Title: Perfectly Human
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.
Two months later
The red alert klaxon sounded, jarring Janeway from a deep sleep. Instinctively she rolled out of bed. As soon as her feet hit the cold deck, she was stripping off her nightgown and reaching for the uniform she kept at the foot of the bed. Quickly she yanked on her sweater and tunic, then she thrust her legs into the black trousers and her bare feet into her boots. Within minutes she was standing in the turbolift, raking her hair with her fingers before striding onto the bridge.
“Report!” she barked.
“Three ships approaching heavily armed, Captain,” Harry Kim said, giving way to the alpha staff. “They are not responding to our hails.”
“Range?” Kathryn stood with her hands on her hips, staring at the three ships on the view screen.
“Three thousand kilometers and closing.”
Too damn close and too many of them. Three against one weren’t favorable odds at any time. “Shields up,” she ordered. “All hands, battle stations.” Voyager wasn’t going to be a sitting duck waiting for them to cozy up to the starship. “Mr. Paris, the Klondike Maneuver.”
“Ma’am, I’m not familiar with that maneuver.”
“Take us about, Mr. Paris at these coordinates…” She punched in the data to the helm.
The pilot’s eyes widened just a fraction. “Aye, Captain….”
“I am familiar with the maneuver, Captain. Phasers are ready.”
“We’ll only get one chance at this… Let’s make it a good one. All hands, brace yourselves. Mr. Paris, do it.”
Paris hit the button on the helm that took Voyager from its warp 6 cruising speed to warp 7.5. Just as the captain had thought the three ships followed them. Almost immediately the Intrepid class starship took it to warp 8 then a second later dropped to impulse. As the three ships followed, Janeway gave a wolfish grin.
“Now, Tuvok. Target their weapons array.”
Phaser fire cut through the stars as the nearest ship was hit. The two companion ships caught in the wrong direction had to clumsily try to spin around, by which time they too had been disabled.
“They’re hailing us, Captain,” Kim reported at Ops.
“I thought they might,” Kathryn said with a satisfied nod. “On screen.”
The scowling countenance of the alien captain appeared on the view screen.
“Why did you fire upon us?” he demanded. The voice of innocent outrage.
“Why were your three ships coming toward us with weapons targeting our ship?” the captain replied calmly.
“We were merely trying to determine who you were. This is our space.” He thumped his chest with his fist, a gesture that she didn’t need the universal translator to interpret. Universal posturing was more like it.
“It doesn’t say so on the star chart.”
“It belongs to the Melani,” he roared. “No matter who else claims it.”
So the region was under dispute. Janeway decided to make it clear they had no designs on the territory.
“We are not interested in claiming it. We are just obliged to cross it as we head for home. We fired upon you because you were pursuing us.”
“We were merely trying to warn you away.” An edge to his tone.
“We were merely protecting ourselves,” she growled just as edgily.
They exchanged glares. “You have inflicted heavy damage on our ships. We demand compensation.”
Compensation? More posturing. “We don’t offer payment for those who pursue us and wish to destroy us.”
He paused for a moment and she wondered if she had guessed wrong then he looked at her with grudging respect. “Who are you?”
“Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Starship Voyager. And you are?”
“Captain Zorak on the vessel Menor. Your technology is quite advanced, Captain Janeway.”
“Yes, it is.” And she had no intention of sharing it with them. “We’ll be on our way. I wouldn’t advise you to follow us.” She broke the communication link. “Resume course at Warp Six…we’ll stay at yellow alert. I don’t think we’ll have any more problems with Zorak.”
She gazed at the alpha shift assembled on the bridge. “I suggest we let the gamma shift resume their duties and the rest of us get back to our beds.”
Even as Kathryn gave the order she knew there was little chance of her sleeping tonight. Red alerts generally left her revved up and tossing and turning until morning from the adrenaline not utilized in battle.
The alert had sounded at 0200 hours and now it was just a quarter past. Kathryn made her way to the mess hall where Neelix was already administering to the others onboard who couldn’t get back to sleep.
“Captain, may I get you a cup of coffee?” he offered.
“If you do that, Neelix, I’ll never get to sleep.”
The Talaxian smiled. “How about a glass of warm milk?”
She made a face. “Do you have anything in between?”
His yellow whiskers twitched as he thought. “What about chicken soup?”
“You know, that might be perfect on a night like this.…”
“One chicken soup coming right up.”
Janeway sat down at a vacant table, nodding to those who passed by. When the chicken soup arrived, she dipped a spoon in more out of politeness to Neelix than real appetite. To her surprise it was actually quite palatable and she began to eat with honest enjoyment.
The soup warmed her and listening to Neelix tell another convoluted tale made her eyelids heavy. Just as she thought she might excuse herself and return to her bed she heard a familiar voice. Lifting her head slowly, she glanced over at Annika who was just coming into the mess hall with Celes.
Seeing the blonde in the blue Starfleet uniform was still a jolt to Kathryn, even though for eight weeks the Borg no longer wore her form fitting biometric suits. Kathryn couldn’t help remembering when they had been pulled aboard the USS Relativity, the Federation time ship, and Seven had worn a blue science officer’s uniform for the first time. Did Annika even remember that venture back and forth across centuries. Or was it just a distant memory that she no longer accessed, like those Borg encryption codes she couldn’t decipher any more.
The two young women in the mess hall were immediately enveloped by a group of junior officers. During the last month Annika’s popularity had soared with the singles on board, though rumor was it that Harry Kim had an inside track when it came to the young blonde. No one was intimidated by the Ice Queen any more.
All of this the captain had picked up second hand from the EMH, who generally heard things as he bustled about in sick bay. Otherwise Kathryn wouldn’t have known what was going on with Seven. No one briefed her on Annika’s progress the way they might have when she was still Seven of Nine and trying to find her way back to humanity. To everyone on Voyager Annika Hansen was perfectly human and no longer in need of the Doctor’s social lessons. Or the captain’s companionship.
The last time she had had a moment alone with Seven had been more than a month ago when Kathryn had sent a message to her in astrometrics, inviting her to play Velocity when her duty shift was over.
Annika had been surprised by the invitation but had showed up on the holodeck at the agreed upon time.
“Did you really want to play with me, Captain?” she asked, nervously adjusting the leg of her black Velocity outfit. Her thighs were as taut as ever. The Velocity outfit still fitting her like a glove.
“You still remember how to play don’t you?” Kathryn asked, distracted by Seven’s hand tugging at her outfit.
“Oh yes. Only I’m not very good at it.”
While it was true that Seven had never defeated Kathryn, the captain had always gotten a good game out of the Borg.
“ Lt. Torres would probably be a better opponent for you than me,” Annika continued.
“I don’t want Torres. I want ***you***…for the game, I mean,” she amended when Annika darted a curious look her way. “You’ll do just fine.”
To Annika’s relief she had remembered how to play the game but the ferocity of the captain’s play, diving for every point and firing her phaser with split second accuracy left her badly over matched. She didn’t even win a point in the first game.
“Annika, you do remember the goal of the game is to hit the disk with the phaser fire,” Kathryn said, blotting her face with a towel.
“Yes. I just don’t see the point to continuing our match. You’re much better than I am. I’ll never defeat you.”
“You can’t give up just like that!” Kathryn exclaimed so loudly the blonde was taken aback. “You’re just rusty, out of practice. You’ll do better in the second game.”
Janeway took it easy on her opponent in the next game, letting her win a couple of points but the redhead still won the match handily. She experienced little pleasure in her victory and the two women hadn’t played since.
They hadn’t done anything else together either, Kathryn thought as she continued to sit at the table in the mess hall, unaware of the look of longing in her blue eyes.
“More soup, Captain?” Neelix asked gently.
He had abruptly ended his story and Kathryn started, becoming aware that the bowl in front of her was empty.
“No, thank you, Mr. Neelix. That was delicious. Maybe now I can get back to sleep.”
“Sweet dreams, Captain.”
As Kathryn rose from her chair, Annika glanced over. Her smile faltered as the captain approached.
“How are you, Annika?” Kathryn asked, pausing by the table, deciding that as captain she had every right to ask that of the woman she had once loved.
“I’m fine, Captain. And you?”
“A bit sleepy, thanks to that red alert. I’d better try and see if I can catch a few more winks.”
“Good night then.”
“Good night.” She smiled at Celes seated nearby, wondering if the Bajoran knew that at one time Kathryn had entertained thoughts of being Seven’s roommate and more.
“I wonder what she was doing here?” Billy Telfer said after the captain left.
“She was probably hungry,” Celes said.
“Maybe she was lonely. She doesn’t have a roommate,” Annika said, wondering why the captain had paused to speak to her and feeling secretly pleased about it.
By the time the alpha shift took over in the morning the yellow alert had been canceled. Down in astrometrics Annika heaved a sigh of relief. At least now she wouldn’t have to worry about doing something wrong. Despite the two months of tutoring by Harry she was still not on top of things. At least with Celes around she had someone to double check her work. Her roommate however was frowning now at the sensor log.
“What’s the matter?” Annika asked.
“We should have picked up those ships coming toward us.”
“How could we?”
“Did you monitor the long range sensors yesterday?”
“I thought you were going to do that?”
“I put it down on the duty list, see…” Celes handed the padd to the blonde.
“Yikes. I didn’t get to it.” Annika bit her lip. “Do we need to tell anyone about it?”
“I don’t know. Technically, you’re still the head of astrometrics. You’re the one to decide those things.”
“Then we won’t tell anyone, not unless they ask.”
The Bajoran shrugged. “That sounds reasonable to me. However, knowing Captain Janeway, she’s going to want to get to the bottom of this encounter with the Melani.”
“I hope she doesn’t get mad at me.” Annika shivered.
“She can be a little scary when she’s mad,” Celes agreed. “Although I don’t think she gets mad at you the way she does at other people.”
“Maybe it’s not getting mad as much as being disappointed. I could see it in her eyes sometimes when she used to look at me. Not so much these days. Of course I haven’t seen her very much.” Not since they’d played Velocity and she had humiliated herself. She was glad at first that the captain didn’t offer her a rematch and had secretly practiced the game by herself on the holodeck, anticipating the next time she would give the captain a better game. But no such offer had been extended this month.
“So how’s it going with Harry?” Celes asked.
“What do you mean?”
Celes nudged her with an elbow. “Come on. It’s obvious that you two have been dating.”
“We’ve gone out a couple of times,” Annika said. “I like him a lot and he seems to like me.”
“That’s putting it mildly. Harry’s had a crush on you since you came aboard three years ago. He’s walking on air that he’s finally been able to spend time with you. You’ve turned him down regularly in the past.”
Annika nodded. She remembered avoiding his invitations to get together in the past.
“Yes, I know. But he doesn’t act like he has a crush on me any more. Sometimes when he looks at me he seems a little puzzled and hesitant.”
“Maybe he just wants to take things slow. You’re new to dating.”
“I suppose. But I like to kiss and we haven’t even done that.”
“How do you know you like to kiss?” Celes asked curiously. Had Annika kissed someone before as Seven?
“I just know,” Annika said not wanting to reveal that it was the captain who had kissed her once good night as she left the captain’s quarters.
Celes was right about one thing. Kathryn Janeway did want to know more about the three ships appearing out of nowhere. At the next staff meeting she reviewed the encounter.
“Their technology was not as advanced as ours, we should have detected them,” Tuvok said.
“Sensors didn’t pick them up,” Harry said defensively. The encounter had happened on his watch.
“What about the long range sensors in astrometrics?” Janeway frowned at the padd in front of her.
“They didn’t pick up anything.”
“Do you know that for a fact, Ensign?” she asked, as he seemed to want to say more yet hesitated.
“I assume they didn’t, Captain, because nothing came from astrometrics to the bridge.”
Kathryn glanced over at B’Elanna Torres. Astrometrics was part of engineering and as Chief Engineer Torres had administrative responsibility for it.
“How is astrometrics these days?” Kathryn asked dryly.
