Seated at the table, Seven made minor adjustments to her new solar regeneration unit. The technology statutes on the reservation prohibited her actual alcove... So she had adapted. After all, there was an abundance of natural light, and as readily available resource it would have been wasteful not to capitalize on it. She was proud of the small unit, the size of a wrist watch, that she wore on her bicep over her bio-suit. It was not as effective as her alcove, but it did combine her usual out-door physical activities with resource regeneration, and the ability to do two tasks at once appealed to her.
Chakotay smiled at her indulgently from his seat opposite her “Does it fall within the community guidelines?”
Seven nodded and didn't look up. She believed she understood his drive to belong to his collect- to his community, after all, she had felt the same on Voy- when she had first arrived in Navada. Following community standards would aid him in his goals. This was a challenge, like any other, and she would meet it with her usual head-on manner. Of course it falls within your community's needless and inefficient technological restraints.
“I believe so.”
I believe I do not meet your community's guidelines.
“That's wonderful Annika,” He leaned forwards, his hand settling across her own-covering her work, her tools- “ Would you like to go dancing with me tonight in the town square? You can wear that red dress we bought.”
He was smiling so warmly at her, but Seven could not help feeling a twinge of annoyance, and oddly, she could not place where the feeling originated from.
“What about the blue one?”
“The red one looks stunning, Annika, and you wear blue so often.”
Seven frowned slightly. “I've been told I look 'stunning' in blue.”
“Oh?” Chakotay's tone was playful, but Seven noted the tension in his hand over hers, and the minute twitch of his jaw, “and who said that?”
“Captain Janeway, when we had our last hearing and I was-”
“I think, when we go, you would look wonderful in the red dress.”
Several weeks later when Seven retrieved their laundry from the village washerwoman, the laundress explained she'd made a mistake with their clothes, and refunded them in credits to purchase new garments. When she'd informed Chakotay, he'd laughed, said they'd make the best of the situation, and have a fun day shopping to refit themselves. Seven noted that at the end of their day spent shopping together, she no longer had any blue articles of clothing.
Nevada; Six Months.
Seven completed her letter and stared at her empty inbox. She could not understand the absence of communication. She had written formal, correct and friendly letters to many acquaintances over the last weeks and had not received responses. She knew that many of her former shipmates must be involved in re-adjusting to their families and life back on earth. She felt she wanted to participate in this, was compelled to share with them in this experience as she would have on Voyager. However, few responses were forthcoming, and none at all from her Captain.
Have I erred? Have I miscalculated my value as a connection once Voyager returned to Earth? With readily available human interactions, perhaps my friendship is no longer need? These thoughts sent an uncomfortable tightness to her throat and a stinging to her eyes. She had written almost weekly to Janeway, asking questions about earth, advice when she had been seeking employment, asking to have philosophical discussions as they had before. She had only received silence. This activity brings This Drone distress. This activity will no longer be repeated. She no longer wrote letters.
She had been relieved to see her Captain at her hearings. Just seeing the woman there, confidant and controlled in her command uniform, had steadied Seven. She knew the hearings were not fair, they were meant to be trials, not to judge her on her conduct and deportment on board Voyager- She knew that her record was exemplary- but to condemn her for being Borg. The Captain had been ruthless in her defense. Seven was sure she had called in favors, applied her diplomatic skills and used her considerable influence to clear Seven of all charges. Almost overnight the cases against her had been dismissed, and Seven had been installed at the Daystrom institute, her preferred place of employment to continue her work with the slip stream technology and her gravimetrics array. Seven wanted to express gratitude to Janeway, she could not think of someone else who would go through such effort on her behalf, but at every turn the woman was somehow absent and out of reach.
Thinking about the institute caused her a pang of guilt. She was... unhappy there she realized. She had full reign of her lab, her experiments, and minimal interference. She should have been content. However, she was unmotivated, there was no dissent, no discussion and no feeling of urgency. She found, in contradiction to what she had believed were her own desires, that she wanted someone there to challenge her. She felt repulsed by the awe and fear in her coworker's faces when they interacted with her. Not one of them offered her second opinions, or even corrected her work when she left deliberate errors.
