Seven. "That's an impressive machine. Yours?"
"Yes. I find I prefer this. Less constrictive."
"After so much time in space, I don't blame you for wanting to be free from constraints." Janeway raised her eyes to the sky for a moment. "Where are you staying? Are you and Chakotay using one of Starfleet's guest-quarters?"
"I am here alone and I am staying at a hotel." Seven didn't volunteer any more information, but she could easily see how Janeway began to speculate.
"That doesn't sound too much fun. I have a guestroom in my townhouse. Why don't you stay with me? This will give us a chance to catch up. Who knows, we might just need to encourage each other to be able to deal with Miranda Priestly without throttling her."
"I do not wish to impose…"
"Oh, Seven, it would be so nice to finally spend some time together. Unless you have other plans, please consider it."
"Very well," Seven said, conceding. "Thank you, Admiral."
"Kathryn. I'm not your commanding officer anymore."
"Kathryn. I am due at another meeting with a colleague in an hour. May I give you a lift in the meantime?"
"On that?" Janeway squinted her eyes at the hover-bike. "All right. Why not? Being an admiral has its disadvantages. Not much action."
"I have a spare helmet. It automatically adjusts to size." Seven pulled out another aluminum helmet and handed it to Janeway. Placing Janeway's briefcase in the side compartment, she waited for her to strap on the helmet. Janeway jumped up behind Seven and wrapped her arms around Seven's waist. "Where can I drop you off?" Seven asked, feeling decidedly breathless.
"Actually, I need to go home, so this is good. You'll see where I live so you can make your way back when you check out of Starfleet's." Janeway proceeded to give Seven the address, which she promptly punched into the navigational instruments.
"Very well." Seven pulled out into traffic and ascended to the fourth level among other hover-bikes. Hover-cars normally didn't go higher than third level, but a few smaller cars zigzagged between the bikes. Behind Seven, Janeway clung to her, her elegant hands clutching at her belt.
"If I didn't know these things came with so many safety features, I'd be nervous," Janeway confessed, her voice echoing in Seven's helmet.
"Why? Are you troubled by heights?"
"Normally, no. It's more the traffic. You'd think humanity's come so far that we should've learned to drive carefully." Another hover-bike overtook them, way too close. Janeway pressed hard against Seven. "Gods. I rest my case."
"I can drive on lower levels, but I've learned that traffic is even more intense below."
"No. This is fine. We'll be in the residential areas soon."
Seven's heart was still at an elevated frequency due to Janeway's close proximity. The fact that her former captain was pushing her breasts and stomach against Seven's back did very little to slow her heart down. Not even her nano-probes, the microscopic machines that maintained her Borg implants and sustained her in many ways, could make Seven disregard Kathryn's enticing.
"We are almost at your house, Kathryn. I will deliver you and then return around eighteen hundred hours. Will this be sufficient?"
"That will be awesome. Unless you plan to eat early with your colleague, I will have dinner waiting when you get back."
"Oh. Uhm. That is not necessary, Kathryn." Cringing, Seven remembered how cooking was not one of Kathryn's skills. Conquer the Borg, yes. Conquer a replicator or a stove, not so much."
"I thought I'd have a caterer come by. You don't have to worry, Seven."
"I was not." Hoping that the lie was not obvious, Seven smiled. "Thank you. I look forward to it." She landed the hover-bike with practiced ease. "We are here." She regarded the townhouse, and older building. "Your house is beautiful."
"Thank you. I'll show you around when you get back." Janeway slipped off and removed the helmet. Handing it over to Seven, Janeway leaned forward and kissed Seven's cheek, just a tad longer than was correct. Seven's breath hitched again, and her heartbeat reached 112.3 on average.
Driving off, Seven knew spending extra time with Kathryn might be a mistake, but she was not going to deny herself this opportuniy. Who knew if she would ever get the chance to do this again?
Miranda put her fork down, sighing impatiently. Being on edge all day, for several days really, was not how the optimal way to relax in the evening. After transporting home from San Francisco, her body was still gunning the engine, and it was clearly obvious the way her foot kept tapping against the marble floor of her dining room. If only her daughters, Caroline and Cassidy, had been home, but the eleven year old twins were spending the month with their father. Thinking about her girls made Miranda even more agitated. Perhaps if she called them, she'd be able to finally relax.
Resolutely, Miranda walked over to the home comm unit. Paging her daughters' portable units she waited impatiently for them to reply. Eventually, Cassidy answered.
"Mom? You're calling early." Her freckled face showed confusion. "You always call much later. To say goodnight."
"Hello Bobbsey. Can't a mother just want to say hello?" Miranda spoke lightly.
"Not our mother." Another freckled face pressed in next to Cassidy's.
"Hello, Caroline. Are you two driving your father mad?"
"No, we're behaving. As long as Lorna doesn't go all touchy-feely-snuggly on us, we're good."
What a shame. Miranda had nearly hoped the girls would be their most obnoxious self, sending Lorna, her ex-husband's new wife, over the edge and thus being sent home. "Good. Good girls."
"So, what's up, Mom?" Caroline looked worried now. "You…you're not sick or anything, are you?"
"Sick? No, no. Not at all. Just missing you very much. I have such an exciting project at hand and it is really a bummer that you girls are away. It entails one of your favorite persons ever."
"We don't have models as favorites." Cassidy wrinkled her nose.
"I know that. I'm overseeing a photo shoot with special people. Including Seven of Nine."
The silence was short but complete, and then the girls squealed loudly enough to attract dogs for miles. "Seven of Nine? Are you sure? Really? When is this? Oh, why do we have to be with Dad and Lorna on this space-floating tin can?"
"Deep Space Six is hardly a tin can, but I can understand that it feels a long way from home." It was, and it wasn't the first time that Miranda cursed her ex-husband's line of work that took him on these deep space missions. If they'd been on Earth, they'd at least been within transporter range.
"Tell us everything right this minute, Mom." Cassidy flung herself on her bed and Caroline bounced down next to her, making their unit wobble enough to give Miranda motion sickness.
She spent the next fifteen minutes discussing the photo shoot with her daughters, and they actually had ideas for it that made her proud. Especially Cassidy had a clear sense of photography, while Caroline was the budding actress of the two.
After disconnecting, Miranda carried her half-empty plate into the kitchen, placing it all into the recycler. She paced back and forth, expecting the notification from her computer that the Book was ready to be reviewed. A long tradition in the history of Runway from when it was an actual paper magazine in the 20th century, a mockup version of the current issue was sent to the editor-in-chief for perusal and directions every evening. Miranda found it useful to stay in on top of things, and also keeping the employees on their toes.
The Book arrived and the computer displayed the layout, which needed quite few corrections, but it was early days yet with the issue, and Miranda expected there'd be more to do later. She finished the read through and rapped her nails against the glass surface of her desk. It was only 2300 hours and she should make good use of an early night in bed, but her body was beyond jittery.
"I should double-check tomorrow's schedule with Andrea," Miranda muttered to herself. Almost startled by her own voice, she ordered the computer to call Andrea's home system.
"Miranda? You all right?" Andy wrapped the towel around her, making sure the video feature was off.
"I'm fine. Why wouldn't I be? You have the tomorrow's schedule readily available?"
"Uhm. No, not really…wait…whoops." The towel slipped and Andy cursed her idea of having an actual aqua shower instead of a sonic shower where sound waves cleaned you without actually getting you dripping wet.
"Whoops? Really. Such mature language all of a sudden."
Andy clenched her teeth at how Miranda had the gall to sound annoyed at her choice of words when it was Miranda who'd disturbed Andy almost in the middle of the night. "Well, I'm dripping all over the place. You caught me in the shower."
A muted gasp made Andy hold on tighter to the bath towel.
"I see." Miranda clearly didn't see, but she sounded way too casual than normal. "The schedule?"
"Yes. I have it here now." Andy sat down at her desk and browsed the screen. "Any issues I should be aware of, Miranda?"
"Just that I don't want to keep the Admiral or Seven of Nine waiting unnecessarily. They are crucial to this project. They are the most famous of the female part of the crew, together with B'Elanna Torres-Paris. She is bringing her baby along, right?"
"Yes, Miral Paris is coming. Her outfits are the cutest."
"They are quite adorable," Miranda said softly. Andy blinked and, tugging harder at the towel to make sure it was in place, she ordered the computer to engage the view screen. She needed to make sure that Miranda was all right. She normally didn't acknowledge things with such praise, nor did she usually sound so gentle. Miranda's image flickered and took form on the computer screen. Clearly, Andy had managed to surprise Miranda, for once.
"Hello." Andy waved her fingers, feeling silly for the gesture.
"Ah, there you are." Miranda regarded her under raised eyebrows. "And indeed straight from the shower. I trust that you don't flaunt yourself in front of just anybody in this state of undress."
"Oh, Gods, no. I would say never, but since I clearly have tonight, I'll settle for 'only once', Miranda."
"That sentence only makes sense to me because I know you so well by now." Miranda smirked, but there was something more than snicker in her eyes, something dark. Hot and dark, even.
Andy shivered. Drops of water ran from her long hair down her back and in under the towel. "You…you look sad, Miranda." Oh, boy, was she ever bucking for dismissal and for being fired. Andy rubbed her temple.
"I assure you I'm fine, Andrea. I—I merely miss my girls." Miranda looked uncomfortable, fiddling with her pearl necklace. "They're gone the entire month."
"I know. It's a long time, and it must feel even worse since they're off world."
"Yes. Thank you. Yes." Miranda tugged harder at her pearls, making Andy fear for its longevity when it came to the string. It was a one-of-a-kind necklace made of Andorian pearls and gold-filigree string. It wasn't supposed to break easily, but the way Miranda yanked at it, Andy became increasingly worried.
"Eh, Miranda. Your pearls?"
"What?" Miranda frowned.
"Your necklace. Don't yank at it." Andy gasped at her own words. Nobody—nobody—told Miranda Priestly what to do. Forgetting about the towel completely, Andy pushed both hands into her hair in pure desperation. This just wasn't her day when it came to communicating with Miranda.
"Gods, Andrea!" Miranda's eyes widened and if Andy thought they were darker before, they were pitch black now as Miranda stared at Andy's chest.
The girl was breath taking. Miranda stared at Andrea's revealed breasts, full, with large, dark nipples that clearly responded to being cold after the shower. Puckered, they proudly prodded the air between Andrea and the computer before Andrea yanked the towel back in place.
"I can't believe I did that." Blushing, Andrea tipped her head back, closing her eyes.
Miranda took in the vision of the glorious expanse of pale skin from the towel, past fragile collarbones up to Andrea's supple neck. Suddenly furious at the screen between them, the fact that Andrea was in her tiny studio apartment on the other side of New York. Miranda was one of the few people who had a personal transporter dais in her house. A lowly assistant as Andrea would never be able to get a permit, let alone afford one. Miranda didn't allow herself to consider what she might have done if Andrea had possessed a personal transporter.
"Well." Miranda cleared her suddenly husky voice. "Make sure you adjust the schedule to accommodate Janeway and Seven of Nine. We've outbid and outsmarted the competition and I don't want to see this slip through our fingers because we didn't take good care of our models. Make sure we have all their measurements beforehand for the designers to adjust the clothes. I'm not going to put clothes pins on the back of an admiral, and certainly not that statuesque blonde. It's just not done with such celebrities."
"Yes. Miranda," Andrea said, punching in commands one-handed, the other hand busy clutching at the towel.
"For heaven's sake, girl. You're shivering. Why didn't you say you were that cold?"
Andrea shot her a glance that obviously asked 'when would I had a chance?', which Miranda promptly ignored.
"I guess I should go hit the drying sequence." Andrea sighed. "You going to be okay now, Miranda?"
"Of course. Why wouldn't I be?"
"Because you called me with things that could have waited until tomorrow." Andrea bit her lips, looking like she regretted her words instantly.
"Don't be ridiculous. Who knows what might come up tomorrow? We're going to the location after all and—" Miranda stopped talking, feeling her cheeks warm. She was babbling. She never babbled. She hated when other people did, and always chastised them for it. Heaven knew she'd told Andrea to stop doing it on more times than she could think of, especially that first year when Andrea's chatter drove her up the wall. Was it really her chatter or was it the sound of her voice? Andrea had such a distinct, warm voice. It wrapped around Miranda like a warming blanket, caring and sincere.
"It won't be long until tomorrow and we'll be back into the swing of things. I'm certain the hotel will be great, I've confirmed everyone's room several times, and made sure out locations and the studio are booked. You can just go to bed and have a good night's sleep, I promise." Andrea reached out, hesitant, and ran a fingertip along the screen.
Miranda gasped, quickly covering her mouth with her hand. Torn between wanting to wrap her arms around Andrea, and wanting to throttle her for having this effect on her, Miranda did the only thing she could think of.
Scowled at the screen and disconnected.
Janeway heard the soft murmur of the hover-bike outside her townhouse and suddenly her palms were damp and her heart way too busy. She walked to the door and took a deep, calming breath before she opened it.
"Welcome, Seven. Come in, please." Janeway gazed at the tall blonde, drinking in the vision of her long legs, the impossibly narrow waist, and bountiful… Chastising herself for ogling, Janeway stepped aside and let Seven enter.
"Hello again, Kathryn. The hotel is sending over my luggage later." Seven stood in her hallway, hands behind her back as if briefing her commanding officer.
"Actually, it arrived an hour ago." Janeway grinned at Seven's surprise. "No doubt they expedited your wish since you are, after all, the famous Seven of Nine."
"I do not appreciate this fame." Seven scowled. "I have even started to go by my original designation at times, since it is hard to focus on my work when there are individuals gawking everywhere."
