I Forgot to Tell You: Duet

by Susan P.
  Fandom: Star Trek: Voyager      Pairing: Janeway/Seven  
  Rating, etc.: 13+  
  Spoilers: Heavy spoilers for the 7th season Voyager episode, "Imperfection."  
  Summary: Seven came face to face with her own mortality in "Imperfection" (7th season). What effects might this experience have on her, on Janeway, and on their relationship? "Solo" and part two, "Duet" are two halves of the same story.   
  Author's Notes: This part quotes the last two lines of the Emily Dickinson poem, "My life closed twice before its close." I don't know of any canonical evidence that Dickinson is one of Janeway's favorite poets, but if she isn't, she should be. <g>  
  Disclaimers: The characters belong to Paramount, but this story is mine. This is a not-for-profit effort, done for my own enjoyment.  
  Permission to Archive: Passion and Perfection. ShatterStorm Productions Anyone else, please ask first.  


It was late. She had tried, but sleep would not come. So she had settled in with a book and a cup of cocoa. When her door chime sounded, she was still awake. At this late hour, she knew who it must be, so she merely called out, "Come in."

Seven of Nine stepped through the door. "Captain..." She stopped short when she saw what the other woman was wearing. Although she had often come to the Captain's quarters at this hour, she had never seen the Captain more than slightly out of uniform. Tonight, she was wearing her sleeping attire: a smoky gray satin gown and a matching robe. She was sitting on the couch, with her legs curled under her. Although the robe was draped over her legs, it was obvious that the garments left her calves bare. She realized she was staring and forced herself to look in the Captain's eyes--eyes that seemed to match the shade of her clothing. "Am I disturbing you?"

Janeway shook her head slightly. "Not at all." She held up the book in her hands before marking her place and setting it aside. "Just curling up with an old friend."

Seven nodded, but another possibility occurred to her. "Trouble sleeping?"

The Captain's lips quirked slightly. She knew she'd been caught. "A little. Too many stray thoughts going through my head." She waited a beat. "Trouble regenerating?"

She had not attempted regeneration, but she understood the intent of the question and answered in kind. "Too many...stray thoughts."

Janeway nodded in understanding. "Care to sit down?" She was surprised when Seven offered no protest, but simply sat near her on the couch. Seven surprised her again when she relaxed into the back cushions. Rather than comment on this, she unfolded her legs and got up to go to the replicator, carrying her empty cup. "Can I get you something?"

"I..." She had been staring after Janeway--watching her move as she walked across the room. She enjoyed the sway of her hips, the way her calf muscles tensed and released, and the way the satin robe shimmered as she moved. Her feet were bare. Janeway's question had startled her, and she had been on the verge of refusing when she decided she might benefit from a new experience. But she had no idea what to request, so she just said, "Not coffee."

Janeway smiled broadly. "No. I'm having cocoa myself. I think you might like it."

Seven nodded, glad to be relieved of making a choice. The Captain recycled her cup and ordered two fresh cups of cocoa from the replicator. As she walked back, Seven again took the opportunity to admire the way she moved, and the way she looked in these most casual of clothes. The robe was unfastened and the gown low-cut, leaving the Captain's neck and upper chest on display, as well as a tempting view of the valley between her breasts. When the Captain leaned down to hand her the cocoa, she found herself staring into the other woman's cleavage, and she found herself barely able to grasp the proffered cup.

"Careful. It's hot."

"Yes." It is. She managed to regain her composure as she watched the Captain settle back onto the couch and turn toward her. She watched as the Captain took a sip from her cup and, knowing Janeway was watching her, took a tentative sip from her own.

Janeway watched as the young woman took her first careful sip. She seemed to grimace at first, but only for a moment. Then her eyes widened and her mouth formed a slight smile as she swallowed. She took another small sip before declaring, "Intriguing."

Janeway couldn't stop the smile that spread across her face. She knew that qualified as a ringing endorsement coming from Seven. But then the young woman shocked her again.

"I...like it."