Torres snorted. “It’s run by a Borg who doesn’t remember how to repair the Borg technology in the warp engines. And I don’t think she knows that much about sensor and deflector array either,” she said succinctly.
Still? Kathryn frowned. It had been two months since the change in Annika. She’d assumed the young woman had been making some progress.
“I’ve tried to help her, Captain, but I’ve got my hands full in engineering.”
“Annika does her best, Captain,” Kim chimed in. “It’s just not the same as when Seven was in charge.”
He was talking as though they were two separate women, and maybe they were, Kathryn mused.
“Perhaps we need to shut it down,” Chakotay suggested. “We went for three years without having astrometrics.”
“Now that we have experienced its benefits I’d hate to do without it,” Kathryn said, rejecting that idea immediately. “Can we put someone else in charge there? What about Lt. Carey?”
“He’s a good engineer…but I don’t know about astrometrics?” Torres said.
“I’m not sure.”
“Ensign Vorick has a sound grasp of astrophysics,” Tuvok suggested.
“I need him in engineering,” Torres again.
“You have to give up someone to head astrometrics, Lieutenant,” Janeway ordered. “Have whomever you select report to astrometrics and take over from Annika.”
“What do you want to do with Annika?” Chakotay asked.
Kathryn looked up sharply. Was there some innuendo in his remark?
“I mean if she’s no longer able to work in astrometrics,” Chakotay said, surprised to be at the receiving end of the Janeway Force 10 glare.
“You’re in charge of personnel,” Kathryn softened her tone. “I’m sure you’ll be able to find a useful position on the ship for her.”
“I can always use some assistance in the mess hall,” Neelix offered. “I would be happy to take her under my wing.”
“Thanks, Neelix. I may take you up on that offer if nothing else works out,” Chakotay said.
As the staff filed out of the conference room, Kathryn was surprised when Tuvok lingered.
“I believe that Annika would benefit greatly from working with Mr. Neelix in the mess hall, Captain.”
“You do?” The Vulcan usually did not make personnel recommendations except as they applied to his security officers.
“When I was injured and could not remember my tactical training I enjoyed cooking with Mr. Neelix.”
Kathryn smiled. “Indeed you did. You became a whiz at desserts.”
“There is a part of me that remembers those days fondly.”
“Annika’s cooking may not match yours.” She glanced over at her old friend. “Do you regret giving up that carefree existence and returning to your tactical position?”
“No, Captain. Voyager needed a Tactical Officer much more than it needed a dessert chef.”
“I was very glad to get you back, my friend.” That had been a difficult period for Janeway.
Tuvok nodded. He seemed on the verge of saying something then paused.
“What is it, Tuvok?” she asked. Why was everyone so hesitant to speak to her these days?
“I miss Seven of Nine. However delightful Annika Hansen is, part of me remembers and misses Seven.”
“I miss her too,” Kathryn said, surprised that the Vulcan would admit to such a thing. “I was not aware that you and she had a relationship.”
“Seven had a logical way of looking at things. I found it productive to be in her company. She also sought my counsel at various times. I believe others on the ship miss her as well.”
“She’s still here. We just have to get adjusted to her changes.”
They walked out of the conference room and Tuvok returned to his tactical station while Kathryn went to her ready room where she made immediately for the replicator.
As soon as the mug materialized she picked it up. Replacing Seven in astrometrics really was the best decision for the ship, and yet there was something final about it. Janeway took a sip of her coffee to fortify herself then she touched her comm badge, knowing that she would need to inform Annika that she was losing her position.
“Janeway to Sev…I mean Crewman Hansen.”
Down in astrometrics Annika jumped at the sound of the captain’s throaty hail. “Hansen here, Captain.”
“Report to my ready room.”
“On my way, Captain.”
Annika glanced over at Celes. “Something tells me the captain has found out about the mistake I made.”
Annika Hansen smoothed her hair with her left hand and pushed the ready room door chime with her right. She had been summoned to the captain’s ready room on innumerable occasions in the past, but she had never felt this nervous.
“Come in,” called the husky voice from within.
Squaring her shoulders, the blonde stepped across the threshold to find Captain Janeway seated behind her desk, reading a padd.
“You wanted to see me, Captain?” she asked, standing at attention, at least, she hoped it was at attention. Her shoulders were thrown back and her back was stiff.
Two blue eyes flitted up to her face. “At easy before you strain something, Crewman.”
Surprised by the remark, Annika gazed uncertainly at the woman who gave her a crooked half grin. She relaxed and her feet eased apart as she pulled her arms back, clasping her hands together. She found this position relaxing, even though Celes joked that she looked as though she had something stuck up her butt.
“Have a seat, Annika,” the captain invited.
The blonde complied, taking the chair in front of the desk.
Although still seemingly absorbed in the padd, Kathryn had watched Hansen walk from the door, her blonde hair swinging loosely to her shoulders. This was the first time Annika had been in her ready room since her shore leave change and Janeway wondered if the young woman remembered being called on the carpet before. Maybe so, judging by the anxious look in the pale azure eyes.
“You’re probably wondering why I called you in today,” Kathryn said, trying to use her most soothing tone of voice so as not to frighten the young woman any more than she already was.
“No. I mean, yes. I mean…I have an idea.”
Janeway paused, finding it odd to hear Annika ramble. Seven’s speech had always been precise and she never wasted a syllable in disjointed speech. Sometimes even small talk was considered inefficient by the Borg.
“Really?” the captain said now, clasping her hands on the desk and giving Annika her full attention.
“It’s because of the encounter with the Melani, isn’t it? I am sorry…I didn’t mean to be derelict in my duty but there were so many things on the duty list and I didn’t get to the long range sensors in time.”
“I see…” Kathryn said, having the facts corroborate what she had suspected. “So that’s the reason the Melani managed to sneak under our radar?”
A frown knitted the young woman’s brow. “Radar, Captain?”
“An old-fashioned naval term. It means that’s why we didn’t detect the other ships?”
“Yes. It’s all my fault. I should have caught the error. I was just so stupid.”
Kathryn’s brow furrowed. Having Annika admit her mistake was one thing, but she didn’t want the young woman to fall to pieces over the incident. “Has this happened before? Have you sometimes forgotten to put the sensors on the areas ahead of us?”
Annika stared glumly at a spot behind the captain’s head then decided to make a clean breast of things. “Yes,” she admitted. “I reviewed the duty rosters and have forgotten on three different occasions. But they weren’t crucial. They just had to do with those temple readings that you wanted us to scan for now and then as we passed the region.”
Kathryn bit the side of her cheek to keep from biting off Annika’s head. Damn it. She had wanted those temple readings in force all the time, not just now and then. They couldn’t backtrack and find the planets now. She’d have to tell the new head of astrometrics exactly what she required.
Tears welled in Annika’s eyes. Alarmed, Janeway got up from her chair and walked around her desk, coming closer to the blonde. She hoped the young woman wouldn’t start to cry. She really wasn’t sure what she would do if Annika started bawling.
“I’m sorry to disappoint you, Captain.”
“I know.” She leaned back against the edge of her desk. “It’s all right.”
“It is?” The blonde head jerked up.
“Yes. I have come to a decision. I believe it would be best for the ship if you were transferred to a post other than in astrometrics.”
“You’re relieving me of duty in astrometrics?” Annika looked as though she couldn’t believe her ears.
“Yes,” Kathryn said gently. Would the tears fall after all?
Instead of crying however Annika jumped out of her chair and appeared on the verge of hugging the smaller woman. For a dizzying moment Janeway wanted her to do just that, to be crushed against the taller woman once more, to feel her generous curves pressed against the captain’s more modest ones.
Annika was grasping the captain’s hand and shaking it enthusiastically.
“Oh, thank you! You don’t know how happy you have made me.”
“You’re happy about this transfer?”
The blonde beamed, a whole-hearted grin that lit up her face. “Oh yes. I know I’m not as smart as I once was. I don’t know how to do things in astrometrics and Lt. Torres always looks disgusted when she comes to check on me.”
“She shouldn’t be looking disgusted,” Kathryn said immediately.
“I understand. She’s Klingon, remember?”
“Yes, I remember. Nevertheless she should treat all her staff with respect and make allowances for their mistakes and errors.” She made a mental note to speak to Torres about it.
“Where will you be assigning me, Captain?” Annika asked, realizing that she still had the captain’s hand in hers and dropping it abruptly.
“Actually it’s Commander Chakotay who makes the decisions regarding personnel,” Kathryn said, assuming custody of her own hand again. “Did you have some place in mind?”
Annika shook her head.
“Neelix had suggested that you help him in the mess hall. How would you like that?”
“I don’t have to know algorithms in order to work there, do I?” she asked quickly.
The captain smiled. “No, you don’t.”
“Then I’d like to work with Neelix. Will I get to wear my Starfleet uniform?”
“I don’t know. That’s up to you and Neelix.”
“Do you like me in it?”
“Er, yes. You look very nice in it.” Kathryn’s gaze skimmed the generous features in the Starfleet uniform quickly. A longer look and she wouldn’t be able to concentrate any more during her duty shift. “Now, if there’s nothing else…”
“Actually there is something else I’ve been meaning to ask you.”
“Oh?” What on earth could be on Annika’s mind?
The blonde hesitated.
“What is it?” Janeway prompted.
“I just wondered why you don’t like me any more,” the blonde blurted out quickly.
Astonishment was written clearly on the captain’s classic features. “What made you think that?” she demanded.
“You don’t spend time with me any more the way you used to. We don’t play Velocity together or paint in Da Vinci’s program or talk the way we used to.”
“The last time we played Velocity you didn’t seem to enjoy it,” Kathryn pointed out. “Besides, I’m the captain…I can’t always find the time to do what I’d like to.”
“You’ve always been the captain and you used to always have time for me,” Annika countered. “Is it because I’m not smart enough to suit you.”
Kathryn opened then closed her mouth, stricken by the words. “Is that what you think?” she asked finally.
“I know that I’m not as smart as I once was,” Annika said softly, so softly the captain had to bend forward to hear her. “I don’t know how to do things in astrometrics and I don’t know that much about the different worlds or species that I used to…”
“You’re still the same person, a wonderful young woman.”
That was the trouble young. She had not been so conscious of the gap in ages before when she dealt with Seven who had that superior Borg attitude. Annika however was all naiveté and Kathryn was acutely aware that she was a low ranked member of the crew.
“Then you still like me?” Annika asked, still looking uncertain.
The captain smiled. “Of course I do. Many people on the ship like you. You have many friends now, don’t you?”
“Yes, but I miss you.”
Kathryn felt another stab to the heart. ***Oh darling.***
“I miss seeing you,” Annika continued, unaware what her words were doing to the starship captain. “You used to come to astrometrics quite often and talk to me. You never do that any more. Sometimes when we pass in the corridor you just nod and look preoccupied.”
If only to keep from noticing the young woman more than she should. “Last night in the mess hall, I did pause at your table.”
“Yes, I was glad to see you.”
It took all of Kathryn’s command training not to move closer to the gorgeous blonde. ***Entirely inappropriate.***
“I have a lot on my mind sometimes,” she said, walking back to her chair behind the desk, needing to put distance between them. “That’s the way it is with a captain and her crew. However I always have time for you if you are having any problems. Please remember that. Dismissed.”
As soon as the young woman left Kathryn blew out a breath. Just when she thought she was adapting to the new Annika she got thrown a curve. Annika missed her. Janeway couldn’t help smiling to herself.
Lt. Torres glanced over the work roster in engineering. Since re-assigning Ensign Vorick to astrometrics she’d have to find a replacement for the reliable Vulcan. Trouble was they was short of engineers. She could promote Marla Gilman, one of the old Equinox crew who had a background in engineering, however the captain was not fond of the Equinox crew.
“Well, Janeway’s not running engineering,” Torres muttered to herself as she made the change on the roster. She’d run it by Chakotay who had a soft spot for the Equinox engineer.
“Janeway to Torres.” The captain’s hail made Torres jump. Did that woman have eyes in the back of her head?
“Torres here, Captain.”
“Report to my ready room.”