"Gawking, huh? That sounds intrusive. I thought Daystrom's Institute would take good care of their most unique addition."
"You would think that, yes." Seven smiled faintly. "You would also think that Daystrom's staff and associates would have gotten used to my presence by now." Her smiled faded again. "This is not the case and I am not pleased. Not even on Voyager, when I was still very much Borg, did I find my privacy violated this way."
"Come, let's sit. I want to hear all about this. Our food is here already. We can eat while you tell me all about this." Concerned, Janeway escorted Seven to the dining area next to the small kitchen. "What would you like to drink?"
"Apple cider, please."
"One apple cider, selection four." Janeway ordered from the replicator. "One coffee. Black." Janeway placed their beverages on the table where thermo containers held their food at precise temperatures. "Help yourself to some dinner, Seven, then I want you to tell me exactly what goes on at Daystrom's"
"I did not come here to complain, Kathryn." Seven squirmed, looking ill at ease.
"You're not complaining. Especially not when I have to drag everything out of you with a hypo-plier."
"Very well." Seven took a bite of the succulent chicken dish before continuing. "At first, I did not mind, since it was only natural to expect some curiosity from my co-workers. I utilized every single social lesson the Doctor put me through to 'meet them halfway', even hoping that I would make new friends. When the speculations and rumors did not die down, I tried taking the situation to my superiors, but they were not as understanding as you have made me accustomed to expect. They wanted to 'pick my brain' as they put it, but they were not interested in the conditions under which I work."
"I'm shocked." Janeway could barely control her anger. "I thought these esteemed scientists would know better. They are at the forefront of Federation science, all categories. Clearly I was wrong."
"So you believe me?" Seven looked like she hadn't expected Janeway to take what she said at face value.
"Believe you?" Janeway blinked. "Of course. Why would you ask?"
"Because…Because Chakotay did not."
"What?" Janeway blinked. "Why the hell not?"
Seven watched how Janeway's eyes turned from blue to grey the longer Seven spoke. She recognized the signs. The admiral was furious.
"He thought I was reading things into what they said, what they did."
"I do not know. Chakotay was busy reacquainting himself with going back to teaching at the academy. He was not there to see for himself. I do not think he is quite himself, after the briefings he went through."
"He should've listened to you. I know Starfleet put him and the other Maquis through the wringer, but that's nothing compared to what they put you through." Janeway stabbed the chicken as if to kill it a second time.
"You know?" Seven trembled. She did not like thinking back to those weeks she had been virtually incarcerated while interrogated that woman, Admiral Nechayev, who hated everything Borg with such passion, she would have sent Seven to labor camps on a desolate asteroid, given the chance. "How?"
"I'm brass now, you know." Janeway's eyes, now a stormy dark grey pierced Seven. "When I learned that you were not released when the Maquis was, I began making enquiries. I grew cold when I learned who'd gotten her vindictive hands on you. I used every single favor people owed me to get her removed. Once she was…" Janeway gasped softly. "You were free to join Chakotay and start your life. Build a home."
"I regret that your hopes did not come to fruition." Seven fought the tears that would only bring physical pain if she let them run. She had learned that the hard way. "We stayed at a guest facility at first, and later at quarters provided by the academy. They were only meant for one resident, but Chakotay had made promises that it was only temporary. " Seven gazed up from her food, exasperated at her stormy emotions that threatened to overpower her. "When my situation at Daystrom's did not improve, and he constantly blamed me, the closeness of these quarters became the reason for what happened next." Seven trembled so much now, she could not successfully hold on to the utensils. Knowing she was acting outside what was considered polite, she rose from the table and strode over to the window. She stared at the jewel like view of San Francisco at night.
"Seven?" Janeway startled her by placing a gentle hand at the small of her back. "Tell me the rest."
"It was not one big fight, one crescendo, that finished our relationship. It was the quarters."
"That they were small, too small? Surely you could've gotten a bigger place?" Janeway was clearly confused.
"No. You do not understand, Kathryn. The quarters were not the reason, but the variable that showed me why my life with Chakotay would be one huge mistake from the beginning to the end."
"I don't understand. Can you explain, Seven?" Janeway wrapped her arm around Seven's waist and looked up at her with unwavering eyes.
"I kept thinking back to my time on Voyager. I missed the ship, the crew, and you." Her voice nearly broke and Seven pressed the back of her human hand against her neck. "It was forty three days ago, when I stood alone in the miniscule quarters, gazing around the room, that I knew."
"Knew what, Seven?" Janeway prodded gently, her hand making small, soothing circles on her back."
"Kathryn." Seven turned and cupped Janeway's cheek with her Borg hand. Her nano-probes failed miserably to regulate her heart rhythm, instead the muscle in her chest pounded wildly. "I knew, beyond any doubt, that I would not have minded living in even smaller quarters, if I lived there with you."
Janeway's mind whirled, circling around Seven's impossible words. "What does that mean?"
"It means that I have terminated my relationship with Chakotay. It was not fair to him. He should pursue someone who is completely devoted to a future with him."
"The way I see it, you deserve someone who actually listens and believes in you." Janeway knew her voice was curt. "He should've listened."
"You would have. You have." Seven lowered her gaze. "I knew you would. Unless we had an emergency unfolding on Voyager, you were always ready to listen, to discuss. I always took such pleasure in our activities, whether we were philosophical discussions or playing Velocity."
"As did I, Seven." Janeway felt as if her inside suddenly had become liquid. She had been under the impression that Seven and Chakotay were building their future together, happily co-habiting on the campus of his university. Learning now that Seven had been utterly unhappy was like a knife between her ribs. Janeway wasn't ready to address Seven's revelation that she would not have been unhappy if she'd been living with her. "I'm sorry you were so miserable. Why didn't you contact me?"
"I had to find out the truth of my feelings for myself, just as I needed to prove to myself that I could be on my own. I did talk to B'Elanna Torres-Paris a few times."
"B'Elanna?" Janeway blinked. "I didn't know you were ever close?"
"We were not. However, I would like to believe that we are closer now. She has been most understanding and helpful." Seven colored. "In fact, she claims it has been of assistance to her, being able to talk to me. I did not realize how much apprehension she harbored, coming back to the Alpha Quadrant. To Earth."
"All of the Marquis were, I think. They were not always treated so well, by some. Nobody received as horrible a 'welcome' as you, though, Seven. Nechayev were completely out of line."
"Yes." Seven didn't object. "She lost family members to the Borg. In her eyes, I was the one who destroyed her family. It could have been me. If I dig deep enough, I probably could conjure up memories of their deaths."
"Seven!" Janeway stepped close to her. "Don't ever think that. Don't ever attempt any such thing. I remember what you went through, we all went through, when you suffered that multiple personality disorder, when we came upon that active Borg beacon. I don't ever want you to have to deal with such a thing again."
"Kathryn." Seven's eyes widened. "I would not do that. Trust me, I do not have any wish to remember such a thing." She placed her hands on Janeway's arms. "Do not be upset with me. I do not think I can stand it."
"I'm not. I mean, I am, but not with you. I'm furious at Chakotay. I'm confused by the implication of what you told me. About your feelings. About mine."
"Yours?" Seven raised her human eyebrow. "Why would you be confused regarding your own feelings? You were my commanding officer. My friend, when possible. What more could there be?"
Janeway realized then and there that Seven had accepted what she perceived Janeway's feelings for her to be. Seven had told Janeway of her own emotions, without expecting anything in return. She wasn't after any reciprocation; perhaps she didn't even want it. Her life had been complicated enough as it was, with interrogations, downright bullying, and Chakotay's unexplainable indifference. Janeway lifted her own hands, placing them on Seven's hips.
"A lot more. I'm not going to pretend I have all the answers, but I have a few. First of all, we're going to have to suffer through this photo shoot and be at the mercy of Miranda Priestly. Second, the situation at Daystrom's will be corrected—today. Ah-ah! Don't even think to object. It's time they learned that you have friends in high places. You're also going to make a list of other places you'd be interested in working at. Thirdly, and this of course, is up to you. You said you would've endured close quarters if you'd shared them with me instead. Did you mean it?"
"Yes." Seven swallowed.
"Good. I want you to move in here and stay with me, while we figure things out. I have enough space and a private transporter. It's actually a Grade transporter. This means you can go anywhere planetside and to any ship and space station in orbit instantly." Janeway squeezed Seven's hips. "What do you think?"
"Can I trust you are not asking out of a sense of obligation?"
"Yes. You can."
"Then I…" Seven's blue eyes misted over with tears. "Then I accept. Thank you, Kathryn."
"Oh, Seven, don't cry." Janeway slid her hands up along Seven's back and pulled in for a hug. She had never really hugged Seven, not a full-body embrace. When Seven's arms wrapped themselves around Janeway's neck, she could feel herself tremble. This new turn of events would either turn out to be the biggest mistake of her life, or the best thing she'd ever done.
Andy looked at the assembled women before her with awe. To be in the presence of the intrepid women who had braved unchartered space without backup. One of them, a young K'tarian girl, Naomi, was even born during that time.
"Welcome," Andy began, after receiving a nod from Miranda, who sat perched on a stool next to the photographer. "We're so happy that you've agreed to do this shoot with us. Over there you will find the makeup artists and if you have any questions regarding that, please turn to Serena."
Serena, a stunning Brazilian woman, waved and smiled broadly.
"Here you have Nigel, fashion editor, and Emily junior fashion editor. They'll be in charge of the gorgeous clothes. Photographer is Weoyah K'lach."
"Thank you, Andy," Admiral Janeway said. "I suppose we might as well get started."
"Yes. We don't want to lose this light." Weoyah K'lach, a short, stocky human-Andorian hybrid, said. "Let's move."
Andy walked over to Miranda as Emily and Nigel descended on the Voyager women together with their staff. Janeway's expression suggested she was in battle mode.
"The sun filtering through the trees will make this look amazing," Andy said.
"Yes. K'lach will be able to capture it." Miranda spoke in a short tone. "I need coffee."
"Yes, Miranda." Andy walked over to the regenerator in the large hover-van. "Coffee. Latte. 95˚ C." She returned with the coffee and Miranda's gaze softened marginally when she sipped the hot beverage.
"What on earth are you wearing, Andrea?" Miranda looked at Andy's outfit with raised eyebrows as if she'd only just noticed her assistant's clothes.
"Uhm. This is by a pretty unknown designer. I mean. Very unknown. New. Brand new."
"Hm. Let me look at you." Miranda disregarded Nigel's attempt at getting her attention.
"Eh, Miranda? Nigel—"
"Can wait." Miranda circled Andy like a shark, perusing the calf-long layered skirt, made of out several different shades of green, in different types of fabric. Lifting her eyes to Andy's top, a sleeveless understated gold mesh over green silk; it matched the skirt and the four-inch heeled gold sandals. "They're well made. Name?"
"Uhm. A nobody, really." Andy cursed herself for choosing today of all days to wear these clothes.
"Let me see." Impatient, Miranda tugged at the back of Andy's top. "Sarah Candes? Never heard of her."
"As I said. She's new."
"And you know of her how?" Miranda narrowed her eyes, her voice a mere whisper.
Oh, damn. Miranda was furious. Of course. Andy sighed inwardly. "She's a friend, of sorts. I like this outfit and it's nice and cool when it's warm like today."
"I want to see her. Arrange for her to come to my office once we're done with this shoot."
"N-no, I don't think—"
"What did you say, Andrea?" Beyond a whisper, now a formidable hiss, Miranda's voice made Andy's nervous tick appear. Blinking against the tremor in her left eyelid, Andy tried to remain calm.
"I…uh…I'll ask her, okay? I can't promise that she'll show up."
"She better. Is that, or…"
Or what? My job? Fully prepared to kick herself, Andy only nodded. "I'll do my best. I will." She looked pleadingly at Miranda, exasperated at having allowed Miranda to reduce her to a begging puppy—again.
"Show me the skirt. Pull it up." Miranda was clearly not done with her.
Andy pulled the skirt up a few inches.
"Oh, for heaven's sake." Miranda bent down and pulled the skirt up, examining the craftsmanship. "Is this slip attached?"
"Good. I'm actually quite baffled that I haven't heard of this designer. Nobody who can design like this, and sew…does she sew or have the garments sent out to a seamstress?"
"She sews," Andy squeaked. Miranda had inadvertently touched the inside of Andy's knee, and now she felt like her skin was on fire.
"Miranda?" Nigel had obviously given up on trying to wave her over. "We're about to set up. Can you come over and give you seal of approval."
"By all means. I would've hoped this dream-team of mine would've been able to think for themselves, but naturally I cater to everyone's whim." Miranda glanced over her shoulder, running it up and down Andy's form as she walked over to a stunning Seven of Nine. "No, no, no. Seven will wear the aqua dress. Not this cobalt blue. Can't anyone see that this washes her eyes out completely? If I had known the fashion department were actually color blind much would've been explained."
Miranda did something she rarely would do under normal circumstances. She took a step back, let her staff do their job while she schmoozed. On any other occasion, Miranda would rather take a phaser beam to the head, or even wear off-the-rack replicated clothes, but now she sat between Admiral Janeway and Seven of Nine, listening intently at Janeway telling the story of how Seven had more or less fallen into her hands.
Not oblivious to the palpable undercurrent, Miranda saw the looks exchanged by the two women on either side of her, especially when Janeway recounted the part where she'd had to throw Seven in the brig.
"She actually launched at me. I thought I cracked some ribs. Seven is very strong now, but back then, when your Borg implants were still very much operative, you were superhuman."
"I never knew I injured you, Cap—Admiral." Seven did not return Janeway's smile.
