Title: Perfectly Human

J/7

Rating: PG-13 to R

Summary: Seven of Nine accesses more of her human side with startling results for Janeway.

 

Disclaimers: Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount.  This work is not intended to infringe on their copyright and is not for profit.

 

Chapter One

 

The disc careened off the wall, ricocheting almost low enough to hit the floor of the Velocity court before brushing the tall woman in the ankle before she could get her phaser in position.

 

“Point to Janeway. The score is 5 to 5.”

 

Scowling, Seven of Nine pushed back the strands of loose blonde hair that had fallen from her usually impeccable bun. Only minutes earlier she had held the advantage in the match, and now the score was tied again. 

 

Throwing her opponent a wicked half grin, Kathryn Janeway bounced on the balls of her feet, her compact body crouched and ready for the next point.  As always the auburn-haired captain was winning this match, a source of continued annoyance to Seven.

 

“Ready?” Kathryn asked.

 

Seven nodded.

 

“Go!”

 

The computer launched another disc. Janeway fired her phaser while the disc hovered in midair.  It lurched toward Seven who stood firm, phaser ready.  She fired and the disk nicked Kathryn’s elbow as she tried to roll out of the way.

 

“Good shot,” she said, rubbing her funny bone.

 

“Thank you, Captain.”

 

It was time to stop toying with the Borg, Kathryn decided and yet she couldn’t help it. She loved to see Seven with her hair down, her frustration at losing almost palpable with every breath she took.  Janeway loved playing Velocity with her, loved seeing Seven in disarray, as far from her usual ice queen demeanor as possible. ***Face it Kathryn, you just plain love her.***

 

Shocked at the thought that sprang out of nowhere,  Kathryn didn’t hear the start of the next round nor feel the Velocity disc until it collided with her right shoulder. Oomph. It stung.

 

“Point to Seven of Nine.”

 

“Captain, are you damaged?”  Seven halted the game and went immediately to Janeway’s side. 

 

It was strange that captain had showed no defense when the disc had come hurtling toward her.

 

“I’m fine,” Kathryn said, more embarrassed at her line of thought than by the lost point.

 

“You were distracted.”

 

“Uhm.Yes.”

 

She was even more distracted by the touch of Seven’s hand on her arm and the Borg’s Velocity outfit that displayed even more of the young woman than her form-fitting biometric suits.  There was a metal starburst implant on her right bicep, a twin to the one on her cheek.

 

“It is not like you to be distracted.”

 

“Human beings get distracted, Seven.” Especially when faced with feelings like the one she possessed toward the ship’s Astrometrics Officer. Since severing Seven from the Borg Collective three years ago, Kathryn had wrestled with her growing affection for the young woman.

 

“Shall we stop?”

 

“With you leading, not a chance,” Janeway said.

 

Seven’s lips lifted slightly, recognizing the competitive spirit in Voyager’s captain.  “Very well. It was my point, I believe.”

 

By concentrating all her efforts during the next twenty minutes Janeway was able to emerge victorious. She tried not to look insufferably smug as the computer announced. “Match to Janeway.”

 

“You have won again!”  Seven exclaimed, looking as though she would throw her phaser in frustration.  And was that the beginnings of a pout?  Kathryn hid a smile.  The ex-Borg looked adorable.

 

“You almost had me for a few minutes.”

 

“I would like to have you for more than a few minutes,” the young woman replied.

 

Janeway inhaled sharply.  ***Easy, Kathryn.  She didn’t mean it that way.*** Seven was a total innocent when it came to matters of the heart.

 

“I am physically superior to you. My optical implant gives my vision more range and depth. My eidetic memory holds all the shots you have attempted in our previous games.   I should win a match!”

 

Kathryn smiled openly.  “Better luck next time.”

 

“Luck has nothing to it.  I believe this game requires too much of the human variable for me to succeed.”

 

Kathryn dabbed her face with a towel she pulled from her bag.  “You think so?”

 

“It is frustrating.”

 

“And that’s definitely human.”  Kathryn spotted something glittering on the court.  One of Seven’s hair pins had fallen out during their match.  “Computer, end program.” she called out, using that shift in the surroundings to bend down and scoop up the pin, which she kept it in the palm of her hand as the two women exited the holodeck.

 

 “Play again next week?”  she asked Seven, slinging the towel over her shoulder.

 

“Agreed.”  No matter how frustrated Seven got, she always was willing to play again. 

 

Was that part of her Borg nature or her human one, Kathryn wondered later as she walked to her quarters on Deck Three.  Carefully she deposited the hair pin in the small crystal bowl on her night stand where it joined a half dozen other pins from previous games with Seven.  To the victor belong the spoils. She liked taking home something of her opponent. 

 

***Tell the truth, Kathryn.  You’d like to take Seven  home.***

 

Irritated with herself, she went into the ensuite and ran the sonic shower on its highest frequency, enough to give her a headache and drown out the nagging voice.

 

Maybe she did love Seven.  Absolutely nothing was going to come from it.  She was the captain, and Seven was under her chain of command.  It would be impossible to indulge in such a relationship.

 

However nothing could keep her from dreaming about it when she was asleep.

 

******

 

 

Seven of Nine gazed out at the star chart she was plotting for Voyager’s trip back to the Alpha Quadrant.  The captain had asked her to plot out alternative routes since they had lost time battling the Inari, a particularly contentious species.  She was not sure the captain would deem this route any safer.  Two planets had launched beacons, warning ships to stay away from their space.  Of course Captain Janeway did not always heed such warnings, enjoying challenges and taking chances, the way she often did when she played Velocity with Seven.  The Borg was still smarting over her inability to vanquish the older woman in the game two days ago.

 

It made no logical sense.  She was Janeway’s physical superior.  Of course, Chakotay was physically superior and not the captain of this vessel.  Kathryn commanded not just by physical strength but by the loyalty she engendered in her crew, including Seven who was not a member of either Starfleet or the Maquis who comprised Voyager’s crew.  In this respect she was more like Neelix, the Talaxian who served as cook and morale officer. 

 

The doors to the astrometrics lab opened and for a moment Seven thought it would be her Velocity opponent who often interrupted her bridge routine to poke about the lab. However this lumbering footstep was nothing like the captain’s lithe and graceful step.

 

“Here’s the report on the spatial anomaly you wanted, Seven,” Ensign Kim said, handing her a padd.

 

“Thank you, Ensign.  You are efficient.”  She had requested the report only yesterday.

 

As he continued to linger instead of returning to his duties on the bridge, she glanced over at the young man.  “Is there something else you require, Ensign?”

 

The dark-haired Ops Officer grinned.  “You know, you can call me Harry by now, Seven.  We’ve known each other, what, three years?”

 

“Three years, four months and seven days,” she said promptly. “Very well.  How may I assist you, Harry.”

 

The ensign stepped closer to her work console.  “I was wondering if you’d heard about the new holo program Tom is running Friday.”

 

“I have not. Is it a variation of his Captain Proton series?”  The Borg had portrayed Constance Goodheart in that program and she had not enjoyed the activity very much.

 

“No…it’s a brand new one. He calls it Bijou Palace.”

 

“Is it about a mythical kingdom?” she asked, as she continued plotting the route the captain had ordered.  She had scant interest in small talk but the EMH had mentioned this manner of talking was a human requirement.

 

“No…actually he’s created a movie theatre and is showing a motion picture the way people did back in the early 20th century.”

 

“A historical program then.”

 

“Not exactly. In the olden days people would go into these theatres to be entertained by what they saw on the movie screen.  They’d eat popcorn and drink soda too.”

 

“Your point, En…Harry?”

 

“I was wondering if you would like to go to the movies with me.” Kim took his words in a rush.

 

Seven turned from her viewscreen. “Is it required to go into the movie theatre in pairs?”

 

Harry shook his head. “Although it would be more authentic. In the past people frequently went to movies on dates.”

 

“On dates?”  Seven paled.  She had gone on only one date since joining Voyager and it had been so unsuccessful she had no desire to repeat a mistake that had left Lt. Chapman with a deltoid injury.

 

“And friends would go together too.”

 

“Friends?”  Seven glanced at him pointedly.  She did not have many friends among the crew, except perhaps for Naomi Wildman.

 

“Or people just trying to get to know one another better.”

 

Seven frowned.  Harry Kim was a pleasant young man and possessed an adequate grasp of engineering and astrometric principles and she was not adverse to having him team up with her in the astrometrics lab. Even so she had no desire to know him better and to spend time in his company while watching a movie was not something she wished to engage in. She opened her mouth to tell him so when she remembered the EMH’s lessons on socialization.  She must not bluntly tell him she had no interest in his company.  She must dissemble, tell what was euphemistically called a white lie.

 

“Thank you for your invitation, Harry. That does sound intriguing.”

 

“So you’ll come with me?” Kim asked eagerly.

 

“Unfortunately, I must decline.  I have other plans.”

 

“You do?”

 

He looked at her in disbelief.  Usually Seven just worked or regenerated.  She had little need of recreation, except perhaps playing kodiskot with Naomi Wildman or Velocity with the captain.

 

“The captain requires my presence.”

 

“Oh. Doing what?”

 

“We will be having a philosophical discussion and consuming nutritional supplements.”

 

“Talking over dinner,” he translated.  “In the mess hall or in Sandrine’s?”

 

“In the captain’s quarters.  Therefore, I cannot accept your offer and accompany you to the movie. You understand?”

 

“Sure, Seven.”  Harry left, wondering why the captain was suddenly wining and dining Seven of Nine.

 

After the ensign left the astrometrics lab, the tall blonde picked up the padd he had given her.  Quickly she downloaded and matched the information about the anomaly to the sensor readings.  In order to spare his feelings she had told a white lie.  Now she would need to inform the captain that they were required to ingest nutritional supplements together.  Just how would she do that?  Certainly this human need for dissembling took more thought that simply telling the truth.

 

********

 

Kathryn stared at the movie poster Chakotay was holding up of Tom’s latest holo program.

 

“Bijou Palace?”  she asked from behind her ready room desk..

 

“It’s for Friday’s premiere of a movie called Godzilla. Supposed to be a classic horror show about an ape.”

 

She rolled her eyes.  “Whatever  keeps morale up on the ship.”

 

“You planning to make an appearance?”  The burly First Officer put the poster down.

 

“I don’t know. Maybe.”  She thought fleetingly of taking Seven to it under the guise of learning more about Terran traditions.  If it was a horror movie when it got to the scary parts she could bury her head in Seven’s shoulder. Conduct hardly becoming a starship captain.

 

“Maybe we could go together,” Chakotay suggested.


***Oh drat.*** She looked across the desk at the handsome ex-Maquis leader, wanting to spare his feelings.  She was fond of him, but she didn’t want Chakotay to think anything was ever going to happen between them.

 

***And it sure wasn’t his hand she wanted to hold in the darkened theatre.***

 

“I’m not sure a horror movie is quite my taste.  Maybe next time.”

 

“Sure.”  He dipped his head agreeably.  That was the problem with Chakotay.  He was always so agreeable.  She liked that about him and at the same time found it wanting in someone she could take as a romantic partner.

 

“Now, let’s see those personnel evaluations.”

 

She settled back with the evaluations of the one hundred forty five member crew.  Sometimes it seemed that she no sooner finished an evaluation then it was time to do it again.  She didn’t suppose the senior staff who had to do the preliminary evaluations liked it any more than she did.  Bureaucratic paperwork, but something Starfleet would require if she were still back in the Alpha Quadrant. 

 

“What’s the mood on the ship these days, Chakotay?” she asked when they were finished and she was at the replicator, requesting her second cup of coffee.

 

“All right, considering we’ve all been working extra hard in the last few weeks, Captain.”

 

“Having the EPS manifold blow out wasn’t a picnic for anyone.”   She took a sip of her coffee.

 

“Any possibility of shore leave?  The crew could use a little R&R”

 

The extra work had delayed them even more from their course to the Alpha Quadrant,  and so would shore leave, and yet Chakotay had a point.  The crew deserved a chance to blow off steam. 