Seven leaned into the solid back of the chair at her work terminal. She had been considering resigning from her post, and when she had brought the idea to Chakotay, he had seemed quite pleased, insinuating that this would give them time to focus on their relationship, and becoming a family. This line of discussion had made her uneasy,reticent and... guilty. She did not bring it up again.
There were many things, Seven reflected, that she no longer brought up.
Nevada; 18 Months
“Annie, I'm so glad you decided to take this trip with me.”
The sun was hot,even this early, and Seven could feel the trickle of sweat between her scapula , feel its path down her implants- Implants that should still be protected by a bio-metric suit. The cotton and linen she was wearing was sufficient though- would be sufficient. She had adapted, and would continue to adapt to the community standards. At the very least, the solar regeneration unit would be charged for weeks after this activity.
“You are welcome.”
They sat barefoot in the sand across from each other, as the sun came up over the edge of the mountains, bathing the desert around them in violent pinks and reds. “Places like this have always been spiritual for me. I'm so glad that you chose this place for our honey-moon, Annie, I feel so lucky.”
Seven swallowed, and stared straight into the rising sun. Why do I not feel lucky.
“Would now be an acceptable time to attempt contacting my animal guide?”
She had never put stock in this kind of mysticism. Foolish, wasteful. But she had been without... without structure, or guidance, and the idea he had presented months ago had become more appealing as more of her routines, her familiarity had been removed. After resigning from her position at Daystrom, Chakotay had proposed to her. It had seemed like the logical course of action, the logical progression of events to accept the proposal. She had written B'ELannna, had written her Cap- had written Rear Admiral Janeway, but had received no responses. Seven tried to rationalize why she had done such actions when she knew they would be futile. Her acceptance had made Chakotay so pleased, and joyful. He had begun to construct additional rooms in their domicile, so that their “family had room to grow”. She had hopped that marriage would bring her a feeling of structure, stability and re-affirm her connection to Chakotay. It had not done any of these things, however, they were only newly married, so she concluded that perhaps insufficient time had passed for meaningful data to be collected. And perhaps this goal can be achieved by participation in his beliefs.
“R-really Annika, you want to- now? Do you feel up to it?”
“Yes.” I want to feel.
As Chakotay readied the area in preparation for the ceremony, Seven watched the clouds streaked with violet fade to pale lavender. She caught herself wondering what that colour would taste of. She closed her eyes again. She found without adequate mental stimulation, her thoughts became disordered, illogical and irrational. Part of her however, enjoyed the escape these thoughts provided her, and she chose not dwell on why. Another part of herself concluded that these thoughts stemmed from her inability to regenerate properly due to the fact that her solar regeneration module, no matter how useful and compact, was not a suitable long-term replacement for her alcove. Not without her bio suits to compensate. She inhaled deeply though her nose and opened her eyes only when Chakotay called to her to place her hands on the artifacts so they could begin her vision quest.
Nothing happened. I should not have been surprised. Shame flushed her cheeks, but she willed herself not to recoil. She willed herself to be still as Chakotay spoke words that should have meant something to her. She opened her eyes, and trained them on the horizon. The desert was beautiful, she had heard many people describe it to her in this manner, and she tended to agree- but right now it was so vivid so saturated-
Suddenly, an animal cry shattered the dawn stillness. When Chakotay didn't stop his chanting, or even flinch when the cry sounded again at close range, she realized with a rush of pride, that she was experiencing something. As she turned around to face the sound, the hot breath of the cougar against her face confirmed it.
The animal was larger than it should have been in real life. Its coat was a pleasing, dusky red-brown that seemed to glow in the rising dawn. Seven raised her left hand to let it sniff her, and to her surprise, it laved her fingers with its rough tongue. She felt, as her eyes connected with the animal's, that she needed to move. To run, to be fast and strong because -You are faster. Stronger. There is no shame in how you were made. Hunt. You are not meant to be still.
The animal turned from her and stalked over a thin thread of rock trail. It looked back over its shoulder at her once, holding her gaze and Seven was compelled to follow. She stood, and stepped forward, felt her pulse leap to her throat and was about to run to sprint headlong-
“Annie, where are you going? What did you see?”
She looked down to where Chakotay was holding her human right wrist in his hands, her wedding band gleaming in the sunlight. Her left hand was forward in front of her, frozen and outstretched. “I-I was...”