"You didn't. Not really. And certainly not compared to how many times you saved my life, and everybody else's on Voyager." Janeway's eyes softened to a mellow blue. Miranda had thought them grey only a moment ago. This was interesting and something she would need Weoyah K'lach to capture. She made a mental note that these two would have to be present for each other's shoots, even if not in the same one every time.
"So, Seven, do you have any Janeway-stories to share?" Miranda turned to the statuesque blonde. "This is your chance to reciprocate."
"I see." A faint smile ghosted across Seven's narrow features. "There was that time when the captain was stuck in the holodeck. Monochrome colors as an addition to the experience."
"Gods, not the Captain Proton scenario." Janeway actually groaned and covered her eyes with her hand.
"Not to mention, Chaotica," Seven added, sounding helpful, bordering on gleeful.
"Chaotica?" Miranda raised her eyebrows. She could tell that a few others had gathered around them, Andrea one of them. She was standing just behind Miranda's right shoulder.
"A holofiction character that my darling husband dreamed up." B'Elanna sat down next to Janeway, sipping some water. "This was before we were married, and Tom had an affinity for big-busted blondes—no offense, Seven."
"None taken." Seven smirked. "After all, I can say I count my blessings that he didn't marry his former ideal."
B'Elanna surprised Miranda by giving a raucous laughter. "Oh, ain't that the truth." She gazed down at herself. "And breastfeeding hasn't exactly perked anything up. Continue your story, Seven."
"The captain was the only one who could go into the holodeck and convince the holodeck characters to stop their attack, which was perceived by some real photonic aliens as a genuine aggression by Voyager."
"Astonishing." Miranda found herself mesmerized. She leaned towards Seven and patted the opposite armrest on her chair. "Sit down, Andrea."
"By all means, make me repeat myself, since you know how I relish doing that."
Andrea sat down before she finished the sentence, making everybody chuckle. Miranda motioned for Seven to continue.
"The captain had to try and fool Doctor Chaotica with her pheromones, a substance irresistible to him, and she did a very fine job of it, thus saving the ship and its crew. I am certain that no other crewmember would have been able to undertake the roll of Arachnia."
"What? You were dressed as a spider, Admiral?"
"I was, in a sense. Think of a black and white old movie from centuries ago, hair in a black bob, and a tall spider collar. How could I not be irresistible? What one does for one's crew?" Janeway laughed, looking so tenderly at Seven, Miranda heard Andrea gasp.
"Black and white. Hm."
"You are thinking about a recreation, aren't you?" Andrea murmured.
"You read my mind very well."
"It's why you pay me so many credits."
"Please." Miranda swatted the air in Andrea's direction. "Seven you have provided me with a fabulous idea. I would never have thought of it if it was not for your attention to detail."
"Really." Seven looked vaguely surprised. "May I ask what I thought of?"
The crowd chuckled again and Miranda smiled good-naturedly. She hadn't felt the creative juices overflow like this in ages. "You may. We need to work fast, since we only have two and a half day to pull this off. Andrea, Jocelyn, Nigel and Weoyah, set up a conference table and arrange seating for every Voyager member and yourselves. We are going to use a whole new concept."
"We are?" Andrea asked weakly.
"We are. I don't know why nor I neither any of you thought of this concept." Miranda stood among her minions and the women of Voyager. "We're going to have these lovely ladies reminisce just like the admiral and Seven of Nine just did, and we are going to come up with ten scenarios from their voyage back to the Alpha Quadrant. Just remember this, everybody. Think: couture!"
Seven looked down at herself. On one hand she was thrilled to not have to wear the biosuit from the years on Voyager, but she wasn't sure this outfit was a step up.
Blue, a color almost the same nuance as her eyes, the short dress hugged her body, revealing her hips and breasts to the beholder. It wasn't skin-tight, but it was fitted perfectly to her body. Leggings in a darker blue shade made her think a little of the biosuit, but the black shoes were the worst part. Six inch heels made her even taller, and if it hadn't been because of her superior senses, including her balance, she would have fallen over after only a few steps.
The fabric of the dress shimmered, and Seven had to concede it was quite beautiful. She glanced over at Janeway and her mind went blank for a moment. The admiral was dressed in a knee-length green dress, adorned with small yellow crystals. The garment set off the highlights in Janeway's auburn hair and her eyes glittered a brilliant blue as she looked at Seven.
"Seven, you look amazing."
"Thank you. I fail to see Miranda's vision for this shoot. How will this tell the story of my failed dating attempt?"
"If I knew that, I'd be the one making all those credits and be a publishing powerhouse."
"In the meantime, you're a military powerhouse with influence all the way to the top," Andrea said, suddenly standing next to Seven. "Miranda isn't trying to be literal, or to depict the events exactly the way they happened. Just give the viewer a flavor of the Woman of Voyager. Call it artistic license."
Seven wasn't sure she understood, but walked toward the area they were going to pose. A gazebo were located among the trees and sun filtered down between the branches, making it glow almost magically.
"Ah, Admiral. Seven." Miranda stood next to the gazebo. "I want you both inside. You will dance slowly as Weoyah works."
"Dance." Seven held her breath. "I do not dance."
"I'm not saying you should break Kathryn's arm," Miranda said. "Just sway together. Look…amicable."
"Amicable. We can do that." Janeway lifted one corner of her mouth in her customary lopsided smile. "Come sway with me, Seven?" she murmured out of earshot of anybody else.
"Very well." Completely uncomfortable about the scenario unfolding, Seven walked up the few steps and into the gazebo with Janeway. One comfort was that Janeway also wore these ridiculous high heels.
"You're taller, so the traditional way to hold each other will work well if you lead." Janeway slid effortless into Seven's personal space, taking her Borg-hand in hers and placing her other hand on Seven's shoulder. Music began streaming from somewhere, soft tones that made it somehow impossible to divert her eyes from Janeway's gaze.
"There. We're doing fine."
"Where's the photographer?" Seven still felt rigid.
"Never mind her. Just focus on me." Janeway smiled. "You are so beautiful, Seven. You always were, but now, there's something more mature about you, and yet you look so damn innocent. Must be those blue eyes of yours."
"I am hardly innocent. Of anything. And you have blue eyes also. Right now, that is."
"What do you mean, right now?" Janeway looked quizzical.
"Your eyes change with your mood. Don't you know that?"
"No? Really?" Janeway blinked. "Please tell me they don't go red when I'm really angry or something."
Seven laughed quietly. "No. Not red. When you are angry, or upset, they go flat and grey. When you are excited or happy, they become very blue."
"There. You see?" Janeway moved closer, cupping Seven's neck with her left hand. The hair stylist had been most complimenting regarding Seven's hair, and had arranged it in long flowing locks down her back. Nobody could see the small, caressing circles Janeway's hand made under the rich hair. Seven however felt it and her entire body reacted. Again, her nano-probes were rendered ineffective, and all Seven could do was to hold on to Janeway and hope the admiral did not notice how badly Seven trembled.
"I have missed you so much." Janeway whispered. "Ever since we returned and the crew were scattered, I have had one thought in my head."
"Kathryn?" Startled at the pain in Janeway's voice, Seven pulled her dance partner even closer. "Please tell me what thought that was?"
"I wished with every fiber of my being that I'd been less of a stickler for protocol. So much might have been different."
Janeway regarded the photographer and her crew with mild annoyance. They buzzed around them like energetic bumble bees, touching down here and there, adjusting hers and Seven's hair, clothes, and poses.
"That's it!" Weoyah yelled, startling everybody into complete stillness, which perhaps was the intended the reaction.
A few hours later, after changing into ten different outfits, Janeway knew she'd had enough. "Time to take a break. I don't care what anyone else says, but if I don't get—"
"Coffee." A slender hand extended toward Janeway where she sat in her chair in the makeup section. Miranda joined her. "I hear you are as fond of this as I am."
"Wouldn't have made it from Delta to Alpha without it."
"Or without her." Miranda nodded in Seven's direction.
"Nor without Seven." Janeway sipped her black coffee and smiled.
"Seven seems to be mentioned in all of the reports I read where the ship was in clear and present danger."
"Which was most days—wait, you read the after action reports? They're classified." Janeway narrowed her eyes, not sure what was going on.
"I have a quite high security clearance."
"I know you've been gone a long time, and have had better and far more important things to catch up on than my work history." Miranda calmly sat back. "You must have wondered how suddenly the brass of Starfleet made it their business that you and the others would participate in this, dare I say it? Yes. I do. Historic shoot."
"I just figured one of their spouses were a fan." Janeway saw Miranda's ire go up, but she'd faced down worse. She thought. Perhaps the Hirogen or species 8472. "Either that or Admiral Hayes has developed a belated sense of fashion."
"You are being facetious."
"And you sound just like Seven." Janeway had to laugh. Miranda obviously needed to take a deep breath to deal with this irreverent admiral. "All jokes aside, I did suspect that there were more to this than goodwill."
"Since you are dressed in casual attire, let's walk." Miranda stood, bringing her mug with her. Janeway motioned to Seven that she was accompanying the fashion editor and they walked over to a secluded clearing.
"Here we can talk without being overheard." Miranda looked bemusedly at a fallen tree trunk. "Guess this will have to do." She sat down and looked expectantly at Janeway.
"Very well. Go on, Miranda." Janeway sat and sipped her coffee.
"I travel all over the Alpha Quadrant, in my work, and doing that gives me access to all the major players. Even on planets that are not part of the federation as it seems Runway is popular throughout the quadrant. It didn't take Star Fleet Intelligence long to realize this, and they approached me ten years ago. I promptly refused, since I was actually a new mother at the time, but four years later, I became a covert operative."
"Gods. I sure didn't see that one coming." Nearly dropping her mug, Janeway tried to see any signs of Miranda lying. Still, the risk of that was infinitesimal. Miranda may have a high security clearance, but Janeway's were no doubt even higher. "So the shoot?"
"Is meant to benefit Runway, keep the Voyager legend alive, and thus, in extension, strengthens my position."
"In other words, Star Fleet Intelligence has something planned for you."
"They do." Miranda didn't look very happy about it. "It's going to take me away from Earth for an extended period of time."
"And it will be dangerous." Janeway was way too seasoned to make that a question.
"And you have your child."
"Children. Twin girls. They're eleven." Miranda stood and began pacing back and forth. "Part of my assignment is to make as small waves as possible, to not cause suspicion. I'll be travelling with my staff and children as usual."
"Then why are you looking so…distraught?" Janeway could have bet that nobody ever asked Miranda Priestly this question, and the way Miranda glared at her was almost comical.
"I…as I said. I will be gone for quite a while, and Andrea is up for a well-deserved promotion." Looking ill at ease, Miranda took a sip, made a face at the coffee and poured the rest on the ground.
"So she will not be coming with you," Janeway translated carefully.
"Andy's a wonderful young woman." Janeway knew now that she and Miranda had more in common than she could have guessed. "You'll miss her."
"Tremendously." Miranda sat down on the trunk again, sighing. "She has no idea of course."
"Of course. Neither has Seven." Janeway hoped that her own confession would make Miranda less self-conscious. This rare opportunity to talk to someone in a similar situation was something neither of them might ever come across with anybody else.
"I see." Miranda's gaze softened. "Seven is unique."
"And I'm trying to find a way to keep her in my life, in any capacity." Janeway tilted her head, scrutinizing Miranda's stricken expression. "Is there any reason you can't do the same?"
Andy walked over to Seven, a bit worried since the statuesque blonde seemed to distance herself from the others. She had observed the Voyager Women, and even if they looked pleased to be together, Andy noticed tension around Seven's eyes and lips at times.
"Care for some salad, Seven?" Andy motioned toward the tables where the caterer set up.
"No, thank you, Andrea Sachs. I do not require solid nut—I apologize. I am not hungry."
"That's all right. You can grab something when you are." Andy spoke with deliberate ease. "Seems Kathryn and Miranda went off to chat. Want to join me over in the shade? Like me, I'm sure you blister in the sun."
"I did not use to. I do now, since my nano-probes become increasingly obsolete." Seven joined Andy on some portable chairs under a tree. "How long have you worked for Miranda?"
"Two years, just about." Andy smiled. "It's been quite the learning curve, but nothing like yours, I would imagine. I admire how you handle the return to the Alpha Quadrant. Especially since I understand you have few memories from this part of the galaxy."
"I had the best mentors to prepare me. Also, reconnecting with my Aunt Irene has helped." Seven relaxed marginally. "Nobody has been more instrumental than Capt—Kathryn." Seven looked annoyed. "I keep slipping back to her former rank. It is not my intention to demote her."
"Oh, I'd never assume it was. Think of it this way, it's a very human trait to fall into old habits. I think that's a true testament if anything how you've regained what makes us humans." Andy grinned and elbowed Seven playfully. "And, who wouldn't get tongue-tied and forgetful around such a stunning woman as the admiral, right?"
"Indeed. However, you should not be so 'high and mighty'. I have heard you stutter around Miranda. Three times." Seven looked triumphant.
"Gods, that's true. She has a way of looking at you…I used to call it flesh melting."
Seven looked aghast.
"No, no, Seven. Merely an expression. Miranda doesn't actually melt people's faces off."
"I was starting to debate your taste in women."
"In wha-…in women? What?"
"You are stuttering again." Seven observed her. "And your facial capillaries are suffused, your pupils dilated by sixty-three percent, and your respiration has increased by fifty-two percent. Interesting."
"Ha. Look who's talking. Says the woman who follows the admiral with eyes ready to devour and…you look like you think you'll never see her again." Andy's voice went from teasing to caring. "You care about her. Very much."
"As do you."
