2389

My Birthday has never been very high on my priority list of celebratory milestones. Even as a child, I shied away from the attention. This year was different. Sixty birthdays, and I finally am able to enjoy it. Everyone I've ever loved is here. Bringing life to the old lonely rooms of this old farmhouse. Well, almost everyone. I'm painfully aware of one missing puzzle piece. I understand her absence, but that doesn't remove the ache. The longing. The desire.

Taking a sip of my bourbon, straight up, I look around the room. Long time friends from my childhood, my academy roommates, former captains I'd served under, my breath catches when I find a Voyager crew member in my surveillance, my sister scolding her daughter, and my dearest friend, Tuvok with his family. I catch his gaze and smile. I know he sees the subtle sadness behind my mask. He merely nods and lifts his own glass towards me. I reciprocate.

"Captain!" Someone shouts from the front door. There's a pang in my neck from the spastic way in which I jolt towards the surprising outburst. It's the Wildmans, and Naomi's face is beaming at me. I can't help but match its brilliance. She is so tall. Beautiful. Anyone unaware of her half K'tarian genetics would assume her to be in her mid twenties; she's a vibrant seventeen years old. I hear her mother chastise her but neither of us is listening and she runs towards me.

I have the presence of mind to put my glass down before she reaches me. She crashes into me with such force I have to step back to brace us. Not sure why my eyes fill with stinging tears.

"Hello, Darling." I say into her hair, hugging her tightly. "How's my Favorite Captains assistant?"

She laughed and leans back to look at me. She has a few tears fall down her face, but her smile is wide.

"Guess what!?" She whispers excitedly. I just shake my head in amused confusion. "I start at the academy in the fall! I'm going to specialize in Delta Quadrant phenomenon with an emphasis on Temporal Mechanics."

This makes me laugh heartily. I squeeze her shoulders and shake my head, grinning ear to ear. "Well, if anyone would excel at that it'd be you." She shrugs and joins me in my laughter.

"It seemed appropriate." She tells me.

"What did your mother say to you before you ran over here?" My curiosity getting the better of me.

"Oh," Naomi blushes. "She reminded me your an Admiral and not a Captain anymore."

She reminds me of the small, enthusiastic 7 year old running around the halls of Voyager with her sheepish expression. I laugh again. I've laughed more with her in 5 minutes than I have all afternoon.

"Well, guess what?" I reach up and cup her face with one hand. "I'll always be your Captain."

She Smiles and nods before crashing into me again, so tight.

I see her Mother over her shoulder, grinning at me and I wink at her.

"Why don't you go join your parents, we have all afternoon to visit more. I think Captain Tuvok would love to see you and Lieutenant's Kim and Ayala!"

Her smile falters slightly and she looks at me puzzled. "Seven isn't here?" she looks around, curious.

A flash of sorrow ghosts her eyes, mirroring my own. "No, I think she was unable to attend."

Naomi nods, knowingly. I'm aware they've kept in contact to some degree and that Naomi is aware of Seven's difficulty with returning to Earth. She'd obviously hoped at deeply as I had that Seven could have made it. I shrug and she smiles at me again. Slightly less bright but still luminous.

"Would it be ok to use the restroom?" She asked and I gesture to the stairs. "Thank you, Adm—Captain."

She runs through the crowd and disappears up the stairs.

I trip awkwardly on the top stairs, somehow miscalculating the height. Luckily, Captain Janeway has a very plus rug at the top of the landing and I only have the wind knocked out of me slightly. "That was graceful." I say to no one, getting up and dusting off my pants.

I hear someone quietly giggle in a room to the right and freeze.

"Hello?" I ask into the air. The door is open to the bedroom but its dark inside and I cannot see past a few feet inside.

I hear the giggling again.

"Someone there?" I ask, not exactly concerned but curious. There's a familiarity to the tone.

"Hello, Naomi Wildman. Sub-unit of Samantha Wildman."

My eyes wide as I run full force into the dark room. I still cannot see anything, until a small lamp in the corner clicks on. Seven of Nine, my best friend, is sitting in an arm chair. Her smile is broad and genuine. My heart skips a beat and in an instant she's standing in front of me. She's looking at me with Pride and Excitement. She pulls me into a hug, I'm still stunned but hug her back.

When we break apart, I realize she so different. Her stoic stance is lax and soft. She still has her occipital implant, and the starburst by her ear but they seem to almost blend in with her features. She moves with a fluid grace I never knew she'd be capable of.

"You look wonderful, Naomi." She holds me up by my arms, somehow knowing my legs are useless at the moment.