He tugged her down into his arms, all grins and warm eyes “So you did see something? I was worried you might not.”
You did not think I would meet your standards.
He ran his hands over her shoulders, and Seven noted absently that his hands unerringly skipped over her implants. “I'm so proud of you ! What did you see? We can talk about it, and discuss what it might mean for you.”
Seven allowed him to hold her close as she stared out over the path the cougar had taken in her vision. She discovered did not want to share this information. She did not have possessions that were only hers, they lived with the community, she shared her living space with him, and the limited tools she was allowed were not hers. This will be mine.
“I am... unsure. I heard a sound, but there was nothing there.” She was disconcerted with how easily the lie fell from her lips.
“That's perfectly normal Annika, we can practice again.” He was placing small affectionate kisses along the nape of her neck, and then he whispered against her cheek “I can think of other things I'd like practice with you.”
They took more outings to the desert, not far from the settlement, but far enough to warrant caution. Seven noticed that Chakotay had been exuberant that she was showing interest, that she was asking him about the land, the formation and its significance to his people. He delighted in teaching her survival techniques, teaching her about the life that could be found there. Seven noticed that when she expressed the desire to go alone, that he was less pleased with her interest when he himself was not the cause, not involved. He was even less pleased when she was not home when he returned in the evenings from lecturing on archaeology at the academy- but rather out in the scrub lands. He told her repeatedly it was not safe to go alone. This however, did not stop her outings.
It seemed more efficient to schedule her trips instead, to coincide with his absence to minimize confrontation that she did not want. She did not need to lie about her whereabouts, because he did not ask.
Nevada, 21 Months
“You do not have permission to be here.”
“Great maker, Annika, you don't have permission to be doing this at all.”
They stood at odds across from each other in the small space, an underground bunker- a workshop Seven had fashioned, filled with various discarded and illicit technology that she had... collected. Seven, my name is Seven of Nine, and I do not need permission from you. Seven gripped the edge of her work table, her metal fingers bending the surface like clay. She did not respond.
“Annika, what were you thinking?”
Seven had started building this space not long after they had returned from their honeymoon. She had worked in secret, and it had thrilled her to have something of her own. To work for something that was only for her enjoyment, for a goal that was hers. She did not feel isolated when she was repairing and improving these discarded tools. There was nobody here to smile at her face, and frown at her back, holding their children close as she passed... She had made her own instruments, her own design methods and had improved several air conditioning units, several sprinklers, and what she could only guess was some kind of machine designed to till the earth. She could not understand why these tools had been discarded, many needed only minimal maintenance. She chose not to dwell on why repairing and improving them was important and enjoyable to her, or why she identified so strongly with the mistreated scraps of metal. How many of them, if abraded- polished, would shine brightly.
“I was thinking, 'you do not have permission to be here'.”
“Annie.” His voice was sharp. He looked around at the machines Seven had gathered and shook his head, “This is just junk, where did you even get all this?”
She leveled him a cold, even stare, and watched him back down slightly. She moved her eyes back to the replicator, half finished- half assimilated, patched together from dozens of different machines, in front her on her table. She had lain it out carefully and with great skill, had been about to finish it before Chakotay had barged in,and in her surprise she had crushed part of integral circuitry in her enhanced fingertips. He followed her gaze.
“Annika, why are you repairing... a replicator? We have everything you could ever want- you know none of this is allowed.”
I wanted to replicate coffee. I wanted to smell hot coffee...I wanted...
She cut her eyes up to his. He was usually so kind, and interested in her activities. He encouraged her terraforming around their cabin, had encouraged her to participate in sewing circles and in other traditional female activities of his tribe. It confused and annoyed her that he would not challenge the rules and, traditions in support of her interests, let alone defend her own physical dependence on technology to survive. She was no longer permitted to wear her biosuits on the reserve. She had begun to resent that he was the only person here who she had anything in common with, and that the history itself was something they never discussed. That she would now loose this refuge to him was infuriating. Let him have it. Let him think he's won. This drone will build another station in desert. This drone will control its emotions.
“I am going for a walk. You may dismantle this shelter.”
