"Captain." She greeted her visitor without pausing her work. The footsteps faltered but then continued to her console.
"Why am I not surprised you knew it was me." Janeway smiled softly at her with that expression saved just for her. The amount of times she received that expression had increased in the last 32.7 days. She paused to bask fully in it and also to see the effect of her next statement on Janeway.
"You are human."
As predicted, the smile grew into a smirk, but she didn't take the bait as she had hoped. Before she could try another stalling tactic, a wet nose nudged her side. Aurelio stared up at her with what Samantha Wildman referred to as puppy dog eyes. Naomi Wildman was known to also employ the same technique. She quirked a brow down at him despite knowing full well what he wanted. When she still hasn't moved, he nudged her again and gave a little whine.
"Leo!" Seven glanced over at Janeway and noticed the blush adorning her cheeks. She enjoyed it immensely. Warmth filled her system and she almost smiled. She kept an eye on Janeway while she lowered her hand and pet Aurelio's soft red fur. A shiver went through Janeway and Aurelio leaned his head against her hand. This was something new. It started after they visited the Nubali space station. It was not a unique space station. The Borg had assimilated many species from the system. Janeway insisted Aurelio accompany her as an escort since she was too busy with negotiations to go herself. The crew of Voyager had grown used to her presence and she had almost forgotten what it was like to be met with nothing but hostility. Aurelio had tensed at one particularly rude encounter and she had stroked his fur like she's seen Janeway do on many occasions. She didn't think much of it at the time. It had served its purpose, calming the daemon down, but ever since that incident, her relationship with Janeway had changed. Aurelio sought her for more pets and Janeway for more social engagements.
Aurelio had never asked for her touch while Janeway was present however. She was delighted to see the reactions it brought out of Janeway. Janeway's blush had increased by 13.9 percent and her pupils had dilated. She stored it all in her cortical node and did not hide the smile the reaction bought.
The captain cleared her throat, glared at her daemon who did not look the least bit apologetic, before smiling back.
"Are you ready for your first lesson of daemon training?"
Seven sighed and removed her hand from Aurelio noting the disgruntled faces of both Aurelio and Janeway. "I do not understand why this is necessary. "
She glanced down at Andromeda who had taken the opportunity to crawl down her arm and onto Aurelio's snout. Aurelio was cross-eyed trying to look at her.
Seven turned back to Janeway who was gazing at their daemons with a fond smile. There was something wrong with the expression though. As if Janeway was in some kind of pain. She reflexively stepped forward to offer comfort only to wince as the Separation took hold.
Janeway closed the distance between them. "Seven, are you alright?"
"Yes" she said curtly, angry that her attempt to comfort Janeway turned into Janeway comforting her. She grabbed Andromeda and placed her back on her shoulder.
"Do not move." she silently told the creature. It buzzed in agitation but did nothing. When she looked back at Janeway she was studying the two of them with a look of concern.
"This is why we need to train, Seven. You can't even go a step without Separation hitting you."
She turned away from Janeway. She felt weak and foolish so she returned back to her work.
"It is irrelevant. It is of a small size. I have no trouble carrying it."
"She, Seven. And besides the fact that Starfleet regulations require a minimum of 10 meters of separation between daemons and their individuals, it's not healthy to keep Andromeda from free movement. For her or you. What if the situation required you to be separated? What then?"
Seven didn't stop her work. "I will adapt."
“That's your answer for everything isn't it?" The first hint of anger radiating from Janeway.
"You know this is untrue. " She stated without malice. The easy conversation between them was gone.
Janeway sighed. "Trust me on this Seven. This is a valuable, no, necessary, skill to have." She placed her hand on her shoulder near but not touching Andromeda. She could feel how close she was to Andromeda and the heat from that palm unnerved her. She tensed.
With clenched fists, she responded as clearly and devoid of emotion as she could. "For you perhaps. My daemon, even with full range of motion, is still unfavorable. Her offensive and defensive capabilities are minimal. She cannot transport supplies or relay classified information in secret. She is not 'fluffy' so that I may 'cuddle' her when I am feeling alone. She is irrelevant!" Her chest heaved. All warmth from earlier disappeared. Despair crept in. She was familiar with this emotion though it had been fleeting as of late.
Janeway was quiet. She refused to look at her or her daemon. She stared at her clenched fists. One Borg, one human.
Finally Janeway spoke. "She's you, Seven"
"She is not me!" she slammed her fists into the console. The metal bent easily underneath her fingers. Aurelio darted away from her, but she ignored him. "She is nothing but a drone. One of many. Like I was. And yet without her I would never have been 'human' enough for you to rescue me from the collective. We are unimportant.”
"Seven, are you ashamed of your daemon?" Janeway asked softly.
She did not expect this. She expected false platitudes telling her she was a valuable member of this crew. How they couldn't have survived without her despite her being as replaceable as the navigational array.
This bought another type of pain. She was ashamed. Ashamed of her daemon, ashamed of her existence as a human aboard Voyager when she knew she would never be. The crew knew it too. She glared at her Borg encased fist, hatred burning in her chest. She would never be free of the Borg.
A hand moved over hers. She couldn't stand to see the visual difference between herself and her Captain. She looked away.
"Seven, you are a valuable member of this crew." Platitudes. She attempted to remove her hand but stopped when Janeway squeezed. "Even more than that, you are the most remarkable individual I've ever met. And I am beyond proud to be able to call you my friend. Don't ever doubt your worth to be on this vessel with the crew…with me."
Seven quickly turned to Janeway's face and there was that expression again. Only this time with tears streaked across her lashes, streaks that refused to fall.
Her left eye blurred. Seven struggled to control her emotions. She took several deep breaths like the Doctor had instructed her whenever her cortical node malfunctioned. It finally returned to normal operations. Janeway hadn’t once taken her eyes off hers.
"I will comply." she said softly.
Janeway smiled at her, gave her a final squeeze, then removed her hand.
"Now come on. I'm sure Tom's chopping at the bit to collect the unused holodeck I reserved for us." She and Aurelio turned towards the Cargo Bay doors.
"Captain," She spoke before the doors opened. She waited for Janeway to turn before she spoke again. "Thank you." She put every emotion she was feeling into those two words. The relief, sheer joy and more.
The Captain smiled wider. "Call me Kathryn."