It started when she thought about Mark. Kathryn was fresh out of the shower, standing there in front of the mirror with her hair twisted up in a wet knot on the back of her neck. It's long enough that it leaves a stain on her robe. It was decadent of her to use the water shower. Usually she saves the resources but it's been such a long... what?
Day? Week? Three years in the Delta Quadrant? Three and a quarter? How long will her hair be when they get home?
It'll be white. She knows that and she can't admit that to herself any more than she can admit the beginning of lines around her eyes. She's a decade older than when she left Deep Space 9, more since she left Earth. She doesn't even remember who it was that left Mark.
Or why he didn't join her. Being a kept man wouldn't have been so bad. They could have used a philosopher and she could have used someone to run their fingers through her hair and say--
She closes her eyes, but her daydreams are stuck here in the Delta Quadrant and she can't bring Mark here.
Kathryn grabs her hair, running the wet strands through her fingers and then, on a whim, lifts it up behind her head. She's had it shorter before. It looks good at her chin. It wouldn't take that long to slice it off. It'll fall to the floor at her feet and with it she can banish the last thoughts of Mark.
Not even cutting her hair will banish all she's lost. As she lifts the scissors, Kathryn spares a single thought to the elegance of the design. Damn things haven't changed in centuries. Better metal, laser-sharpened blades, but they're still scissors.
The first slice into her hair sends a shiver up her spine. She keeps hacking, letting it fall in wet tendrils. There's no method, no plan, and it'll be a mess later yet she doesn't care. She wants it done, off, done.
So her hair falls like dead leaves to the floor.
How long has it been since she really cut it? The Academy? High school? She grew it out when she was an ensign because she just ran out of time to cut it. It was pretty too, she liked the way it felt on her shoulders.
Now the only time her shoulders are bare is when she's changing in or out of her uniform. Who cares if her shoulders like to be caressed? Her hair hands above her shoulders now, starting to dry at the new ends. She'll have to clean it up, somehow, there's no barber on Voyager and the captain has to be presentable.
Something whirrs, then pops and the lights in her bathroom go out. Kathryn stands there in the dark, wondering if Voyager is angry at her for cutting her hair.
Sneaking out into her bedroom, she sighs. The lights are on here, but there's no mirror. She'll have to ask for help. She doesn't have an engineering kit; she makes a mental note to stash one. Who would be up now at half past the grey hour? Slipping out of her robe, her shoulders protest the lack of hair and her neck tickles. Kathryn pulls on one of her blue-grey vests and a pale pink pair of pyjama bottoms. B'Elanna won't judge, and she'll definitely be awake.
She slaps her commbadge onto her chest and activates it at the same time.
There's no sleep in the answering voice. That's a good sign.
"I hate to bother you, I know it's late. The light in my bathroom's stopped working."
"I'm just writing reports, I'll be right up, Captain."
And she arrives, a few moments later. B'Elanna takes a second look at the captain's hair but says nothing. She's too good that way. She has a flashlight, and she hands it over to Kathryn to hold.
"Anything happen before it went? Sparks or--"
B'Elanna frowns. "Popped like popcorn or popped like an electrical pop, one I can fix tonight, the other needs me to take apart the bulkhead."
Half-cut hair in a ponytail it'll have to be tomorrow then. Kathryn sighs, then smirks at B'Elanna's description.
"The first, actually."
"That's good then."
B'Elanna expertly takes apart the wall, pulling off the mirror and getting onto the sink to reach. Kathryn wriggles around her, standing on the edge of the bathtub so B'Elanna can see.
"It was time to change it." Kathryn's not sure if she sounds determined or childish, but she's being honest, and if she can't talk to B'Elanna, that leaves her with a very short list of people to speak with.
"How are you going to do the back?"
B'Elanna has a point. Kathryn only has one mirror and there's no way she can do anything nice to the back of her head.
"Are you volunteering?"
B'Elanna grins a little. "No. Cutting hair is the one place where I'm entirely Klingon and without finesse. I mangled my own many times as a child. Actually, Captain, if you want help, Tom's pretty good with a pair of scissors."
"He says he used to help his sisters. The middle one always cut her own hair and made a mess of it. He even did some in the Maquis, apparently."
"Hairdresser isn't on his resume."
"It's a thought."
Kathryn stares at her reflection in the part of the mirror she can see through the door out of the bathroom. The ends of her hair are already curling every which way and she's going to need help.
"He's up." B'Elanna's volunteering of that is a little too quick but it's too dark to see if she's blushing.
Kathryn taps her commbadge. "Mr. Paris, I'd like to ask a favour."
"Anything, Captain. I'm all yours."
"I've cut my hair--"
He laughs. "Be right up."
And he is, a few moments later with a little rolled bundle in his hands.
"Now, I usually charge a few replicator rations for a cut, but, since you're a first-timer, I could make this one free."
B'Elanna grunts and the lights come back on in the bathroom.
Kathryn starts to thank her, but B'Elanna shakes her head.
"Still need to correct the short in the secondary EPS junction." She heads into the bathtub and Tom helps Kathryn replace the mirror.
Her discarded hair is still on the floor, and Tom steps around it, as if it deserves his respect. He rolls out his tools on her sink.
"How short were you going with this?"
"Maybe chin length?"
Tom studies her, looking past her and seeing whatever it is one has to see to cut hair. She wouldn't have guessed he had a talent for it, but she can't be picky.
Her door chimes as Tom starts cleaning up the loose pieces on the left side of her face. She starts to move her chin.