She crossed in front of him to the cellar door but his hand on her shoulder, his firm tone , stalled her. “Annika, I know you're having a hard time adjusting to being an expecting mother, but with time, you wont want these,' he gestured around at her salvaged materials and machines “these... You wont want this.”
Seven raised an eyebrow at him, and he removed his hand. He raised his shoulders a little in an almost conciliatory gesture “Don't worry, I wont tell the tribe council about your workshop, but we will have to take it apart.”
She decided that repetition would drive her point home. “I am going for a walk. You may dismantle this shelter.”
“It's nearly dark, I don't feel comfortable with you going out in the bush alone-”
“It is not for your to be comfortable. I am comfortable going alone.”
“Don't be stupid, you're carrying our child and-”
“I miscarried yesterday.”
Seven reflected that this may not have been the best way to inform him of the fact. He stared open mouthed at her, frozen and reflected in gleam of machinery around them. The words hung in the air like acrid smoke and Seven did not enjoy the look of mixed sorrow, pity and disappointment he gave her. His next words were softer, soothing.
“Oh, honey, I'm so sorry, its not your fault.”
“I know this. The fetus was imperfect. I miscarried. This happens often to human females.”
She felt hot, her skin to tight, but it wasn't from grief, or shame. It was from relief. She had not wanted to carry to term, and seeing his greif for the death of a child she had not felt attached to, made panic rise in the back of her throat.
“I am going for a walk. You may dismantle this shelter.”
As Seven ascended the steps, she ignored the sound of breaking glass, of objects she'd laboured over meeting sudden, permanent ends. She felt the wind caress her face, and with no hesitation, she did what she'd been wanting to do for months. She ran.
She ran until her lungs burned, and the weight of her own body became to much. When she stopped, she berated her self for being rash. Unnecessary expenditure of resources. This drone is unprepared for such an excursion ... But she didn't turn back. Instead, she surveyed the area she found herself in. She was not unfamiliar with the region, and was mildly surprised to see that she had been jogging along a narrow path, maybe a sheep trail- and that it had been traveled by many animals recently. She squatted down and examined the tracks. With a foolish pleasure she felt a sense of, of what, connection?, when she detected among the confused tracks those of a mountain lion. Her vision quest felt like a life time ago, but the sharpness of the image, no matter if it had been hallucination, stayed with her... She followed the path.
She heard the encounter before she saw it. And when she did see it, it gave her pause. A lion had its belly low to the ground, panting heavily. From its size, and posture in front of an opening in the rocks, Seven concluded that it was a female, defending a den, likely with young inside. Around her ranged a loose grouping of animals, what remained of a pack of.. wolves? Coyotes? Jackles? Seven was unsure of their designation. She was sure that the situation stirred.. something inside her. She watched the canines taking turns darting in, biting and harrying the feline, who was obviously nearing the end of her endurance. Several badly damaged and dead opponents made a tidy ring around the site, but it was apparently no deterrent to the attackers. The lion was struck hard as several of the creatures came in at once, and it screamed, a wailing rally cry that sent shivers down her spine.
For a brief moment she was motionless. The reservation had rigorous and stringent rules about hunting, about game management; and it would not condone interference in the local wild life. She continued to review the rules as she strode into the conflict and neatly pried apart the jaws of one of the dogs as it turned from the big cat and lunged to bite at her. She pulled its mandibles apart until they broke.
When all of the dogs were dead, dying, or gone, Seven returned her attention to the Cougar. It's black tipped ears were back flat against its skull and its tail was coiled tight against its side, tip flicking in the dusty earth. Its flanks were heaving, speckled with blood, and drenched in sweat. She decided that it would not pose a significant risk to her, if it did decide to attack. The animal was spent. She knew her next actions were beyond nonsensical, that she did not believe, or subscribe, to superstition was a fact... but... she extended her left hand open palmed and flat to the cougars face.It curled its lip back, began to snarl...then stopped. Seven held her breath as she held perfectly still, held her hand perfectly still, as the rough tongue licked the blood off of her fingers. She smiled, and the action did not feel forced or perfunctory for the first time in long, long while- in 638.751 days.