"I'm glad." Janeway settled deeper into the cushions and studied her young friend. She seemed different--both ill-at-ease and yet appearing more relaxed than she did normally, even during these late-night chats. The change was, as Seven would put it, intriguing. As much as she was enjoying the quiet companionship, it seemed obvious that Seven needed to talk. Since Seven seemed unwilling to bring it up, she decided to take the initiative. "Seven, was there some particular reason you stopped by?"

The Captain's question shook her out of her thoughts. "Yes." She was unsure where to begin, and took a moment before continuing. "I would like to request my own quarters."

It was a request she had expected Seven to make at some point, but it surprised her anyway. "All right. We can arrange that. Would you prefer to have your own cabin on one of the crew decks, or would you rather we create a space for you within Cargo Bay Two?"

Seven looked confused. "I...had not considered the latter option."

"Well, I know that Cargo Bay Two has been the closest thing you've had to a personal space aboard Voyager, and that you will still need to regenerate in your alcove. If you think you would be more comfortable staying there, but with a more private space to call your own, we should be able to accommodate you, though it might be kind of small. And, if you would rather occupy one of the crew quarters, we can try to find one as close to the Cargo Bay as possible, if that's important to you. Whatever you decide, I'll discuss it with Commander Chakotay and we'll try to take care of it as soon as possible."

It struck her that the Captain had thought more about this than she had. "May I take some time to consider the options? I will inform you of my decision later."

She reached out to touch the young woman's shoulder a moment. "Of course, Seven. We'll do this on your time."

She glanced at the Captain's hand on her shoulder.  The physical contact was both comforting and...distracting. She turned back to find the other woman's eyes. "Thank you, Captain."

Janeway smiled and nodded. "May I ask you something?" At Seven's nod, she continued, "I had expected that you would want a more private space eventually. But, why now?"

Seven frowned at that. She had anticipated the Captain's question, but she was still unsure how to put what she was feeling into words. "I... My recent...illness has...left me with more questions than answers. More questions than I am able to articulate. I now find the thought of my own death more troubling than I ever have. But what troubles me more than the thought of my actual death is who--and what--I will leave behind when I die. I find myself...lacking...and wanting things that I had considered...unnecessary before. I..." She hesitated a moment before giving voice to her frustration. "I am not expressing this well."

Janeway's smile was full of love and support as she took Seven's hand in her own. "One: you're doing just fine, given the complexity of what you're experiencing. Facing mortality: our own, and that of the people we love..." She squeezed Seven's hand and tried to convey nonverbally what she could not yet bring herself to say aloud. "It's one of the hardest things most sentient beings will ever have to face. And the difficulty is because of the connections we form with others. The more vital and enduring the relationships we have with others, the harder it is to face losing them--or leaving them behind. It's a very complex emotional and psychological issue. It's no wonder you have more questions than answers.

"Two: you feel that you're 'lacking.' You're not. I thought I made myself clear on this in our conversation in Astrometrics.

"Three: you find yourself wanting things that didn't seem important before. That's also a common, and understandable, reaction to your recent experiences. Maybe you were taking things for granted before, or maybe your needs and desires are changing. That's for you to decide. But in any case, you shouldn't be afraid to pursue whatever it is you think will fulfill you now." She stopped there. She knew that, in the end, this was Seven's battle, and there was little she could do aside from offering her support and reassurance. She took a few sips of her cocoa as she watched the young woman consider her words. Her eyes fell to their linked hands, and she barely had time to think about whether she should extricate herself--or whether she wanted to--before she heard Seven murmur, "Survival is insufficient." She quickly looked up to find clear blue eyes fixed on her. She said nothing--just waited for Seven to continue.

The words had slipped out the moment she thought of that old conversation she had had with the Doctor regarding the three former members of her unimatrix they had encountered while visiting the Markonian space station. She had decided, correctly, that they would prefer to live a short time as individuals rather than live out a normal life span as Borg drones. She wondered now why she had been unable to apply the concept to her own existence. 

She attempted to answer the question she saw in the Captain's eyes. "My own words have come back to haunt me. I came to that conclusion when comparing the prospect of life as an individual with that of living as a mindless drone. But even for those who are individuals, there is more to living than mere survival."