 

“Good idea.  I’ll have Seven scan for M class planets in the vicinity. Until then they’ll just have to be satisfied with Godzilla.”

 

Chakotay returned to the bridge, and Kathryn picked up a padd from the pile stacked on her desk.  This one from Neelix had to do with his mess hall inventory.  She was still engrossed in his need for more leota root and her need for more coffee when her comm badge chirped.

 

“Seven of Nine to Captain Janeway.”

 

“Janeway here.”

 

“Captain, please report to astrometrics.”

 

It was on the tip of Janeway’s tongue to remind Seven once again how the chain of command operated, then she realized that she could use a break.  Somehow or other, sooner or later,  the redhead usually found herself in astrometrics during her duty shift.  It might as well be now.

 

“On my way.” At least it would be a welcome respite from Neelix’s inventory.

 

In the astrometrics lab Seven’s cortical node had assessed and rejected a dozen ways to ask Captain Janeway to dinner. 

 

“Captain, I require your presence on Friday.”

 

“Captain, may we share a meal…”

 

No statement seemed sufficient enough to guarantee the other woman’s acquiescence.  And the captain was on her way.  Feeling uncharacteristically nervous, Seven crossed to her work station just as the astrometrics door opened.  Familiar footsteps could be heard by her Borg-enhanced hearing as they padded across the floor, coming closer.

 

“Seven?” a distinctive husky voice asked.

 

She turned, acknowledging the captain’s presence. “Captain, I have uploaded the information about the spatial anomaly we passed two days ago.  It is a gaseous cloud composed of equal parts nitrogen and hydrogen. Nothing remarkable about it.”

 

Kathryn’s brow wrinkled slightly.  “Couldn’t all this have been given to me in a report?”

 

“Yes.” The Borg acknowledged.  She seemed unable to meet the captain’s eye, as though bashful for some reason.  This was rather unlike Seven and Janeway was intrigued.

 

“Are you all right, Seven?”

 

“I am functioning within normal parameters. Although I am experiencing difficulty with the human propensity for dissembling.”

 

 “Has someone deceived you?” Janeway’s voice sharpened.

 

“The deception is mine. I had to tell a little white lie and am weighing the consequences of my act.”

 

The redhead leaned an elbow on the console. “I see.”

 

“Do you tell little white lies, Captain?”

 

“I suppose I have,” Janeway admitted. “It depends on the occasion and the reason.”

 

“Such as not hurting someone’s feelings.”

 

“Yes.”  Kathryn was curious.  Since the Borg was unfailingly honest, she would no doubt have difficulty with a white lie.  “Can I help in any way?”

 

To her surprise, Seven accepted her offer.

 

“You may help by consuming a nutritional supplement with me.”

 

Kathryn stared at the other woman in confusion.  Did Seven want her to eat something? 

 

“Right now?”

 

“No.  On Friday evening.”

 

“Friday?”  Was Seven asking her out on a date?

 

“Unless you are busy then.”  Seven’s pale azure eyes gazed uncertainly into Kathryn’s.  Good heavens, it was a date.

 

“I was thinking of attending Lt. Paris’s movie premiere,” Janeway countered to give herself time to assess things.  “Would you care to go with me?” 

 

“I cannot go to that movie,” Seven stated so emphatically that Janeway blinked.

 

“Why not?”

 

“Ensign Kim will be there.”

 

“And why does his presence preclude yours?”  Kathryn asked, trying to solve the riddle of Seven’s behavior.

 

“Mr. Kim invited me to attend the movie. I had no interest in going with him, but I did not wish to hurt his feelings.”

 

“I see.” Much the same thing had happened with her and Chakotay.  Only Janeway was more experienced in deflecting the unwanted interest.  “So you told Harry what exactly?”

 

“I told him that I had plans with you.  We would be engaging in a philosophical discussion while consuming nourishment.”

 

“Dinner.”  Kathryn said, the light beginning to dawn.

 

“Yes.”

 

“So you’re asking me to have dinner with you now, just to get out of the date with Harry?”  Janeway’s ego deflated slightly.

 

“Not entirely.  I do not wish for the ensign’s company.  I enjoy yours,” Seven said.

 

Kathryn’s eyes widened slightly.  Seven had sounded very sure about that.

 

“I want to have dinner with you, Captain, not just because of Mr. Kim.  I find the idea of being alone with you in quiet surroundings most appealing.”

 

Kathryn swallowed a sudden lump in her throat, aware that her rate of respiration had increased.  “Well, thank you, Seven.  I’d like that too.  So what time is dinner?” she asked, trying to keep her response nonchalant.

 

“2000 hours.”

 

“Shall we meet in the mess hall?”

 

“Our dinner should take place in your quarters.”

 

Janeway cocked her head.  “I see.  So I’m cooking or at least replicating.  What’s on the menu?”

 

“I have not considered that.” 

 

Janeway laughed.  “The hostess usually takes care of the menu.  Shall we dress casually or formally?”

 

When an odd expression flitted across Seven’s face, Kathryn took pity on her.

 

“I’m just teasing.”

 

“I would not be adverse to seeing you out of uniform, Captain,” Seven confessed.

 

A shiver went up and down Janeway’s spine at the idea of being gloriously out of uniform with Seven behind closed doors in her private quarters.

 

“Well then, dinner Friday night, casual dress, my quarters.  Have I forgotten anything else?”

 

“No, Captain.  That will be sufficient.”

 

Dismissed, Janeway thought ruefully.  She was half way to the bridge before she remembered that she hadn’t ordered Seven to scan for M class planets. 

 

 Chapter Two

 

“So, tell me about this big date you have with the captain.”

 

Seven stared at the individual standing in front of her.  Usually her arrogant glare would be enough to silence most humans. However, the folliclely-challenged EMH was a hologram, not a human.

 

“Don’t you want to tell me about it?” The Doctor prodded, running a probe from the medical tricorder over the blonde standing by the biobed.

 

“I see no reason to engage in such a frivolous topic of conversation.” The ex-Borg stood with her hands clasped behind her back in Voyager’s sickbay, submitting to a routine procedure to check her implants.  It was an appointment she disliked almost as much as the inane questions the doctor sometimes asked.

 

“I am the one who has been giving you lessons in socialization,” he reminded her, snapping the tricorder shut and reaching for the instrument tray.  “And we both know how your last date ended up.”

 

“This is not a date,” Seven said, lifting her ocular implant just as he touched a stylus to it.  There was a slight electrical jolt, nothing harmful but enough for her to feel annoyed. “You should be attending to my implants and not my dating,” she declared.

 

“I thought you said this wasn’t a date.”

 

“It is not.”

 

“Eating dinner with the captain isn’t always a date,” he agreed. “She dines with Commander Chakotay quite often in her quarters.”

 

“She does?” Seven looked up in alarm and the stylus nearly poked her in the eye.  Fortunately it was her left artificial eye.

 

“Will you keep your head still,” the Doctor complained.

 

“If you will cease your conversation,” she countered.

 

“Everyone knows that the captain has a standing date once a week with Chakotay.  I asked him once about it but he denied it was a date.  It seems the captain likes to have these non-dates with many people.”

 

Seven digested this fact quietly.  So the captain’s willingness to dine with her meant nothing.  She was in the habit of dining with many others on a regular basis.

 

“What are you wearing to dinner?” the EMH asked next.

 

“I had not thought of it.”

 

“You could always wear that dress you wore with Lt. Chapman.”

 

“I have recycled it,” she said shortly. She had not wanted a reminder of that dreadful night.

 

“Well, your bio suits are very adaptable.  Maybe the silver one.  I’ve always been partial to that one.”  He smiled and popped opened the starburst implant on her bicep.  He frowned as he poked around inside.  “What’s this?”

 

“Just something I was keeping inside.”

 

“Seven, your implants aren’t a storage area,” he said sternly.

 

“I do not have pockets on my bio suits.  Sometimes I require a storage area.”

 

He extracted the object with a pair of forceps and held it to the light.  “Small, round, metallic. It looks like a pip.”

 

Quickly, she took it from him.

 

“I found it on the floor of the mess hall,” she said.

 

“Who lost it?”

 

“I am uncertain,” Seven said, fingers tightening on the pip.

 

“I know what you’re doing, Seven,” the EMH said, finishing with her implant and looking at her with an odd expression on his face.

 

“Indeed?”

 

“You want to feel like more of the crew…and having a pip makes you feel that way.  You don’t have to hide it in your implant.”

 

“I can hardly wear it in my collar.”

 

“No.  You don’t have a collar.”


“Are you finished with my check up?” she demanded, not wanting to continue the conversation.

 

“You’re as healthy as any ex-Borg drone I know.  Of course you’re the only ex-Borg drone I know.  Just don’t be sticking any more pips in your implants.”

 

“I shall not,” she said. 

 

She left the sick bay and returned to the cargo bay where she placed the pip in the small container where she kept her personal items.  She did not have many.  There were some grooming aids, hair brushes and pins, the padds that were the logs from her parents, and a holoimage that had been taken of her with the Voyager crew.  She gazed at the image for a moment, remembering that it had been taken at a birthday celebration for Naomi Wildman, her half-Katarian friend. 

 

In the holoimage the captain was resting her hand on Seven’s shoulder as Seven helped Naomi blow out the candles on the birthday cake.  She could still feel the captain’s fingers pressing lightly into her skin.

 

At the birthday celebration they had played games, including one that involved blindfolding people and having them stick a tail on a donkey’s posterior.  In the excitement Seven had noticed that one of the captain’s pips had fallen off.  Her ocular implant had found it under the table and she had picked it up.  But for some reason she had not returned it to the captain.  She had stored it in her implant.

 

Why had she done that?  Logically she could not explain it.  All she knew was it felt good to carry a little bit of the captain as close to her as possible.  Just. thinking of the captain often engendered many pleasant feelings in Seven during the day.  And night too.

 

She glanced at the holoimage again, looking at Naomi Wildman for a moment.  Then she placed her collection away and strode purposefully out of the cargo bay.  She made her way to the turbolift and Deck 9 section 14 where the Wildmans lived.  Soon she was ringing the chime outside of the quarters.

 

“Seven.”  Samantha Wildman looked at her visitor in surprise

 

“Ensign Wildman.”

 

“Naomi’s not here right now,” the stocky blonde said with a smile.  “I think you’ll find her in the mess hall with Neelix.”

 

“I am not seeking Naomi Wildman’s company.  I desire your assistance.”

 

“Oh, come in and sit down.  How can I help?”

 

The lanky blonde appeared uncertain for a moment as she seated herself gingerly on the couch. “I desire your assistance in a matter of fashion.  Naomi Wildman has mentioned that you have a flair for design.”

 

Sam smiled.  “She exaggerates, although I did design her clothes.”

 

“They are colorful as well as functional.”

 

“Thanks.  So are you thinking of replacing your biometric suits?”

 

“No. I desire something I can wear to dinner.”

 

“I see.”

 

“The attire is casual,” Seven continued, then confessed.  “I do not know what that means.”

 

“That generally means something that’s fun to wear, not stuffy or too formal.”

 

“Can you advise me?”

 

Like many on board the ship Samantha was often daunted by Seven’s Borgness.  The astrometrics officer was brilliant and not shy about showing that intellectual superiority.  And yet the ensign knew the aloof blonde was on some level not much older than her own daughter, while still on many levels older than everyone else on the ship. 

 

“Let’s start with a simple dress or maybe slacks and a top?”

 

“Acceptable.”

 

Quickly Samantha found a padd and entered different patterns for dresses and tops. She showed the clothing models on the screen to Seven, asking which the young woman preferred.

 

“The slacks and tunic would afford me greater range of motion.”

 

Sam nodded her agreement.  “Dresses can be confining, but it all depends.  Let’s just go with the slacks and top.  I’m thinking black pants?”

 

“Like the uniform pants you have on?”

 

The ensign frowned.  “No black.  You don’t want to be reminded of work. How about blue to match your eyes.  Or maybe something multicolored.  That would be nice for a casual date.”

 

“This is not a date,” Seven protested.  Samantha did not hear her, already entering more data into the padd.