"Yes." Andy drew a deep, trembling breath. "I wondered how long I would I'd be able to convince myself that it was hero worship, a power-crush."
"That she was your mentor only. A mother-figure." Seven tipped her head back, sighing. "I have asked myself this many times. I tried to live with a man I really cared for."
"Me too. His name was Nate, and he is a chef. It ended badly."
"My best friend is a Talaxian chef," Seven said absent-mindedly. "His name is Neelix and he's still in the Delta Quadrant."
"Was that the one you lived with?"
"No. No." Seven smiled, shaking her head. "My former mate was Voyager's first officer, Chakotay. He still lives at the campus of the university. I have 'moved on'."
"If it was half as ugly as my breakup was, you have my sympathy."
"It was not pretty."
They sat in silence for a while, Andy with her head resting against the tree. It wasn't hard to see the similarities between her and Seven, and yet they were so very different as well. This, in Andy's book, made for a potentially great friendship, something she'd try to pursue. There was no one she could normally talk to about Miranda. Her parents hated her boss, called her every name in the book for working their daughter too hard. It didn't matter that Andy tried to explain how much she'd learned, how much she'd grown. Not even Miranda knew just how much.
Andy fingered the hem of the skirt and smiled.
"That is a nice looking garment. The entire outfit." Seven looked like she meant it, her eyes following Andy's fingers.
"Thank you. I—I made it."
"You created this?" Seven's human eyebrow rose. "As in replicated it from a pattern?"
"Heavens, no. I sewed it. On a sewing machine."
"I have not come across such an apparatus." Clearly intrigued, Seven carefully touched the intricate stitches on Andy's sleeve. "Did you invent the design as well? It is flawless."
"I did. And you can't tell anyone, Seven. This is my…well, my secret. I haven't told anyone that I tried my hand at designing, and sewing. This is the first time I wore any of my own design to work. I thought I'd show it off when Miranda was focusing on you and Kathryn and the others. Trust Miranda to spot it right away. I didn't tell her I was the designer. I put a pseudonym on the label. Sarah Candes."
"I see. An anagram for Andrea Sachs."
"Oh, Gods. Promise you won't tell anyone. Not yet. Not until I've explained this to Miranda."
"Explained what to me, Andrea?" Miranda suddenly stood in front of them, looking furious.
Miranda had heard the words, such treacherous words, out of Andrea, as she and Kathryn approached. After finally letting her guard down and sharing sensitive information both regarding her covert assignment, and that of her heart, she was now ready to drag someone through a plasma fire pit.
"Speak up, Andrea. You clearly have something you need to explain." Miranda spoke quietly, knowing full well what her lethal whisper did to others.
"No. No, you misunderstand, Miranda." Andrea rushed to her feet, looking imploringly at her boss. "I do not have secrets from you. I mean, nothing important. Nothing that has anything to do with Runway. I mean not per se. Not a…lot." The young woman was trembling now, and Seven rose to stand shoulder to shoulder with Miranda's shaking assistant.
"Miranda. What you overheard was Andrea Sachs confiding in me on a personal level. We found we have many things in common, and I give you my word she has done nothing to warrant your wrath. Andrea is loyal to you."
"I'd listen to Seven. She's not easily fooled." Janeway placed her hands on her hips. "Don't jump to conclusions here, Miranda. It could destroy a lot."
Miranda was angrier than she'd been in ages. No, she realized, it wasn't anger as much as it was fear. She had never dreamed Andrea would have secrets from her, not even on a personal level. The fact that she confided in Seven, someone she more or less just met, stung. This was of course utterly ridiculous, since she never invited Andrea to confide in her. Why would she? Miranda sighed. Why wouldn't she?
"Very well. Keep your little secrets. We've got work to do. Find that photographer and have Nigel and Emily pull out the next set of clothes. That's all." Miranda strode toward the tents. Only when she felt a hand on her arm did she realize that Andrea was hurrying along beside her.
"Please. Miranda. Don't be mad at me. I can't bear it."
"Why on earth would you assume that I'm mad at anyone?"
"Because you almost had smoke coming out of your ears back there." Andrea stepped into Miranda's path, effectively stopped her from reaching the tents. In fact they were out of sight of everyone where they stood among some small firs.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Miranda. Look." Andrea seemed oblivious that she held on to Miranda's upper arms. Her grip was gentle, but firm. Fearless. "I have been devoted to this job, to you, for two years. I have proved myself over and over, and you've trusted me with sensitive information regarding yourself, and your girls."
"Your point?" Miranda growled.
"My point is, I have never failed you. No, that's wrong. I nearly screwed up on Vulcan that time when I thought you'd gone too far for the sake of Runway. But we figured that out, didn't we? We moved on and we've worked so well together. I've learned so much from you. I owe you my entire career, the network I now have, that will be something for me to fall back on when you—" Andrea swallowed hard. "When you get a new assistant."
"What do you mean? You're leaving?" Miranda's heart skipped several beats and then rushed madly in her chest.
"No. I mean, yes, eventually. You never keep assistants this long, normally."
"What does that have to do with you deciding to leave now?"
"I didn't!" Obviously frustrated Andrea actually shook Miranda a little. This seemed to trigger the awareness that Andrea was holding onto her boss, quite possessively. She let go of Miranda as if she'd burned her hands. "I'm so sorry." Looking scandalized, Andrea rolled her hands into fists.
"So. You are not leaving. You are loyal. You have learned from me. You are grateful. You have networked. You are set for a future without me. Did I leave something out?" Miranda spoke so gently, it shocked her when fat tears rolled down Andrea's cheeks.
"Yes. You left the most important parts."
"Ah. Yes. Your secret."
"Uhm. Yes. That." Andrea averted her eyes. "Don't fire me, please, Miranda. Not yet."
"Fire you?" Miranda was so surprised at the pained tone in Andrea's voice, she forgot to sound lethal. "Why would I fire you?"
"Because—because I…have secrets."
If Andrea's soulful brown eyes had not looked so devastated, Miranda might have been able to gather some of her previous venom and carry on with the act that protected her own heart. Noticing the tremors in Andrea's hands, Miranda experienced true fear. What if there was something utterly, irreversibly wrong?
"I won't fire you. Sort yourself out and do you job, Andrea." Miranda began walking back, but after only a few steps she turned, whipping her head around to nail Andrea with her eyes. "Know this. You will not keep secrets from me for very long. We're going to talk. Soon. Do I make myself clear?"
"V-very." Andrea should have looked more intimidated after that last volley, but for some reason, Miranda's harsh words made her give a tremulous smile.
The transporter gave a muted tingling sound and then Seven rematerialized in Janeway's hallway. Janeway looked up from her data PADD where she sat on the couch, holding a glass of red wine.
"Welcome back. How was—Seven?" Janeway stood and placed her glass on a side table. Seven had stepped off the transporter dais and now remained in the doorway to the living room. She was pale and if Janeway hadn't known any better, she would've sworn that Seven was actually swaying as if intoxicated. "Are you all right?" Janeway strode up to Seven, taking her gently by the shoulders.
"I am functioning at normal parameters." Seven set her jaw and kept her gaze somewhere around Janeway's eyebrows. "I…I went to the university to retrieve some of my things I had in storage. When I called on Chakotay to obtain my things, a woman opened. She was the new resident in his quarters. Clearly he has moved on."
"And this upsets you."
"Not the fact that he found happiness in another individual. I was the one who left, after all, and I do wish for him to be happy. I was however not prepared for how much the woman he now loves dislikes me."
"Oh?" Concerned, Janeway could feel Seven tremble.
"There was no way I could have foreseen her attack."
"She attacked you?" Appalled, Janeway pulled Seven with her to the couch. "Sit down. Tell me what happened." She sat down next to Seven, close enough to hold on to her human hand.
"This individual, I never quiet caught her designation, clearly regards me as a threat when it comes to Chakotay's affection. She caught me unaware and tried to push her nails through my skin."
"Gods." Furious at this woman's audacity, not to mention exasperated at Chakotay, Janeway leaned in to examine Seven's perfect complexion. "Did she get you anywhere?"
"Not my face. My neck. My nano-probes are dealing with the healing, if a bit slower than I was used to aboard Voyager."
"Let me see. Please?" Janeway regarded Seven carefully before pushing the collar of her white silk shirt to the side. An angry, red welt made Janeway gasp. It was a crime to mar the skin of this woman further. As if the Borg hadn't done enough of a number on her. "I'm getting a dermal generator. Wait here." Not waiting for Seven to concede, Janeway fetched her med kit and pulled out the instrument. She ran it over the bad cut several times before the nano-probes allowed for it to heal. "There. Better?"
"Yes. It was quite painful."
"You should press charges."
"But I will not. I will not participate in what will be construed as a 'cat fight' over a man. That is a cliché I am not prepared to see spread all over the news. It is enough to have the news media regarding me as their favorite prey."
"Yes, I know. I feel the same way. Still, if you'll allow me, I'll find out who she is and make sure she knows better than to speak of this with anybody. I carry some weight you know."
"I know. Thank you."
"Anything for you." Janeway put the dermal generator down, pondering her words. They were true. So true it frightened her. Shifting her gaze to Seven's eyes, Janeway tried to read their expression, which was nearly impossible. Still, she thought she saw a trace of reciprocation there. She knew Seven was loyal, caring, and that she had claimed to harbor strong feelings for her. Janeway cupped Seven's cheek and brushed her thumb gently along her full, lower lip. "Absolutely anything. You could ask me for anything and I'd do it. I'm not sure if telling you this is right, but it's the truth."
"Anything?" Seven's breath caught. "What if I want something you are not prepared to offer? Something you are not capable of because of personal preference?"
"Try me." What on earth was Seven talking about?
"I feel apprehensive. If you say no, that you made a mistake in thinking you could do 'anything', it would injure me much worse than that woman this evening."
"I can't possibly think of anything you could ask for that I wouldn't grant you."
"Even if it is deeply personal?"
"Even then." Janeway kept caressing Seven's cheek, wanting to reassure her."
Seven drew a deep, shaky breath. "Then I wish for you to kiss me, Kathryn."
Janeway froze. Her hand stopped its movement against Seven's smooth cheek, and she held her breath for several moments. Surely she had misheard Seven's request? "Kiss?"
"I did tell you it was too personal." A small light in Seven's eyes began to flicker and die.
"And I told you—anything." Janeway cupped Seven's other cheek and leaned in. Brushing her lips across Seven's, the damp softness was almost too much for her. Janeway placed a series of gentle kisses along that lower lip, back and forth several times.
"Kathryn…" Seven whimpered against her mouth, her breath sweet and warm.
"Yes, Seven." Janeway felt as if she was drowning in the taste of Seven's lips, and all she could think of was how her heart pounded, how damp her skin became, and how the center between her legs contracted. She ran the tip of her tongue over Seven's cupid's bow.
Suddenly strong arms wrapped around Janeway's neck, pulling her in closer, chest to chest. The sensation of Seven's breasts pressing into her made it Janeway's turn to whimper. When Seven met Janeway's tongue with her own, she moaned and pushed Seven into the backrest of the couch, kissing her feverishly. This kiss resembled no other kiss Janeway had either received or given. So slow and passionate it almost hurt, Janeway explored Seven's mouth, its sweetness and the dark danger that lured there somewhere. This dark part of Seven, she could taste it on her breath, on her tongue, and under her fingertips as she pushed them into Seven's hair.
"God's, Seven." Janeway had to push back, had to breathe. "Was this what you meant?"
"I had no idea there was anything like this." Seven's eyes, unusually hooded and sultry, also showed something that was part desire, part confusion. "I never knew a kiss could feel like this."
"I'm not going to ask about you and Chakotay, since I know just what you mean anyway." Janeway leaned her forehead against Seven's. "I've never experienced kisses like these either?"
Seven gave a muted sob.
"Please. Don't cry. I'm sorry, Seven." Janeway wasn't sure what she was apologizing for. She pushed back and regarded Seven carefully.
"I am not sad, merely somewhat overwhelmed. I never thought I would be kissed by you and now you tell me this is something unique?"
"Very." Janeway touched her own lips and then Seven's with unsteady fingertips. "And now we have to make a decision."
"We kissed. We can't very well un-kiss, so where do we go from here?"
Seven had to date only experience euphoria once. She would never forget the time she watched the formation of the Omega particle for the briefest of moments. With that in mind, Seven knew without a shadow of a doubt that nothing would ever come close to how she felt the first time Kathryn Janeway kissed her.
"I doubt the months I lived with Chakotay has provided me with the accurate frame of reference for what comes next." Seven only knew she did not want Kathryn to let go of her. Those narrow, wine red lips, Seven wanted to cease conversing and kiss them again.
"I understand. So you're saying you'll be happy to play this by ear?"
"If you mean continue kissing, then, yes."
Kathryn chuckled and Seven had never seen this exact brilliant blue in her eyes before.
"I admit, kissing you turned out to be far better than I ever dreamed of." Kathryn shifted, sliding closer. "And I admit, back on Voyager, I thought of you inappropriately more than once."
"I know why you never approached anyone of the crew, but I still feel we might have wasted precious time." Seven wanted to feel Kathryn closer. Using her augmented Borg strength, she pulled Kathryn up sideways on her lap.
"Oh." Kathryn wrapped her arms around Seven's neck. "I hear you. Still, I think we could have failed miserably if we'd allowed this—" She gestured between them, "to take over already back then."
"Perhaps." Seven did not agree, but knowing that Kathryn was more knowledgeable regarding social structures and dynamics, she did not argue. Instead, she slid her fingers into Kathryn's hair, motioning her closer. She gently bent Kathryn's head back and kissed her. Seven wanted to taste Kathryn, inhale her breath, and devour every sensation. It was illogical, but nonetheless so utterly irresistible that such intimate caresses would overshadow everything she had known to be true so far.