Kathryn stops moving, and obeys, for once. "Come."
It's Tuvok, of course, and he has a report for her. How he knows she's always up is beyond her, but he's comfortable letting himself in.
"Is this a bad time?"
"I can't move my head."
"I am willing to read you my report."
Tom grins but keeps quiet. B'Elanna has two panels from the wall in Kathryn's bathtub now and the scissors keep snapping away more of her hair.
"That might be the most expedient way." Her droll agreement makes Tom's grin blossom and Tuvok is unperturbed.
He calmly explains the next security measures he's trying out and the sensor calibration B'Elanna's team has just finished. Even with the engineer there he's not shy with Vulcan praise, "adequate and efficient" and B'Elanna finally knows him well enough to grin into the wall.
Tuvok remains when his report is done, also staring at Kathryn without staring at her. She's an object right now. A woman with short auburn hair, drying as it's cut.
"Your sense of symmetry is excellent, Lieutenant."
Tom grins again, stroking Kathryn's hair back, testing what he's done with the front. It's remarkably intimate, yet not. She's just here. He's not Mark.
Tuvok drifts into the tub and winds up helping B'Elanna. Tom turns Kathryn, working on the back as the scissors snip and take away the weight of her hair. Already she feels lighter, but is that from the company?
There's smiling. Even a few jokes about what they should do with her hair. Tom's suggestion that they need to hide it from Neelix before it ends up in dessert even makes her laugh.
"Don't move your head." Tom snaps, in a remarkable impression of her 'command' voice.
"I'll try to be less funny."
"Don't try too hard and cut yourself."
The banter continues over the hum of the engineering tools and the high pitched click of the stembolts. Kathryn wants to look, but she can't, so she lets herself exist, one being among those who are friends.
Her friends, she admits to herself and her more sombre thoughts of Mark fade. Maybe she needed this more than she knew.
Another chirp of her communicator and Tom pauses so she can answer it.
"Captain, I require Lieutenant Tuvok. Is he available?"
"He's helping B'Elanna fix my bathroom."
"May I join you?"
Tom chuckles and B'Elanna grins a bit.
"There's room in the tub."
Eventually, after some arguing, and several raised eyebrows, Kathryn's bathroom is back together, her hair feels like and even a little bouncy, though she hasn't had the big reveal. She talks B'Elanna through coaxing caramel brownies from the replicator and when Tom's finally done with her hair, they're all sitting down, eating, drinking and waiting for her.
Kathryn stares at herself in the mirror. Her hair's short now, a neat cut that frames her face and takes the poetry out of the way it shadowed her neck. It's easy. Tom followed the lines of her hair and, when she plays with it, it returns to position. He is good.
His grin suggests he's aware of that.
"Very nice, Captain."
Tuvok nods. "It is a pleasant change. I hope you find it acceptable?"
Seven looks to Tuvok, then chimes in. "Perhaps your routine will be more efficient."
"Well, Tom. It seems you do good work."
"All depends on the model, Captain."
They finish what would be nearly a pan of brownies and it's past oh two hundred when they leave. Kathryn retreats to the floor of her bathroom, picking up the hair and dropping it into the recycler. Her hair can become part of the ship: a pair of socks or a hypospray. Voyager already has the rest of her. She might as well have this too.
"All right, we're really part of each other now, aren't we?"
Voyager is wisely quiet, she always is.
The door chime startles her, but it's been that kind of night.
"Captain, forgive me, the computer said you were still awake and I am curious."
Kathryn drops another handful of her hair into the recycler and shakes her head at Seven, her neck naked and cold.
"You and everyone else, it seems."
"I wish to inquire why you cut it."
When the last of her hair is gone, Kathryn shuts the disposal and the slight whir makes her wince. It's gone now. All gone. Her neck will be cold unless she grows it back. If she does. Maybe she just keep cutting, take off a few centimeters whenever she can't sleep.
"I needed too."
"Was it uncomfortable?"
"No, Seven, no-" Kathryn pauses. "My hair wasn't uncomfortable, I was." She waves at the sofa, but Seven remains standing by the door. "Mark loved my hair, it made me think of him."
"And his absence is unpleasant."
"Acutely." She sinks into the sofa Seven turned down and smiles. "Not always. It's complicated."
"And those feelings were represented in your hair?"
"Yes. No." How can she explain? "I don't know. I needed something to be different."
"Because of Mark."
Looking down at her bare feet, she sighs. "Because of me."
Seven considers this. "Were you successful?"
"I cut my hair."
"Mr. Paris did most of the cutting."
"And a much better job than I did."
Seven waits, patient, curious.
Be honest. "I felt lost. Then you all came and I remembered I wasn't."
"You have a collective."
Seven nods to that. "I am pleased you found that reassuring."
That's a nice way to put it. She doesn't have Mark, but she has a collective all the same. "So am I, Seven."
"I hope you are able to sleep well, Captain."
"And you, good night."
Kathryn watches her swallow a comment about regenerating and take the well wishes as they are. She's come so far already.
Seven stops, facing the door. "If I required assistance and did not ask for it, you would chastise me."
"This does not apply to you?"
"I'm the captain." Kathryn smiles a little, but Seven's right and she'll have to face it. Not tonight though. "Let's just say humanity is a work in progress for all of us, and it involves constant change."
And brownies, and middle of the night impromptu staff meetings in her bathroom. They try.
"I hope your change is not too unpleasant."
"Just a little cold."
Seven accepts that, nodding again. "Good night."