 

“Now what kind of fabric?  Something soft and smooth.”

 

“I did not know the matter was so complex.”  Perhaps she should just wear one of her bio suits.

 

Samantha wasn’t listening, busy entering and changing different measurements into the padd.  After showing Seven the different choices and discussing the matter further she finally entered the parameters into the replicator and drew out a beautiful multi-hued top with a scooped neckline and matching pants.

 

“Try them on…” she urged.

 

Seven took the clothes into Naomi’s bedroom where she undid the cinch of her bio suit then stepped into the pants and top. She gazed at her reflection in the small mirror.  She looked so different from her usual self.

 

“You look fabulous,” Samantha said when she came out.  “Your date will be drooling.”

 

“I do not wish the captain’s salivary glands to malfunction like that.”

 

The ensign’s smile froze.  “You’re dating the captain?” she squeaked.

 

Seven wondered why everyone persisted in calling the dinner a date.  “It is not a date.  I am not good on dates.  I am just having dinner with her. I am grateful for your help.”

 

“Any time, Seven.  I’ll keep the pattern in the replicator so that if you want another color top or pants you can have them.”

 

*******

 

“Come on Harry, quit sulking and help me here,” Tom Paris said as he tinkered with the holoemitters.

 

“I’m not sulking.”

 

“Yes, you are,” the blonde helmsman said.  They were in the holodeck running through the Bijou Palace program.  The red carpet on the deck, the velvet curtain, the theatre chairs were all as authentic as he could make it.  “Just because Seven would rather have dinner with the captain than see a movie with you is no reason for the long face.”

 

“I bet it’s the movie.  Godzilla.  That’s a stupid movie to show. About an ape climbing the Empire State Building.”

 

“That’s King Kong.  And that was a good movie too.  I’ll feature that next week.”  Tom frowned as he tried out one of the theatre seats.  “Computer increase distance between rows ten centimeters.

 

The computer made the adjustment and Tom stretched out his legs.  “That’s better.”  He glanced up at Harry.  “I hear the Delaney twins are coming to the movies alone.”

 

“So?”

 

“So you could wind up sitting with them.  Or even between them.” He winked at Harry. “They’re more fun than Seven, that’s for sure.”

 

“Seven is different and I like her.”

 

“Hey, so do I.  But face facts, Harry.  It’s not going to happen between you two.”

 

“And why not?”

 

“Harry, you’re my best friend and you’re a great guy.  It’s just that Seven has more life experience, considering all the assimilations she’s done.  Trust me.  Put your money on the Delaneys.”

 

“I had a girlfriend, you know.  I bet Seven hasn’t had a boyfriend.”

 

“Borg don’t have boyfriends, Harry.”

 

*****

 

What the hell was she going to cook for dinner.  Kathryn Janeway glanced through the replicator menus that she had previously programmed over the years.  Her dinners with Chakotay were simple.  Whatever she programmed, he ate.   Why was this meal so complicated?

 

***Because you feel a ton more for Seven than you do for Chakotay***.

 

She was fussing too much over the food.  Seven barely ate anything.  She wouldn’t want anything too spicy or complicated.  Perhaps a simple salmon dish with a mango relish and wild rice.   Pleased, she made the selection, realizing that time was slipping by.

 

Quickly, she showered then went over to her bed and the emerald green dress she had laid out.  She slipped the silk garment on and smoothed the fabric, enjoying the way it felt against her skin.  A pair of black heels completed the ensemble. Staring at herself in the mirror, Kathryn picked up a hair brush and pulled it through her hair, wondering if she should let it grow longer.  She had long hair when she had first met Seven three years ago. 

 

Five minutes later, the door chime rang and Kathryn realized that it was 2000 hours. Seven was always prompt. Attaching the clasp on her gold bracelet, Kathryn hurried to the door.

 

“Good evening,” she started to say and then simply stared, words withering on her tongue.

 

Seven stood there, her blonde hair down and curling slightly at the ends. She carried a bouquet of spring flowers that she thrust out to Janeway.

 

“For you.”

 

Delighted by the combination of white daisies, yellow marigolds, pink tulips and golden daffodils, Kathryn took them eagerly.  “Thank you, Seven.  These will look very nice on the table.”  ***As would Seven.*** She was wearing a silky outfit just as colorful as the flowers.

 

Kathryn found a crystal vase, a souvenir from a trip to the Froehn Homeworld and placed the flowers in water and put the arrangement on the table.

 

“You find the flowers aesthetically pleasing?” Seven inquired, observing her actions.

 

“Yes, I do.”

 

“I am glad.”  Seven had poured over the information in the data base and found that a small hostess gift was usually in order.  She did not know the captain’s taste in wine so had settled on flowers. 

 

Roses would have made this a date, so she had chosen the spring assortment.

 

“You look beautiful tonight,” Kathryn said, her voice lower than usual.

The change in the captain’s tonal patterns caused Seven to breathe more quickly. But why?  This was the captain, her friend. 

 

“You are aesthetically pleasing as well,” the blonde said, noticing the way the captain smiled at her words.  The green of the captain’s dress brought out the highlights of the red hair and she wondered what that hair would feel like if she touched it.

 

“Would you like something to drink?”

 

“Perhaps an apple juice?”

 

Janeway felt glad that it was not the Borg’s rote refusal of not requiring liquid refreshment at this time.

 

“Two apple juices, coming right up.”  Janeway said. She brought them over to the couch where Seven stood.  “Let’s have a toast. To good friends,” she said and clicked her glass to Seven’s.

 

The Borg sipped the juice slowly, savoring the sweet taste. As her tongue lightly lingered on her lower lip, Kathryn felt a flush building from her toes, heading all the way up to the top of her head.. 

 

“Let’s sit down, shall we?”  she asked, feeling weak in the knees.

 

Dutifully, Seven sat.

 

“I like that outfit on you, Seven.”


“Thank you, Captain. Ensign Wildman helped me replicate it.”

 

“We’re not on duty.  You can call me Kathryn.”

 

“Kathryn,” Seven said softly, savoring the two syllables the way she had the apple juice.

 

Janeway felt her fingers tingling.  Really, she was acting like a teenager on her first date.

 

“How was your day, Seven?”

 

“Productive.  I re-aligned the deflector array and assisted Lt. Torres in engineering.  I also began the scans for M class planets suitable for shore leave.”

 

“Good.”

 

“And yours, Cap…Kathryn?”

 

Janeway thought of the boring tasks that had consumed her day.  She didn’t want to rehash them.   “Let’s not talk shop.”

 

Seven lifted her ocular implant. “Shop?”

 

“About work or duty.  Let’s talk about other things.”

 

“Such as?”

 

“Music.  Art.  Did you see Master DaVinci lately?”  On several occasions Seven had run Kathryn’s DaVinci program.

 

“I have not. I find that my painting and drawing are not adequate, even after all this time.  They may be technically proficient but I lack soul according to the Maestro.”

 

“You should have heard what he told me my work lacked,” Kathryn sympathized.  “I’m sure it’ll come in time. Perhaps you should sculpt.”

 

“Mold clay into shapes with my hands?” Her reply made clear her distaste of such an activity. Borg were fastidious.

 

“Some people find it therapeutic.”

 

“Do you?”

 

“I’ve always been enjoyed working with my hands,” Kathryn said.  “Getting my hands dirty.”

 

“Indeed.”  Seven gazed down at the digits now holding the juice glass and felt a fluttering in her stomach.

 

Alarmed at the way the young woman stared at her hands, which were tingling so hard Kathryn thought the glass would shatter, the captain rose.  “I’d better go and check on dinner.”

 

“May I assist?”

 

“No, thanks.  Just take your seat at the table.”

 

Seven had been in the captain’s quarters before but they had never eaten dinner here.  The meals they had consumed had usually been in the messhall.  This was different. She walked over to the dining chairs.  Was this where Commander Chakotay sat when he had dinner with the captain?  And why did that thought annoy her so.

 

“Tada!”  Janeway exclaimed, as she put a platter on the table. 

 

Seven was amused. It was obvious that Kathryn was very pleased with herself.  The blonde gazed down at the dish. 

 

“The food appears very colorful with an assortment of textures,” Seven said.

 

Janeway grinned. “Let’s just hope it tastes good too.”

 

She spooned out a small portion of the salmon for her guest and for herself. Then she sat down across from Seven.

 

“Dig in.”

 

“Dig?”

 

“Just an expression meaning enjoy your food.”

 

“Ah…” Cautiously, Seven poked her fork into the orange pink fish on her plate, relieved that it did not have an exoskeleton.

 

She watched the captain dip the fish into some of the fruit relish and followed suit.  She chewed thoughtfully. 

 

“It is pleasing to the palate.”

 

“Thank you,” Kathryn said, enjoying the methodical and careful way Seven ate her food.

 

“I believe the rumors of your cooking mishaps have been inaccurate, Kathryn.”

 

Janeway put her fork down, shaking her head.  “You just caught me on a good day. Actually those rumors haven’t been so inaccurate.  I did once burn the pot roast and there was an unfortunate experiment involving curry. I’m just glad the salmon made it safely up stream and to our plates.”

 

“Up stream?”  Seven tilted her head to one side.  She really did look adorable like that, Kathryn thought.


”Just a joke.  This is replicated salmon,  but back on earth real salmon often had to swim upstream.”

 

“Why?”

 

“They had to mate whatever the consequences of their act. So they swam upstream to plant their eggs.”  Janeway sampled the wild rice.  Even that had turned out well.

 

“Curious that the fish would do such a thing.”

 

“To us, but to the salmon it was a natural instinct.  Mating is a very powerful drive in all animals.”

 

“Including humans.”

 

Janeway choked. “Er, yes.”

 

“If it is so powerful a drive, why have you not found a mate?”

 

***Yeah, Kathryn, why?***

 

Kathryn blotted her mouth with her napkin, stalling for time.  Why had she brought up the mating practices of salmon?!

 

“Well, for one thing I’m lost in the Delta Quadrant.”

 

“So your instinct for mating has ceased?”  A tiny frown knit Seven’s brow as she attempted to understand.

 

“I wouldn’t go that far.”

 

“Explain.”

 

Kathryn stared at the remains of the apple juice, wishing it was wine. What the hell. These were her quarters.

 

She stood up. “I’m going to replicate a glass of wine, Seven.  Would you like one?”

 

“The apple juice is sufficient.”

 

Janeway replicated a glass of Riesling and carried it back to the table, hoping that Seven had forgotten the topic of conversation.  But the Borg didn’t possess an eidetic memory for nothing.

 

“You were about to explain about your instinct for mating.”

 

Kathryn swallowed some wine.  In for a penny, in for a pound.  “Actually, Seven, those instincts are in everyone not just me.”

 

“The instinct for procreation?”

 

“Yes, or perhaps just a wish for an intimate relationship with a partner.”

 

To Kathryn’s relief Seven returned to her eating.  And just when she thought it was safe to return as well to her salmon, the Borg asked: “Have you found such a partner?”

 

“No. There was Mark back on Earth but he married someone else.”

 

It had hurt at the time and sometimes when she felt particularly despondent she liked to pull that stick out of the bag and beat herself with it.

 

Seven felt a stab of emotion, remembering that the captain had been engaged to a

man back in the Alpha Quadrant.

 

“So his instinct for mating and an intimate relationship became focused on someone else?”

 

“You might say that.”

 

Seven identified the emotion in Kathryn’s voice and recalling what EMH’s lessons in showing sympathy, reached out and placed her hand on the captain’s.  “I am sorry he damaged you.”

 

The touch of Seven’s hand on Kathryn’s skin felt like a plasma injector coil. Hot.  Very hot.  The warmth was spreading through the hand up the arm and down throughout Janeway’s body. The captain’s own hand seemed so small under the Borg’s.

 

“Thank you, Seven. I’m over him, I assure you.”

 

“I am glad to hear it.”  Seven took her hand away, aware of a warmth that had permeated her palm.  “And have you refocused your instinct?”