Seven kept one hand tangled in Kathryn's hair, but slid the other one down her back and in under her shirt. Silky and slightly damp, Kathryn's skin felt enticing against the fingertips of her human hand.
"Seven?" Kathryn murmured against Seven's lips. "Oh, yes."
"Your skin is like velvet." Seven nibbled at Kathryn's lower lip. "You are unique."
"No, but you are." Kathryn was gasping now, breathing hard and fast through her nose. "You're so beautiful, and much, much too good for me. I shouldn't let you waste yourself on a middle-age admiral who is virtually married to her job, but, oh Gods…I can't. I can't leave you be. I can't let you go."
"I do not want you to. I want you to hold on tightly to me and keep me with you. Please, Kathryn." Seven licked along Kathryn's neck, catching small droplets of sweat on her tongue, curious at the clean, salty taste. Kathryn tipped her head back, groaning deeply in her throat, a sound that made Seven's nipples ache and grow painfully taut.
"I want to touch you. Everywhere." Seven moved her hand to Kathryn's stomach. "I want you to reciprocate and teach me. Teach me what I need to know to please you."
"Oh, darling, you don't need teaching. If you continue like this, you'll make me come right here on your lap." Kathryn chuckled, pressing her lips to Seven's jawline.
"What do you mean—come?"
"Climax. Orgasm. You know?"
"In theory." Seven wanted to hide. This was another one of her short comings.
Kathryn pulled back a little, regarding her with concerned eyes. "What do you mean? In theory?"
"I know the biological mechanics behind the physical release." Seven cringed. "I have yet to master this."
"You've never climaxed? Seven?"
Seven tried to avoid Kathryn's kind gaze, but insistent fingertips guided her chin back to face the woman in her arms. Kathryn gently kissed Seven's lips, then asked again. "Seven? Talk to me."
"No. I have not. At first, this was due to the failsafe the Borg had put into my system. Overpowering emotional outbursts were not desirable among the Borg. Once the Doctor removed this failsafe, I expected my emotions for Chakotay to soar. When he touched me, I found it pleasant, but I waited for the emotions I have read about, and viewed at the holo-movies. It did not take me long to realize that this was not going to happen to me, this all-encompassing passion. And it has not…until tonight."
"So, If I understand you correctly, you haven't climaxed. Ever? I mean, not even by your own hands?"
"Chakotay suggested I should 'practice'." Seven remember how mortified she had felt when the man she lived with did not even want to take the time to teach her. "It made me uncomfortable, and I could not relax enough to create the right ambiance. I settled for failure for the first time since…since I can remember."
"I'm sorry, Seven." Kathryn spoke gently and tucked an errant tress of hair behind Seven's ear. "He should've been more understanding. Perhaps he found it too daunting to be the one to show you, I don't know."
"And you?" Seven trembled now, quite sure that Kathryn would recoil as well.
"I like a challenge." Kathryn launched at Seven and kissed her, deep and passionate, her tongue not only caressing, but invading. "I like a challenge, and I like you. I told you. You're here now. With me. And I can't let you go. I want you so much, Seven, and from what I feel when we kiss…I think you are indeed functioning at peak performance."
Miranda rubbed her tired eyes, blinking at the pictures from today's shoot on her data PADD. She had gone over them, and generally she was pleased, especially with the ones of Seven of Nine and the admiral.
"Miranda?" Andrea cleared her voice gently at the door. "I'm going home now. The commuter shuttles—"
"You can't go in this weather. Even I know that you live too far from the closest shuttle station to walk in this." Miranda gestured at the window where rain whipped down on Manhattan. "Why don't you spend the night, and we can transport to our next location early tomorrow morning?"
"Uhm. All right?" Andrea studied her nails carefully. "So. The guestroom on the third level?"
"No. Use the main guestroom on the second level. " Miranda wasn't quite sure why she felt compelled to have Andrea sleep on the same level as the master suite, but she wasn't prone to second-guessing herself.
"Well, goodnight then." Andrea did her usual little wave with her fingertips and left the study. Miranda heard her ascend the stairs, and there was something so homey and safe having Andrea under her own roof.
Miranda scrolled through the thumbnails of the photos one more time, marking the ones she wanted to see the full size the next day. "Lights off." The computer switched the study light off and Miranda made a beeline for the kitchen to bring some bottles of freshly squeezed orange juice. None of that replicated stuff. Figuring she should give one to Andrea, she knocked on the guestroom door.
"Just a moment."
"I don't have time to dawdle."
"Oh, all right. Uhm. Come in."
Miranda pressed the sensor that opened the door and entered. Andrea took her breath away. Standing only wrapped in a towel, she had clearly just exited the sonic shower.
"Orange juice." Miranda set down a bottle on the dresser. She couldn't take her eyes off Andrea.
"Thank you. That was thoughtful of you." Andrea gripped the towel firmly. "I thought I'd use your replicator for some sleepwear…"
"No?" Andrea blushed.
"No need. If you look at the top drawer, there are guest sleepwear in most common sizes. I recommend the ones in genuine Bajoran cotton."
"Don't mention it." Miranda walked over by the window, turning her back. She was not ready to leave yet, but wanted to give Andrea some privacy to change. She heard rustling behind her, and as Miranda gazed out over the tall buildings of Manhattan, her condominium being located at the top five floors of one of the tallest, all she could think about was the fact that Andrea was semi-naked just behind her.
Miranda turned and nearly dropped her orange juice bottle. Andrea had chosen white shorts and a skin tight tank-top. These garments left very little to the imagination. Why was is that Miranda could be around practically naked models, male and female, of any species, all day and not feel a shred of passion, and then look at Andrea, and nearly have a coronary?
"Fine. Good. Catch much needed sleep. No slacking off tomorrow."
"Slacking off? Do you mean I slacked off today?" Andrea had the gall to look annoyed.
"That was not what I said at all." Miranda wasn't stupid. She knew she acted the most superior and frustrated others when she was tired and emotionally drained. "You must learn to pay attention or you'll not succeed with your future endeavors."
"My future…what? What are we talking about now?"
"As I said. Sleep." Miranda tried to circle Andrea, but she took a step to the side and prevented her from leaving. "What are you doing?"
"Trying to figure out what you're talking about." Andrea managed to look polite and insistent at the same time. "You are implying that my future is elsewhere, and just earlier today you promised not to fire me."
"I'm not firing you. You're not making sense." Miranda fought to catch her breath, standing this close to a scantily clad Andrea.
"And you promised we'd talk. That I'd get a chance to explain…my secret."
Oh. That. Miranda shuddered. "It's too late tonight."
"I can't help but think that you think it's something much worse than it is."
"Your secrecy doesn't exactly bode well."
"All right. Then answer me this—have I ever let you down or lied to you?"
"Not to my knowledge. No. Unless you count lying by omitting the truth."
"But I promise you now. I have no bad secrets. Nothing that can hurt you or Runway. The only reason I haven't shared it…is that it's personal, and if you would not approve, then I'd feel like such fool."
Miranda felt her midsection soften at the worried look in Andrea's chocolate eyes. "Very well. We will talk soon, about secrets and…other things. Good enough?"
Andrea nodded slowly. "May I ask a favor?"
This was a first. Two years, and Andrea had never asked for anything on her own behalf. That was in itself a rare thing. "You may."
"Another thing I have not told you is that I have this recurring dream." Andrea seemed to steel herself. "That's why I looked like a total idiot when you asked me to spend the night. That's how the dream begins, every time."
"Get to the point."
"In the dream I stay at the guestroom on the third floor. When I'm falling asleep, I suddenly feel you touch my cheek, and then you kiss me goodnight." Andrea was blushing a dark red now.
"And you tell me this…?" Miranda had to stop talking because she could hardly piece words together. Trembling, she clung to her bottle.
"Because I just have to know."
"Oh, for the love of…Andrea, tell me what you want!"
"Isn't it obvious?" Andrea took the bottle from Miranda's cold hands and placed it on the dresser. "I ask for permission to kiss you goodnight."
Andy watched, not without fascination, how Miranda's flawless complexion turned faintly pink. This didn't keep the woman from looking regally at Andy. "By all means." The words would have sounded standoffish if Miranda hadn't been so breathless.
"Come here." Andy knew instinctively that she was the one in charge now, no matter their status at work. Runway and its world had no place here in this bedroom, or between them. Andy slid her arms around Miranda, going for much more than a mere peck on the lips. If she was granted a kiss, and she was, she would make the most of it. Strangely enough, she had the strong notion that Miranda would be disappointed if she didn't seize the moment. "So beautiful," Andy breathed against Miranda's lips, drawing out on the moment. Normally, she knew Miranda would have huffed with impatience, but she just stood still in Andy's embrace, her eyes fluttering close, breathing in short gasps.
Daring to touch the iconic, white hair, kept in the style that was as famous as the woman who wore it, Andy laced her fingers into the silky masses. She half expected Miranda to growl at the audacity, but instead she purred. Andy felt her nipples tighten at the sound. Never in a million years had Andy expected to be on the receiving end of such a thoroughly sexy sound.
"Gods, woman…" Andy caressed the small of Miranda's back with small circles of her hand. So slender, Miranda fit easily against Andy when she pulled her closer.
"Andrea." Miranda's normally low voice was a mere whisper. She cupped Andy's shoulders just as softly as she spoke, her hands seeming almost shy. "You are intoxicating. What am I to do with you?"
"Just let me. Kiss you. Goodnight." Andy smiled and pressed her lips against Miranda's hairline. She hoped this kiss wouldn't count.
"You are impossible." In Miranda's gentle tone, it sounded like a caress, or a compliment.
"And yet you're here. Letting me hold you. Eventually kiss you." Andy hoped she wasn't pushing her luck.
"I am. I must be out of my mind." Miranda ran whispers of fingertips up Andy's spine. "I clearly have taken leave of my faculties, but that's what happens…"
"When? Happens when?" Andy shivered from the touching, so gentle, so Miranda, and felt how goose bumps rose in its wake.
"It's what happens when I let my guard down, and I never let my guard down. It's bad for business, and it's dangerous in private."
"And yet you have?" Andy held her breath, not sure if this question would cause Miranda to recoil.
"I detest repeating myself, but yes." Miranda pushed her fingers into the back of Andy's hair. Running them through the long tresses, she seemed to caress ever single strand individually. "Like the finest silk."
"Mm? How can it be?" Miranda smiled lazily, her eyes still closed, her hands still entangled in Andy's hair.
"You gave me the products to use in my hair." Andy chuckled quietly, while drinking in the unusual vision of Miranda smiling. "You said my previous choice was plebeian."
"Ah. You're welcome." Miranda let her nails gently scratch Andy's scalp.
Now it was Andy's turn to hum and purr. She had always loved when someone brushed her hair, and generally fiddled with it. She had even let Miranda's twins play beauty salon with her, when their nanny had been taken ill.
"Oh, I like that sound. I think I want to hear it again." Miranda dragged her fingertips down along Andy's neck and found her collarbones. "I wonder…yes, like that." She ran her thumbs back and forth over the protruding bones, gently, gently.
Andy moaned and tipped her head back. "Miranda. You're—you're driving me crazy. I can't stop shaking."
"That makes two of us. I'm not sure what it is about you, but you've had me tremble more tonight than two husbands, and several lovers have not ever." Miranda looked slightly affronted, though whether it was because of previous lover's failure in the tremor-inducing department, or if it was because Andy could, was hard to tell. Perhaps she was merely taken aback by this reaction.
"Do you mind?" Andy asked gently, cupping Miranda's cheeks. "Does it bother you?"
"You bother me!" A sudden flash of anger turned Miranda's eyes into a searing blue ice. "You bother me whether you're here or not. Whether we're at work or not. Why is that, Andrea? Tell me."
Andy swallowed, but would not be intimidated. "It's because of the same reason you bother me."
Miranda jerked. "What?"
"You are constantly on my mind. In the beginning it was because of Runway, of the new job, of wanting to do well. Then it turned to wanting to make you proud. Now it is partially because I want to make life easier for you, so you can be happier in your private life. It bothers me when people don't understand the toll it takes on you to be away from your children, to work so many hours, and to have so many commitments. And then…it bothers me that I haven't been given permission to kiss you goodnight. Until now."
Miranda's eyes were now soft and warm. Her eyelids heavy, she looked up at Andy between the thick eyelashes. "And it hasn't escaped me that you still haven't done so. Do I make you nervous?"
"Yes. And no. Yes, because I'm afraid you'll hate it. No, because I know I'll love it."
"Then just do it."
Andy caressed Miranda's left cheek and wrapped her free hand around her waist. Without hesitation, she pressed her lips to Miranda's. Heat. Dark pleasures and bright, searing light. Sweet and spicy. So many adjectives ran through Andy's mind, but none could describe fully how it felt to kiss Miranda. Andy knew Miranda had agreed to a kiss, and by that she probably had a more demure sort of kiss in mind, but there was no way Andy could refrain from parting her lips. To her complete shock, so did Miranda, eagerly and willingly. In fact, it was Miranda who pushed her tongue against Andy's, claiming the inside of her lips, exploring Andy's mouth with such passion; she thought she'd never be able to draw another breath again, ever.
Angling her head for better access, Andy whimpered into Miranda's mouth, twirled her tongue around Miranda's, over and over. Their lips fit so well together, and the taste of Miranda, faintly tinged by coffee and something else, something unique, only gave birth to more desire. Aroused beyond her wildest dreams, Andy knew she had to pull back or she'd do something that overstepped Miranda's boundaries. If that happened, it might lead to no more kisses ever again, and that would kill her, Andy feared. She pulled back, despite the sound of dismay from Miranda.