“Yes, Captain.” Now what? It was probably a good thing that Vorick was already taking charge in astrometrics.
On leaving engineering B’Elanna found her elbow grabbed and Tom Paris swung her around into a bear hug.
He kissed her, cutting off her next few words. “Hey yourself. I was just coming to see if you wanted to take lunch together.”
“Can’t. And you know you’re not supposed to kiss me in engineering.” She wiped lipstick off of his mouth with her fingers.
“Technically we’re in the corridor outside of engineering.”
“Yeah, well, I can’t do lunch. The captain wants to see me in her ready room.”
The blonde helmsman shook his head. “Okay. What did you do?”
“Well, you’re not the first person she called onto the carpet today. Annika was in there earlier.”
“Maybe it’s Janeway’s day to chew out everybody.”
They exchanged looks. “Nah, that’s not it,” Paris said. “She usually starts with me and I haven’t been in there so far.”
“Keep me here talking to you and you will be,” Torres said and ran to catch the turbolift. She blew him a kiss as the doors shut.
Five minutes later Torres was in the ready room, looking for the captain.
“I’m up here, Lieutenant,” Janeway called out from the upper level.
Torres walked up the incline to where the captain sat on her couch, drinking a cup of coffee. It probably wasn’t her first or even her second cup of the day.
“Coffee?” she offered.
“No, thank you, Captain.”
“Keeps you sharp if over-caffeinated. Sit down, Lieutenant.”
Torres sat down on the couch.
“Have you decided who will head astrometrics?”
“Ensign Vorick. I’ve already briefed him on his duties.”
“Good choice. He’ll probably need a promotion if he’s head of a department.” She gazed over the coffee cup at the Klingon hybrid to gauge her reaction to the promotion.
“He deserves one,” Torres said.
“Good. I’m glad you agree. Lt. Vorick has a nice sound to it. You’ll be short staffed in engineering.”
“I know. There are a few candidates in the pipeline who might be ready to step up.”
“I’m glad to hear it. I’ll leave that matter up to you.”
“Fine.” Maybe it would be easier to sneak Marla in.
Janeway put her cup down on its saucer. “I’ve informed Annika about the change in her position.”
Torres wasn’t surprised that the captain would want to break the news personally to the young woman.
“How did she take it?”
“She was actually happy about it.”
“That’s a shocker.” Torres made a face. An expression that could easily pass for disgust, Janeway thought.
“Lt. Torres as a senior officer, I hope you’re not in the habit of making that kind of face when you correct your staff.”
“What kind of face?” Torres asked.
Kathryn wrinkled up her nose and mouth in an approximation of the expression she had just seen on the half Klingon.
“I don’t look like that!”
“In talking with Annika she told me that you often express disgust when she made an error in astrometrics.”
“Annika complained about me?”
“No, actually she didn’t complain. She just stated it as fact. You look disgusted by her errors.”
“They are such stupid mistakes!”
“Nevertheless, she won’t learn if she’s afraid of how you will react.”
“If I look disgusted, Captain, it’s because that’s what I feel when Seven makes a mistake. She should know better,” B’Elanna said hotly. She didn’t appreciate having her supervisory skills critiqued.
“She’s not Seven of Nine any more.”
“Permission to speak freely, Captain.”
“Granted,” Kathryn said warily.
“Seven never will be herself if we keep treating her like a fragile young thing.”
“What are you saying, Lieutenant? The doctor has gone over her scans. It’s been two months and her memory is no better.”
“Underneath Annika there’s still Seven,” the chief engineer insisted. “I know it in my gut. It’s just that we can’t reach her any more. I’m acting toward her the same way I’d act toward Seven. The real Seven wouldn’t be upset because I made a face at her….she’d just tell me that she was right and I was wrong.”
“Lieutenant, I appreciate that your method of trying to get Seven back is unorthodox.”
“Memory can be re-triggered. We’re not doing enough to get Seven back. I never thought I’d say this but I miss her.”
First Tuvok and now B’Elanna. “I’m surprised, considering the way you two knocked heads in the past. I didn’t think you were even friends.”
“We had taken a few steps along that path,” Torres said. “In the week before that shore leave incident she had begun to confide in me about personal matters.”
***Oh boy.*** Kathryn just hoped she was not among the personal matters discussed between the two women. It was probably best to end this conversation. “As much as you do miss Seven, you have to adapt to her new persona. Not necessarily prefer it, just adapt.”
“The way you’re adapting?”
“Begging your pardon, Captain, but it sounds as though you’ve given up on her.”
“I haven’t,” Kathryn said flatly. “B’Elanna, it’s obvious that you prefer Seven of Nine to Annika Hansen. But what if Seven herself would prefer to be Annika. That’s who she is right now and it’s obvious that most of the ship likes her fine. They make allowances for her youth and her inexperience.”
“Do you prefer Annika to Seven?”
“Seven was a better Velocity player,” she admitted wryly.
“You don’t play with Annika much.”
“She tells me she’s been practicing so I may play more with her in the future. Funny I never realized how much people care about my Velocity games.”
“Only because you generally were in a good mood when you played with Seven and that feeling carried over onto the bridge.”
“Oh really?” The captain’s eyes narrowed. That sounded perilously close to gossip about her. “Who said so? Mr. Paris?”
Torres realized that her free speaking might have gone a little too far. “That’s common knowledge, Captain.”
“You’re dismissed, Lieutenant.”
Torres marched out.
Janeway drummed her fingers for a moment on the coffee table. First Tuvok and now Torres saying that they missed Seven. She missed her too. She couldn’t help that. However, there were some problems she could solve. She tapped her comm badge. “Mr. Paris, report to my ready room.”
At 1900 hours the crowded mess hall hummed with diners. Behind the counter, wearing a gingham checked apron over her Starfleet uniform, Annika kept busy, dishing out the evening’s pasta special. Since working with Neelix for the last two weeks she had discovered that she enjoyed experimenting with different sauces to complement the pasta dishes. And none of them had an ounce of leota root.
“She’s become a veritable pasta queen,” Neelix said proudly as he heaped a tray high with rigatoni for Chakotay.
“I’m glad to see this post has worked out for her.”
“Oh, she’s fantastic, Commander.” The Talaxian beamed even more than usual. “She’s always on time, eager to do what needs to be done and doesn’t shirk at cleaning the pots and pans.” His grin widened. “Usually there are a couple of eager crewmembers who want to help her put them through the sonic cleaners.”
Chakotay laughed. He could see why more than one person on board Voyager was smitten with the former Borg. She wore her hair pinned up under a cute little cap and a welcoming smile for everyone she greeted in the dinner line.
“The crew doesn’t use as many replicator rations and some actually prefer to eat in the mess hall,” Neelix went on. “Including the captain.” He nodded at a familiar form in command red coming through the door.
Chakotay glanced surreptitiously over his shoulder. The captain had not only made a habit of eating dinner in the mess hall but also her lunch and breakfast. Their Friday dinners in her quarters had become a thing of the past and he missed that one on one time with her.
“White sauce or red, Commander?” Annika asked when he reached her station.
“White, I think.”
Annika deposited a large spoonful of the creamy sauce on the rigatoni.
“Is that enough or would you like more?”
“That’s fine. Thank you.”
The blonde smiled then turned to the next person in line, although she was actually waiting for the captain to make her way to the front. Janeway was quite willing to wait her turn at the end of the line, but four pips did bring some perks and the crew insisted she go ahead.
“If you wait, you might not get any garlic bread,” someone murmured.
“Can’t have that, I suppose,” Janeway said, accepting a tray gracefully. “Thank you, all.” She brought her tray over to Neelix and took the pasta he deposited.
“What do you have for us tonight, Annika?” she asked.
“A portabella mushroom red sauce or a creamy white, Captain,” the young woman replied. She really did look adorable in that apron and cap.
“The red is probably less fattening. I’ll take that.”
“You don’t need to be concerned about weight, Captain,” the blonde said as she poured a ladleful of red sauce over the pasta. “You are in excellent shape.”
“Thank you,” Janeway said, feeling suddenly nervous at the compliment. Her blue eyes met the azure ones for a moment. “This looks delicious.” ***You look delicious.***
She started to turn away.
“Wait.” There was a soft touch on the captain’s wrist.
“What?” Kathryn tried not to react to the brief contact of skin on skin.
Annika held out a piece of garlic bread with her tongs. “Garlic bread. You need to take a piece before we run out.”
“Oh, thank you…” She accepted the slice of bread. Still feeling a bit breathless and annoyed at herself for overreacting, she surveyed the mess hall and spotted an empty seat by Chakotay.
“Eating in the mess hall instead of in your quarters for a change?” he asked.
“I could say the same about you.” She sat down across from him.
“The food has definitely improved since Annika was assigned to the mess hall. Tuvok did us all a favor with his suggestion.”
“She does have a way with pasta,” Janeway said.
“To expand her repertoire I gave her some family recipes and she promised to give them a try.”
“I should do that as well,” Kathryn said, spreading her napkin in her lap. “My mother was a Traditionalist though unfortunately I never paid attention to what was cooking on the stove.”
“I have a hunch Neelix will soon be asking us to find a suitable planet to replenish his inventory.”
“That shouldn’t be a problem.” Kathryn forked the pasta into her mouth. The sauce was savory and delicious, full of flavor like the woman who made it. She frowned, wondering why that thought had come to mind.
“Captain?” Chakotay asked, seeing her sudden change of expression. “Something wrong with the food?”
“No. It’s wonderful. So what kind of family recipes are you planning to share with the crew?”
“There’s this stew…” Chakotay said, accepting the conversational gambit readily and leaving Kathryn time to eat and watch Annika as she doled out the portion to each diner, talking easily and making everyone smile and laugh. She had really found her niche in Voyager.
She became aware that Chakotay had stopped talking and was now looking at her with a rather odd expression on his face. His brown eyes were filled with yearning. Good grief, what had he been talking about? It wasn’t anything personal, was it?
“Commander?” she prompted, a gentle reminder that she was the captain and he was her executive officer.
“I need to to ask you something, Captain.”
He bent his head closer across the table. “Are you going to eat that piece of garlic bread?” he asked, eyeing the slice that lay untouched on the captain’s tray.
She burst out laughing. “Commander, are you lusting over my garlic bread?”
“Yes,” he confessed.
“Take it.” She laughed and pushed the tray toward him, relieved that it was just the garlic bread her First Officer wanted.
While the captain enjoyed Annika’s duties in the mess hall, the same could not be said for Harry Kim. Since he pulled duty on the gamma shift, sitting in the captain’s chair, the ensign was not always on the same rotation as Annika and missed seeing her in astrometrics. After a thorough briefing, Vorick had grasped the rudiments of supervising the department.
On the few occasions Harry had been able to make it to the mess hall in synch with the hours for meals Annika was too busy working to do more than smile at him and plunk a piece of food on his tray.
“There’s more to working in the kitchen than people think,” she said to Kim when he stopped by during a calmer period and tried to coax her into sitting and chatting with him.
“It can’t be that difficult.” He noticed the padd she was working on. “What are you doing?”
“Some of the crew have sent me their favorite recipes. I’m trying to adapt them.”
“Let me see.” He took the padd from her. “Andean stew from Chakotay. Corned beef hash from Captain Janeway. I wouldn’t think the captain went in for slinging hash.”
“I have made an attempt at her dish, however I don’t think it was too successful,” Annika said.
“Serve it anyway. The crew won’t notice the difference. Half the time Neelix’s meals taste like cardboard.”
Annika frowned, not appreciating the levity. She now had more of an understanding of the work it took to create a palatable meal for the crew. Making three meals every day was an onerous undertaking.
“You shouldn’t make fun of Neelix,” she said, snatching the padd back from Harry and preparing to return to the galley.
“Hey, don’t get mad,” Harry said, following her. “Annika, come on. I just wanted to make sure you remember our date Saturday night.”
“I haven’t forgotten.”
“Good,” he smiled as he leaned his elbows on the counter. “I hope you won’t be too tired from working all day. I’ve planned something special.”