 

“Not exactly.  Being a captain on the ship makes it very difficult for me to find a partner.”

 

Cool blue eyes gazed steadily at her.  “You need someone equal in station.”

 

“Not exactly equal but someone who is not under my chain of command.”

 

“Such as Kashyk the Devorran. You enjoyed his company,” Seven said.  There were even some on board who suspected the captain had kissed Kashyk.

 

Had Seven known about her fondness for Kashyk?  Kathryn wondered, thinking of the rakish inspector with a penchant for Tchaikovsky and Mahler.

 

“Yes, he was quite a charmer.  Who knows what might have developed had he remained on board but he did not.  His attempt to help the refugees was just a ruse.”  Her lips tightened slightly.

 

“He damaged you like Mark?”

 

Kathryn shook her head, causing the auburn strands of hair to sway. “Not nearly as much as Mark. Just my ego a bit.  So you see why I choose to be without a mate.”

 

“These men were obviously the wrong individuals,” Seven declared. “Perhaps you should choose a female partner.”

 

Kathryn put down her fork.  Where had that come from?

 

“Have you ever considered a female partner?”

 

***What was Seven suggesting. *** “Not really.”

 

“Perhaps you should.  You have many desirable traits and would be a welcome mate to many. Female as well as male.”

 

Kathryn’s cheeks felt warm as she accepted the obviously heart-felt compliment.  “What about you, Seven.  Have you thought about finding a mate?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Her curiosity piqued, Kathryn waited to hear more.   “Are you going to tell me about it?” she demanded.  Fair was fair.  She had talked about Mark and Kashyk, after all.

 

“I do not believe I will attract a mate.  I lack the proper attributes to be successful at it.”

 

“Oh, I think your attributes are just fine,” Kathryn said, sipping her wine. The Riesling felt crisp and cool on her tongue and she felt an absurd desire to feel Seven crisp and cool on her tongue too. All the talk about mating had made her feel flushed.  Or maybe it was the wine and the combination of Seven looking over at her and chewing her salmon. 

 

“My body is scarred. My metallic implants are not aesthetically pleasing.”

 

Kathryn had never heard Seven speak about her implants that way.  She realized that Seven like most women was concerned about how a lover would view her body. 

 

“That won’t matter to the one who loves you,” Kathryn promised.

 

“You think someone could love me as I am?” 

 

The vulnerability in the pale azure eyes was nearly Kathryn’s undoing. She knew for a fact that someone did love Seven.  She did.  But she bit her tongue to hold back the words.

 

“Yes,” she said sincerely.

 

“You have always been kind to me,” Seven said, staring into Kathryn’s eyes. 

 

“When I haven’t been ordering you confined to quarters or throwing you in the brig?” Kathryn quirked a smile.   “Seven, I believe you are a beautiful woman and many people would love you if given the opportunity.”

 

“Such as?”

 

“Harry Kim for starters.”

 

***Stupid!  Why did I tell her that about Harry.***

 

“As I told you earlier, Kathryn, I prefer your company to Harry’s.”

 

***Oh God.*** The captain gulped down the rest of her wine. 

 

“I enjoy yours too,”  she admitted.

 

The blonde sent her an eye-blinding smile that would have struck Kathryn down if she hadn’t already been sitting in a chair. 

 

“Will we be dancing after dinner?”  Seven asked shyly.


***Yes!  Hold her tight. Squeeze her close.***

 

“I could put some music on, if you’d like to dance,” the captain managed to say.

 

“My dancing skills are insufficient.  Besides, dancing after dinner would turn this into a date.  I am not good on dates.”

 

“We could just practice dancing if you like.  I have a hunch that you would be a very good dancer.”

 

“That would be acceptable.”

 

Seven returned to her salmon and with relief, Kathryn brought her attention back to the matter of dessert.

 

“What would you like for dessert?”

 

“I am uncertain.”


“How about a brownie a la mode.”

 

“A chocolate cake square with ice cream?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Naomi Wildman is fond of such a dessert.”

 

“Oh, why not try something you haven’t had before.  Strawberry short cake?  Cheese cake?”

 

“Whatever you desire, Kathryn.”


She knew what she desired for dessert, a six foot blonde beauty, but Kathryn settled for a golden slice of apple pie topped with vanilla ice cream.  She brought it over to the table and placed it in front of Seven.

 

“This piece is too large for me to consume,” the Borg protested.

 

“We can share it…”


“Acceptable,” Seven said, plunging her fork into the pie and breaking off a small portion that she then held out to the captain.

 

Janeway’s mouth opened automatically as Seven laid the flaky crust and hot apple filling inside.  The fork slid out and then Seven was chewing some of the pie herself.  Kathryn swallowed hard.  Maybe dancing wasn’t such a good idea. 

 

 

Chapter Three

 

Crawling on her hands and knees down the length of Jeffries Tube 09 on Deck 9, Lt. B’Elanna Torres came to a halt at the junction in Section Eight where Voyager’s Astrometrics Officer was already working on the malfunctioning panel.  The Borg’s hand easily removed the panel and removed the damaged bioneuro gel pack.

 

“Found the problem, Seven?”  Torres asked.

 

“Lt. Torres, I require your assistance. Hand me a new pack, and I can make the repair,” Seven said.

 

Torres opened her repair kit and took out a new gel pack.  Sometimes Voyager’s circuitry was just too damn state of the art. The Intrepid class starship was mostly Starfleet, with some Borg enhancements, and B’Elanna was the non-Borg, non-Starfleet, ex-Maquis in charge of making the 343 meters long, 133 meter high starship operate at its usual cruising speed of warp 6. 

 

Squatting next to Seven, she watched the other woman work with her customary precision and economy of motion.  The only word for Seven’s repair work was efficient and the blonde looked pleased when Torres said as much.

 

“Thank you, Lieutenant.” 

 

“I’ll get the panel,” the engineer said.  Once it was back in place, the two women began the long crawl back down the Jeffries Tube.

 

“So how was your hot date with the captain?”  Torres asked, pushing her tool kit ahead of her as she moved.

 

The dinner with the captain was neither hot nor was it a date, however Seven knew no good would come of offering such an opinion to the volatile half Klingon Chief Engineer, particularly in a cramped Jeffries Tube.

 

“Did the Doctor inform you about my dining with the captain?”

 

“No, actually it was Tom.  He got the news from Harry, although the Doctor might have said something about it to Tom as well.”

 

Usually Seven considered gossip irrelevant, however when it concerned her or the captain it became very relevant. 

 

“Harry said you had something going on with the captain and couldn’t make the movie the other night,” B’Elanna continued as Seven remained silent. “Everyone else was there so you two were conspicuous by your absence.”

 

“I will be sure to tell the captain so.”

 

“Hey!” Torres stopped crawling and glanced over her shoulder at the six foot blonde.

 

“A joke, Lieutenant.  I am working on my sense of humor as you have advised on several different occasions.”

 

Torres’s sharp teeth flashed in a smile.  “You almost caught me there, Seven.   So who cooked?”

 

“The captain did.”

 

B’Elanna snorted, the sound reverberating off the metal floor and walls.  “Then you’re lucky to be alive.  Janeway once liquified an entire pot roast when Ensign Ballard was on board Voyager, and I know for a fact Chakotay spends a lot of his time in sickbay after dining with her.”

 

“I encountered no such problems.”

 

“That’s good.”  Torres was first through the hatch and emerged onto the deck. 

 

Just two more decks to engineering.  Torres went down the ladder first. She wanted to find out more about this dinner from Seven and whether Harry’s complaints about the captain acing him out with Seven were true. 

 

“So besides dinner what did you and the captain do?”

 

“We talked and danced.”

 

Torres paused, one hand on the rung of the ladder.  “Danced…Ow!” Seven’s heel soon crunched her fingers

 

“You should keep moving, Lieutenant.”  Seven looked down at the stalled Torres who began moving again.

 

“My mistake.  You were saying?”

 

“I asked the captain for lessons dancing, and she obliged me.”

 

“That’s the captain for you.  She always likes teaching you things.”

 

“Yes,” Seven said quietly, thinking of other things she wanted the captain to teach her.

 

When they reached engineering, B’Elanna stowed the repair kit on a shelf.   “So when are you seeing the captain again?”  she asked, after making sure they wouldn’t be overheard.

 

“At the staff meeting this afternoon.  You will be there as well.”

 

“I meant off duty.  When are you going to follow up this dinner?”

 

The blonde frowned.  “I do not understand what is meant by follow up?”

 

“Usually if a date has gone well the people make plans to see each other again.”

 

“Is that a part of human courtship ritual?”

 

Courtship?  Did Seven say courtship?  Ho boy.   Once the Borg put her concentrated focus on anything resistance was futile.  The captain and Harry too didn’t stand a chance.


Seven’s pale blue eyes searched Torres’s brown ones.  “I am not certain how to proceed in such matters.  Perhaps you could advise me, given your long courtship with Lt. Paris.”

 

“I wouldn’t call it that long,” Torres said defensively.  “It just takes time determining if the other person is right for you.”

 

“The captain is all I require in a mate, however I am uncertain if I fulfill her wishes for one.”

 

“Was there a goodnight kiss?”

 

Seven blushed.  “I think so.”

 

Torres put her hands on her hips, a warning sign that those in engineering knew only too well. Ensign Vorick peered over.

 

“Seven, either there was a good night kiss or there wasn't one,” Torres whispered.

 

“There was an affectionate exchange involving lips.”  Seven lowered her voice as well.

 

“That’s definitely a good sign.”  But not for poor Harry.

 

“How long must I wait before asking the captain out again?”

 

“Whose idea was dinner?”

 

“Mine.”

 

“Then it’s her turn to invite you somewhere.”

 

******

 

In accordance with the custom of reciprocity that B’Elanna outlined, Seven waited for the captain to suggest another social interaction.  When that did not occur, the captain even cancelled their long standing Velocity game, citing pressing ship’s business that needed her attention that day, Seven felt keenly disappointed

 

Well aware that they were traversing a peaceful region of space and there had not been any drastic repairs to the ship that needed the captain’s scrutiny, Seven could only deduce one thing from these actions.  The captain was no longer interested in their friendship.  For some reason what the captain had told her when held in the brig on Arturis’s ship came to mind.

 

“I’m your captain.  I can’t always be your friend.”

 

And yet the night they dined in the captain’s quarters Kathryn had made a toast to their friendship.  Perhaps she had changed her mind and didn’t want to be friends any more.

 

Standing at the astrometrics console surveying the area for an M class planet, Seven’s throat tightened at the possibility of losing the captain’s friendship.  Though she hated to admit it she had grown emotionally attached to the auburn-haired woman.

 

The doors to the astrometrics bay opened and light footsteps padded across the deck.  Lighter than the captain’s.

 

“Naomi Wildman.”

 

“Hi, Seven.  I wondered if you wanted to play some kodiskot.”

 

At least the half-Katarian child welcomed her company. “I will be off duty in thirty-seven minutes.”

 

“I’ll wait for you in the mess hall.  How was your dinner with the captain the other night?”


“It was edible.”

 

“That’s good.  My mom wondered if the captain liked your outfit.”

 

“She found it aesthetically pleasing.”

 

“Good.  I’ll see you in thirty-six minutes.”

 

Alone once again, Seven accessed her eidetic memory and sought to find the reason for the captain’s behavior.  Perhaps it was the dancing lesson the other night. The captain had pressed her body closely against Seven, much more closely than either Lt. Chapman or the EMH had.  They had danced twice, the captain taking the time to show Seven each step and movement.  The captain’s hair had gotten mussed as she pressed her cheek against Seven’s shoulder, her eyes were bright blue as they smiled up at her and her hips swayed and pressed rhythmically against the Borg’s.  Seven had followed the captain’s lead and dancing suddenly did not seem so difficult to her.  Then abruptly it was over.

 

“Computer end music,” Janeway ordered, out of breath.


“Kathryn?”

 

“I think that’s enough dancing for one night.”

 

“I do not believe I am proficient enough. I require more practice.”