"Shh. It's all right." Hugging Miranda close, rocking her, she tried to calm the tremors they both suffered from.
"Andrea?" Miranda leaned back to look up at Andy. A small frown marred her perfect forehead and she had dug in equally perfect teeth into her lower lip. "I guess this is goodnight, then."
"This time, yes."
"What do you mean, this time?" Miranda looked suspiciously at Andy, the frown deepening.
"Next time," Andy said and combed her fingers through Miranda's tousled hair, "I will ask for more than a kiss."
Seven regarded the site of the next shoot with some trepidation. Having transported to a luxurious resort on the moon, one of the places she had not yet visited, she regarded the artificial lake, which was actually big enough to be called an ocean, and the skillfully planted palm trees.
"This place looks more like Florida used to, according to old vids and photos." Andrea came up next to Seven. "Before the decade of tsunamis about a century ago, the former US state of Florida was the ultimate vacation resort. It used to be only the coastline, but eventually the entire state was one big amusement park."
"It does not sound very appealing."
"I'm sure it had its moments. Still, this place isn't so bad. Not as alligator infested either." Andrea laughed. "Don't look so shocked. There were lots of alligators on Earth back then. There still are. They migrated to Texas when the climate there turned parts of it to a swampland."
"I do not think that sounds very enticing either. I have been in pristine environments in space too long to appreciate 'roughing it'," Seven said. "I do like the outdoors in the different park areas. Like our previous shoot. The forest was aesthetically pleasing."
"It sure was. This holds an almost eerie beauty too, don't you think?" Shading her eyes with her hand, Andrea looked out over the mirror-like water. "I mean, there's hardly any wind, the palms don't move much, and the sun's dangerous rays are kept away by technology. It's a little scary, but pretty."
"I see what you mean. I understand why Miranda chose this site. It will make for remarkable pictures."
"It sure will." Andrea seemed suddenly distracted.
"Are you all right, Andrea Sachs?" Seven placed a gentle hand on her shoulder.
"What? Oh, yes. Yes. I'm fine. Just thinking."
"Have something happened between you and Miranda that upset you?" Seven knew she and Andrea only had each other to talk to about these matters. "I want you to know you can confide in me if you wish to." This thing with friendship was as hard as loving someone, but Seven was willing to try friendship with Andrea.
"We kissed." Andrea blushed. "I mean. I asked for a goodnight kiss and she said it was all right."
"And was it?" Seven blinked at the thought of their similar experience. The coincidence was rather amazing.
"It was far more than all right." Andrea smiled to herself and then giggled when she looked at Seven. "Why do I feel you're bursting to tell me something?"
"Because you are correct." Seven had to reciprocate the infectious laughter. "Kathryn and I kissed also."
"Really?" Andrea practically skipped closer to Seven and, lowering her voice, whispered conspiratorially. "How was it? All right?"
"It was unlike anything I've ever felt." Seven sighed. "I am afraid I was somewhat lacking in my technique and even if there is a reason for that, it bothers me."
"Interesting. Miranda and I spoke a lot about what bothers us, but that turned out to be a good thing." Andrea hooked her arm around Seven's and pulled her along to walk among the palm trees. "So, you kissed. Was it all fire and stuff?"
"There was no self-combustion, although, there was a moment when I thought that possible." Seven shook her head at the memory. "And for you?"
"If I hadn't pulled myself together, it would've gone way too far. I just knew somehow that it would be a mistake to rush things. Then again, Miranda is off on some long promotion trip soon, more or less the entire Alpha Quadrant. If I'm going to get a chance for more than goodnight kisses, I can't wait too long."
"You're not going with her? You're her assistant."
"I know, but she hasn't mentioned anything, and I'm usually more informed about her schedule than anyone else. She's being very secretive about this one. Probably has some scoop going on that she's deathly afraid that any competitor will get their hands on."
"I see." Seven sighed and stopped walking. Turning to Andrea she saw the sorrow in her eyes. "I do understand. I will soon go back to a workplace where I do not feel welcome, and live where I do not have any friends, at least not yet. It does not appeal to me at all. I will also miss Kathryn, especially since we are reconnecting…" Seven could hardly believe it when she felt tears burn behind her eyelids. "I do not know how to proceed. Kathryn said she would 'pull some strings' to help improve my situation at Daystrom's, but it might not be enough. I apologize for sounding so depressing."
"Hey, Seven, that's all right. I mean, I know we're new friends, but I truly feel we are friends. I don't have anyone else I can talk to about Miranda. I wouldn't trust this information with anyone but you. I hope you feel you can rely on me." Andy looked imploringly at Seven. "You feel so comfortable. Like I've known you forever."
Nobody had ever said that to Seven. She knew nobody found her comfortable, not even her Voyager friends. Andrea Sachs was truly and extraordinary individual and Seven knew without understanding how, that this was her chance at a lifelong, nurturing friendship.
"I reciprocate the emotions you talk about. You too feel like a very close friend. This is unusual. At least, it is for me. I do not make friends easily. Usually people fear me, or despise me, for being a former Borg. I have participated in unspeakable atrocities." Seven thought it only fair to inform Andrea of this.
"I know. And for no fault of your own, Seven. People should realize this and regard you as a representative of all their lost loved ones…you are unique in many ways, but mostly because you are one of the very few that was saved from the Hive. They should celebrate that it was even possible, and also see that you bring hope that it can happen again. I look at you and see someone who's redeemed herself, regained what was stolen from her, and who has done with such dignity. If anyone says anything else, they're fools. And alas, the worlds in the Federation have their share of fools."
Seven smiled. Andrea's words had an astonishing healing power. She wished she could be as reassuring toward Andrea as well. "Has Miranda indicated that she would appreciate another goodnight kiss?"
"I got that impression, yes. I haven't decided whether to go full steam ahead with this and take what I can get, or if I should back off and save myself from bruising my heart any more than it is."
"I understand. I cannot offer advice since I am facing a similar dilemma. Do I go back to Daystrom's, to an interesting position, but where I cannot find personal happiness, or do I stay here, with no position, not knowing if Kathryn will want to pursue any type of relationship of a longer duration?"
"Gods, Seven, your language is like code sometimes. So you're basically choosing between a high profile job, and a high profile woman, whom you're not sure will want you for life?"
"That was what I said, yes." Seven raised her human eyebrow.
"I wasn't sure." Andrea wrinkled her nose and smiled. "We sure neck deep in this, aren't we?"
"If by that you mean that we are faced with emotional difficulties due to the respective individuals that hold our affection, yes, we are."
"S'what I said." Andy pulled Seven along and they began to stroll back to where the crew was setting up their equipment.
The Delta Flyer stood in the shuttle bay of a class Centaur class ship, the USS Gallant. Janeway stood a good distance from the open hatch, clutching her overnight bag with damp hands.
"I am here, Kathryn. Just remember, he is dead and cannot hurt you any longer," Seven whispered next to her.
"How did you know?" Janeway said, her voice trembling. "Well, silly question. I'm sorry. You were there. You have your own trauma." She tossed caution to the wind and took Seven's hand in hers.
"I was, but if you refer to the fact that I killed him, you are wrong. That was not the trauma."
"Then what was?" Wide-eyed Janeway snapped her head toward Seven.
"Witnessing what he did to you."
"Witnessing? But you were unconscious."
"My human self was. The Borg implants recorded every millisecond of his crime." Seven spoke curtly.
"Oh, Gods. Oh, dear Gods."
"Just walk on board, Kathryn. I will be there, and so will B'Elanna and Samantha Wildman. After this last shoot, we will be done. You can go home."
"Mind if I keep your hand for bit?" Janeway looked furtively around them. The shuttle bay was empty, which was good, since the last thing she'd want to put on display was her holding on to Seven like a terrified child.
"My hand belongs to you for as long as you need it. If you choose my Borg hand, it can even detach."
"Seven!" Janeway guffawed and felt shocked at the same time. These new attempts by Seven at humor were…unexpected and unusual. "That was pretty macabre."
Janeway held Seven's hand until they reached the hatch. She entered, still holding on hard to her bag, but feeling more in control. Miranda and Andy were already there together with the photographer, Wayans, the latter working with Andy to stow camera equipment.
"Everything going according to plan?" Janeway asked, regarding Andy's flushed face as she stood.
"Yes, pretty much, Admiral. I'm going to act as Wayans's assistant today, and Miranda will be in charge of fashion and makeup. This is a first, I think, but these slightly cramped quarters demand a skeletal crew. Ah, here are B'Elanna and Samantha. Welcome, ladies."
"An all-girl outing. This'll be great." B'Elanna sounded chipper, almost too giddy, and her careful glance in Janeway's direction made it clear that she was nervous too about being back on the Delta Flyer. "I brought some Klingon blood wine if we get bored."
"Blood wine." Miranda looked up from her data PADD. "Haven't had that in years."
"You like it?" B'Elanna sounded surprised. Janeway didn't blame her. Blood wine was an acquired taste and nothing for the faint of heart. Then again, the latter was a good definition of Miranda Priestly.
"I do." Miranda nodded and turned her attention back to her PADD.
"I'll pass," Andrea injected, wrinkling her nose. "Sorry, B'Elanna. Not my thing."
"I brought some of that cocktail you like." Miranda didn't look up from her document, but spoke gently, which in turn made Andy turn a pretty shade of pink.
Janeway gave her bag to Seven and then moved to the controls. She would pilot the Delta Flyer with Seven at Ops and B'Elanna at engineering. Samantha would be responsible for the comfort of the civilians.
"Naomi really wanted to go. I told her that when she gets her permit, I'll apply for flight hours on the Delta Flyer and have a flight instructor give her lessons."
"She finagled that out of you?" B'Elanna asked and laughed. "Trust our Naomi to wrap her mother around her little finger. Then again, she would probably be able to wrap anyone of us. How are your girls, Miranda? As good as Naomi at wrapping?"
"Caroline and Cassidy were born with me already wrapped and ready. My children are my biggest weakness, to date." Miranda looked at Andy when she spoke.
"I can testify to that," Andy said. "The twins are amazing. And especially amazing at wrapping. Surely, B'Elanna, little Miral must be the one who wraps you around her tiny pinky finger?"
"Oh, yes, but if you think she wraps me, then you should see her work on her dad. It's quite humorous to see Tom, formerly one of the most eligible bachelors on Voyager, totally at her beck and call."
The conversation revolving around children led to funny anecdotes, and this in turn relaxed Janeway enough to go through the launch sequence and routines together with Seven without a hitch. It was the first time she had piloted a star ship of any size in outer space since they got back from the Delta Quadrant. Suddenly feeling exuberant and liberated, Janeway disengaged the computer and flew the old fashioned way, on instinct and vision only. She smiled quickly toward Seven and saw how she reciprocated it with a dazzling, full smile of her own.
"Hold on, ladies," Janeway said, feeling much better. "We're taking off toward the site of our last shoot." They were heading for an L-Class planet, recently named Parduat. It was going through the last phases of terraforming with two years left of the process. This enabled them to visit the border of the glacier areas without turning into actual ice statues." Making it possible for Miranda to get the shots of them in an alien wintery setting, with a starry sky unhindered by clouds above them, Janeway thought. The images from the L-class planet Miranda had sent Janeway had shown such ethereal, staggering beauty, it was clear why Miranda had chosen this world for the winter wear shoot. Nowhere on Earth, or any of the closest planets in the federation, was there sceneries like on Parduat.
"Thank you, Seven." Janeway smiled faintly and glanced over her shoulder at Seven. "For being here."
"No need to thank me, Kathryn. I would not be any other place than with you."
Miranda looked up from her PADD and saw that Andrea sat strapped in to the seat, head tipped back and eyes closed. Her hands were tightly wrapped around the armrests. Scrutinizing the young woman's features, Miranda saw small beads of sweat bead on her forehead.
"I-I'm fine, Miranda. I'm just not so fond of space traveling. I'll be all right once I get my space-legs going." Despite Andrea's brave words, her complexion was whiter than usual, and Miranda thought she could hear her teeth clatter.
"The Delta Flyer is equipped with Borg technology and state of the art weaponry. You needn't worry. You're safer here than you are in normal traffic with Roy behind the wheel."
"Intellectually I know this, Miranda. I do. I just have memories from when I was little and my parents took my brother and I on a trip to Mars. We ran into a plasma storm and the shuttle almost didn't make it."
"Hold my hand."
"What? Your hand? Really?"
"Andrea." Miranda sighed. "I know you're afraid, but surely your hearing hasn't become impaired all of a sudden?"
"No. No." Andrea took Miranda's proffered hand. "Thanks. Whoops. Here we go."
"Whoops?" Miranda smirked. "What a…quaint expression"
"Ancient word that my family tend to use. Sorry."
Miranda held on firmly to Andrea's hand. "I have a question for you."
"Oh?" Andrea looked puzzled. "Yes?"
"Your two year tenure is up for review shortly. You have earned a promotion and you can have your pick from anyone of our departments, on several planets."
"You mean, leave? Leave this? Not be your assistant?" Andrea squeezed Miranda's hand so she thought she could feel the bones grating against each other. "I don't want that. Please."
"Shh. That's why I'm asking. I need to know what you want. If you stay on as my assistant, you will still be promoted, and you will train a new assistant to take over your former tasks."
"Then that's what I want." Andrea looked imploringly at her.
"Wait." Miranda held up her free hand. "If you stay on, it means constant space travelling for months on end. We would go across the entire Alpha Quadrant."