Her eyes lit up. “Where are we going?”
“It’s a surprise. Dinner and dancing and maybe a moonlight stroll on a beach.”
“Can we hunt for seashells?” she asked.
Harry shook his head. “No…That’s for day time. We’ll be strolling at night.” Under a romantic moon.
“On the holodeck we could make it day light.”
“Yes, but I’d prefer it to be at night.” It was much more romantic that way.
Annika gave in gracefully. Collecting sea shells on the holodeck reminded her of the real ones she was still stringing into a necklace along with the beads that Celes had given her and the little pips she had gathered from Neelix’s lost and found box. She had four pips now. Curiously, that was the same number of pips that the captain wore on her collar.
After Harry left she continued to work on the recipe the captain had sent. Annika hoped to get it perfected soon. She had been a little surprised and pleased when the captain had volunteered the recipe. Janeway was very busy and didn’t usually concern herself in culinary matters.
Thinking of the captain reminded Annika of the Velocity games they had played together in the past. She had been practicing and impulsively sent a message to her, requesting a time to play Velocity together. It was time to test her skills against the captain.
Receiving the message in her ready room console, Kathryn couldn’t help grinning as she read it through.
Captain, I challenge you to a Velocity match at a time of your choosing. I warn you that I am much improved and can probably win a few points! Annika Hansen.
“Something funny?” Chakotay asked as he passed her a warp core report from engineering.
“Annika is challenging me to a Velocity game.”
“She promises to make a better match of it this time.”
“You going to take her on, Captain?”
Janeway cocked her eyebrow. “Have you ever known me to shirk from a challenge?”
“Not me, the Borg or the Hirogen,” he said dryly. “Good luck with the game.”
After reading the engineering report Janeway decided to go to the mess hall herself and stepped out onto the bridge.
“I’ll be in the mess hall getting a cup of coffee, Chakotay.”
Smiling, she stepped into the turbo lift.
“Captain seemed in a pleasant mood,” Paris said from the helm.
“She and Annika are scheduling a Velocity game soon. Want to bet who wins?”
“No thanks. I’m not going there.”
Paris was not the sort to shirk from a little idle wager so Chakotay was surprised at his lack of enthusiasm. So was Tuvok.
“Are you feeling ill, Lieutenant?” he asked from his position at tactical.
Paris laughed. “I’m fine, Commander. It’s just that I don’t want to risk another wrath of Janeway descending on me. My ears are still ringing from her last lecture on bridge etiquette.”
“A prudent move.”
Kathryn stepped into the mess hall and found Naomi Wildman studying at an empty table. Annika was no where in sight.
“Have you seen Annika, Naomi?” Janeway inquired, stopping by the table.
“Yes, Captain,” the half-Katarian girl replied. “She went to her quarters because she spilled some Andean stew on her uniform and wanted to get a new one.”
“Ah, I see…” Well, she couldn’t follow Annika to her quarters. ***Or could she? Stop it!*** she told herself sternly.
“Captain!” Neelix greeted her. “What brings you to the mess hall?”
“I am in grave need of a cup of coffee, Mr. Neelix,” Kathryn replied with aplomb. So much for having a quiet word with Annika about the Velocity match.
“One cup of black coffee coming right up,” the Talaxian said, bringing a fresh pot from the stove and pouring her a cup.
“Thank you, Mr. Neelix.” She took a sip of the hot coffee and then since Annika wasn’t around decided to return to the bridge. She had just stepped out of the mess hall with the cup of coffee when someone on her way in bumped her hand. The hot liquid in the cup splashed both on her and the woman she had collided with.
“Ow!” Annika exclaimed. “That hurts!”
“I’m sorry!” Kathryn said immediately. “Did I burn you?”
“Just a little,” Annica said, peering down at her right hand that had been on the receiving end of the hot coffee. “What about you, Captain?”
“Just a stained uniform,” Janeway said, paying no attention to the wet stain on her uniform front. “I’m sorry, Annika. Let me take you to sick bay. You should have that burn looked at.”
“There is a dermal regenerator in the mess hall.”
“The doctor should take a look at it. It would ease my mind,” she went on as the young woman looked ready to argue. “I was responsible for your injury and want to make sure that you’re all right.”
“Very well, Captain,” Annika agreed, feeling a warmth stealing over her at having the captain so concerned about her well being.
In sickbay the Doctor soon diagnosed the problem as a first degree burn.
“Easily remedied with this and your Borg nanoprobes,” he said, running a dermal regenerator over the skin of her right hand. As the red flesh turned to pink again he smiled. “See? Good as new.” He looked over at the captain. “Not to worry, Captain. This isn’t the first time we’ve had a mess hall mishap. They seem to have occurred more frequently of late.”
“Really? Why wasn’t I informed?” She hadn’t noticed any increase in the injury report.
“Nothing to inform you about, Captain,” the EMH said. “Just a few clumsy crewmembers being served by a beautiful young blonde. Accidents are bound to happen.”
“I see,” Janeway replied coldly. So clumsiness was common on the ship when it came to Annika?
“I should return to my post in the mess hall,” the young woman said now.
“Since you are here, I may as well adjust your implants,” the EMH said in no hurry to dismiss her. She didn’t often find time to see him in sick bay and he missed chatting with her.
“Can we do that another time? I am on duty.” She slid off the biobed.
“In the mess hall?” he scoffed. “Surely Mr. Neelix can spare you for five minutes.”
“I will return after my duty shift,” Annika said. “I am trying to perfect a certain dish.”
Amused, Janeway walked Seven out of the sick bay and into the turbo lift.
“Mess Hall and then the Bridge.” She gave the commands in the lift. “Let me guess, Andean stew?” she asked Annika.
“No, Captain. Mr. Neelix has Commander Chakotay’s dish. It is your corned beef hash recipe I am trying to perfect. I still have not gotten it right.”
“I hope I copied down the ingredients correctly. I was never much good in the kitchen.” The lift stopped on the Second Deck. “By the way, I got your request for a Velocity match. How’s Saturday night for our rematch?” she asked casually.
“I have a date with Ensign Kim that night. Could we make it Friday instead?” Annika asked.
“Of course, that’s fine. Friday at 2000 hours. Is that convenient?”
“Yes, Captain.” Annika got out of the turbolift. “I’ll see you then.”
Janeway nodded as the turbolift doors closed. So she would be playing Velocity with Annika on Friday night. What would Ensign Kim be playing with her on Saturday night? Frowning, she walked onto the bridge a few moments later and went directly to her command chair. Chakotay gave way without a word as she slumped in it.
“Playing Velocity with the captain? Make sure you let her win,” Celes joked in her quarters as her roommate stuffed a towel into her bag.
“I do not have to let the captain win,” Annika replied, a definite glint in her eyes. “She always wins our matches. I will be content if I can win more points than last time.”
“How many did you win last time?”
The blonde grimaced. “None in the first game and just two in the second. I think she allowed me the two points in the last game.” Annika pulled back her hair and secured it with an elastic circle. “I do not want her charity.”
“You have been practicing,” the Bajoran said. “You’ll give her a good game.”
“I hope so. I used to be a much better player. I came close to beating her many times. I’m still as strong as I ever was and my reflexes are the same as always. The Doctor said so.”
“Maybe it’s not just your reflexes. Maybe you need a different strategy in the game.”
“Velocity seems like a simple game but it is quite complex.”
“You could always try a little gamesmanship.”
Celes paused, wondering how to phrase it to the naïve Borg. “You have to psyche out your opponent, Annika.”
“Get inside the captain’s head and make her defeat herself. You should see Billy and Harren when they play hoverball. They’ll pretend to be injured and then whip the ball for the point.”
“I do not wish to win a point under such pretense.”
“Well, you could try distracting your opponent. Converse with the captain and make her think of something else during a point.”
“The captain has strong mental concentration. It would take something extraordinary for her attention to be diverted.”
“I guess you’re right,” Celes said. “With anyone else you could just replicate a Velocity uniform that’s a size smaller than your usual. That wouldn’t work on the captain.” She picked up a chess set. “I’m going to find Billy. You have fun with the captain.”
“I will,” Annika said. She began to change out of her Starfleet uniform and into the Velocity suit hanging in the closet. A smaller garment would impede her play, but perhaps she could alter the appearance of the outfit. Make the neckline less confining and perhaps a different color.
Kathryn paced impatiently in Holodeck One. She had arrive promptly at 2000 hours, expecting to find Annika however the young woman was late. Annoyed, she tried not to let it show, taking the time to practice a few shots and trying her best not to remember the being stood up at the Bijou Palace. Perhaps dinner hour had run late in the mess hall.
Whoosh. The holodeck doors opened and Kathryn turned her head and nearly got hit by the Velocity disk she was practicing with.
“Computer, end practice round.”
With her hair in a pony tail, Annika looked amazing in a blue Velocity outfit that was similar in color to the biometric suit she once wore. The material was cut low across the neckline and there was a silver X over her bodice that emphasized her breasts. Kathryn’s mouth felt suddenly dry, and she walked over to the side bench where she kept a water bottle.
“I’m sorry to keep you waiting, Captain,” Annika said.
“No problem. I was just warming up.” Janeway took a long swallow of water. “Why don’t you get in a little practice?”
“I don’t think that’s necessary. I will do a few stretches and we can begin the game.”
Annika came over to the bench and put her bag down. She placed her foot up on the bench to verify her boot was zipped up, allowing Kathryn ample time to follow the long curve of the calf up to the knee and the muscular thigh that was enclosed by the blue material. The blonde switched legs and bounced lightly to stretch. Kathryn reached for the water bottle again.
Velocity was not supposed to be a contact sport. Yet wherever Kathryn stepped on the court either forward or back she found her blonde opponent practically on top of her, not to intimidate with a sharp elbow to the ribs or a checked hip to throw her off stride but rather to brush her soft breasts against the side of an arm or to graze her fingertips lightly across the captain’s shoulder blades.
It was maddening, enough to make Janeway lose a half dozen points in the first game. How could she play with one eye on the disk turning color in midair and the other eye on Annika.
The taller woman was blocking her view and quickly Kathryn sidestepped then fired her phaser, causing the disk to change from red to blue. No doubt about it, Annika was playing better. She had almost pulled even with the captain in the match. Although even wasn’t going to be good enough, Janeway decided, squaring her jaw as Annika fired at the disk.
Luckily Kathryn had already maneuvered for position, keeping the blonde in her line of sight. To her surprise, the young woman wasn’t trying to make contact. She was just lifting the tendrils of hair that had fallen out of the blonde ponytail onto the back of her neck, the gesture causing her right breast to lift up. Through the tight Velocity outfit Kathryn could make out the proud peak of an erect nipple.
The Velocity disk hit Kathryn in her shin. Damn. She fell to one knee.
“Oooph.” That’s what she got for ogling her opponent. Really, she was no better than a first year academy cadet in a coed steam room.
“Point to Hansen,” the computer announced.
“Computer, halt program,” Annika ordered and bent over the captain who was rubbing the sore spot on her shin. “Captain, are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” Kathryn replied, breathing hard. So was the other woman, judging by the way her breasts rose and fell under her Velocity outfit.
“Do you want to stop?”
Janeway shook her head and rubbed her shin one last time. “I just had to rub it a little. Besides we can’t stop. I haven’t won yet.”
“You are only ahead by two points.”
“Yes, and my lead is about to get bigger,” the captain said, her competitive nature goaded by the reminder. “Computer, begin program,” she ordered.
The disk flew out from midair. She fired instinctively and forced herself to focus her attention on the game. No more distractions.
Seeing the determined jaw squared for victory, Annika could not avoid smiling. The captain looked so cute with her auburn hair wet with sweat and frustration evident in the blue-gray eyes. She had never seen Janeway like that before. It made her think of the captain in a new light.
Lost in thought, Annika did not see the disk heading for her until it had hit her chest.
“Point to Janeway.”
“Computer, halt program,” the captain said immediately. “Are you all right?”
“Yes, Captain,” Annika said, rubbing the sore spot on her left breast with her right hand.