Kathryn’s lips curled in a smile.  “Oh, you are proficient.  Believe me, any more proficient and you’d sweep me off my feet.”

 

“Are you having trouble with your balance, Kathryn?” she asked as the captain kept one arm around her waist.


“Just when you’re around, and I’ve had too much wine to drink,” Kathryn murmured.  She was smiling. “We’d better say good night now.”

 

Seven complied, even though she did not wish their evening to end.

 

“Thank you for dinner.  I enjoyed myself.”

 

“You’re welcome. I had a good time myself.”

 

“Indeed?”

 

Kathryn’s smile broadened.  “Yes.”

 

Still Seven lingered, hesitating to step through the door way.  She bent down, intending to kiss Kathryn’s cheek, an expression of affection between friends.  Then at the last minute the captain turned her head and their lips touched.

 

Remembering, Seven placed her fingers to her lips still feeling the softness of the captain’s against them.  It hadn’t lasted long, merely one point two seconds, but her lips seemed scorched by the captain’s.  And there was the fleeting touch of a tongue for just a moment.  Lost in the memory, Seven did not realize that her shift was over and that she was late for her game with Naomi.   Swiftly she left astrometrics and headed for Deck Two.

 

“You are five minutes late,” Naomi said when Seven finally sat down at the mess hall table with her.  Tables were filling up with the alpha crew that had just finished their shift.

 

“My apologies.”

 

“You are never late,” the child said.

 

“You may go first since I have kept you waiting.”

 

They played for fifteen minutes, exchanging pieces before Seven heard a familiar husky voice. Her head jerked up just in time to see Kathryn with Chakotay laughing together as they entered the mess hall.  The captain enjoyed the First Officer’s company, touching him lightly on the arm.  Seven looked away, conscious of a strange sensation in her throat again as she struggled to concentrate on the kodiskot grid.

 

“Well, what have we here? I believe a cut throat game of kodiskot is underway,  Chakotay,” Kathryn’s light tone indicated that she was teasing.

 

“Sure looks that way to me,” Chakotay agreed.

 

“Cut throat?” Seven laid a green piece on the board and glanced up, unable to resist the lure of red-haired woman.  Dressed in her command red, Kathryn appeared relaxed, one hand resting on Naomi’s shoulder.  At least she was no longer touching Chakotay.

 

“It’s an expression that means very competitive,”  the captain explained.

 

“Cutting each others throats would be counter productive.  We are playing to have fun,” Seven replied.

 

“That’s not what you say when I beat you,”  Naomi piped up.


Kathryn laughed. “She does get grumpy when she doesn’t win, doesn’t she, Naomi?  You should see her face when we play Velocity.”  Her adorable face.

 

“You are in error.  I do not get grumpy,” Seven said, aware that she was being teased.


Naomi and the captain exchanged knowing glances.

 

“Your usual black coffee, Kathryn?”  Chakotay asked.

 

“Please.”

 

So she allowed the commander to call her by her first name even when they were on duty, Seven thought, as the dark-haired man went to talk to Neelix.

 

“Kodiskot!”  Naomi whooped with glee. 

 

“Well done, Naomi,” Kathryn said.

 

Seven frowned at the board.  She disliked losing even at kodiskot.  “You distracted me,” she said to the captain.

 

Janeway bit her lip, feeling a little distracted herself by the blue eyes accusing her. 

 

“I’d better get back to Chakotay,” she said, beating a hasty retreat.


 “We will play again,” Seven said after Janeway left.

 

“You ***were*** distracted by the captain,” Naomi observed, clearing the board of the game pieces.

 

“Yes, but I should not have said so.”  The captain had looked embarrassed.  “Since she is no longer present I believe I shall win the next game.”

 

Try as she might Kathryn couldn’t avoid looking over to the table where Seven sat with Naomi.  If only she hadn’t needed a cup of coffee so late in the day she would not have encountered the blonde woman. Now with the coffee mug in hand she was trying to pay attention to one of Chakotay’s animal guide stories.

Janeway knew Chakotay had a deep, spiritual side, but when he talked about his animal guide her mind seemed to wander.  At least she wasn’t like B’Elanna who had once tried to kill her animal guide.

 

Through the corner of her eye, Janeway could see Seven thoroughly engaged in her game with Naomi, the little girl in Seven which had never had a chance to blossom fully was enjoying the kodiskot game.  ***She’s not a little girl like Naomi,***  her inner voice needled. She had seen that the other night when they had kissed.

 

Kathryn hadn’t realized what Seven was up to as she lingered at the door of her quarters.  Then when the blonde head dip low she realized that Seven was going to kiss her on her cheek.  Although surprised, she was not adverse to accepting the friendly peck.  However at the last minute Kathryn had turned and lifted her head and felt the softest lips imaginable brush hers.  Sweet.  For a second her tongue had darted out, tracing very lightly over Seven’s mouth, not tempted to go deeper, but content to just taste some of the apple pie still lingering there.

 

It had taken her hours to fall asleep after Seven had left.  She’d tossed and turned and told the little voice inside her to please shut up.  It was all happening too fast.  Seven was innocent and inexperienced.  Kathryn needed to be strong and take things slowly.  So she had deliberately not tried to seek out the young woman, staying in her command chair on the bridge instead of ducking into astrometrics for a quick visit. and even canceling the Velocity game because she wasn’t sure she could control herself behind closed doors.

 

Did Seven notice?  Did she even care?  And yet Seven had claimed she distracted her.  The corner of Kathryn’s mouth lifted in a smile.

 

“So what do you think?” Chakotay asked.

 

“I’m sorry?”  Kathryn turned her mind back to the first officer.  Was it something about his animal guide? Or her guide?  Hers was a lizard. 

 

“Neelix’s plan to hold a dance to boost morale.”

 

“I don’t see the harm in that.”  Kathryn looked into her now empty coffee mug.

 

“I’d like to claim a dance with you if you make an appearance.”

 

“Of course.  Just when is this dance?”  Would she have the guts to dance with Seven publicly?

 

“Neelix is eager to get started on the preparations.”

 

“Ask him to hold off until we schedule shore leave. That may help morale and we can keep the dance for some other time.”

 

“Seven hasn’t found an M class planet?”

 

“No.  I’d better ask her now.”

 

Kathryn walked over to the table just as Seven won the third game.  Naomi, with a wisdom for greater than her years, gathered the pieces together into the game box and scooted off her chair.  “Thanks for the game, Seven.  I’d better go.”

 

“May I assist you, Captain?”  Seven asked as Janeway sat down in the chair Naomi had just vacated. 

 

“I wanted to know your progress in finding an M class planet.”

 

“So far I have not found any in the vicinity.  Is there some urgency to this?  Are you intent on a trade negotiation?”

 

“I was hoping to grant shore leave.”

 

“Ah, rest and recreation for the crew.”

Kathryn nodded.  “Any chance we might find a suitable planet?”

 

“I have kept the search parameters narrow so as not to delay our return to the Alpha Quadrant.”

 

“Maybe you’d better widen the parameters.  Even if we go off course,  shore leave is important to crew morale.”

 

“Understood, Captain.  In that case I am sure we will find a suitable M class planet.”

 

“Let me know as soon as possible.”

 

Janeway stood up to go and Seven rose as well.  “Captain?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Lt. Paris informed me that his Bijou Palace will be changing its feature presentation in a few days.  If you wish to see the Godzilla movie perhaps we could go together.”

 

“I don’t think gorillas are my cup of tea, Seven.”

 

“You are frightened of the idea of the large ape terrorizing the city?”

 

Frightened?  “No.  Why do you ask?”

 

“Your rate of respiration increased when I mentioned attending the feature together.”

 

It was increasing because the thought of being in the dark alone with Seven might prove more temptation than she could resist. 

 

“You need not be afraid, Captain.  I will protect you.”


“I’m a Starfleet captain, Seven,” she said, stating the obvious.  “I don’t scare easily.”

 

“Then you will see the movie with me perhaps tomorrow night?”

 

***Damn.***  Kathryn had backed herself into a corner.  Go to the movie or else Seven would think she was afraid. 

 

“Very well.  I’ll meet you there at 2200 hours.”

 

******

Hoping to familiarize herself with the Bijou Palace program before her date with Kathryn, Seven went to Holodeck One that night.  Even though it was nearly 2400 hours, the program was up and running and Lt. Paris was in the lobby of the theatre, scooping  popcorn into boxes.

 

“Come to see the movie, Seven?” the blond pilot asked.

 

“Not tonight, Lieutenant.  I merely wished to get my bearings.  The captain and I will be seeing the movie tomorrow night.”

 

“In that case, I’ll save you the best seats in the house. That would be in the balcony.”

 

“Balcony?”

 

“Up those stairs and tucked away in the back row.” He pointed.  “You can have privacy and a great view of the movie.”

 

“I will be sure to inform the captain.”

 

Paris’s eyes twinkled as he finished with the popcorn.  B’Elanna had already bent his ear about the courtship rituals she had discussed with Seven. 

 

“The balcony is good for things other than watching the movie.”

 

“Clarify.”

 

“All that privacy makes it a good place to exchange affectionate gestures or just to hold someone’s hand. The movie theatre will be dark. No one else will see.”

 

“I am uncertain the captain would feel inclined to sit in the balcony in that case.”

 

“Let me show you. No one’s there now,” Paris said, leading the way up the stairs.  He opened the small curtain and showed her the two rows of seats.  “The back row are the best seats. Try it.”

 

Seven frowned but sat down.  “It is acceptable.”  She could imagine Kathryn sitting just inches away from her and perhaps touching her arm or hand.  If the movie turned out to be frightening she could put her arm around the other woman.  Although she did not think the captain would get frightened.  Perhaps she could just hold Kathryn’s hand.

 

“Tell you what, Seven.  Let’s not let the captain decide where to sit.  I’ll be here and I’ll just escort you and the captain up to the balcony.  How’s that?”

 

“That would be sufficient, thank you.”

 

As she left the holodeck and walked down the corridor she caught sight of someone with red hair just entering Holodeck Two.  There were others on board Voyager with red hair and yet the individual did seem to be the captain’s size.  Curious, Seven paused to see the program running.  It was not DaVinci’s program as she first thought, but Fair Haven, an Irish village program popular with many of the crew.  There was even a rumor floating around that the captain was known as Katie O’Claire in Fair Haven and had a holodeck boyfriend by the name of Michael Sullivan.

 

Seven glanced down at the control panel.  The program was a public one with no privacy code on it, which meant anyone on the ship could enter now.  So she walked in.

She found herself on a cobblestone street and recognized several of the crew, including Harry Kim dressed in a brown suit and tie.  He stood by a wagon, talking to a woman he called Megan.  The ensign did a double take as he saw Seven.

 

“Excuse me, Megan.”  He cut his conversation short and caught up with Seven. 

 

“Seven, what are you doing here?”

 

The Borg avoided a horseless carriage, an early form of a motor vehicle.  “I wished to see what this program was about.”

 

“Oh.  You want me to show you around?”

 

“That is not necessary.  I can see that you are busy with your friend.”  Megan was looking over at Seven with obvious dislike.

 

“Megan is just someone I come here to talk to.”

 

“You need not explain to me, Ensign.  I believe that one of the primary reasons for holodecks is to relieve the frustrations of shipboard life, is it not?”

 

“Seven, there’s nothing sexual going on between Megan and me,” Harry exclaimed.

 

Seven’s ocular implant quirked.  “I was speaking of ordinary frustrations not sexual ones, Mr. Kim.  Am I to believe that crewmembers actually copulate with the holograms in this program?”

 

“No. I mean, yes.  I don’t but some do in the other programs.”  Harry felt flustered.

 

“You should go back to your friend.”

 

“Yeah, maybe I should.”  One thing for sure Megan was a lot easier to talk to than Seven sometimes. 

 

Drawn by the sound of music and laughter, Seven crossed the street to a small tavern.  She walked in and saw the captain, dressed in the costume of the day with her hair now piled high on her head, dancing with a dark haired man who was smiling at her.
Michael Sullivan.  Seven was conscious of a feeling in the pit of her stomach, reminiscent of her feelings when she saw the captain with Chakotay but more intense.