"What about the twins?"
"They're going with me, together with their nanny. We'll be travelling with a ship that allows families." Miranda softly slid her fingertips across the back of Andrea's hand. "Just think about it and let me know when you've decided."
"It's not much to consider." Andrea spoke in a low, but decisive tone. "I cannot imagine being away from you for that long, not knowing what's happening to you, or to the girls. Not after what happened last night. I'm going."
"You are certain?"
"Your parents might have a different idea."
"Than my parents will have to realize that I'm an adult and that I need to live my life as I see fit. I know they've had issues with my job, but that doesn't matter. I'm going."
"Very well." Miranda nodded briskly, apprehensive regarding Andrea's resolve, even if she didn't' doubt her assistant's best intentions. Just the fact that Andrea expressed being willing to come, as encouraging as that was, didn't mean this would actually happen.
"Amazing that we can be outside, in this environment, dressed like this, and still be comfortably warm." Seven gazed down at herself and over at Kathryn. They were both dressed in thin white leggings, made from some thermo-fabric that kept them warm even in -12 C. Ice-blue long shirts accentuated their respective figures.
"And you look so beautiful, Seven." Kathryn smiled.
"That's it. Hold that thought." Weoyah shouted from behind the camera. "Lean toward each other. Maintain eye contact."
"Gods, I feel silly." Kathryn managed to speak without visibly moving her lips. "Is it just me, or is she getting testier by the hour?"
"Perhaps she is cold. Should we suggest she should wear these fashionable leggings?"
Kathryn snorted, which rendered her a frown and huff from Weoyah. "Keep your pose. This also means your facial expression."
"As I said. Testier." Kathryn smiled sweetly at Seven. "I'll just focus on you."
Seven knew Kathryn was playacting, but it was enough to be the focus of the admiral's attention for her midsection to clench.
An hour later, Weoyah finally deemed she had the shots she needed. Andrea had worked stoically as her assistant and Miranda had been unsurprisingly efficient with makeup and wardrobe, clearly set on getting the best pictures possible.
"We're done? Fantastic!" B'Elanna looked relieved. "I can't wait to head back. I know Tom's going nuts back home waiting for me to call."
They all assisted Weoyah and Andrea with packing up. They were starting to feel the cold, and Seven had seen how Kathryn and Miranda, the thinnest of them, had begun to shiver. Eventually they were both unable to hide it.
"Miranda. We need to get back to the hotel. You're risking hypothermia."
"I'm quite all r-right." Miranda pressed her bluish lips together.
"You're not. Neither is the admiral. We're all done packing the clothes and the gear. We can come back for anything else left behind tomorrow if necessary. We should go. Now." Andrea spoke with such conviction, Seven was quite impressed. She had yet to come upon someone else among Miranda's staff who dared to talk like that around her.
"Kathryn. Andrea Sachs is right. You're in danger of hypothermia as well."
"Yes, I know. I need to go back. I used to be more resilient." Kathryn gave a wry smile.
They made their way over to the tracker-wagons, armed vehicles outfitted with spiked larva wheels, and a propulsion system that conveniently ran on H2O. Seven glanced at Kathryn and saw that she was not in any shape to drive. She exchanged a concerned look with B'Elanna.
"Find a way to increase the heat in this vehicle and I will drive us back."
"Better make that fast, Seven," Andrea said from the back.
Glancing over her shoulder, Seven saw Miranda curled up on her seat, her teeth clattering.
"I will 'step on it'." Seven let her ocular implant scan the controls and within three point four two seconds they were on their way. The temperature gage explained why they had begun to freeze so badly all of a sudden. It was just because they had been out there too long. "B'Elanna Torres, the temperature is -29 C and falling."
"Kahless, we're in a super-cell. It's going to keep falling, rapidly. Go faster, Seven. If we're not in thermo-safe construction within minutes, we're not going to make it."
Seven wanted to look over at Kathryn, who was eerily quiet, but there was no time. She punched in new commands and the tracker-wagon nearly rose so tall it stalled, but then it found traction again and practically flew across the snowy terrain. It was all downhill, which would make the drive harder. Seven wrestled with the controls, having to use the pedals manually to keep them on the road. She never cursed, but she wanted to do so now.
The tracker-wagon lurched and Seven stomped on the pedals while she furiously pushed at the controls.
"We're going to crash!" Weoyah yelled from behind. "We won't make it."
"Don't say that." Andrea spoke calmly even if her voice trembled. "Seven will get us there."
"Temperature at -55 C and falling. We'll reach the hotel in half a minute if you don't crash, Seven." B'Elanna stood behind Seven, holding on to the driver's seat. "Just get us there and we'll be able to use the docking facility to get inside."
Suddenly a large ice formation rose before them. It had not been there when they had left for the shoot. The cold might have caused it to dislodge. There was no time to put on the brakes.
"Brace for impact!" Seven called out. In the corner of her eyes, she saw B'Elanna throw herself over a semi-conscious Kathryn, holding on to her and the seat.
The tracker-wagon launched over the ice formation, flew through the air where it tilted precariously. Seven moved both feet to the right pedal, trying to right it. They slammed into the ground on the other side and skidded sideways down the last part of the slope leading to the valley.
Just before the first structure appeared on their right, Seven managed to regain control of the vehicle. She punched in commands and steered them into the hotel courtyard. A lock extended from the building and she docked the tracker-wagon to it. Only when she removed her hands did she notice how badly they trembled.
"Let us get inside. Quickly. Can Miranda walk? I will carry Kathryn." Seven could hear the metal alloy make alarming squeaky noises as the cold tore at the hull. She lifted the barely conscious Kathryn into her arms, cradling her as they moved to the hatch. Half running, Weoyah and Andy managed to drag Miranda through the short tunnel. Behind her Seven hurried with Kathryn pressed tightly to her chest. She glanced behind her and saw B'Elanna carry the camera equipment.
"No need to let all the work go to waste," she gasped.
They reached the hatch leading into the hotel, it opened and hands reached in for them, hauling them through.
"Oh, mon Dieu, mesdames," the desk manager said, when he closed the hatch behind them. "You were the last of our guests still out there. We thought we'd lost you. This super-cell came out of now where. Je suis désolé, mesdames."
"We need thermo-blankets." Seven still cradled Kathryn as she strode to her room. "Have them sent to my room. Same for Andrea Sachs' room."
"Oui, madame. Tout de suite." The manager pulled out his communicator and issued the order in pattering French.
Janeway shifted and opened her eyes. At first her eyes were blurry and only after she blinked repeatedly did she finally make out the ceiling of a room. She figured she was back at the hotel, but the bed was in the wrong place. Shouldn't her viewport be on the other side? She moved again and found something was hindering her movement. Frowning, she glanced to her right. Seven of Nine was there, lying next to her, eyes closed and looking like she was actually asleep.
"Seven?" Janeway heard her voice was huskier than before. "What are you, I mean I, doing here?" She moved a third time and realized that she was indeed naked underneath the thick cover. A thermo-blanket?
"I had to get you warm very quickly, Kathryn. A thermo-blanket and shared bodily warmth is the preferred method."
"We were freezing…" Scattered memories of how she'd been colder than ever before in her life, began to surface. "You drove the tracker-wagon. I don't remember much more."
Seven pulled Janeway closer, aligning their naked bodies. "I thought I might lose you. I could not bear it. I drove quite recklessly, but I had no choice. We made it back in time for you and Miranda to not go into hypothermic shock."
"What about B'Elanna? Klingons don't tolerate cold very well."
"Turns out she had taken that into consideration. She wore special thermo-wear under her clothes."
"Thank God. Little Miral needs her mother and Tom would have killed us if anything happened to her."
"They have spoken, he knows all is well. The super-cell will be in effect until tomorrow evening. After that, we can go back to Earth."
"All right." Kathryn was warm and felt fine, if a bit tired, but Seven's close proximity was becoming a problem. "I don't know about you, but I'm not entirely unaffected by this…by us sharing a bed like this."
"You want me to move?" Seven frowned.
"No. No! I meant, do you feel what I feel?"
"As I am not a telepath, I have no idea."
"I want to kiss you again."
"Then, yes. I do feel the same way, Kathryn." Seven didn't waste any time. She pressed her lips to Janeway's and curled tongue around hers. Janeway groaned and returned the kiss feverishly. She cupped Seven's cheeks to hold her in place, set on finding out everything about the other woman's mouth.
"You feel so good." Janeway groaned against Seven's lips. "You taste even better. I want to taste you all over. Kiss you everywhere. I've wanted to do that for years and it was never my place to do so. To even think that. I just can't come up with any reasons to stop now. Unless…" She lifted her head, looking down at Seven with damp eyes. "Unless this is not what you want?"
"Kathryn Janeway. This is what I want." Seven pulled her tight and pressed her mouth against Janeway's neck. "This is exactly what I want. I do not want to ever be away from you. Ever."
"Then stay with me. Forever." Her heart soaring, Janeway rolled them, ending up on top of Seven. She used her mouth, rather than her hands, to explore the voluptuous body beneath hers. She licked along the Borg implants that still existed, and caressed each scar that the removed ones left behind. She wanted to do so much more, but she also knew that this was new to both of them. Neither of them had ever made love to a woman before, and they were new to knowing how the other one felt. "I've known I loved you for so long. I can't believe you're in my arms. That I can just reach out for you and kiss you."
"I feel the same way." It was Seven's turn to roll them over. "I have loved you for very long, but never thought I would ever get this chance. I am sorry I hurt you by choosing another."
"You followed your heart."
"No. I followed my fear of being alone. I chose the second best. Now I know better and I have better." Seven took Janeway's left nipple in her mouth. "You are the most beautiful woman. Erotic. Arousing. I cannot keep from touching you."
"I don't want you to stop, please, Seven. I don't want you to stop. I…I'm so close." Janeway arched, rubbing her center against Seven. "I want you to…touch. I think I must have your fingers…there." She reached down and pushed Seven's fingers in between her legs. "Yes!"
Seven rubbed her in a circular movement, watching her intently with keen eyes. "Does this feel good?"
"Yes. Oh, yes." Janeway moaned, holding on to Seven when the fire rose inside. She felt herself become even wetter, and then the orgasm hit, erupting between her legs, spreading down her thighs and up her abdomen. "Seven! Ah!" Closing her legs, she locked Seven's hand in place, riding the aftershocks in wave after wave.
Eventually, Janeway regained her breath. "Oh, Gods."
"Calling on deities is a good sign. I learned that from my research," Seven said helpfully.
"I take your word for it." Kathryn looked up at Seven. "Now, darling, what about you?"
"I am still aroused."
"Good." Janeway rolled her over. "I love you, Seven. Now it's my turn to play."
Seven gasped as Janeway continued her feasting from earlier. Her plump nipples grew taut in Janeway's mouth and when she pushed her hand in between Seven's legs, careful not to penetrate, merely rubbing gently; it was all it took for her young lover to climax. Seven whimpered, keening loudly as she arched, bucked, nearly throwing Janeway off.
"Kathryn! I never…never…" Large, fat tears ran down Seven's cheeks. "I did not think I could…Oh…again. Again. Again." She wrapped her legs around Janeway, rocking against her. "Oh. Kathryn. I love you too. I love you too."
Eventually everything stilled and they curled up together under the thermo-blanket. Janeway had kissed away Seven's tears and Seven had made sure Janeway had no injuries from having been close to hypothermia.
"So. No more of this being apart business. Never further away from each other than transporter distance. All right?" Janeway held her breath for the second it took for Seven to answer.
"Yes. Very all right." Seven snuggled close. "Kathryn."
"Just that. Kathryn."
Janeway smiled and nuzzled Seven's temple. "Seven."
Miranda felt something touch her forehead and fought to open her eyes. Something cool and damp moved back and forth in an oddly pleasing manner. "What are you doing?" Miranda asked the person doing the wiping.
"Taking off your makeup. You say it is vital to maintain a good complexion. The makeup remover wand is still in the tracker-wagon so I'm using an old-fashioned washcloth."
The thoughtful ness was unsurprising, and so very much like Andrea. Blinking, Miranda managed to look up. "You're all right, Andrea?"
"I'm fine. I have more padding than you, remember. Smart and fat."
"You're not fat."
"That's not what you said way back when. You were pretty mad at me for not being able to scare up a shuttle for you during a plasma storm."
"Ah. Yes. That was not nice of me. I apologize."
The movement of the washcloth stopped. "Wha—really? You apologize?"
"Ha-ha. I have been known to apologize."
"To royalty and the chairman of the Federation, perhaps. To a lowly assistant. Not so much."
"Sorry, sorry. Just teasing. I'm just so giddy that you're not injured by that damn super-cell thing. I thought for a moment—" Andrea stopped talking and Miranda looked up at her. Pale and trembling, Andrea clenched her hand around the washcloth, her gaze lost at something outside.
"Andrea? Darling, I'm fine. You're fine. So are the rest of them. Please. Look at me."
"All I could think of was how I'd never told you…my secret."
"Then tell me now."
"I'm afraid you'll hate me. Or laugh. Or hate me and laugh." Andrea smiled wryly.
"I promise you I will do neither." Sitting up, carefully tucking the thermo-blanket around her naked form, Miranda held out her free hand. "Come and hug me, and then tell me, for heaven's sake."
Andrea scooted closer and hugged Miranda hard. "It would just kill me if I wasn't able to hold you ever again. I couldn't stand it."
"You can hold me."
"I can? I can. Yes." Andrea drew a deep breath and then sat back a little. "I'm Sarah Candes."
Miranda just stared. What was she talking about? "Who? Sarah Candes? Who is…?" Then the memory floated to the surface. "Oh."