With slow deliberate actions, she cleared the bodies of the canines away from the site and piled them a way off for carrion birds to have. She did not think that the cougar would eat them, or feed them to her young. When she came back, the lion had crawled halfway into the mouth of the crag and was nuzzling several small furry bodies. She came within three yards, sat, and turned her back to them, tilting her head back to watch the stars. She decided based on knowledge she had gathered in the past, that the animals would need time to acclimate to her presence.
She will not attack This Drone, This Drone has made it abundantly clear it is not a prey animal. This drone is not a threat to her, or her cubs. I smell like metal, and blood and my hormone levels must signal to her that I am a- was a breeding female. She will not attack this drone.
She was sure of this, but repeated it a few times to herself for comfort. Seven knew that she was not acting appropriately. Whether it was conscious choice, or poor rest from attempting to sleep in a normal human fashion in the bed Chakotay had made them, she was uncertain. Finally, she reviewed her actions, her thoughts and behaviors and allowed herself to say what she was thinking, honestly and out loud.
“This drone misses Kathryn Janeway.”
The way the lion had not given up its defense of its young, even in the face of slow, painful termination had reminded Seven acutely of her captain. The way she had defended Voyager and her crew from every threat the Delta Quadrant had thrown her way. Seven had been unable to stop herself from responding, from helping, much as she had done with Janeway herself.
Seven continued to stare up the sky. She was beginning to think she had made a terrible mistake somewhere. Had somehow pursued a function, a formula that was flawed and would be not giving her the desired results. She had no idea how to back track, how to solve the problem, how to locate the error. She closed her eyes and let the night breeze lift the hair around her face that had come loose in the fight. She had desperately wanted to smell coffee. The implications of this seemed to creep in around her and underline every feeling of self-recrimination, and loneliness and longing she felt. I wanted to be reminded of Kathryn, I wanted to smell her breath, her skin. I wanted to hear her voice. I wanted her to touch me, to see her smile at me. I should not want this. Her self-reproach did not lessen the guilt or the feeling she came to realize as desire, and she sighed. But Kathryn has not written, has not communicated with this drone... has abandoned...
She resolved to do better, to renew her attempts at bonding with Chakotay, at forming a family, at being accepted by this community. I will follow their rules... She looked over her shoulder where the mother watched her with one half lidded eye from the entrance of her small cave... I will comply with all Except for this. I will not keep a bunker to repair broken things in secret. I will tend this den-site. A compromise. She stood and evaluated the feline, deduced it would not be hunting successfully for sometime, and followed a trail down from the den. Her interference would do no good, if the cat- which she would call Captain, she thought with a wry grin- starved to death with her young before she was well enough to bring them food.
Later, after successfully striking a large mountain goat in the head with a well aimed rock, Seven returned to the den-site, to deposit her kill. She felt.. satisfied, proud of her efforts, proud of the body that let her preform superhuman tasks. She did not wait to see if they would feed right away. She would return to the cabin, and attempt to repair her relationship, she owed him that... And when he went to teach the next day, she would come out with a dermal regenerator and a wide spectrum antibiotic to ensure that Captain healed properly.
Nevada, 26 Months.
Laughing, Seven, tousled with the juveniles, rolling in the dirt, stirring up dust and loose gravel. They were fast, strong and so alive it filled her with a profound sense of peace. She knew the survival rate for any given cub was around 60%, and was pleased that all three cubs were strong, healthy and developing well. Three of them, who she had named after former crew mates, were enough to give Seven a good workout, she had to pay attention to their games of 'hide and hunt' as she called it, because she suspected that if she proved to be anything less than what she was they might turn on her. She doubted it, but it was a possibility.
She lay sprawled in the dirt, in a pile of exhausted furry legs and tails. One of them, the female she had named Niaomi was grooming Seven, and the sensation made her wrinkle her nose, but she did not move away from the contact. Instead, she scratched along the animals ears, behind its jaw and stroked its side. Perhaps she would go to shadow their hunting later, if Captain didn't bring them game to share. Their mother had been steadily pushing them into practicing bringing down their own prey and Seven found their attempts entertaining. She watched absently as the other two cubs, Icheb and Harry, separated from the pile and stalked a grasshopper across the mouth of the den. As the shadows slanted in across the mouth of the opening, Seven watched Captain slink in, and was gratified when she laid down heavily beside her and draped her head over Seven's abdomen.