She understood what Seven meant, and now believed she sensed part of what was bothering the young woman. "That’s right, Seven. And there are some individuals who live their lives with almost as much reliance on routine, and as little imagination, as that of a Borg drone. If you're worried that you might be one of those... Well, I just don't see it. In fact, I think it's your willingness to question yourself--to learn and grow--that proves otherwise."

Seven tilted her head and seemed to consider that. "I believe I understand your meaning. But, I am a creature of routine and habit, and I make little use of my imagination when it is not related to solving problems in the course of my work. That is part of what I hope to begin rectifying now, and it is one of the reasons I wish to have a more private space in which to pursue...other interests." She did not mention that she wasn't at all certain what those 'other interests' might be.

Janeway wondered what sort of interests she was thinking of pursuing, but she decided not to ask and risk interfering with Seven's thoughts.

Seven continued, "You are concerned about my statement that I feel as though I'm lacking. I no longer feel that I have disappointed you. I want to...thank you for correcting that assumption. Knowing that you're proud of me... That you...care for me." She felt the tears threatening then and had to look away for a moment. "It...means a lot to me."

Watching Seven struggle with her emotions touched something within her, and she felt the sting of tears in her own eyes. She reached over to lift Seven's chin so she could look in her eyes. She noted a couple of tear tracks on Seven's face. She absently wiped some of the moisture away with her fingers as she spoke slowly--her own voice rough with emotion. "I am. I do--very much. And I'm glad."

Seven was pleased and embarrassed at once, and could only nod her head in response, as Janeway let her hand fall away. The Captain seemed unwilling or unable to speak further, so they sat in silence a few moments while they regained control of their emotions.

It was Seven who spoke first. "Captain, you told me that I had 'come a long way,' and I know that I have. But as I look ahead, all I can see is how far I have to go. That is the lack of which I spoke. Facing my own death made me realize how...incomplete my development is."

Janeway smiled in understanding. "That's just a part of the human condition, Seven. We are all works in progress. Realizing that is half the battle, I think."

Seven considered that a moment before continuing. "I have accepted Voyager as my collective, but I have integrated into it only partially. My primary impact on this crew has been through my work in Engineering and Astrometrics and through my attempts to improve ship's efficiency. My social skills are still somewhat limited, and I have little 'social life' aside from my activities with you and with Naomi Wildman and the Doctor. I now find myself wanting to pursue more 'leisure' activities during my off-duty hours, but I am unsure how to proceed."

"First of all, you can hardly do things all at once, Seven. It just doesn't work that way. Secondly, I think you underestimate yourself. You've developed several close relationships on this ship, and not just with me."

Seven's ocular implant rose slightly. "That is what Lt. Torres said."

Janeway stopped short at that. "What?"

"When I 'escaped' Sickbay and took refuge in Engineering, I spoke with Lt. Torres about her belief in an afterlife. I told her of my concern that all of my accomplishments as an individual would die with me. She told me that I had made an impact on every member of this crew, and that that would be my legacy."

Her first reaction had been to question why Seven hadn't been able to speak with her about this at the time. But then she remembered how she could barely look Seven in the eye when discussing her condition. She had erected that wall herself. Then she realized what Seven had said. "B'Elanna said that to you?"

Seven smiled. "Yes. Her behavior surprised me, as well."

Had the whole ordeal not been so difficult for her, she might have given almost anything to have witnessed Seven's conversation with B'Elanna. "Hmm. Remind me to buy her lunch sometime," she mumbled. She knew immediately from Seven's mystified look that she would have to explain.


She waved her hand in a vague gesture, "It's just an expression, Seven. And a very old one, at that." She smiled at her friend. "I'm grateful that B'Elanna was there for you when you needed someone to talk to. I'd like to do something to thank her."

"Captain, I understand that you feel a certain responsibility for me, but there is no need for you to speak with Lt. Torres on my behalf."

She shook her head and answered quickly, "Not on your behalf, Seven. On my own. I admit, do feel a responsibility for you, and I suspect that at least part of the reason you had that conversation with B'Elanna was because I made it a little difficult for you to have it with me."

Seven looked thoughtful a moment. "There were...other reasons why I initiated the conversation with Lt. Torres, but...it did occur to me that discussing such matters would cause you discomfort."