Kathryn stared, mesmerised by the fingers lightly massaging the soft round mound. Her respiration was increasing and she could hear the pounding of her heart in her own chest.
Annika heard it as well. The young woman was keenly aware that she possessed remarkable hearing and sensitivity to others bodily functions. The redhead seemed to be breathing much more heavily than usual. Furthermore, the captain’s pupils seemed dilated as they focused on Annika’s left breast. Under their scrutiny the blonde felt her own temperature rise.
Janeway inhaled a long breath. “Do you want to continue or shall we stop?”
“I don’t want to stop,” Annika said, her voice an octave lower than usual.
At the sound of her voice Kathryn felt a jolt of desire shoot straight through her. No. She was not going to allow anything like that to happen. This wasn’t Seven of Nine. This was Annika who was young and naïve and didn’t seem to realize what she was doing as she continued to fondle her own breast in front of the captain.
“All right then,” Janeway said, clearing her throat and taking her position again on the court.
“You were correct, Captain.”
“About what?” Kathryn asked, looking over at her.
“Rubbing the area makes the pain go away.”
***That’s what you think. A sudden ache flared in a sensitive region of Kathryn’s body. One that needed rubbing as well, her little voice nagged. Not now, she snapped back.***
“Are you ready?”
“Ready.” Seven positioned herself so that Kathryn had a perfect view of her gluteus maximus.
“Now if I win the next two points that’s the game,” the captain said, rocking on the balls of her feet. She needed to end this game and get to her quarters where she could take a cold shower.
The disk flew out and Annika fired the phaser. The blue light turned to red on the disk. Using all of her command training, Janeway managed to deflect the disk and ricochet it off the floor onto Annika’s leg. She turned her head and wiped sweat off her forehead with her arm to keep from looking at the young woman rub her calf. Just one more point and she would win the game and she could call a halt to the rest of the match.
The disk flew out and Kathryn fired. Annika answered almost immediately. Zigzagging on the court, Janeway watched the disk bob and hover then she fired. Annika fired quickly in return, much faster than the captain expected. The disk hit the far wall and the redhead ducked, and it bumped Annika for the final point.
“Game to Janeway.”
“You have won!” Annika said.
“You gave me a good match,” Kathryn said, grabbing her water bottle. She gulped down several long mouthfuls then squirted the rest on her face. Anything to cool off her overheated body.
Annika copied her gesture, squirting her face with her water bottle. The liquid felt cool and damp against her skin and she threw back her head and laughed.
Kathryn forgot her promise not to gawk at the young woman, who looked so relaxed and comfortable, with her hair falling out of her pony tail and her face and throat wet with the water she had just sprayed on herself.
“Do you have a towel?” she asked as the drops of water trickled down the side of Annika’s neck.
“Somewhere in this bag.” The blonde started to rummage in her bag. Kathryn tossed her a towel.
“Here, take this extra one.”
“Thank you, Captain.”
“Thank you for the game.”
“We’re not finished yet,” Annika exclaimed as Janeway appeared ready to leave. “We usually play more than one game.”
“I think we’ve run out of time on the holodeck.”
Thank God. Kathryn didn’t trust herself if Annika massaged any more sore parts of her anatomy during the match. Just seeing the young woman pat her neck and throat dry with the towel was penance enough.
“Are you afraid of me, Captain?”
“What?” Janeway startled and licked her lips.
“I’m getting better at Velocity. Perhaps you’re afraid that you’ll lose to me?”
***Oh that. ***
“You are getting much better,” Kathryn agreed. “In fact, I had to hustle to beat you. That’s why this first game ran long.”
“Perhaps next time we could schedule a longer period on the holodeck?”
“That might be a good idea,” Kathryn said, trying her best to keep her voice nonchalant. “Next week Friday perhaps?”
“It’s a date.” Together they left the holodeck and parted at the turbolift as the captain went immediately to her quarters. She stripped her Velocity outfit off her sweaty body and dropped it on the floor of her ensuite and headed into the cold shower that she desperately needed. As the stinging needles stabbed her skin she repeated to herself:*** I will not think of Annika in that way. I will not think of Annika in that way. ***
Meanwhile Annika made her way to Deck Ten, walking into her quarters with the towel slung over her shoulder.
“So did you beat the captain?” Celes asked.
“No, she beat me again. However, I gave her a good match.”
“That’s great. Say, that’s not your towel. It has an initial K on it.”
“It’s the captain’s. I couldn’t dig mine out of the bag fast enough and she had an extra.”
“You’ll have to recycle it and give it back to her.”
“I will, don’t worry.”
Alone in the bathroom, she drew the towel down from her shoulder and held it against her face for a moment, inhaling the scent. It reminded her of the smell on the captain’s sheets more than a month ago when she had slept in Janeway’s quarters. Lightly, her fingers traced the K. K for Kathryn.
Annika undressed and climbed into the sonic shower, remembering how the captain had looked with her damp hair clinging to the sides of her face. As the high pitched hum of the shower removed the dirt from her body and implants she contemplated her Velocity strategy. It had not been a complete success. True, she had distracted the captain. What she had not expected was to be equally distracted by the sight of the compact redhead.
What did it all mean?
The next evening Harry Kim led Annika through the crowded Italian restaurant he had programmed for their date. Trattoria was a re-creation of a North Beach restaurant he and his old girlfriend Libby used to enjoy in San Francisco. There was a strolling violinist serenading diners, a woman going table to table with a basket of flowers for sale and even a view of the Coit Tower from their table in the center of the restaurant.
“The only thing missing is the fog,” Harry said as he held out a chair for his companion.
“Fog?” Annika glanced uncertainly around her.
“San Francisco gets foggy in the evening,” the ensign explained as he sat down across from her.
“If you prefer it that way, I’m sure the computer could reset the holodeck parameters.”
“No, it’s fine. I’d rather have it warm so you don’t need a wrap. Besides, resetting it would destroy the mood of the date.”
“The illusion that we’re back on earth in San Francisco.”
“I have never been to earth,” she reminded him. “I was born on the Tendara Colony.”
“Oh, you’d love it. Everyone does.”
***Even a Borg.*** Harry frowned at the menu the waiter had just handed him. Where had that thought come from? He knew like everyone else on board Voyager that Seven was Borg. Except Annika was different. Annika was more human; so why did he think of her as Borg?
Was it because of her hair pinned up the way she wore it when she was Seven of Nine or maybe her implants that were more apparent this evening in the revealing dress she wore. She did look very beautiful in it, a blue slinky dress with two spaghetti straps holding it over her shoulders A starburst implant, smaller than the one on her cheek, adorned her right upper arm. She was touching it nervously with her right hand, making Harry more conscious of it than he would ordinarily.
Annika wasn’t nervous, just pre-occupied. She had worked right up to thirty minutes before Harry was to pick her up at her quarters and she had hastily taken a shower and dressed for the occasion. Celes had selected the dress, saying that it was time to show Harry what she had been hiding under her Starfleet uniform. The Bajoran had even pinned her hair up for the evening.
“So what’s your pleasure tonight?” Harry asked heartily.
“Pleasure?” She looked startled.
Harry reminded himself that Annika was naïve the way that Seven never was. “What do you feel like eating? The pasta here is great.”
She made a face. “Actually, I’m tired of pasta.”
“Right…” She worked in a kitchen now not astrometrics. He should have remembered that. “Well, they make a great veal and since this is San Francisco the crab is primo too. I’m having the crab.”
“I will as well.”
The waiter left to place their orders, and they settled back in their chairs to enjoy the restaurant scene. The stone walls were painted with murals and they could almost imagine themselves in Italy. The woman with the flowers appeared from around the corner. Feeling in a romantic mood, Harry purchased a dozen red ones for Annika and watched as her eyes lit up. The left one, he suddenly remembered, was an artificial eye.
Flowers were a gesture of friendship and more. Annika knew that from her research when she was trying to decide what type of flowers to bring to Kathryn’s dinner. Red roses were symbolic of love. Was Harry trying to tell her that he loved her?
She had chosen daisies for the captain, which seemed to have pleased the redhead. Were she to do it again, perhaps she would choose some other flower.
“Thank you for the roses,” she said.
Harry felt his chest swell in satisfaction. Could he wine and dine them, or couldn’t he?
“Are these roses real?” she asked, looking over at Harry, wondering if he knew what the significance of red roses meant.
“Sure, I mean as real as holodeck roses get,” he said. “There is a scent and best of all no thorns.”
She placed her nose in the flowers and inhaled. The scent was sweet and the absence of thorns was a good thing. “Does this mean they’ll vanish off the holodeck if I leave with them?”
Harry felt his chest deflating just a little. “Yeah, I guess they will,” he admitted. Maybe he should have replicated a dozen roses before he met her for dinner.
She placed her hand on his lightly. “The roses are lovely, Harry. I’ll enjoy them as long as I’m here.”
“Good.” He felt better and beamed at her. “Dinner’s not here yet. Would you like to dance first?”
He was surprised by her willingness to get on the dance floor.
“Let me do the twirling, okay?” he asked.
“You have been talking to Lt. Chapman.”
“Actually it was Tom who told me about your dance with Chapman. As long as you don’t try and twirl me we should be all right.”
Annika placed one hand on Harry’s shoulder and the other in his hand. Slowly they began moving rhythmically to the music. Harry was not as tall as Chapman however he was broader in the shoulders so she found it easy to follow his lead.
“Seems to me you’ve been practicing? Or else I’m a damn good dance partner?” he joked.
“It must be the latter,” she said impishly. “Since I have not practiced with anyone since the captain.”
He almost stepped on her foot. “The captain was practicing dancing with you?”
“Just once in her quarters.”
“A private lesson, you mean?”
Gracefully Annika followed Harry’s steps, and for several minutes they danced in silence while Harry’s thoughts raced. He knew he was privileged to serve under Captain Kathryn Janeway and as a commanding officer went she was the best. Only why did she always seemed to ace him out with Seven?
***Annika isn’t Seven.***
“Do you still dance with the captain?” he asked abruptly, unable to stop the question from forming on his lips.
“No. Just that one time.”
“Was that before shore leave or after?”
“Before,” she replied, realizing that he was asking in his roundabout way whether she had danced with the captain since being altered.
Although her memory was vague, Annika did recall the sensations of dancing with the captain weeks ago. It had been so exhilarating. Of course, many mundane things were exhilarating when she did them with the captain. She frowned, trying to remember the dance in the captain’s quarters and comparing the sensations then and now.
While Ensign Kim held her just as close as the captain had, there was a marked difference. She was not breathing as heavily as when the captain held her in her arms, nor was she feeling that tingle of excitement going up and down her spine. Perhaps it was the beat of the music playing that was different.
Harry however seemed to be enjoying himself. He was moving his hips against hers in a rhythmic pattern, one that pressed against hers in a fashion she found more annoying than enjoyable. She was just about to say something to him about it when she noticed the waiter hovering with their first course.
“Our dinner is here,” she said.
“It can wait.” Harry’s nose nuzzled her ear, and she moved her head back, suddenly ticklish,
“The food will get cold.”
“That would be a disservice to the cook. Properly prepared food must be eaten at the right temperature.” Her tone was sharper than she intended.
“You sure know a lot about food now that you’re working with Neelix,” he said, giving in to her suggestion and returning to the table. Once they were seated the waiter served their salads and placed a loaf of sour dough bread on the table.
“I find food interesting. Don’t you?”
Harry shrugged. “Not as interesting as a supernova?”
“You can’t eat a supernova,” she said, taking a bite of the salad. “This is very good.”
She poked her fork through the different types of lettuce in the dish, thinking aloud about how she might make a similar dish in the mess hall. Harry found his own mind wandering. Luckily the entrée came, two large Dungeness crabs on a platter for the two of them. Annika frowned when she saw what she was supposed to eat.
“What’s the matter?” he asked.
“This dish has an exoskeleton. I do not do well with exoskeletons.” Too late she remembered the debacle with the lobster during her date with Chapman. The only dinner date she had had success with was the one with the captain who had thoughtfully replicated salmon for her to eat.