Jealousy.  She identified the emotion.  She did not enjoy seeing the captain laughing at the man.  Nor did she approve of the way they were dancing so close together. The captain appeared to be pressing herself against the man even more than she had against Seven the other night.

 

“Oh Katie, you are a tease you are,” Michael was whispering in Kathryn’s ear. 

 

“You’re the tease, Michael.”

 

“Just say the word and I’ll whisk you out of here.”

 

“I wouldn’t be minding a walk by the river.”

 

Michael grinned.  “So what are we waiting for?” he asked, taking Kathryn by the hand and leading her behind the bar to his special exit. 

 

Kathryn relaxed as she followed Michael out of the tavern’s back door.  She had been to the river a couple of times with him.  It was romantic. It should be since she had added it to the Fair Haven program herself. Inevitably Michael would lay his coat down on the grass and they would sit together, his arms around her.  A few times they had kissed, nothing more.  She wasn’t eager to start a physical relationship with a hologram.  It was bad enough that people on board the ship knew of her fondness for Michael.

 

But today as she sat down on the coat and he slipped his arms around her, she felt an urge to kiss him.  She reached up with her arms and pulled his head down.  His mouth was hard and demanding and she found herself bringing her hands up to keep his lips on hers.

 

She’d programmed Sullivan herself so he was just what Kathryn wanted.  His hands were calloused as they cupped her cheek.  This close she could see his face was rough too, the skin pitted not smooth the way Seven’s was.  His mouth too was different.  She pulled away slightly and rested her head on his chest.  It was hard not soft the way Seven’s was. 

 

That was the reason she had come to the program today.  To check her response to Michael.  And she could respond slightly, but his full deep kisses did not stir her as much as the shy peck Seven had given her at the door.

 

Michael attempted to pull her down to the grass but she shook her head playfully.

 

“I have to go, Michael.”

 

“You’re always on the go, Katie.”

 

Kathryn kissed him one more time.  “Good bye, Michael.  Computer, arch,” she said and headed for the holodeck doors.

 

Seven of Nine emerged from the back of the carriage where she had been standing.  Her vision was impaired by the moisture that was forming in her eyes, however she had seen enough of the kisses between Katie and Michael.  They were nothing like her inexperienced good night kiss.  There was no doubt in her mind that the captain copulated with Michael Sullivan.

 

 

Chapter Four

 

“Computer, place a privacy seal on my communicator except for emergency override.”

 

“Privacy seal is in place.”

 

Kathryn dabbed a drop of Risalian perfume on her left wrist and lifted it up to her nostrils.  She wouldn’t need to use much since Seven had that Borg-enhanced olfactory system.  Smiling, Kathryn glanced in the mirror, relieved that for once her hair was behaving and wasn’t sticking up all over her head.  Should she replicate some lipstick?  She didn’t ordinarily wear any.

 

***Don’t bother. It’ll just get smudged off of you and onto Seven.***

 

For once she was amused instead of annoyed by her little voice.

 

All the same she wasn’t about to grope the ex-Borg in the dark, no matter how appealing that idea was.  Kathryn was going slowly, trying to get the young woman used to the idea of something deeper than friendship with her. 

 

“Time is 2149 hours,” the computer announced, startling the captain.  She’d set the alarm earlier when she arrived in her quarters after her shift on the bridge.  She put the perfume dispenser down and began to hurry.  She didn’t want to be late for her date with Seven.

 

And it was a date.  Kathryn hadn’t felt this giddy and excited in years. She couldn’t remember ever being this nervous about dating Mark, probably because they’d been friends since childhood. 

 

In the turbolift she was conscious of more than one passenger trying to put their eyes back in their heads.  Tonight their captain was definitely out of uniform and in a sleeveless burgundy colored dress.  Nothing very daring, except maybe for the crewmembers who weren’t used to seeing her ankles or the strappy black heels she had replicated. 

 

The surge of passengers leaving the turbolift made her realize that she and Seven weren’t going to be the only ones in the Bijou Palace. At least a dozen people were following her to Holodeck One.  That might put a crimp on the hand holding plans.  No matter what her feelings for Seven, Janeway was not about to put herself on public display in front of her crew. 

 

Standing in the lobby of the Bijou Palace,  Tom Paris greeted everyone and directed them to a concession stand with boxes of freshly popped popcorn lined up.

 

“Popcorn, Captain?” he asked.

 

“No, thank you.” She glanced around the lobby, noting the posters of Coming Attractions.  Apparently Tom planned to keep the program going with weekly features.   “You’ve done a wonderful job with this theatre, Tom,” she said approving of the tall Corinthian columns and rich velvet curtains. 

 

The helmsman beamed.  “Thanks, Captain.  I was going to go Art Nouveau but then I thought the classic theatres of the 1940s was best.”

 

“Have you seen Seven?” she asked casually.

 

“Not yet.  But it’s not 2200 hours yet.”

 

Kathryn chuckled.  Seven was punctual to a fault.  If a meeting took place at 2200 hours she would delay getting there until it was precisely that time. 

 

“I understand from my bridge assistant that Seven was late for a game of kodiskot.  That’s not like her.”

 

“Could be she’s getting more human every day, Captain.”

 

“You’re probably right.”  And that’s what she wanted, right?  A completely human Seven of Nine.

 

As Janeway lingered in the lobby the others did as well, protocol dictating that she should be seated before anyone else. That could be a problem.

 

“Let me seat you, Captain,” Tom offered.  “I’ll bring Seven to you when she comes in.”

 

“Fine.” She prepared to go down the aisle but he stopped her.

 

“This way. I have the perfect spot for you and Seven.”

 

“Oh?”  She glanced in the direction he indicated.

 

“The balcony awaits.”  He took a gold cord off the hook in front of a flight of stairs.


“The balcony?” she exclaimed.

 

“Seven saw it the other day and approved.”

 

“She wants to see the movie from the balcony?” Janeway asked, feeling her voice quaver.

 

“She seemed to think it very acceptable.  Let me show you.”

 

Conscious of the eyes of those still in the lobby, Kathryn followed Tom up the stairs to the balcony.  She was relieved when the thick red curtain closed behind them.  The balcony was actually cozy, consisting of two rows of soft velveteen chairs with an excellent view of the screen.  Better yet, from down below no one could see what she and Seven might be doing.

 

“What do you think?”

 

“It’s fine.”

 

“Sure you don’t want any popcorn?”

 

“I’m sure.  Just send Seven up when she comes in, would you?”

 

“Will do.”  Tom disappeared.

 

Kathryn sat down at the end of the front row.  Then changed her seat to the middle.  Not satisfied with that, she got up and switched to the back row.  She changed her seat there several times, making certain that no one could see her from down below.  She could hear certainly hear the rest of the audience however as they got into their seats chattering away.  It was a happy sound to go with the unescapeble whisper of the warp engines powering the ship.  Kathryn settled back, prepared to enjoy herself.  All that was missing was Seven.

 

Fifteen minutes later the ex-Borg was still missing, and Kathryn was getting impatient.  She hadn’t anticipated sitting by herself in the balcony, twiddling her thumbs while waiting for her date to arrive.

 

Hearing footsteps from behind, Kathryn turned around just as Paris darted through the curtain again. Alone once more.

 

“Captain…I wonder if you would mind if I started the movie?  The natives are getting restless.”

 

“Good idea, Lieutenant.  Do it.”

 

At least with the movie on, the audience wouldn’t realize something else.  That their captain had been stood up. 

 

Or had she?  Maybe Seven was in sick bay.  She had been acting a little peculiar today when Kathryn had directed a question to her at the staff meeting.  Perhaps the ex-Borg was ill.  Definitely concerned now, Kathryn quickly walked down the stairs and out of the holodeck.  Once in the corridor she touched her comm badge.

 

“Janeway to Seven of Nine.”

 

No answer.

 

“Computer, locate Seven of Nine.”

 

“Seven of Nine is in Cargo Bay Two.”

 

Still?  Was she primping?

 

“What is she doing?”

 

“Seven of Nine is regenerating.”

 

Regenerating?  Why would she be regenerating now?   Had she set the controls for regeneration earlier to be at peak physical efficiency this evening?  And was the alcove now malfunctioning? 

 

Janeway hurried to the turbolift.

 

Five minutes later she stood in Cargo Bay Two, staring up at the face of Seven standing in the green lit alcove.  Kathryn had observed the Borg regenerating on several different occasions and tonight she didn’t look at peace the way she usually did when she was regenerating. Although closed her eyes seemed to be twitching.  Was it possible that she was having a bad dream? 

 

Quickly, Kathryn ended the regeneration cycle.

 

“Regeneration cycle incomplete.”  The computer announced. 

 

Seven’s eyes opened and she stared out into her familiar cargo bay. No need to get her bearings, she sensed at once that her regeneration cycle was incomplete and why. She stared at the auburn haired woman.  The captain.  Kathryn. She looked more aesthetically pleasing than ever.

 

***I am Borg. I can do this. *** Seven swallowed a lump in her throat as she stepped down from the dais. 

 

“Captain.”

 

“Seven, are you all right?”

 

“Once I have completed my regeneration cycle I will be.”

 

“Are you feeling ill?”

 

Seven couldn’t miss the concern in that husky voice.  She shifted her gaze to a centimeter to the left of the captain’s right ear.

 

“I am uncertain.”

 

“I wouldn’t have ended the cycle if I’d known. You seemed agitated in the alcove as if you were having a bad dream.”

 

It wasn’t a bad dream.  It was in fact a very good dream…one in which Kathryn was kissing her the way she had kissed the hologram Michael Sullivan.  And it wasn’t agitation she felt, it was arousal.

 

“I got worried when you didn’t show up at the Bijou Palace for our date.”

 

Did the captain say date?  Seven’s eyes lurched back to the right, finding Kathryn’s. The familiar blue was a deeper color than Seven could ever recall. A growing ache formed in her chest.

 

“I am sorry to cause you worry.  I had sent a message to you earlier that I would not be joining you on the holodeck.”

 

“Oh?”  Kathryn frowned.  “I didn’t check all my messages.”  She had just been too busy getting ready.

 

“I shall start the regeneration sequence again.”  Seven seemed eager to get back in the alcove. 

 

“Wait.” Kathryn touched her arm.  Seven flinched and pulled away, not wanting to feel those slender fingers on her. She had thought the captain’s touch meant something.  But she touched Chakotay and other crew members.  Seven did not want to be one of many. 

 

“What’s wrong?”  Janeway dropped her hand immediately.  There was no mistaking the way the young woman had recoiled from her touch.

 

“Perhaps you should check your messages from my console, Captain,” Seven said in a strangled voice.

 

Puzzled, the captain went to the console and punched in her command code.  She found a list of messags and quickly identified Seven’s and began to read.

 

***Captain, I shall not be able to meet you at the bijou palace tonight.  I have researched Starfleet protocols and our deepening friendship is against regulations.  I believe it best if we terminated it.  Seven.***

 

Starfleet protocols.  Against regulations.  Terminated.  The light in Kathryn’s eyes faded as the blue color turned to flint.  In disbelief she read the message through again. Biting the side of her cheek, she glanced over at Seven.  The Borg gazed steadily ahead of her. 

 

“Seven?”

“I believe that Starfleet captains are forbidden from fraternization with members of their crew, are they not?”

 

Kathryn knew the regulation by heart and didn’t need to have the damn thing quoted back to her.  She had done that enough to herself in the three years since Seven had joined Voyager.   Now suddenly just when she had gotten up the courage to break that regulation and Seven was bothered by it?   It made no sense.

 

“Yes, that’s true.”

 

“Then we should not pursue this relationship.”


“You’ve never been a follower of Starfleet protocol.  In fact we’ve clashed over this point several times in the past.  Why are you suddenly obeying regulations?” She tried to keep her tone level but knew she had failed by the quick crimson rising in Seven’s alabaster cheeks.

 

“It seems a prudent course of action.”