"I've been taking classes." Andrea looked imploringly at her. "I really have grown to love fashion and I wanted to learn more of your world, of what you love, and then someone said I had an eye for design, and I bought an old sewing machine, because replicating really isn't the same, and I knew you don't like replicated clothes very much, and—"
"And breathe." Miranda looked in amazement at Andrea. She couldn't think of anyone else who would go to such extreme just because they cared about her. Then there was the fact that the garments by Sarah Candes that Miranda had seen had been excellent. It was rather mind-blowing when she thought about it. A terrified hiccup kind of sound from Andrea reminded Miranda she needed to tell her this. "You are nothing short of amazing. I think it's wonderful that you're Sarah Candes. I know your work ethic, I know your level of dedication, and if you have more pieces like the ones I saw, then I think Sarah Candes will be featured in Runway soon.
"F-for real? Really? Miranda? Really? You're not mad? You—really?"
Andrea threw herself at Miranda and kissed her. Miranda quickly caught the girl and held her close, returning the kiss with all the love that was in her heart. "Darling, darling. Easy."
"Am I hurting you?" Andrea whispered against Miranda's mouth.
"No, but we have all night. All night to talk and plan. And kiss. And more, if you like."
"I do. I want all of that. You. The girls. Kisses. And more."
Miranda chuckled. Andrea was the one. She knew it the way she knew how much she love her children. There was still one thing about her that Andrea didn't know, couldn't know, not yet. That would come later, perhaps. For now it was enough, that Andrea was kissing her neck, her lips, and whispering the most endearing declarations of love Miranda had ever heard. She ought to have thought them ridiculous, but she didn't. She should've thought Andrea was babbling, but she didn't do that either.
"I love you, Miranda," Andrea finished off with.
"And I love you."
"Oh." Snuggling up, Andrea wrapped arms and legs around the naked Miranda, something that neither of them seemed to mind. "I could hold you like this forever."
"I would like that." Miranda sighed and felt the fatigue hit again. She knew there would be time to explore each other once the repercussions of the super-cell had worn off. Truthfully, Miranda thought, she couldn't wait.
Andy sat by her desk, watching through the door how Miranda paced while on her communicator. She spoke in her usual low tone, but she could tell that the woman she loved was furious.
"I do not understand why it would be so difficult to make a new arrangement. It's not like we're going on a ten passenger shuttle, for heaven's sake. I'm not asking for the moon here, after all."
Andy tapped in information on her data PADD, but her mind wasn't on her work. She hated when Miranda got that strained tone in her voice. They had been back from the near-disastrous photo shoot on Parduat, and Miranda had worked non-stop to prepare for her Alpha Quadrant tour. Her entourage consisted of models, photographers, and fashion editors. Andy knew she was going as well, but she had no idea what had Miranda's ire up right now. It had to be important.
"And my next matter?" Miranda hissed into her communicator. "Yes. Oh, very well. At least someone came into work today. Tell Admiral Paris I appreciate his efforts."
Admiral Paris? Andy leaned over the desk to catch a glimpse of Miranda and nearly knocked her computer screen off the desk in the process. The noise made Miranda poke her head out, roll her eyes emphatically. Smirking she shook her head and returned to her office. "Thank you. Yes. I look forward to a more favorable response on the first matter. Yes."
Andy wanted to hurry into Miranda's office and ask what was up, but she knew that wouldn't go down very well. Instead she virtually held on to her chair to remain at her desk.
"Andrea? Come in here before you develop and aneurysm. I know you're curious."
Andrea nearly skidded around her desk before she caught herself and walked with a resemblance of grace into Miranda's office. The glass and metal wonder that was the editor-in-chief's domain was awe-inspiring no matter how many times Andy had been inside. Hovering above New York and Manhattan, on the 120th floor, it was a marvel of engineering and the view breathtaking.
"Don't 'yes, Miranda' me. We're alone in the office. Come over and kiss me."
Andy barely stopped herself from saying 'yes, Miranda' again, but instead sauntered around the desk and cupped Miranda's chin. Tipping Miranda's head back, Andy gently kissed the lips that could cut you down to size in a faint whisper, but also build you up just as effortlessly.
"That's not a very convincing kiss. I think we should take it over to the couch." Miranda stood and moved over to the plush couch by the huge panoramic windows. "Are you coming?" she asked impatiently.
Andy crossed the room in three strides and sat down next to Miranda who immediately pulled her in close, half turning Andy so she lay cradled in Miranda's arms. "Now this is more like it." Bending her neck, Miranda kissed Andy and it was like that first time. Soft at first, nearly tentative, only to escalate and deepen until Andy whimpered helplessly. Miranda's lips left Andy's, travelled along her jawline toward her ear. "It's been too long, hasn't it? You've been very good. Very patient."
"Not so patient," Andy confessed. "I've been pretty frustrated. I knew…oh…mm…I knew you were so busy arranging the tour. I didn't want to add to the stress." Andy shivered when Miranda's insistent lips nibbled a path down her neck. "I want to be a good thing for you."
"You are, Andrea. You are."
"As opposed to something, or someone, that mostly gives you more grief." It was important to Andy that Miranda understood this. "I really mean it." It was hard to talk about serious things when Miranda was unbuttoning her top.
"And I know you do. And you are. Good for me." Miranda sounded serious, if a bit breathless. Her hands felt hot against Andy's stomach. "Your skin is flawless."
"Uhm. Thank you." Andy couldn't focus on anything else but the way Miranda's hands slid up under her top. They had not had any opportunity to do anything more than exchange some quick, albeit very hot, kisses since they got back from Parduat. Miranda had been busy with the latest edition of Runway and going over the Women of Voyager shoot, and coordinating where to rendezvous with her twins while on tour. Andy had been stuck with all the minute details of the tour, as well as all of Miranda's notes. Every now and then, their eyes have met, and for Andy it was as if the surroundings faded away, whether they were in a conference room with the rest of the staff or alone in the office. If they were alone, Miranda would reach for Andy, kiss her, sometimes just hug her briefly, while whispering, "Soon, darling. Not much longer now." Those were the moments Andy lived for, until now. Whatever Miranda had accomplished over the comm link, it had given Miranda what she needed to slow down and get back on course with Andy.
"I've missed this." Andy sighed happily and returned the kisses. Suddenly certain that Miranda would welcome more initiative on her part, Andy buried her face against Miranda's neck, biting gently on the velvety skin.
"Andrea!" Miranda jerked and her grip around Andy shifted. "What you do to me…" She pushed her back on the couch and hovered above her for a moment. "I've waited—trying to be patient, and you know how well I do with patience, and now…you bite me." Miranda gasped, and—oh Gods—started unbuttoning her own shirt. "Computer. Look doors, voice print Miranda Priestly Beta-183. Andrea. I need your hands on me. Now."
Andy pushed herself up, eager to finally touch, really touch, Miranda. She had fantasized making love with this fantastic woman so many times. Reverently, Andy pressed her hands against Miranda's waist, and the feel of her skin was beyond what she had ever imagined.
Clearly impatient, Miranda tore off the sheer top and the undergarment. Andy found herself staring at the most perfect breasts with pink nipples that begged for her touch.
"Don't just look at me. I know I'm not young anymore—"
"Shh." Not so reverent, Andy looked sternly at Miranda. "You're the most beautiful woman I've ever met and I don't want to hear another word about that."
Miranda blinked, and for a moment Andy thought she saw unshed tears glimmer, but then they were gone, if they ever were there in the first place. "Then by all means. Look all you want, but please…touch me?"
Andy didn't know which threw her most, the fact that Miranda had been so moved by her words, or that she'd actually said 'please'. Not wanting Miranda to suffer, Andy cupped the luscious breasts from beneath and carefully closed her lips around a nipple. Miranda growled softly, pushing her fingers into Andy's hair, holding her closer.
Miranda could not believe how hot Andrea's mouth was against her breast. Her agile tongue wrapped around it, causing Miranda to murmur under her breath, pulling the young woman closer. "Andrea. I need you to undress."
Regretfully this meant that Andrea had to let go of her breast in order to rid herself of the top, which fortunately went quickly. Andrea wore nothing underneath. Miranda looked at the breasts that she'd glimpsed once before, but now her eyes feasted on them. She lowered Andrea onto her back. The funny girl, she thought Miranda was the most beautiful woman. Clearly Andrea hadn't paid attention to her own reflection. Now her long hair fell over the cushions and the armrest, and her chocolate eyes sparkled with desire. Miranda knew she'd never grow tired of this sight, and even if the risk of Andrea finding love elsewhere with time, Miranda was convinced that she had to take what bliss she could together with this woman.
Unbuttoning her own slacks, Miranda pushed them down, kicking them off. She kept her eyes locked on Andrea's as she took her hand, kissed every fingertip slowly, and pushed them inside the hem of her panties.
Andrea's eyes grew huge, but then her fingers came to life between Miranda's legs, sliding between the wet folds. Miranda needed this fast and hard. "Andrea, please. Oh, please…" She knew she was whimpering and shamelessly grinding against Andrea's hand, but the look on Andrea's face reassured her. This was all right. Andrea would make sure it was all right.
Andy felt like she was in one of her heated nightly dreams, but this was reality. She was on the couch, underneath a very amorous Miranda Priestly, her hand in between Miranda's legs. And Miranda sure was wet.
"Inside?" Andy looked carefully up at Miranda.
"Yes!" Miranda busied herself with Andrea's skirt, managing to push it up around her waist. As Andy pushed two fingers inside her lover—her lover—Miranda pulled at Andy's sheer panties and when they were tossed on the floor, she shifted so Andy could spread her legs more. "There. Oh my. You're so wet, Andrea." Miranda pushed her fingers through Andy's folds, rubbing insistently.
"You too," Andrea gasped.
"I know. Your fault." Miranda leaned down and took Andy's right nipple between her teeth, making Andy yelp. The bite was not hard enough to hurt, but it stung and soon Miranda's tongue came to sooth the aching nipple. This made Andy even wetter, something that clearly pleased Miranda who now circled Andy's entrance.
"Yes. Go inside. I want to be yours." Andy raised her hips as Miranda filled her, groaning out loud with every movement.
Eventually they established a slightly erratic rhythm, rubbing fiercely against each other, taking turns finding each other's nipples and lips. Surrounded by Miranda's scent, her touch, and words of passion and endearment, Andy had never experienced such bliss. As this was her first experience making love to a woman, Andy had feared being clumsy, and not able to satisfy Miranda, but clearly she was doing something right in the way she thrust her fingers into her lover, and how she made sure she pressed down on her clitoris with the palm of hand. Miranda panted, writhed, and downright rode Andy's fingers, matching the speed with her own hand between Andy's legs.
Andy came first. She cried out, arched as Miranda sucked on one of her nipples and tugged at the other. Miranda let go of the first breast, looking down at Andy's face with greedy eyes.
"Miranda, Miranda…" Andy gasped, trying to say how good it felt, how the orgasm burned through every single vein in her body. She couldn't get the words out, but Miranda seemed to understand. She cupped Andy's cheek and kissed her gently.
"Beautiful," Miranda murmured.
"Tell me how to please you. Tell me what else to do." Andy wrapped her free arm around Miranda neck.
Carefully, Andy added one more finger and pushed inside Miranda. Unlike before, she moved slowly, deliberately, and curling her fingers slightly every time she pull them back. The more Miranda gasped and moaned, the slower Andy moved her hand, until Miranda went rigid and then went into convulsions as she came. "Oh. Oh! Gods!" Miranda collapsed on top of Andy, both of them still connected via their hands. "You will no doubt be the death of me," Miranda sighed when she'd gotten her voice back.
Andy shifted so they could extract their fingers from each other. Wincing, she immediately missed the feeling of Miranda.
"Are you all right?" Miranda looked concerned for a moment.
"I couldn't be better."
"You were curious about my conversation over the comm link before." Miranda pressed her lips against Andy's damp temple. "I merely wanted to make sure we have a large family unit waiting for us when we go on the tour."
"Family unit?" A tiny hot flame erupted in Andy's chest.
"I needed our quarters to be big enough for you, me, and the girls. I also wanted them to see that the nanny is well cared for."
"You're repeating yourself, darling. Yes. Of course we're going to be a family. Naturally."
Andy pressed her face against Miranda's neck with a muted sob. "All right. Sounds good."
"Am I right when I think you bonded quite a bit with Seven of Nine during the Voyager shoot?"
"Uh? Yes. Yes, we hit it off. We've stayed in touch."
"Good. I also made sure Admiral Paris realized that we couldn't go on this extended tour, gallivanting around the Alpha Quadrant, without being under the care of the best commanding officer in Star Fleet. And where Janeway goes, there goes Seven of Nine, as I understand."
"Yes, she—what? You exchanged the captain? But Janeway's an admiral!" Andy felt her eyes go huge.
"Even better. She has been behind a desk for a year. No place for a Star Fleet officer."
"And as Seven is going with her, that's all she needs," Andy said thoughtfully. "You're quite something, Priestly. You know that, right?"
"And I love you." Andy hugged the disheveled woman. "Now there's only one problem left to solve."
"Oh?" Miranda looked quite cute when alarmed.
"We need to figure out how to restore the couch. I think we wrecked it."
Miranda snorted. "Oh, Andrea, I know you'll do a fabulous job. There's nothing you can't do, is there?" She looked up at Andy through her eyelashes.
"Oh, no. I may be your assistant, but the family unit part of this conversation means we clean up our messes, together."
Strangely enough, this valiant speech from Andy made Miranda's eyes go impossibly soft. "Yes," she said and pushed Andy's bangs out of her eyes. "Together."