It had not taken more than three weeks of consistent food, and company for the animal to accept her presence. And then, only another two for her to be allowed in the den itself. Seven suspected that any other human would have been mauled. She had observed as the cubs grew from nursing, spotted fluffy beasts, to lanky, awkward animals filled with life and energy. She would leave the cabin shortly after Chakotay left for work in the mornings. Her household chores were always completed, her journeys into the village clockwork, her conversations regular, and her meals left in the house were well made and accessible. After her errands, she spent most of each day with the big cats, and found that speaking to them came naturally, came more easily to her than talking to other humans. She stroked the top of Captains head, and spoke, staring out the access point into the growing dusk.
“I will have to leave now Captain. I do not want to go back to the stuffy cabin. He has made another mobile for the nursery. I do not wish to tell him I have miscarried again.”
Captain turned her head and rubbed her check hard along sevens scratching fingers, a low sound rumbling in her chest. Seven identified it as one she often made when grooming her cubs. It was comforting. Reluctantly, she disengaged, and began her long walk home. To her surprise, Captain followed her out, walking with her almost half of her way home, before turning, and streaking off into the long shadows.
Seven arrived home, as always, with enough time to change into clean clothes, and set the table for dinner. Chakotay arrived, smiling and holding a bouquet of flowers.
“Annika! How are you today, and how is our-” He stopped noticing her tense posture and he set the flowers down on the table to take her hand in his. “Annie, sweetheart... is everything alright... you didn't.. I mean, did you loose-”
“I did not loose anything. I know where she is. She is buried outside next to her siblings.” She held her head high, her jaw ridged. She did not want to have this conversation again. It was harder each time, because each time, it felt more like it was her fault, as if she did it on purpose to punish him. As if this drone does not feel enough guilt.
“What happened, didn't you follow the doctors guidelines, his-”
“All of my activities fell within his guidelines.”
“Are you sure you didn't-”
“This is not my fault.” She wanted to believe her words. She wanted to be back in the desert in a pile of warm bodies that smelt like earth and reminded her of the only family she could remember.
Chakotay back pedaled instantly, and pulled her into a tight embrace. “Its alright, hush, I know its not your fault.” He was rocking her gently, but Seven suspected the act was more for him, that it was for her. He stroked her hair, and Seven felt ashamed that she wished it was Naomi grooming her instead.
She pulled away, and smiled at him, nodded and led him into the kitchen.
Nevada; 31 months
“I do not want to try again.”
They were standing stiffly, side by side, next to a small pile of dirt. Seven studied the woefully small mound, and the three next to it and felt the sting of failure like a splinter shoved up under her human fingernails.
“I.. I wont make you, Annika, not if you don't wan't to.”
“I do not want to try again.”
That night, she stole away to watch Captain hunt. It made her feel exhilirated to watch Captain stalk, silent, and drop down like death from above to latch onto the neck of her target. So long as she was absolutely quiet, Captain didn't seem to mind her shadowing her actions. Seven half imagined that the cat enjoyed showing off, enjoyed having another hunter to praise her skill. Because, Seven admitted to herself, That is really what I am. A Hunter.. at least some kind of predator or my presence would not be tolerated.
She was mildly amused that out of everything she could have incorporated from this culture, out of everything she could have latched onto, it was their spiritual and religious practices; a belief in animal signs and totems. She shook her head and followed after Captain as she dragged her catch up the path to a more secure location. Seven had been in the habit of defending Captain while she ate during her recovery period- warding off other animals until she'd guessed Captain had recovered enough to fend for herself. To her surprise, Captain often came to her now, to lead her back to the fresh kill, as if to invite her to it. While, she never partook, she appreciated the gesture immensely. Seven was sure the cat had no precedence for this kind of relationship and considered her to be some poorly formed cat, an adopted sister, or cub even, that had strange fur, and stranger habits. However this animal thought- if it could think, Seven was grateful for it, more than for anything else.