"I missed you so much!" I almost cry, and my voice cracks. Her smile widens, if that's even possible.

"I have Miss you, as well, my friend." I'm laughing through my tears now.

"Why aren't you down at the party?" I ask her, and her smile falls slightly before she corrects it. "The Captain would love to see you!"

"There are people down there that cannot know I am on Earth." She explains gently, dropping her hands to her side and shrugs. Another 'non-Seven' expression.

I Understand, she's told me all about how dangerous her profession is and its difficult for her to arrange visits to Earth.

"Is everything ok?" I ask her, slightly concerned.

She waves her hand as if its a silly question. "All good." She chuckles.

"You're so different." My voice sounds airy and she shrugs again.

"No one ever stays the same." She tells me quietly. "Everyone grows and changes. Just look at you!"

I laugh a little too loud and cover my mouth quickly. We are the same height, I realize.

"You are correct." I try to mimic her borgness and she laughs as loud as I had. Covering her own mouth just as quickly.

"Naomi?!" The sound of Samantha Wildmans voice draws their attention.

"Be right there!" I yell automatically.

She looks at me and smiles sadly. I pull her into a hug and she wraps her long arms around me. "I love you, Seven." I say into her hair. Long wavy blonde hair, falling loosely around her shoulders.

"I love you, too, my Friend." I feel her hand on my head and she cradles me to her, much the way I remember. A pang of loss surges through my as she pulls back and steps away.

"Go." She nods to the door and I pause for a moment, smiling at her before I leave. I feel heavy as i take each step down to the main floor where everyone's laughing and toasting my Captain.

Mom pulls me to her side and hooks her arm inside mine and grins. "Everything ok?" She asks and i just smile in return. It's enough for her and she looks out over the crowd.

Captain Janeway is in the center of the living room, making some toasts and everyone claps and cheers. She catches my eye and I wave, grinning.

She approaches us and hands mom a glass of wine. "How are you, Samantha?!" I have always loved her gravely voice.

They chat for a bit and my mom is pulled away by someone I don't know.

"Everything Ok, Naomi?" She noticed how quiet I was. Lost in thought.

"Mm-hmm!" I smile reach out, putting my hand on her arm near her elbow. "I was just upstairs, you have the cutest cat!" My eyes burn into her, willing her to understand.

she furrows her brow and shakes her head slightly. "Naomi, I don't ha…"

I see the realization on her face and release a breath I didn't even know I was holding.

"She's curled up in a chair, first door on the right."

My Captain nods and smiles.

The next hour passes excruciatingly slow. I can't break away but I'm being pulled by an invisible tether.

Bless Naomi, she's trying to help usher people out into the night. She has always been aware of the connection between Seven and Myself.

It feels like an eternity before I close my door and am left in the quiet. Fire still roaring in the corner. Quickly checking all the doors, they're all locked. The mess strewn about barely in my perception. All I can think about it going upstairs.

And then I'm there. Standing outside the first door on the right at the top of the stairs.

"Seven?" My throat is dry. The room is dark, I feel myself walking into the welcoming comfort.

"Happy Birthday." She's behind me, her breath against the nape of my neck. Arms encircle my waist and she kisses just behind my ear.

"Seven." It's like a prayer. Every time I speak her name. My lips worship the action.

She is humming. It's haunting. She sways slightly and turns me in her arms.

When she starts to sing, my eyes close of their own volition. Her clear angelic voice fills the room.

Wait in the dark

'Til your eyes adjust

To the light and you

See all the stars

They're not so far now, love

I know sometimes it feels like you're alone, you're alone

And you can't take the weight of the world all on your own

But don't forget the voice inside your head

I'll always find a way back to your heart

Just keep waiting in the dark

Keep holding on

Dreams are coming soon

I'll be there with you

It won't be long

And you'll be in my arms

She pulls me closer, our hands curled around each others and tucked inside our joined bodies. My head resting lazily on her shoulder, nuzzling into the soft skin of her neck. She smells like honeysuckle and metal. Uniquely her.

I'll be keeping you warm

I know sometimes you feel like giving up, giving up

No, it's not easy being far away from love

But don't forget the voice inside your head

We never really have to be apart

Just keep waiting in the dark, in the dark

Just close your eyes and you'll find me

Just close your eyes and you'll find me

Just close your eyes and you'll find me

I'll be there

I'll be there

Close those tired eyes

And put that mind to rest

You'll be safe in bed

I'll hold you tight

And you'll be loved tonight