Title: Fades Yet Endures
Author: RoseKira@aol.com
Series: VOY Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: ST: VOY and all related characters owned by Paramount Studios. No copyright infringement intended.
Archive: Yes
Summary: Tom's story.
I live, I Die. I drown I burn. 
I shiver with cold and perish with heat. 
I leap from anguish to delight; from sweet 
To bitter. No two moments are the same. 

Suddenly my laughter and my cries 
Drown in a single instant, each pleasure 
Aches with a hidden torment, and the night 
Fades yet endures. I wither and I Bloom. 

So Love leads me on forever. 
And when I think I know the limits of pain 
Without knowing, I find myself at peace. 

When I think my joy is lasting and I see 
Some future hope, some present certainty, 
He returns and brings back the past again. (Louise Labe)

I screwed up. Big time. Forget the laurels, screw the promotion. An officer and a gentleman, my...

San Francisco, 2390. We'd been home twelve years. I hadn't laid eyes on Seven of Nine in over eleven. We talked, sure, through comm channels and padds, even talked of reunions. Chakotay met with B'Elanna at random intervals, he even came to Earth now and again. His formerly Borg wife was never with him. No explanations, no excuses. I was too embarrassed to ask if it was that last face to face conversation we'd had, she wouldn't have answered in any message, and I frankly doubt Chakotay knew. He was still dense as a wood block. Still head over heart for Janeway. I couldn't help but wonder 
why Seven had stuck with him as long as she had. I swore I'd find out, maybe visit her, surprise her. Force another slice of friendly realism into her off-kilter world. Of course, I never did. B'Elanna and I had
been more or less skating on thin ice the entire twelve years, and I think anything that looked remotely like intimacy...platonic or
otherwise...with Seven would have shattered the still water forever. For
Miral's sake, I was holding the peace.

Then, San Francisco, 2390. 

I had made full Commander by then, Captaincy pending. Of course, the 'pending' meant that I got the dull jobs nobody else wanted at the time, like night shift at Starfleet Command's aviation section. She visited me there, on the landing strip, slipping inside the two-seater shuttle I was checking out. 

She was very beautiful. That's not something I usually take note of in
women...I have my standards, sure, and do measure before I partake... but there are few women I've ever desired to examine in as minute detail as I desired to examine Seven of Nine that night. We sat in the shuttle, sharing warp theories and flight expertise and anything professional...she was nonfleet, but a pretty skilled civilian liaison...and I touched her hand, rubbing the knuckles, admiring the Doctor's fresh deBorging handiwork. Her touch was elegant, and purely human. Dawn rose, and she stopped talking, said she should leave.
Chakotay was likely waiting for her at their hotel. We stood, I walked her to the door, awkwardly, uncertainly, she wrapped her arms
around my neck. I returned the pressure, desperate not to shun her, for she was so sensitive, so very damned sensitive...

I walked her down to the lobby, where a secretary dozed away at her Starfleet worst, meaning I'd have to resequence the security code after Seven left, otherwise the precious secrets of the Federation would be
open to all and sundry. She turned, halted in the doorway, old- fashioned, agelessly attractive woolen coat swinging to cover her knees. She angled her head to kiss my cheek, at her most innocently affectionate.

I drew her hands behind her back and kissed her lips, fully, tasting, 
teaching. She was inexperienced, and I wondered at her relationship with Chakotay, if he was half as seasoned a lover as she tried to bluff, as B'Elanna had implied during our more vituperative arguments. Hell, a forty year old woman, and she barely knew how to kiss.

Forty years old. It wasn't easy to remember, thanks to her former Borg
nanoprobes. They hadn't exactly stopped the natural aging process, but had controlled matters enough that she could've gone well into her
seventies looking a very fit forty. By the time of our meeting, minus the nanoprobes and implants, she was forty, and looked it just about on time, an elegant maturity. I felt a bit of sorrow at that...being more
human was really a step down for her, in all ways. 