This night was no different, and she followed Captain to the corpse of a mountain goat and sat buy her as she tore almost gracefully into it. At the clatter of stone rolling down hill and rustle of leaves, she sprang to her feet tensed- ready to fight. She had... persuaded, on more than one occasion, wolves, coyotes, and even bears from Captain's kills, and she was not feeling particularly merciful tonight. This drone desires physical conflict as an emotional outlet. She wanted to be able to protect something she loved, and violently. Captain stilled, her ears flicking back.
“Annika, Great fucking Spirits, what are you-”
Seven dropped down to the ground, crouching next to Captain, and praying that if she did not react to Chakotay as a threat, as a challenge, that the cat would not either. The animal studied her with a pointed calm, and a twitch of it's whiskers. Seven cast her eyes about, and some distance away she could make out Chakotay outlined against the sky in the arms of scraggly evergreen tree. She tried to steady her breathing.
She adopted the cats poise, tried to make it her own, and spoke calmly, but so the sound could carry, “You should not be here.”
“Annie, what?- why aren't you- why didn't it kill you!?”
Seven struggled to find words, and as if in response to Chakotay's stumbling questions, Captain nudged her with her muzzle, smearing a streak of hot blood along her thigh. Seven noted that it was an efficient gesture, used both to affirm group bonds, and to scent mark. She felt pleased to be marked as part of the cat's pride, but recognized that now was not the time to indulge this. This Drone will defuse this situation. Quickly.
“I have been visiting her den-site for nearly ten months, I am known to her, you are not. You are in danger. Leave.” I regret giving this information. This drone will be unable to return.
This drone will be unable to return. The sudden angry shout made Seven flinch, and she felt her lip rise in what was most assuredly a learned snarl. Captain rose, stretched languidly and then huddled down in position that indicated to Seven, she had found something new she wished to stalk.
“We will discuss this later.” Seven stood slowly and hoped that by leaving, by walking back to the den where only Niaomi now stayed, would distract Captain. Would draw her away. For extra assurance, Seven hefted the remains of the goat over her shoulder before she turned. “ I will spend the night out here. You will leave when you can no longer see us. You will move as fast, and as quietly as you can.”
She started away, and was relieved, as she heard, then saw Captain trotting along next to her rubbing her still bloody chin along Seven's hip as they moved.
Seven did not want to risk his safety by responding, so she kept moving, leaving him, and his tremulous questions in the tree. Seven, my designation is Seven of Nine. She looked down at Captain, who was staring back up at her with huge luminous eyes.
“Will you miss me, Captain?”
Nevada; 37 Months.
Seven was laying in bed, staring up at the ceiling. She could never get enough sleep. She still felt awkward in their shared bed, and often woke in the middle of the night. She felt stupid, inadequet and inieffecent for breaking promises to herself. Again. She had written to B'ELanna about her miscarages, about the pressure she felt and had received no response. She had sent Janeway several communications, voice messages and letters, about the big cats, how much she missed them and how she had purchased herself a house cat, but had not felt the same connection to the small animal that slept all day on the porch and watched fat rats scurry by. And she had gotten no response. She wrote how much she missed her, how she would enjoy a quick visit, or even a short letter, and had received no answer. She should have known not to hope. To expect a different result was illogical. Was irrational and a waste of energy.
Restlessly she stirred and rolled to her side, and tried to find sleep.
Hands brushed gentle through her hair, down her shoulders and she felt a soft brush of breath against her ear. She reached forward -smooth skin under her fingertips and tangled her fingers in softer hair as that mouth trailed down her throat, to latch onto her nipple. She groaned and threw her leg over narrow hips to pull her lover close to pull her close and say her name Kathryn-
Startled by Chakotay's voice, Seven opened her eyes, and up stared into his flushed, and embarrassed face.
“That is not my designation.”
He rolled off of her to the side, and stared up at the ceiling, unmoving. Seven felt as if several missing variables had been slotted into to the equation she had been trying to puzzle out for four years.
“Seven. My name is Seven of Nine.”
Unbidden, a smile stole across her features, and she felt an incredib lightness in her chest. He did not call my name. He does not love me. She could not remember feeling this light, this free from her terrbile burden of failure- failure to integrate into his tribe, failure to love him, failure to bear his children. So she said her name again, hearing it outloud for the first time in years and loving it. “Seven of Nine, Tertiary adjunct to Unimatrix One.”