She nodded, "It would have. To be honest, I'm a little uncomfortable thinking about it now, even after the danger has passed. It's...a hard truth to confront. I..." She broke off, unsure how to continue. Then she thought of something. She retrieved the book she had been reading and turned to the well-worn page before handing it to Seven. "Here..." she indicated the appropriate page. "This might help you understand." She watched the young woman carefully as she read the poem, hoping that Seven would be able to interpret the sense of it, and not be overly concerned with a literal interpretation.

Seven handled the unfamiliar object awkwardly, at first, but grew accustomed to the weight of it in her hands, and the feel of the binding material--leather, she noted--and the paper beneath her fingers. She scanned the passage quickly, committing it to memory; but she knew the Captain expected more from her than that, so she went back and read it again, trying to hear the words in her mind. Two of the lines in particular struck a chord within her, and she found herself running her fingers across the letters on the page before re-reading the poem again. She absently read the last two lines aloud, her voice almost a whisper:

"'Parting is all we know of heaven,

And all we need of hell.'"

Janeway had watched this whole process carefully, from the uncertainty with which Seven had taken the book from her, to the way her fingers seemed to explore the texture of the leather and paper, through what appeared to be multiple readings, to the quiet reverence in her voice as she spoke, and finally to the way those deep blue eyes focused on hers as she uttered the last phrase.

"I..." She wanted to try and explain what those lines meant to her, but the look in the Captain's eyes seemed to mirror what she was feeling. She thought about how she would feel if the Captain's--her friend's--life were threatened, and she knew exactly what a hard truth it was. So she just nodded, "I understand."

And Janeway knew she did. It was written as plainly on Seven's face as the words were printed on the page. "But I want you to know, Seven: no matter how difficult or painful the topic, I wouldn't want you to feel that you couldn't come to me with it."

The young woman nodded, "Thank you." She then turned to examine the book more closely, unconsciously using a finger to mark her place as she studied the front and then the spine of the book. "Emily Dickinson."

"Yes. She's one of my favorite poets," Janeway smiled.

Seven tilted her head slightly, "An...'old friend.'"

"Yes. Someone whose words I enjoy revisiting from time to time."

Seven filed both the name and that idea away for a later time. She then closed the book and handed it back to Janeway.

Janeway had noted the care with which Seven had handled the book, and she began to think this might be something else she could share with the young woman. "You may borrow it, if you like."

The idea of being entrusted with something the Captain valued so highly pleased Seven. And reading was obviously a leisure activity that the Captain engaged in regularly, since she had often found her reading in her quarters at night. Perhaps it was a pastime worth investigating. But she knew that the other woman had been reading from the volume this evening and she did not want to deprive her of it just yet. "I...will do so. Later."

Janeway nodded. "Anytime. And if you're interested in other poetry or fiction, I can make some recommendations."

Seven nodded in return. "Thank you. I would appreciate your assistance, but I think I would prefer to wait until I have my own..." And, as she thought again about getting her own quarters, she came to a decision. "Captain, I think it might be best if I moved into one of the vacant crew quarters--it might help me to integrate more fully into this crew."

Janeway was unaccountably pleased by Seven's decision and couldn't suppress her smile. "You may be right, Seven. If nothing else, it should put you on even footing with other crewmembers. It's a characteristic that you'll share with them. And, if you ever decide to 'entertain,' a crew cabin might be more cozy than the Cargo Bay."

Seven looked puzzled, tilting her head to the left to study her closely. "'Entertain,' Captain?"

Janeway shrugged as she realized her mistake. "Sorry. What I mean is, if you choose to invite others to spend time with you in your quarters..." Seven looked a bit skeptical, so she decided to add some examples, "If Naomi came over for a game of Kadis Kot, or Icheb for a study session, or if you just invited someone over to share a meal, for example...well, crew quarters allow for privacy, there would be furniture for your guests to sit on, and it might be a more comfortable setting for them and for you, too." 

Although Seven nodded her understanding, Janeway realized that this was an aspect of having her own living space, and of engaging in recreational activities in general, that Seven had apparently not considered. She hoped that she would now. Seven's desire to pursue leisure activities was a big step in the right direction, but if the young woman didn't pursue at least a few interests that she could share with others, it wouldn't help her fit in much more than she had already. She decided not to point that out just yet. Seven would likely figure this out on her own, and if not, she could always discuss it with Seven later.