“It’s okay…here, use this to crack open the shell.” He passed her a nut cracker.
Following his lead, she cracked the leg of the crab and with a tiny fork raked out the white flesh. It seemed like a lot of work for very little food but her companion seemed to enjoy it. He showed her how to wipe her fingers with the small wash cloth the waiter brought and the lemon that he sprinkled over it.
“Now what about some dessert?” he asked. “We could get spumoni. That’s an Italian ice cream. Or there’s cheesecake, Trattoria’s makes the best cheesecake.”
“Could we have apple pie instead?”
Harry laughed. “Apple pie? Isn’t that a little too ordinary?”
“I like it,” she said, remembering how the captain had introduced her to the dessert..
“Okay…If you like it. We’ll have the apple pie.”
When the dessert was served however, Annika realized that this pie did not taste as good as the one she had shared with the captain. Was it because the crust was not as flaky? Or the apples a little less cinnamony?
Harry found no fault with his dessert. After eating it, he laid his hand on hers and rubbed her fingers softly with his, a gesture that should have made her skin tingle. When she had held the captain’s fingers once she had felt that tingle. With Harry however there was none.
“That really wasn’t the dessert I was looking forward to?”
“Did you want something else?” she asked innocently.
“Why don’t we leave the restaurant and go for a walk on the beach.”
“Is there a beach near here?”
“In this place there is,” Harry said, glad that they were on a holodeck where he could program whatever he wanted.
Just a few feet from the restaurant was a large bay where the waves lapped gently against the sand.
They walked together hand in hand, enjoying the feel of the salty spray against their faces and the light of the full moon. Behind them the bustle of the restaurant faded away. After they had walked for a few minutes he turned to the blonde.
“Is it too windy for you?”
“No, I’m fine.”
“Good….” He tugged her hand and pulled her into a small cove where he had programmed a blanket and a bottle of champagne. “Let’s sit for a while.”
Willingly she sat down with him on the blanket.
“Annika, I really like you….I hope you know this.”
“I know…I like you too, Harry.”
When he lifted her chin, she reached eagerly for him, wanting to experience the sparks that kissing inevitably would generate.
The door chime rang. Rolling over in bed, Kathryn struggled to awaken. Still groggy, she propped her head on an elbow and peered at the chronometer on the nightstand. 0215 hours.
“Computer, identify caller outside my quarters.”
“Annika Hansen,” came the reply.
Rubbing the sleep out of her eyes as the chime sounded again, Kathryn shoved her feet into her slippers and went to the door. She stood for a moment, her mouth dry, not just from sleep but from the sight of her stunning visitor. She blinked. The vision in a short slinky blue dress was still standing in front of her.
“Captain, I need to speak to you.”
“Do you know what time it is, Sev- I mean, Annika?”
“It is 0216 hours,” the young woman replied. “I realize it is early in the morning, however I didn’t know who else to talk to about this matter. You and I have often engaged in early morning discussions, have we not?” She glanced uncertainly at the captain.
“Yes,” Janeway reassured her. “Come in and sit down.” After issuing the invitation the captain realized that she was still clad only in her peach nightgown and went back to the bed to find her robe. She was knotting it around her waist when she returned to the living area to find Seven on the couch.
“I need something to drink. What about you?”
“An apple juice would be sufficient.”
Kathryn smiled. Even if Annika didn’t really know what her Borg heritage meant she still at times used the Borg phrases unconsciously.
“An apple juice it is,” Janeway said, replicating two glasses and handing one to Seven. She sat down on the couch, a little distance away from the blonde. With her hair up, the other woman looked more like Seven than ever before. “So, what brings you here?”
Kathryn choked on her apple juice, turning a bright shade of red.
“Captain, are you all right?”
“The juice just went down the wrong way,” Janeway spluttered, catching her breath again. “Can you explain what you mean by sexual matters?”
Annika put her drink down and clasped her hands togther, not sure where to begin. “I had a date with Harry Kim this evening,” she said finally.
***Oh no. *** Janeway ***really*** didn’t want to hear about sexual matters having to do with Ensign Kim.
She started to rise. “Actually, I think someone like Celes or Lt. Torres or even Ensign Wildman might be better suited to help you with whatever happened with Mr. Kim.”
“Oh?” Kathryn sank back against the couch, relieved and curious. “The date was unsuccessful?”
“No. On the contrary. It was very pleasant. He took me to a popular Italian restaurant he had recreated. It was quite crowded.”
***Crowded. Good, no chance for sex there.***
“He bought me red roses.”
“How romantic.” The ensign certainly knew how to court a lady. She had to give Harry credit.
Annika nodded. So the captain was aware of the significance of the roses.
“We ate dinner and danced.”
So that explained the pretty blue dress. Unconsciously, Kathryn noticed the long legs crossed and tucked under the blonde.
“Did you have problems dancing again?”
“No, the dancing went well. I also managed to eat the crab with Harry’s assistance.”
Kathryn smiled, remembering Seven’s dislike of dining on anything with an exoskeleton.. “That’s good. What happened next?”
“After dancing we took a stroll along a beach. We sat on the sand under a full moon and Harry kissed me. Several times.”
Kathryn realized she was holding her breath. The ensign had made his move.
“Was that all right with you, Annika?” she asked. Surely Harry would never take advantage of the young woman.
“Oh yes! I wanted him to kiss me.”
***Oh.*** Kathryn felt deflated by Seven’s enthusiastic reply. “It sounds like a nice date.”
“That’s what Celes said and yet I am troubled by my bodily reaction, Captain.”
***Oh damn. Was she supposed to explain the awakening of sexual feelings to the young woman? Feelings directed toward Harry Kim!***
“You needn’t be too concerned. What you are feeling is perfectly normal,” Kathryn said, hoping that she would get lucky and Annika wouldn’t need any further explanation.
“When two people kiss physical sensations are sparked.”
The blonde head bobbed up and down vigorously. “That’s what I thought. And yet, nothing like that happened when Harry and I kissed.”
“Really?” Thank God!
“There were no sparks at all. Can you explain?”
“Sometimes people, couples, take a while to get the sparks going.”
“We kissed for twenty minutes. Was that not sufficient time for the sparks to get going?”
“Under most circumstances, yes.” Poor Harry. “Was Harry similarly unaffected?” she asked delicately.
“What do you mean?” Azure eyes gazed innocently at her.
Janeway put her apple juice down, debating whether to explain the physical manifestations of male arousal, then decided she really did not want to wade into those waters with Seven, particularly at 0224 hours.
“Did he try anything else besides kissing? Did he stroke your back, caress you?”
“He began to slide the straps of my dress down from my shoulders. Is that what you mean?”
“That will do,” Janeway said, trying not to imagine the blue dress sliding off the blonde’s body. “Sounds as though he wished to continue the interaction.”
“At first. He changed his mind as soon as he saw my body and my implants.”
The crestfallen expression on the young woman’s face caused a twinge in Kathryn’s chest. ***Was her operations officer crazy?***
“He tried to pretend my implants didn’t really matter, but I could tell they did When I touched him with my left hand, he recoiled, and when he saw how far my abdominal implant extended he suddenly became concerned about the time and ceased his activity.”
“Perhaps he didn’t wish to take advantage of you,” Kathryn said simply.
Kathryn leaned closer and clasped Seven’s hand with hers. It just happened to be the Borg hand.
“Annika, you are a beautiful woman and your implants are part of you. That’s all you need to be concerned about.” She squeezed Seven’s hand reassuringly.
“You have not seen the other implants on my body.”
“Actually, I have,” she confessed.
“The night when I slept in your bed?” Annika’s eyes widened.
What? “No!” the captain exclaimed. “I didn’t leer at you while you were sleeping. In the holodeck Neelix organized a beach party once, and I saw some of the abdominal implant under your swim suit. It really made no difference to me. You’re so beautiful,” she said huskily.
Annika blinked back tears of relief. If the captain said so, she believed her. Janeway was her harshest critic but also her biggest booster.
“And if Harry Kim can’t see that, he’s blind.”
The blonde was beginning to feel much better about herself. “He always seemed interested in me before. It is odd that his interest should wane just when I wished it to continue.”
Kathryn felt a sudden stab in her heart, and she let go of Seven’s hand. “You still wish to continue seeing Harry despite the lack of sparks?”
“Why?” the captain asked, puzzled.
The blonde shrugged. “Celes says that most young women my age have experienced physical intimacy by now.”
“You can’t become physically involved with someone just because other women have at your age,” Kathryn exclaimed, hoping she didn’t sound like a prude. She lowered her voice. “Physical intimacy is usually best when there are feelings between the two parties.”
“There are, Captain. I really like Harry and I thought he liked me too.”
“It is just odd that I felt nothing when he and I kissed.”
“Perhaps he’s just not a good kisser.”
“You are a good kisser,” Annika said, a speculative gleam in her blue eyes. She leaned closer to the captain.
“Thank you.” Kathryn tried not to stare at the soft plump lips in front of her.
“I remember that kiss we shared.”
“It wasn’t a real kiss, more like a peck,” she demurred.
“I remember I was going to kiss your cheek and you moved your head at the last moment and our lips met.”
“By accident.” ***A sweet, sweet accident.***
“That accidental kiss occasioned sparks in me.”
“It did?” Kathryn asked huskily, knowing that she really shouldn’t pursue this conversation. She couldn’t help herself.
“Yes,” Annika’s voice and eyes softened with the memory. “My heart raced until I thought it would burst. Your lips felt so soft and warm. I wanted the moment to last forever.”
Kathryn could feeling her own heart thudding in her chest, threatening to break a rib.
“May we do it again?’
***Yes, do it. Kiss her again.*** Her little voice screamed.
Janeway drew in a ragged breath. “That’s not a good idea.”
***Yeah, why not***
“I am your captain. It would be inappropriate for me to kiss you. Starfleet regulations frown on a captain kissing a member of their crew."
Annika frowned. “We had this conversation before.”
“I reminded you about the Starfleet regulations.”
“You did not wish to obey them then.”
Kathryn got up from the couch. “That was then. Now is all that concerns us. Things are different now.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I’m sorry, Sev…Annika. It’s late. I’m sorry that your date with Ensign Kim wasn’t all you had hoped. Will you accept my assurance that you are a very beautiful woman and that you will experience sparks when you kiss other people in the future.”
“As much as when you and I kissed?”
The blonde went to the door. “Thank you, Captain. You have helped me sort out things in my mind.”
Still, Annika lingered.
“Is there something else?” Janeway asked.
“I cannot help wondering however how many sparks would fly if you and I had kissed the way you kissed the Michael Sullivan hologram.”
“When did you see me kiss Michael Sullivan?” Kathryn demanded.
“I was in the Fair Haven program and saw you on the river bank with him. Did sparks fly when you kissed him?”
“I really don’t wish to discuss Michael with you or anyone else,” the captain said sternly.
***Good God, Seven had seen her rolling around on the grass with Michael. Was that the reason she had stood her up at the Bijou Palace?***
“I apologize, Captain,” Annika said, a little surprised by the captain’s vehemence. “I was just curious. I didn’t mean to offend you. It’s been a difficult evening for me.”
“Go to bed and get some sleep.”
“Good night,” Annika said. She held out her hand and Janeway thinking that she wanted to shake hands clasped it.
The blonde did not shake the captain’s hand. Instead she brought it swiftly up to her face, turned the palm toward her mouth and kissed it.
Kathryn shivered at the contact of Seven’s lips against her skin. Electric, that was the only word for it. As she drew her hand away she could see the intent gaze of the Borg. Definitely sparks.
“So how was your hot date with Annika?” Tom asked Harry as they walked down the corridor together. For a change both men had a day off and were going to the holodeck for a little Captain Proton time.
“It was okay.”
“Just okay? I’m surprised. The way she’s been eyeing you up, hanging on your every word in astrometrics.”
“She’s not working there any more, remember?” Harry said, looking irritated.