“Annika-” he tried to speak but Seven didn't enjoy being mislabeled.
“That. Is not.My.Designation.”
He sighed, exasperated and defensive. “I've been calling you that for years and you never had a problem with it before.”
“You never asked me my preferences. I'm stating them now.” She felt giddy, and relieved. “My name is Se-”
“I know your name, ancestors help me, can you let me apologize for what just happened without interrupting?”
Seven knew she should not be smiling. It was an inappropriate response, she was sure if the Doctor coould see her now he would frown at her, and shake his head. Thinking of him, reminded her of Voyager, and for the first time she could think about her memories there, on board, with family- with Kathryn, and not feel guilt.
He peered over at her, and Seven made eye contact and watched his face twist into a snear, “Seven, if I'd known just mentioning her name in bed would make you this happy, I wouldn't have had Lt. Roles screen your communications. We could have just role played....”
Seven wasn't listening. It occurred to her that she should be furious- but she was focused on reviewing her isolation. She should have investigated, should have followed the electronic signatures, should have done something because if what he was saying was true, than... Than This drone could be wanted. This drone may have negelced its collective. This drone may have four years worth of communication withheld. This drone's marriage contact has been violated by both parties, and is no longer required to remain in Nevada. I do not have to stay in Nevada. I am not obligated to stay. She inhaled and even though the room was small and stiflingly hot, she thought the air tasted sweet.
“You had my communications screened?” She fought to keep the excitement out of her vioce.
Chakotay blanched, and his voice stumbled obviously taken aback. “Anni-Seven, let me explain. I- when we moved here, every other word from your mouth was 'Captain' this or 'Janeway' that. I didn't want to know what you thought of Kathryn, or what she might think of you- I wanted you to think of me. I wanted you to rely on me and focus on building a home here, with me. Lt. Roles had owed me a favor, and I.. I asked him to screen your messages, calls letters- just until the hearings were over, I didn't want you to feel harassed by those 'Fleet vultures-”
“You wanted to remove Kathryn's influence and establish your own.”
Chakotay draped an arm over his eyes and his voice came out muffled and strained “Yes, I'm sorry, I did.”
“You were ineffective.”
When he did not respond, Seven studied him. She felt... sorry. Sorry she had wasted his time, sorry she had not loved him, and could not give him what he was looking for... and she felt she was no longer compelled to stay by his side. She weighed her next words, and hoped their honesty would be enough to move the situation forward. To move her forward and out the door to the nearest transport pad.
“How long have you loved her?”
Seven listened as he finally, finally talked to her honestly about his feelings. No half-truthes and passive aggressive suggestion. She listened as he told her how he had loved Janeway for years before Seven had showed up, before her interest switched from him, to her, and how jealous, bitter and ashamed he felt that the two women he had come to love and admire most on the ship would rather be together, than with him. Her attention faltered then- distracted by the idea that he thought Kathryn might love her, and that he had used her to cause harm to Janeway. She needed to hear it from his mouth, that he did not care for her as he should, and it would be the last vindication, her last reason to leave with absolute immunity.
“You married me to harm Kathryn? You do not love me?”
He sighed, and rolled over to face her, and Seven could see how difficult the conversation was for him.
“Jealousy- jealousy is a really ugly emotion. I do love you, Annika-”
“Seven.” She said with emphasis. Then in an exhale she finished, as she sat up and swung her legs over the edge of the bed, “Your emotions are insufficient. I am leaving.”
“Oh, whoa, wait,” Chakotay struggled over the tangle of sheets and to her side, “You don't have to leave, stay, I can change we can work on this-”
“You do not love me. I do not love you. We called the same woman's name.”
She had not shouted, but Chakotay recoiled as if she had slapped him.
“Where will you go Seven. I want to make sure you are-”
Chakotay winced and got to his feet, pulling on his discarded night wear. “No, I mean great spirit, I am so sorry Seven-”
“Apology accepted. Relationship terminated. I shall gather my possessions.”
Seven didn't even bother dressing. She only wanted her biosuit, and a few small objects, stashed away in a stasis crate under the back porch. She grabbed her solar unit, and a canteen of water and headed to deck. She would dress, take the crate and and she would make her way to the nearest public computer bank to retrieve what belonged to her.