 

 “Prudent?” It took all of Janeway’s command training to keep her temper in check. She couldn’t believe how furious she felt.  For a moment she wasn’t the captain any more, just Kathryn, who was badly hurt by the cavalier way Seven wanted to end their relationship.  Mark’s Dear John letter didn’t even compare to the blonde standing in front of her and blithely saying that she wanted to terminate the friendship.

 

“You were the one who invited me to dinner and to the movie.  If anyone was doing the pursuing it was you.” 

 

“I was in error,” Seven said.

 

Another surprise.  When did the Borg ever admit to being wrong?  Just a few days ago they were having dinner, dancing and kissing good night.  Unless…Was Seven frightened by the captain’s kiss.  Had she tried to push Seven too hard?  Was physical intimacy scaring the Borg?

 

“After the dinner we shared the other night  I’m a bit confused by your wish to end things. Can you clarify?”

“You are the captain of this vessel.  I am your Astrometrics Officer.  We should not fraternize. The regulation states…”

 

“I know what the damn regulation says,” Janeway snapped.  She had a copy of the Starfleet Officer’s Manual in her ready room. “It was written for Starfleet officers in the Alpha Quadrant, not for a vessel stranded in the Delta Quadrant.  The only relationships that anyone can have are those on the vessel itself.”

 

***So there.***

 

Seven remained silent, accepting that the captain was very angry and would wish to release her anger. As Lt. Paris often warned Janeway’s lectures could blister the paint off the bulkheads.

 

Kathryn drew in a breath, trying to control her temper. 

 

“If I’ve offended you in any way.  Perhaps the other night when we kissed briefly you were shocked.”

 

The mention of the kiss caused Seven’s head to jerk, and she gazed at the smaller woman.  She looked so beautiful in that silky dress, and what was that intoxicating scent that was emanating from her and filling the cargo bay?  Seven yearned for Kathryn to kiss her again not as she had after dinner, but the way she had kissed the hologram.   A futile wish, she knew.

 

It had taken her a day to recover from seeing the captain with Michael Sullivan in Fair Haven.  It was obvious that the captain loved him in a way she could not love Seven.  The Borg had wanted to destroy the Michael character, but she had refrained from doing so.  By the time 24 hours had passed she realized that the captain had only responded to Seven’s approaches.  She had led herself on, imagining more than the captain wanted to give.

 

“The kiss was irrelevant.”

 

“Irrelevant?”  Kathryn’s pain came through her voice.  It took all of Seven’s Borg strength to remain aloof and not pull the other woman into her arms. In another second the command mask settled on Janeway’s face.  She’d be damned if she would beg anyone to continue a relationship they thought irrelevant.

 

“You’re probably right, Seven.  The prudent course is to just keep things as they were. Our friendship is enough.”

 

“I do not believe we should continue our friendship, Captain.”

 

“Tired of getting beat at Velocity?” she taunted.

 

“No.  Under the circumstances I think less contact is better.”

 

“As you wish,”  Kathryn said, wondering when this nightmare would be over.  Maybe she had just fallen asleep in her quarters and when she woke it would be time to go to the holodeck and Seven would be there and they would be in the balcony together.

 

“Goodnight, Captain.”


”Goodnight, Seven,” Janeway replied, conscious of the last time she had uttered those words to the young blonde.  She didn’t bother offering to set the regeneration cycle controls.  Seven would undoubtedly refuse and Janeway’s ego had taken enough battering for one day. Squaring her shoulders, she left the cargo bay and returned to her quarters. 

 

Seven felt pangs of unhappiness lashing through her as she set the controls and settled into the alcove.  Her last thought as always was of Kathryn. The captain had looked so beautiful.

 

******

 

“Did you get the message from Seven of Nine?”

 

Kathryn’s head snapped up as she glared at her dark skinned chief of security standing in front of the ready room desk.  A Vulcan, Tuvok was not just one of her senior officers but the captain’s closest friend.  They had served together before Voyager and Tuvok had always known her to be a superior Starfleet captain, fair to her crew, and willing to sacrifice herself for her ship.

 

“What message?”  she asked coldly.  

 

It was obvious to Tuvok that his old friend hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before and was already on her second cup of coffee.

 

“The one that she sent to the bridge before you came on duty, Captain,” Tuvok said, his tone one of equanimity.  Was it his imagination or was there a confused glint to the captain’s eyes?  “It seems an M Class planet has been detected by the astrometric sensors,” he continued.

 

“Good. How long til we reach it?”

 

“We should reach the planet in forty-eight hours. Early indications are it boasts a pre-warp civilization.”

 

“First Contact situation?”


“If you wish to make it so, Captain.”

 

Janeway took another sip of her coffee. She didn’t feel in the mood for the First Contact protocols.  All she wanted was a little shore leave for the crew.

 

“The  planet is occupied only on one continent.  We could transport down and enjoy shore leave in the uninhabited areas,” Tuvok said.

 

“Why are the other areas uninhabited? I don’t want Voyager vacationing in a barren desert.”

“Early scans indicate the people are nomadic. Once the animals they hunt leave an area they follow.  I do not believe we would be in danger if we took shore leave there.”

 

“Send an away team to scout out the area first and see if it is suitable.  If it is I’ll have Chakotay set up a rotating schedule for the crew.  Two days of shore leave for each person. We’ll stay a week in high orbit around the planet.  First contact will not be an issue.”

 

“Very good, Captain.” The Vulcan hesitated.  Tuvok was one of Janeway’s few friends on board the ship.  It had been their friendship that had caused her to head up the mission to the Badlands so many years ago.  A fateful decision as it turned out for everyone on Voyager.

 

“Is there something more, Tuvok?” she asked.

 

As security chief the Vulcan paid attention to the rumors floating around the ship.  It had not taken long before the story of the captain’s appearance at the Bijou Palace last night reached his ears, along with the accompanying tale of Seven’s non-appearance.

 

“May I suggest that you avail yourself of the opportunity for shore leave too, Captain?”

 

“Is that a way of saying I look like hell?”  Kathryn asked with a grim laugh.  “No, don’t apologize. I know I have been acting oddly lately.  Your suggestion is a sound one.  I intend to take shore leave.”

 

Once Tuvok left she turned on her console and reviewed the data on the M Class planet that Seven had sent over.  It was written with the Borg’s usual precision. Kathryn had hoped that during shore leave she could spent time with Seven, furthering their connection.  Now that was as likely as finding a wormhole tomorrow that would take them back to the Alpha Quadrant.

 

She stared into the bottom of her coffee cup.  So who would she take shore leave with?   More importantly who on the ship would want the companionship of a grumpy captain nursing a broken heart? 

 

Chapter Five

 

The Voyager crew had been through tough times in the six years stranded in the Delta Quadrant. On each occasion they had relied on their captain to see them through the difficulty. Kathryn Janeway didn’t always follow the Starfleet Manual, which made for some intriguing situations like the one that had brought Seven of Nine on board their Intrepid class vessel.

 

Since Seven’s arrival many on board had noticed a relaxing in the captain’s demeanor as she undertook the task of helping Seven discover her humanity.  There were pronounced advantages to this pet project. Not only did it keep her busy, but the bridge crew on the alpha shift knew a good mood inevitably followed one of the captain’s Velocity matches with the ex-Borg. 

 

In the last 72 hours however the two women no longer shared leisure activities or philosophical discussions.  Their interactions were professional, short and to the point.  And the captain had never been in a worst mood as B’Elanna found out after routing some routine engineering requests to the captain and having all the requests denied.  Before she could storm the ready room herself another transmittal came in, granting the engineering requests and rescinding the previous order.  Something or someone was obviously weighing on the captain.

 

Torres decided to get to the bottom of things.

 

“What’s going on?” she asked Seven, finding her on the upper deck of engineering.

 

The blonde cocked her optical implant.  “I am realigning the deflector array.”

 

“I mean between you and the captain.”

 

Seven looked down at the deflector controls.  She still found it difficult to think of Kathryn, to be in the same room as the starship captain. 

 

“I do not wish to speak of it.”

 

“Yeah?  Well, guess what?  You don’t have a choice.”  Torres leaned in, making it impossible for Seven to see the deflector controls.  “What’s wrong?  How come you two aren’t talking?”

 

Seven’s hands grasped the counter tightly.  “The captain and I have ceased our relationship.”

“Damn.  Don’t tell me she led you on and got cold feet?”

 

“I am unaware of the temperature of the captain’s feet,” Seven said, frowning slightly. “However she did not lead me on.  I terminated our romantic relationship.”

 

“You did what?  Why?”

 

“It seemed the prudent course to take.”

 

The half-Klingon shook her dark head.  “No, you don’t.  You were happy when the captain showed an interest in you.  I could tell.  Why did you end things?”

 

“The captain and I are incompatible.”

 

B’Elanna chortled.  “So are Tom and I but that hasn’t stopped us.”

 

“This is different.”  Seven moved away.  “The deflector is aligned.  If there is nothing else…”

 

“There is something else. Come on.  Talk to me.”  She led Seven to a private area.

 

“Tell me.”

 

The Borg didn’t know where to begin. “The captain is already romantically involved.”

 

Torres’s jaw dropped.  “With whom?”

 

“I believe his name is Michael Sullivan.”

 

“Oh Kahless.” She threw her hands up.  “Seven, you can’t take her relationship with that hologram seriously.”

 

“Kathryn takes it seriously.”

 

“I should have deleted that whole Fair Haven program when it went balky months ago.  It’s a drain on ship’s resources.”

 

“Indeed.”

 

“But it’s just a holoprogram, really.”

 

“The captain is fond of Michael,” Seven said hesitantly. “Fonder of him than of me.  She kisses him in a manner different than the brief kiss she and I shared.  I find that distresses me.”  She blinked hard to clear her eyes of moisture.  “I must return to astrometrics now.”

 

Torres let her go.  Poor Seven. Jealous of a hologram.

 

******

 

The news of the impending shore leave circulated quickly through the decks.  By the time Voyager reached the M class planet the mood of the crew was buoyant, and they chattered happily about their plans for R&R during their duty shifts.  The first roster of crewmembers to be granted leave was already filled up. 

 

“We get the third and fourth days,” Tom Paris complained to B’Elanna in the mess hall one morning.

 

He glanced enviously at two ensigns who were beaming down with the rest of the early leave-takers at 0800 hours.

 

“Sometimes it’s not that great to be first on a planet.  Remember that incident in Starsus Five?”

 

Remembering the dinosaur-like creatures that inhabited that planet made Tom wince.

 

“This isn’t like Starsus Five.  Tuvok already checked it out with a security team.  As long as we stay on the north continent we’ll be fine.”

 

Torres spooned some oatmeal into her mouth, considering the handsome helmsman across the table from her.  “You know, I was thinking that it would be fun to invite Seven to come with us.”

 

Paris spewed his coffee down the front of his uniform.  “Seven?  You’ve got to be kidding.”

 

“I’m serious.  Do you have some objection?”

 

He dried his stained tunic with a napkin. “You and Seven have never been friends.  Why do you want to spend shore leave with her around?”

 

“I don’t know. I guess because she might not have anyone to spend it with.  And besides I feel sorry for her.  Since she and the captain had that falling out she’s just been a little lost.”

 

“A lost ex-Borg.  Great company for shore leave.”

 

“Are you going to take shore leave with Seven of Nine?”  Neelix asked, overhearing.  He had been refilling coffee cups and poured Tom a fresh one.

 

“We’re not sure,” Torres said.

 

“Well, I hope you can persuade her to go with you,” the Talaxian said.  “She didn’t have any interest in accompanying me and the Wildmans and you know how fond she is of Naomi.”

 

“What excuse did she give you?”

 

“That she had duties in astrometrics that needed her attention.”

 

“She’s done nothing but hide in astrometrics,” Torres said after Neelix left.  And the captain had shown little interest in leaving the ready room.

 

Tom pushed his coffee cup away.  “B’Elanna, I’m sorry for Seven, but I wanted shore leave for the two of us.” He put his hand on hers.  “I heard from Lt. Ayala who was on the security detail that there’s this fabulous, sandy beach with miles of secluded little coves.  I figure you me and a habitat for two.   We haven’t had much alone time in a while.”