“No, she’s in the mess hall,” Tom darted a look Harry’s way. “More chance for others to interact with her. I’ve seen some of the lovestruck guys that sit not eating their food and just staring at her. Competition got you a little nervous, Harry?”
“No. Will you stop it and just concentrate on the program?” Kim asked as they entered the holodeck. “What’s Proton supposed to do this chapter?”
“Well, Chaotica is going to use his lightning beam on the ship. We need to reinforce the shields.”
“Got it.” Harry said, going over to the ancient looking equipment.
“So did you kiss her?”
“You can’t blame a guy for asking. You did kiss her, didn’t you?”
“And nothing okay…” Harry blurted out. Absolutely nothing happened. It was like kissing his sister. Except he didn’t have a sister. He couldn’t understand it himself. He had always liked Seven. He had never hidden his attraction to the Borg from the moment she joined Voyager. But she had made it clear she wasn’t interested. Even told him she had no time to flirt with him and if he wished to copulate to take off his clothes. Talk about being doused with cold water.
In spite of those obstacles, he’d still fantasize about her. There was something attractive about her icy aloof exterior and her fantastic brain, not to mention her fabulous body. The attraction had been definitely a one way street.
He wasn’t the only one on board who thought Seven was attractive. The captain did as well. The captain… Harry adjusted the late 22nd century equipment, thinking about Captain Janeway and Seven. Everyone knew about their special bond. However lately, since Annika had taken over from Seven that bond had not been obvious. Annika had seemed almost nervous of the captain at times and Janeway herself had taken pains not to treat the blonde with anything other than sheer professionalism.
So with the captain out of the picture and Annika showing interest for the first time he had gone for it and pursued her. Hence last night’s date.
“Warning. Warning. Intruder Alert.” The robot in the program squawked.
Harry punched a button, wishing that he could turn off his own alert system. It had come through loud and clear when he had started kissing Annika last night on the beach. She had been eager to kiss him but he could sense that she wasn’t really responding to his caresses and when he slipped off the straps of her dress and saw the bulky metallic implants on her body, he found himself unable to proceed further.
He knew she still had alien technology in her body, but he had never come face to face with it in such an intimate setting. He thought it a little creepy. What was going on with him?
Harry’s preoccupation was still with him during the staff meeting the next morning when the captain addressed a perfunctory question regarding operations his way. When he didn’t respond, Tom kicked him under the table.
“Mr. Kim, are we boring you?” A laser like beam from two blue eyes fixed on the hapless ensign.
“No, Captain.” He straightened in his chair.
“How are things in operations?”
“Shields are operating at 94% efficiency, Captain. I’m going to do some recalibrations this week that should get them to 97%.”
“Good. Any other problems or topics for discussion?” Janeway looked around the table “Dismissed. Mr. Kim, a moment of your time.”
Groaning to himself, he waited until the others left the room.
“Is gamma shift turning out to be more than you can handle, Ensign?” Kathryn asked quietly when they were alone in the conference room.
“No, Captain. I’m sorry I was day dreaming. I wasn’t asleep.”
“I wouldn’t blame you if you were,” she said dryly. “Sometimes I would like to doze off myself. Are you still helping down in astrometrics?”
“No, Vorick is handling things just fine.”
“Good. If your duties need to be scaled back, talk to Commander Chakotay.” She nodded her head in dismissal and got up from her chair. Harry pushed back his.
“Captain, I wonder if I could have a moment to speak to you on another matter.”
The captain’s blue eyes narrowed in thought. “Certainly. Let’s go into my ready room. I need a cup of coffee.”
In the ready room, she led the way up the small ramp and brought back a cup of coffee from the replicator for each of them. After a long sip she gazed expectantly at him from her desk as he sat in the chair.
“Is this something personal, Ensign?”
“Yes, and I’m not sure how to begin.”
It was moments like these that made Janeway wish they had a ship’s counselor. “If you’d rather talk to someone else…perhaps Chakotay.”
“No, he wouldn’t understand. I think you would since the matter concerns Seven, I mean Annika.”
Good heavens. She wondered if he was going to talk about his date with Annika. She really didn’t want to hear about it, and yet in another way she did.
“What about Annika exactly?”
“I wonder if you think she’s ready for a sexual relationship?”
Damn. “What I think is irrelevant,” she said slowly. “Have you broached the idea to her?”
“Not in so many words. Last night we had a date, and we began to kiss. It seemed to be what she wanted. But then as we proceeded she seemed to cool off and I didn’t continue.”
“She is relatively young and inexperienced.”
“I know…that’s why I didn’t want to take things too far too fast.”
“All in all a very sensitive handling of the situation,” Kathryn said and meant it.
“Captain, you and Seven have always shared a special bond. I wonder if she’s discussed me with you.”
“I guess over the years your name has come up.”
“Has she said anything about me recently? In the last month or so?”
Kathryn shook her head. “I’m sorry, Mr. Kim. I can’t betray her confidence.”
“You can tell me if she wants me to continue to see her?”
Janeway considered the question. “I think she does. Do you intend to continue your relationship?”
“I’d like to, and yet I’m confused. I can’t sort out my earlier feelings for Seven with my feelings now for Annika.”
“Are the feelings that different?”
“They shouldn’t be,” he agreed. “And yet they are.” He stared down at his coffee cup then put it down on its saucer. “I guess everyone knows I had a crush on Seven. I don’t have a crush on Annika. If anything…” he paused.
“She has a crush on you,” Kathryn supplied.
He looked up at her, relieved. “Yeah, a mild one and I don’t know what to do.”
The captain felt on firmer ground. Crushes happened in the course of any commander’s career.
“Sometimes when one is a supervisor or a superior officer this happens,” she said matter-of-factly.
“How do I deal with it?”
She smiled. “With kindness and professionalism.”
Harry took a moment to absorb this information. “Captain, if I continue my relationship with Annika it may get more physical. Do you approve?”
“Why are you asking me that question?” she demanded. Was he hinting that she and Annika were involved and that Janeway might not approve of Harry for that reason?
The ensign’s Adam’s apple bobbed up and down in his throat. “Remember when I fell in love with Lal from that planetary ship? You made clear then that all intraspecies relationships have to be cleared by you and the Doctor.”
Oh that! “Lal was from another planet. Annika’s human.”
“She has those Borg implants.”
“Are they a problem for you?” she asked, recalling what Annika had said about his withdrawal.
“No. Well, yeah…maybe a little,” he finally admitted. “But I’ll get over it. The rest of her is so beautiful, you know.”
“Yes, I know,” Kathryn said wistfully.
Neelix stuck a long handled wooden spoon into the simmering pot. Yellow whiskers twitching, he sampled the latest version of Chakotay’s Andean stew and frowned. It still didn’t taste quite right.
“You try it, Annika.” He turned to his chief assistant who stuck her slotted spoon into the mixture.
“It’s a little spicy,” she said, letting her tongue roll over the thick mixture.
“Spicy is good, isn’t it?” the Talaxian asked.
“I have noticed that the Terrans on board have more delicate taste buds than other species,” Annika said diplomatically before she returned to the other burner.
“Oh. I guess I’ll serve it to the Bolians. They’ll eat anything.” He looked over at the skillet in front of Annika. “How are you doing on that corned beef hash recipe?”
“It is still not quite right.” She sighed and glanced down at the pan that held the latest incarnation of Captain Janeway’s dish. “There is no real substitute for the meat or the potatoes.”
“I guess this one will just have to be replicated,” Neelix suggested. “Luckily the replicator can make the changes we mere cooks can’t.” He glanced at her. “You don’t mind if I call you a cook, do you?”
“Why would I mind? It is a great honor.”
“Well, you used to be head of astrometrics,” he confided. “That’s an important position. More important than being here in the mess hall with me.”
“Astrometrics wasn’t as much fun as being here in the mess hall with you,” she declared with a dismissive wave of her spoon. “It was actually lonely. I like it here where there is always something to do and people to see.” She smiled over at Naomi who was waiting patiently with a kodiskot board.
“Why don’t you go ahead and play with her,” Neelix said, intercepting the look.
“I don’t want to neglect my duties.”
“It’s all right. You need a break.”
“At last!” Naomi said when Annika walked over to her table. “I was beginning to think you’d never take a break.”
“It is odd that we played kodiskot more frequently when I worked in astrometrics,” Annika agreed.
“I guess it’s because the mess hall is your duty station now, whereas before it wasn’t,” the half Katarian girl said, moving one of the red disks on the grid.
“I think you’re right,” Annika said, countering the move with a green disk. “At least we get to see more of each other here.”
“Not really,” Naomi said. Annika actually had less time for her since she had begun work in the mess hall. “It was fun hanging around astrometrics with you in the old days,” she went on.
“You could still hang around there with Tal Celes or Lt. Vorick.”
“It’s not the same,” Naomi said, sliding a disk into position. And Annika wasn’t the same either, the child realized. Annika wasn’t as good a kodiskot player as Seven had been. She made more careless mistakes and was easily distracted by those who came to look over her shoulder at the board.
A couple of times during the game she even had to remind Annika that it was her turn to move a piece.
“Sorry, is it my turn?” the woman said, smiling goodbye to Lieutenant Harpham.
“Nope. Mine. Kodiskot,” Naomi declared.
“We’ve been playing for twenty minutes.”
“I’d better get back to work. Thanks for the game, Naomi.”
“You’re welcome.” Naomi put the kodiskot game back into its case. “You forgot to bring your necklace again.” She had asked Annika three times to show it to her. She would always promise and then forget to bring it.
“Not again?” Annika said, feeling guilty. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s all right.”
“I haven’t finished it yet. When I do, you’ll be the first to see it. After all you’re the one I borrowed the sewing kit from. I’ll see you later.” She gave the girl a hug and waved as she went back to the galley.
Naomi walked out of the mess hall. As much as she enjoyed the hug she missed the simple way Seven would nod her head to say goodbye. Would she ever get her old friend back, she wondered.
In the galley Neelix was chopping vegetables and telling Seven his latest brainstorm. That was Lt. Paris’s word for Neelix’s ideas to boost morale on board the ship. This one entailed an old-fashioned summer fair in the holodeck.
“We could have rides and games and the crew could compete in contests. It will be fun.”
“Fun is a good thing,” Annika agreed, picking up a knife and beginning to cut a long purple tuber. “Do you think the captain will approve?”
“I don’t know. It’s a pretty large undertaking. To have the holodeck running this state fair program for a week will take considerable resources and we may need to shut down other programs for a while.”
“Oh.” Annika pushed the cubes she had just cut into a bowl, wondering about the Velocity game she and the captain were scheduled to have again in a few days.
“On the other hand, since the captain hails from Indiana where these type of fairs were commonly held she might like the idea.”
“Indeed. Tell me more about this summer fair.”
As they worked happily in the kitchen together, Neelix told her about the delicious produce for sale at a fair, the contests and competitions, crafts booths, quilting bees and even pie eating contests.
“Pie!” Annika smiled. “Will there be apple pie?”
“Cream pies mainly, I think. Apple would have too much crust to eat through. Tal Celes was doing research and told me that there could even be dunking booths.”
“That’s where someone sits on a board and contestants aim at a target and when the target is hit the board drops and the person sitting falls into a tub of water.”
“And that is fun?”
“For the person throwing the object since the person falling is usually a superior.”
“Such as the captain?” Annika’s eyes widened. “That would be so undignified. You can’t have that,” she declared.
“We won’t,” he agreed hastily. “Although it would raise a lot of money for the orphans of Kesta Prime. I’m going with a kissing booth instead of a dunking booth.”
“Yes. That’s where someone sits in a booth and people line up and for a fee, he or she kisses each person.”
“Why would they do that?”
“One kisses for fun?”
“Sure. It’s not like a serious kiss, Annika. And it’s to raise money for charity. And you do recall the orphans of Kesta Prime. They could use any provisions we could spare. I thought that we could charge five replicator rations and then replicate some blankets or other things the orphans might need.”
“That’s a worthwhile cause,” Annika agreed. “Who is going to be selling the kisses?”