Not that it diminished her beauty. She looked regal, draped in the classy elegance she favored. Her eyes, that I'd always likened old with the knowledge of a trillion Borg, shone that night...I had rattled her, in
ways I don't think even Chakotay had managed. I'm not bragging. I kissed her, then I remembered that 'home' in Marseilles, where my wife and daughter were waiting on me. I felt like shit, or at the very least like one of those tacky holopimps in some of my less
admirable programs. If the sudden realization in those eyes was any indication, Seven felt worse.

She spoke first. "This was not precisely my plan , Mr. Paris. I had intended something more impersonal and less incriminating during our initial reunion."

I forced a smile of my own, brushing the moment away. "We'll have to remember that from this point on. Tell you what, go on back to your hotel, get some rest. We can meet again tonight, or tomorrow...dine out, or you could visit us at home."

"No, I do not believe that wise." A brief smile cut across the pale face.
"However, I will rest on it...and I would prefer to have an escort to the hotel."

An unusual request from Seven, at the very least. She rolled on, hands twitching absently against the coat buttons. "Chakotay and I have been arguing, as I told you. I do not believe he would deliberately seek to injure me, however, he was inebriated when I left the hotel. While he vocalized his intentions to seek shelter elsewhere for the evening, it is always a possibility that he remains."

"Chakotay never drinks."

"Precisely. It is difficult to predict the behavioral patterns of someone 
never prone to such an indulgence before."

"And you expect me to believe you're actually afraid of poor drunk Chakotay?"

"No." A smile lifted the corners of her lips. "It is merely what you call 'a
convenient excuse'."

And that, dear diary, is the sum of Seven's experience with seduction. It almost worked, too.

People always claim there's always a 'no' point. You know, the time between the desktop and the door. The door and the turbolift. The turbolift and bed. Or, in this case, the door and the hotel room. People who never crash land to my level like to think there are always moments to push back temptation, bite back the devils intent. I'd never accepted that before, and very nearly didn't then. 
Her hands were on my shoulders, her hips against mine, and had she tried the trick just a decade or so earlier, not even a full-scale alert
could have stopped me by then.

Of course, the ever punctual Seven of Nine was a little late. Over a decade late. And my responsibilities actually rose to the forefront then. I pushed her away. Couldn't blame her exactly, she held all the naiveté and frustration of a child throwing herself out into the rain, just to rebel, just to feel a little burst of power in an ocean of indifference. Maybe she did want me. Maybe she just wanted the pleasure. Maybe she just wanted a trophy catch. Her dammed laughter broke forth as she spun away, out the door, pausing on the stoop. 

"Go get some rest, Seven."

"I despise him."

"Hmm. Sounds like I told you so."

Her gaze was sharp, amused. "I believe that he is seeking shelter in your wife's bed."

Tilt-a-world. I know I gaped. "Well, that's one hell of an accusation."

"I never make them lightly. Have you completely failed to notice that
Chakotay's visits always coincide with your work shifts and your daughter's absences?"

"Seven...Lanna and Chakotay were friends long before Voyager. So he visits. YOU certainly aren't known for the honor. Try giving a little human leeway."

"I find myself not entirely certain I was ever meant to be human, Mr. Paris." Her voice caught. "But I am learning. I am learning."

"Reckless accusations aside, you're doing fine." Not by the most discerning standards, to be sure, but the way I've always figured it, humans are meant to screw themselves over thoroughly at least once in their lives, some of us more than once. Me as a prime example. To do anything else would be to remove the essence of us all. Make us Vulcan, or something...and much as I liked Tuvok, I couldn't have stood being him, anymore than Seven could have stood being Borg any longer. "And sorry, Sev, but I guess I'm just a little less hot-headed than you."

She turned to go, catching my eyes one last time, smiling faintly. "Or perhaps you are simply a fool."

We haven't spoken since, and things are better between Lanna and I. As far as I know, Seven went home to Chakotay and they're finally figuring out the minor nuances of the relationship. Starfleet tells me I'm anything but a fool, I have my command now, and Marseilles and B'Elanna and Miral on holidays. As long as Chakotay no longer visits my wife when I'm out here in this cold hell called space and my daughter is absent, I guess I'm alright.

Or perhaps I'm simply a fool.

Yeah, I screwed up. Big time. Well, its just fine, because I'm not the only one.