 

Torres squeezed his hand. “You’re right.”  It sounded nice and romantic.

 

“Besides, I’d bet you some replicator rations that Harry is getting his courage up to ask Seven to share shore leave time.”

 

“How do you know that?”

 

“Because he’s been practicing what he’s going to say.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“When he gets nervous about something, he practices what he’s going to do or say.  And he’s been muttering to himself back there at the Ops station.  So in case Seven says yes, we don’t want to cramp his style.”

 

“Okay…”

 

“So you’re on for a moonlit swim?”

 

“You bet.”  The planet had three moons and chances were one ought to be shining at night. “I’ll even pack that orange bikini you like.”

 

*****************************

 

“The first group for shore leave are on the planet,” Chakotay said, handing Kathryn a padd in her ready room.

 

“Security detail is with them?”

 

He nodded. “Tuvok sent some people down to secure the perimeter.”

 

Janeway glanced over the specs of the planet.  The temperature was temperate and the atmosphere was breathable.  “It seems like an inviting place.  Sandy shoreline, deserted coves, great for swimming or diving.”

 

“Are you thinking of reprising your diving?”

 

Kathryn glanced over at him, wondering when she would ever live down that diving incident that had happened back in her Academy days. Disobeying orders to stay away from the caves in Mars, she had plunged ahead with Mark.  Once she had considered teaching Seven how to dive if they ever got the chance, but that seemed unlikely now.   Seven was barely speaking to her, confining her comments to yes, captain, no captain in the staff meetings.  Even the astrometrics reports, which she used to deliver in person to Janeway, were handed to Chakotay.

 

“Probably not,” she said now.

 

“I notice a name missing from the shore leave rosters.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“Initials are KJ.  You wouldn’t happen to know if she’s going to take a badly needed vacation, do you?”

 

Kathryn hated it when Chakotay tried to be cute.  She also hated it when he was right.  Having the combination in front of her was nearly enough to make her throw the padd at his head.

 

“KJ will do what KJ wants,” she said, in a voice that could shatter duranium.

 

“She’s a dedicated Starfleet officer,” Chakotay agreed.  “But everyone needs shore leave now and then.  Maybe the Doctor could persuade KJ.”

 

“KJ doesn’t need the doctor’s interference,” Kathryn said, feeling ridiculous speaking of herself in the third person.  All she needed was the EMH materializing and evoking his CMO status to order her to take shore leave.

 

“Shall I put her down for the second shift or the third?”

 

“Make it the third,”  Kathryn said, giving in gracefully.  “Thank you, Commander. Dismissed.”

 

Chakotay left, wondering if he could somehow substitute his previously requested shift from the second to the third.  Since he drew up the rosters that wouldn’t be a problem, however he knew Tuvok had taken the last shore leave assignment as well.  The captain wouldn’t want all three of them to be away from the ship at the same time, and she might just take that as an excuse to stay on board.  He’d better keep things the way they were.

 

He returned to the bridge, aware that Harry Kim was muttering something under his breath at his Ops station.

 

“Ensign?”  he asked.

 

“I’m sorry, Commander.  I was just thinking out loud.”

 

“Anything on sensors?”

 

“No, sir.”

 

Chakotay sat back in his chair.  Harry could probably use the shore leave, and the sooner the better.

 

 

Now he’d done it.  Chakotay would think he was an idiot, Harry thought, as he turned his attention back to his console.  He was aware of Tom shooting him a sardonic look. Harry couldn’t help being nervous as he thought of what he was about to do.  Beard Seven of Nine in the astrometrics lab. When his shift at operations was over, he made his way to Deck Six and found the beautiful blonde still at work.  She was showing the Bajoran Tal Celes how the astrometrics sensors needed to be configured. 

 

Seven looked over at Kim, astutely deciding this was not a matter of ship’s business and continued her instructions to Celes.  Harry could wait, just as the Bajoran’s friend Billy Telfer waited for Celes outside in the corridor.

 

“It is important that you know the procedure,” Seven said.

 

“I do,” Celes said.  “It’s just that I’m never good with algorithms.  Thanks, Seven.”

 

“You may go,” the Borg said.

 

The Bajoran gave Harry a shy smile as she left the lab.

 

“Ensign Kim.”

 

“Harry.”

 

The Borg lifted an eyebrow.  She could see from the expression on his face that he was about to ask her to participate in an activity with him.  Not another movie, perhaps, something else.

 

“I was wondering if you have any plans for shore leave?”

 

“I do not.”

 

“Great.  Then why don’t we do something together.”

 

“Clarify.  Do what exactly?”

 

“I don’t know.  Explore the planet.  There are supposed to be some interesting ruins.  Chakotay told me about them.  And Tom and B’Elanna are going to go swimming.  The whole idea of shore leave is to be on the planet, enjoying the great outdoors, the sky above you, the grass under your toes.”

 

Seven glanced down at his boots as though imagining his hairy toes under the polished black leather. 

 

“I was Borg. I don’t enjoy being outdoors.” 

 

“But you are taking shore leave, aren’t you?” he asked anxiously.

 

“I have much work to do here.”

 

“Seven, you have to take shore leave.  It’s a requirement.”

 

“I do not believe that you can order me to do so.”

 

“Maybe not.  But the captain can.”

 

The mention of the captain caused her to scowl.   Why did everyone who sought her out mention the captain? 

 

“I will not comply.  Shore leave may be necessary for the rest of the crew.  I find it irrelevant.  Is there anything else, Harry?”

 

“No,” Harry said.  He walked away, thinking that there was something different in the way Seven had said his name.  Maybe he was making progress.

 

“Don’t blame you for not wanting to take shore leave with that guy,” a voice said in the astrometrics lab.

 

Seven turned to find Mortimer Harren, one of Tal Celes’s friends who sometimes came to the astrometrics lab to work on his theory repostulating the origin of the universe.

 

 “Crewman Harren.  I am closing the astrometrics lab.  You cannot stay. If you are seeking out Tal Celes, she has just left here.”

 

“I saw her and Billy,” the cocky crewman replied.  “I’m not fond of shore leave either.  All I want to do is stay on the ship and work on disproving Shetzle’s  theory of …”

 

“Of multiple big bangs.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“It is an ambitious venture.”

 

“Thank you, Seven.”  Harren gave a mocking bow to the Borg ice queen.  He didn’t know her as well as Celes did, but he respected her intellect.  “The captain was going to give me a hand with the second postulate but she must’ve forgotten her offer.”

 

“The captain has many responsibilities.  It is easy to see how she might forget.”

 

“You know I’m on your side.”

 

The Borg eyed him dispassionately.  “I was unaware that there were sides, Crewman.”

 

“The whole ship knows about you and Janeway are fighting about something.  Personally, I think it was hilarious that you stood her up the other night at the movie theatre!”


Seven did not enjoy the idea of anyone laughing at the captain.  “I did not stand her up.  I sent her a message that she did not receive.  It was never my intention to embarrass the captain."

 

“Time someone did.  I mean she can act all crazy, holing up while in the Void, and then nearly killing Noah Lessing when she and Captain Ransom were going at it and we just play along.  About time someone made that cranky bitch…”

 

Seven elbowed him sharply, so sharply he banged against the bulkhead. “You will not speak about the captain in that insolent manner.”

 

“Hey, who do you think you are, you Borg drone.” Harren pushed back at her, a futile attempt as she easily pulled back his arm almost to the snapping point.

 

“You will take back what you said about the captain.” Her face was inches from his.  Cold fury radiated from the blue eyes.

 

“The hell I will…” He managed to activate his comm badge.  “Security to astrometrics.  The Borg is trying to kill me.”

 

“If I were trying to kill you, you would already be dead,” Seven said grimly.

 

“You know…you and that girlfriend of yours make a real pair.”

 

Seven grabbed Harren by her Borg-enhanced left hand and began to shake him.  She was still shaking him when security arrived.

 

 

******

 

As security chief, Tuvok was used to handling small skirmishes involving the crew without informing the captain.  However, he knew that if she read about this particular disagreement in the daily security log she would demand to know the details.  Anything that concerned Seven of Nine was of special interest to the captain. Or at least it had been until a few days ago.

 

After interrogating both Seven and Harren he had confined them both to quarters and then inputted the data into his padd.  Now he stood, ringing the chime outside of the captain’s quarters on Deck Three.

 

“Tuvok?”

 

“Good evening, Captain.  May I have a word with you.”

 

“Of course, come in.”  Janeway had discarded her uniform tunic on the arm of a chair and had rolled up the sleeves of her blue sweater.  “Would you like a drink?”  He saw the whiskey and soda she held.

 

“No, thank you, Captain.  I am not here on a social matter.”

 

“What is it?” Kathryn barked, putting down her glass. “Any trouble on the planet?”

 

“No, Captain.  All is well on the planet.”  He handed her the padd.

 

Frowning, she took it and read the details of the disturbance in astrometrics. 

 

“Seven brawling?”

 

“It was hardly a brawl, Captain.”

 

“Nevertheless Harren sustained injuries to his shoulder and his throat.”

 

“Minor ones.  The Doctor treated him and released him.  According to their statements Seven defended herself from a blow he was about to deliver and then shook him when he continued to resist.”

 

Janeway sat down on her couch and gestured Tuvok to sit down next to her.  “Seven doesn’t usually resort to violence.  What caused the incident?”

 

“Neither of them would say. There was a clash of opinions.”  He did not confide in the captain about the taunts they had overheard Harren use which had infuriated Seven.

 

“Some clash.” Two blue gray eyes peered closely at Tuvok.

 

“It does seem unusual for Seven.”  he agreed, trying to remain impassive.  “She has not been acting her normal self of late.”

 

“How so?”

 

“She has been working too hard and not participating in her usual leisure activities.”


“We all work too hard, Tuvok.”  Kathryn put the padd down.  “Who started it?”

 

“Neither one will say.”

 

“What aren’t you telling me?”

 

“Captain?”

 

“You know what caused the fight or something that contributed to it.  I can see by that expression in your eyes.”

 

He was perturbed.  “I am Vulcan.  I do not show expression in my eyes, Captain.”


“But you do know something you’re not telling me.”

 

“If so, it has no bearing on the matter.”

 

“Let me be the judge of that.”

 

“Very well. When I arrived at astrometrics with my security team I found Mr. Harren shouting at Seven.  He was obviously in an emotional state.  He made inflammatory remarks about her and her girlfriend. At which point she shook him.”

 

“What girlfriend?”

 

“I believe he meant you, Captain.”

 

***God!*** Kathryn took another long swallow of her whiskey.  She was well aware that any captain was subject to ridiculous rumors. Having that occur went with the four pips of command.  It was sweet of Seven to come to her defense.  Or had she?  Maybe she had just been so infuriated at the idea of having Kathryn designated a girlfriend she had throttled Harren. 

 

“What punishment would you suggest for them, Captain?”

 

She rubbed the bridge of her nose.  “Ordinarily I would confine them to quarters. However they would both enjoy that.  Harren particularly, so he could work on his theory of the universe. Stripping them of rank seems excessive and wouldn’t work since they have no rank.”

 

“We could cancel their shore leave.”

 

“Which neither would care about. So what would be suitable for punishment for this pair?”

 

She sat back and thought hard then finally smiled.  The sight of that smile made Tuvok uneasy.

 

“What if they were forced to take shore leave?  That would be punishment for them.”


“Are you thinking that they would take shore leave together as punishment?”

 

“No, I’m thinking of something far worse.  Tuvok, have you plans for shore leave?”

 

“I have signed up for the last rotation, Captain.  I had planned to explore the temples that I saw earlier.”

 

“Excellent.  You will take a companion on your exploration.  Seven of Nine.  I on the other hand will go diving with Mr. Harren.”

 

Tuvok quirked his lips. “Wouldn’t you rather have Seven’s companionship, Captain?”

 

A wistful expression crossed Kathryn’s face then she composed herself again.  “No. I don’t mean to punish her that much,” she said softly.