“We’ll need quite a lot of volunteers. I think that an hour in the booth is enough for anyone. Right now I have Tal Celes, and Marla Gilman, the Delaney sisters, and there are bound to be more. For the men I have Lt. Paris and he’s promised to rope in more volunteers.”
Annika laid down her knife and wiped her hands. “I would like to volunteer for this, Mr. Neelix.”
“Great. If you’re in the booth, I’m sure we will raise a lot of things for the orphans. Now if only I can get the captain to approve the whole idea of the state fair. I’m going to bring it up at the next staff meeting tomorrow.”
“Good luck,” Annika said, imagining what it would be like to kiss a lot of different people. Surely one of those kisses would produce sparks. This was what the captain had assured her the other night. Sparks would inevitably fly when she kissed someone besides the compact redhead.
“A fair, Mr. Neelix?” Kathryn asked the next morning at the staff meeting. Neelix’s proposal wasn’t on the agenda and he had slipped it in just as she was about to dismiss everyone.
“Not just any fair, Captain. A summer fair like the ones they used to have on earth. I thought it would boost morale for one thing and we could also raise some badly needed funds for the orphans of Kesta Prime.”
“I can’t object to your motives, Mr. Neelix, however to run the holodeck program for a week…” She tapped a fingernail against the conference table.
“I’m working with Harry to keep the parameters simple,” Tom chimed in. “We’re pretty sure that we can keep it economical.”
“That’s right, Captain,” Harry said with a nod.
“Nonetheless some programs will need to be deleted,” Lt. Torres pointed out. “Many of them are getting obsolete. I suggest that everyone check into their personal programs and delete those they no longer use.”
“That sounds sensible,” Chakotay said.
“What about shared programs?” Harry asked.
“Those can be deleted too.”
“You’re not touching my Captain Proton programs,” Tom objected, seeing the glint in the Klingon’s dark eyes.
“Why not?” Kathryn asked, remembering only too well the program that had nearly brought down the ship and made her Arachnia, Queen of the Spider People.”
“It does take a lot of energy to run that simulation,” B’Elanna pointed out.
“And your Klingon program doesn’t? Or Tuvok’s Vulcan meditation programs?” Paris argued.
“Are you questioning my holodeck usage, Lieutenant?” Tuvok asked. The security chief probably used the holodeck the least of anyone on board Voyager.
Janeway lifted a hand to forestall more argument on this point. “I believe all of us should weed out those programs we no longer use,” she said, thinking of the gothic program she had enjoyed in the first year of exploration in the Delta Quadrant.
“That’s the right spirit, Captain,” Neelix said.
“We could start by deleting the Fair Haven program. According to the holodeck logs no has used it during the last couple of months,” Torres said.
Kathryn glanced up sharply. The Chief Engineer had mistaken the program she was willing to delete, although it was true she really hadn’t felt like visiting the Irish village lately and Michael Sullivan wasn’t the draw he once was.
“But that means that they’ll die,” Harry protested. He was fond of the Irish villagers.
“No, it won’t. We’ll keep the program off line. I have their original parameters. If you want to talk to Megan again, Harry. You still can.”
The dark haired operations officer flushed at B’Elanna’s jibe.
“What do you think, Captain?” Torres asked the woman at the head of the table. Janeway was fond of the Michael character. The Voyager crew knew that. If the captain gave her permission to delete the program everyone else would fall in line.
Put on the spot by Torres’s question, Kathryn glanced over at Ensign Kim who was telegraphing his wishes with a hooded expression in his dark eyes. And this was the man who wanted to pursue a relationship with Annika. Talk about having his cake and eating it too. Of course, hadn’t she done much the same. Enjoying her time with Seven and then escaping to Michael’s tavern for a drink or a game of rings. Maybe it was time to delete her security blanket.
“Fair Haven requires considerable resources. Taking it off line and restoring it to its original programming makes sense,” Janeway said finally. “That should give the necessary space for Neelix’s summer farm program.”
“Summer fair program, Captain,” Neelix said, beaming.
Kathryn chuckled. “Dismissed.”
As the staff filed out of the conference room Torres hurried after Kim to reassure him that Megan would be just the same as she was when the program started. A jolly Irish farm girl.
Kathryn looked up at Neelix.
“Thank you for agreeing to my idea.”
“You’re welcome. I’m sure it will be a great morale booster.”
“I understand you grew up in an area of earth that used to have summer fairs.”
“Yes, I did,” Janeway said with a smile on her lips.
“Perhaps you could supply me with details about the fairs.”
“Well, if memory serves me correctly I recall displays of farm animals and ribbons being awarded to the largest of them. Then there were contests of strength such as rope pulls and silly ones like watermelon eating and pie eating contests.”
He nodded. “I told Annika about the pie eating contest.”
“She works in the mess hall so I talked over the idea for the fair with her. For some reason she wanted to know if there would be apple pie.”
Apple pie. Kathryn remembered how the young woman had enjoyed eating the dessert with her.
Neelix was talking about rope pulls. “I didn’t know about the rope pulls.”
“People would divide into two teams and the losing team would be pulled into a ditch filled with mud.”
“If you remember anything else, please let me know, Captain. I would like this to be as authentic as possible.”
“I will. Keep me informed on its progress,” Janeway said.
“I hope to have it ready by the traditional Terran Fourth of July.”
Janeway frowned and converted the stardate to the old fashioned calendar.
“That’s next week.”
“Well, if it’s the fourth of July you’ll need to add an outdoor fireworks exhibition to the program.”
Annika stuck her finger into the puffy pink cloud that Naomi was carrying around on a stick. A portion of the cloud clung to her finger.
“You eat it, Annika,” Naomi explained, popping some of the cotton candy into her mouth.
“Oh, of course,” the blonde said, following the girl’s example. “Its sweet and melts in your mouth.”
“That’s right. What are you going to do at the fair?” Naomi asked as they strolled through the different tents.
“Well, I don’t have to report to the kissing booth until this evening, so I have the afternoon free to do whatever you feel like doing.”
“There is a Ferris wheel we could go on,” Naomi said. “Look.”
She pointed to the large wheel that went up in the air and then down on the other side. Some of the crew were going up in the brightly colored chairs and at the very top the wheel stopped.
“I don’t know,” Annika said. “I’m a little scared of heights.”
“You are?” Naomi exclaimed. “I didn’t know that.”
“Well, I don’t like to tell anyone that. But it is true.”
“I won’t tell anyone.”
“Thanks. What about that ride,” Annika said, pointing to another ride in which boats went up a small stream and disappeared into a cave.
“No, I don’t think so. That’s the type of ride you’d go on with someone you like a lot like Harry.”
Annika frowned. “It is a romantic ride?”
“Yeah. That’s why they call it the tunnel of love, silly.”
“Oh. I’m glad that you are here to explain that to me.” She hoped Harry would not ask her to ride in the boat with her. He had covered the gamma shift again last night and would be coming to the holodeck program later in the night.
“Hey, Seven, what are you doing?” B’Elanna Torres asked as she nibbled on an ear of corn.
“Naomi and I are trying to decide what ride to go on,” Annika explained. “We have already eliminated the Ferris wheel and the tunnel of love.”
“What about the bumper cars.”
“What are bumper cars?”
“Those are cars that you get on and you try to hit the other cars.”
“Isn’t that dangerous?”
“Yes, and that’s why it’s fun. I don’t mind if I take a whack at that ride myself,” Torres said dropping the empty ear of corn into a trash receptacle.
For the next half hour the three friends took turns banging their cars into one another. The holodeck safeties were on so there was no real danger of anyone getting hurt.
“Will there really be a fireworks display?” Annika asked B’Elanna as Samantha Wildman scooped up her daughter for dinner.
“There should be if Tom’s calculations are correct. He’s still working out the kinks in the program.”
“I’m surprised that you are not assisting him.”
“Hey, he’s the one with all the holo programming experience not me.” Torres glanced over at Seven. “Are you that interested in fireworks?”
“Neelix said that the captain had specifically mentioned it to him. That’s why he asked Tom to include it.”
“So that’s why you want to see the fireworks? Because the captain enjoyed them back home in Indiana?”
“I suppose so,” Seven said. “Is there something wrong with wanting to see them for that reason?”
“Not at all. How’s the Velocity games going with the captain?”
“Fine. We played yesterday and although she beat me, I believe that I am improving.”
“Good,” Torres said. She noticed Paris coming toward her just then with Harry. “Don’t look now but we’ve got company.”
“Hi, Annika,” Harry said.
“Hi, Harry. Did you finally wake up?”
“Yes, and I’m ready for the fair. What should we do first?”
“There is cotton candy to eat, and candy apples, or would you like to look at the quilts and animals?”
“Actually I thought we could go on a ride. You like boats, don’t you?”
“If you mean the tunnel of love ride, I’d rather not,” Annika said.
Harry flushed. “Hey, I wasn’t trying to do anything.”
“Sure you were, Harry,” Torres said.
“If you want a kiss, you can see me at the kissing booth. My shift is supposed to start in ten minutes.”
“It is?” Paris asked.
“You’re not going to that booth,” Torres said, yanking him away.
“Are you really going to be selling kisses, Annika?” Harry asked.
“Do you think it improper?” she asked.
“No. It’s just not the sort of thing I’d think you do.”
“Neelix said it is a way to raise money for the orphans. And many of the crew are doing it. “ She was leading the way to the booth where one of the Delaney twins was kissing Lt. Chapman.
“I just didn’t think it was your thing. I’m not sure I approve.”
“It’s not really your business, is it?” Annika asked, suddenly wondering why Harry was making such a big deal of it. She flipped her hair over her shoulders and flounced away, feeling annoyed.
“Okay, Starfleet, why are you mad?” Torres asked, sidling over a few minutes later as Harry hurled a ball at a stack of milk cans.
“I’m not mad.”
“Tell that to those milk cans. And is that two stuffed targhs I see you with?”
“Yeah. I was going to give one to Annika but she’s busy in the kissing booth.”
“So that’s what that line is for,” Torres said. “You’d better get in line if you want your chance with your favorite blonde.”
“I don’t need to pay to kiss Annika.”
“You sound pretty sure of yourself.”
“I am,” Harry said. He picked up one of the stuffed targhs and handed it to her. “Here, take this.”
“Thanks. Toby was getting a little threadbare. So what gives with you and Annika?”
“B’Elanna if you must know on our last date, I was the one who had to put the brakes on things.”
“And why is that?”
“She seemed so eager and I just didn’t want to take advantage of her.”
“And now you’re regretting it?’
“I don’t know. I just don’t want to stand in line for one of her kisses, okay?”
“Okay…” She held up her hands. “Thanks for the targh. Toby will like a new playmate.”
While Harry was busy with the milk cans someone else was coming onto the holodeck fair. Dressed in a plaid shirt and blue jeans, Kathryn Janeway could imagine herself back in Indiana. For a fleeting moment she closed her eyes and could almost smell the barbecue ribs on the grill.
“Captain!” Neelix hurried over to greet her. “What do you think?”
“It’s marvelous, Mr. Neelix.”
“And we’re going to have that fireworks display you requested. We’re holding it at 1800 hours. Of course, we could always just darken the parameters, but I thought it best to try and keep to a 24 hour clock.”
“The rope pull is tomorrow. We have two teams and you are welcome to join either.”
“I think I’ll watch.”
“Well, there is the pie eating contest. Or the watermelon eating contest.”
“I’ve always been fond of watermelon,” Kathryn said. And it might be a way of letting the crew see that the captain was just a regular person. Sometimes she wasn’t sure just how the lower decks viewed her.
“That will be held in another hour. I’ll put you down as a contestant. That will be in the fifth tent.”
“Fine. I’ll be there and if not, start without me.”
She wandered around the grounds and wondered what the long line was for at one of the booths. Was it some delicacy? As she approached the front she saw Annika was the only one in the booth. She was leaning over smiling at the crewman who was coming toward her. But what was she selling?
Kathryn took another step closer to see. Then to her shock and amazement Annika pulled the crewman close to her and began kissing him.