"About your quarters, Seven, have you decided whether you would prefer it to be close to the Cargo Bay?"

"I am not sure its location is relevant, Captain. Whatever cabin you and the Commander decide upon should be sufficient."

She nodded, "Fine. I'll speak to the Commander about it tomorrow." It wasn't quite a lie, but she'd already decided that she would see to finding suitable quarters for Seven herself. She disagreed with Seven's assessment that the location was irrelevant, and she resolved to try and place Seven as close to some friendly 'neighbors' as possible, and preferably close to some of the senior staff or some other friendly faces. Once she'd made a decision, or at least narrowed down some possibilities, she'd discuss it with Chakotay and ask him to make the arrangements. She began to toy with the idea of getting a housewarming gift for Seven to mark the occasion. If nothing else, it might start an interesting conversation. When she turned her wandering attention back to the Borg, Seven was again sipping at her cocoa. But she seemed to grimace as she swallowed. Noting her own cold cup--had they really been talking that long?--she commented, "I'm afraid it's a little less enjoyable when it gets cold. Would you like a fresh cup?"

Seven nodded at that first statement before answering, "No, thank you. Perhaps a...'rain check?'"

She wondered where Seven had picked up that expression, but the idea appealed to her for some reason and she nodded. "In your new quarters, once you've settled into them--if not before," she smiled.

Seven smiled at the idea. It seemed entirely appropriate that Captain Janeway should be the first guest to her quarters, given how many times she had visited the Captain in hers. She pronounced it, "Acceptable."

Janeway reached out for Seven's cup and took it, along with hers, to the recycler. Just before she turned back toward Seven, she found herself yawning and tried--unsuccessfully--to suppress it.

While Seven hadn't paid quite as much attention to Janeway's movements this time as before, her sensitive hearing caught the Captain's intake of breath, and she looked up in time to recognize it for the sign of fatigue it was. "You are..." She recalled the term she had often heard Naomi Wildman use, "sleepy?"

The truth of it struck her when Seven said it. "Yes. I think I am." She was both grateful for the renewed prospect of sleep, and sorry because she knew what Seven's response would be.

The young woman rose and moved toward her. "Then I should leave, and allow you to get some rest."

There was obvious concern in Seven's eyes--enough to make her wonder whether she looked as tired as she suddenly felt. She found herself unwilling to part with Seven's company, but she could think of no plausible way to keep her from leaving. And she knew she needed the sleep. "All right. You should go regenerate, as well."

Seven nodded, "I will comply."

She expected Seven to just turn and go in her typically abrupt manner, but the blonde simply stood looking at her for a moment. She seemed on the verge of doing or saying something else and she looked positively...shy. Then she took a step forward, looked down, and before Janeway realized her intent, she felt the warmth of Seven's right palm against the back of her left hand. Seven's fingers slid around to tickle her palm and without thinking, her fingers curled up to grip them. 

"Thank you, Captain. For...your assistance." And then Seven released her hand, turned and strode out of the room without another word.

Janeway spoke absently to her now-closed door, "You're welcome, Seven. Good night." And then she was looking at her hand as though it were some foreign object attached to her arm. She knew she hadn't imagined it, because she could still feel the tingling warmth from the contact with Seven's hand. But it seemed almost unreal. She could almost count the number of times that Seven had initiated physical contact with her. It was almost always the other way around. She studied her hand another minute before closing it into a loose fist, as if trying to hold on to the memory. "Well, I was sleepy..." She sighed as she moved toward the bathroom to again prepare for bed.

Had she been able to watch Seven's trek to Cargo Bay Two, she would have been witness to a very similar moment as Seven studied her own hand, wondering what had prompted the gesture. She, too, still felt the warmth of the contact and had a sudden memory of the Captain holding her face and wiping away a tear with her fingers. She brushed her fingers along the pattern the Captain's had painted on her cheek. Then, hearing a crewman approach from the opposite direction, let her hand fall as she resumed her journey.

The End

© December 2000

Go back to part one: I Forgot to Tell You: Solo