Title: Perfectly Human

J/7

Rating: PG-13 to R

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

 

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

 

Chapter 18

 

Kisses.  That’s what Annika was dispensing at the booth.  No wonder there was such a long line. Blood drained from Kathryn’s cheeks as the blonde finally released the man she had been kissing.  As the dazzled member of Voyager’s crew drifted off with a goofy expression on his face, Annika spotted Janeway standing with arms crossed on her chest and eyes flashing a stormy gray rather than her brilliant blue.

 

“Is it my turn?” a voice asked, and Annika turned to find Commander Chakotay in front of the booth.

 

“Yes, Commander, once you pay your three ration slips.”

 

His tattoo crinkled as he smiled.  “I have.”  He held up a padd showing his account.

 

Annika had enjoyed herself during her shift in the kissing booth, kissing the various men and women who had lined up at the booth. None however had generated any sparks.  Now she felt suddenly nervous.  Was it because this customer was the Voyager’s executive officer or was it the presence of captain nearby? 

 

And why was the captain watching her so intently?

 

“Annika?  Shall we?” Chakotay’s voice summoned her from her reverie.

 

“Certainly, Commander.  I am ready.”  She lifted her chin and gazed up into the brown eyes of the First Officer.  If only it was the captain’s blue ones twinkling at her.  If only his thin lips were the captain’s fuller ones.  If only she were kissing Kathryn the way she had once before in the captain’s quarters.

 

Sighing, she closed her eyes, awash in thoughts of Kathryn, hardly feeling Chakotay’s mouth as it descended on hers. It was Kathryn’s lips that softly caressed hers, her arms that pulled her close, her heart that she could hear beating against hers  Kathryn, she murmured to herself, as she felt her hands wrapping around the captain’s neck as her whole body responding to the searing kiss.

 

Out of breath, she broke the kiss.  Her eyelids fluttered open.  “Oh.”

 

Chakotay looked at her with concern. “Are you all right, Annika?”

 

She pressed her fingers to her lips. “Yes, Commander.  That kiss was just more than I expected.”

 

“For me too,” he said with a smile. Feeling rather pleased with himself, he walked away.  His mood changed as he encountered the cold gaze of his commanding officer a moment later.

 

“Enjoying the fair, Commander?” she asked.

 

“Yes, I am,” he said, detecting a gravelly tone to her words.  Could she be jealous? Not so long ago he had believed himself in love with Kathryn.  Maybe seeing him kiss another woman had made Kathryn regret her decision that they refrain from a relationship together.

 

“I didn’t think kissing booths were your thing, Chakotay.”

 

“Anything for the orphans.”

 

She snorted.  “At this rate those orphans would be able to sell extra provisions.”

 

Kathryn yearned to wipe the smug expression off Chakotay’s face, but she really couldn’t fault him for his actions.  Nor could she fault anyone else standing in the line.  Who wouldn’t want a kiss from the beautiful blonde?

 

“You should get in line yourself, Captain,” he murmured, as though he’d read her mind.

 

“I may just do that,” she replied.

 

Before she could put those words into action she spotted Neelix in the distance.  Time for a word with the ship’s morale officer. In full command mode she stalked over to the Talaxian who greeted her eagerly.

 

“Captain, I was just searching for you.  The watermelon eating contest is about to begin.”

 

“Never mind that contest.  I want to know about the kissing booth you authorized.”

 

“Isn’t it a great idea?” Neelix beamed.  “Already the volunteers have raised more than 100 ration slips for the orphans.”

 

“Just who came up with this idea?”

 

He wrinkled his face up in thought.  “I can’t remember. I think it was Tal Celes who found the research materials.  Isn’t it authentic enough?” 

 

“It’s not its authenticity I’m concerned with, rather the idea of someone selling sexual favors on board my ship.”

 

“It’s not sexual, Captain.”

 

She cocked her eyebrow.

 

“These are just fun kisses, really.  And everyone manning the booth is a volunteer.”

 

“Including Annika?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“You didn’t suggest to her that it might be a good idea to work in the booth during one of your conversations in the mess hall?”

 

“No, Captain!”  Neelix said, shocked.  “I would never do that.  And in fact there were quite a few volunteers.  The Delaney sisters for instance.  There was some discussion whether to have them both in the booth or separately.  The twins thought they could et the crew to try and see if they could tell them apart just by kissing…”

 

“I’m not interested in the Delaney sisters. How did Annika become a volunteer?”

 

“Tal Celes volunteered and told her about it and I guess that’s why Annika came to me and said that she wanted to take a turn in the booth.  She expressed great curiosity about being kissed.”

 

“Curiosity?”

 

The Talaxian nodded.  “She seemed to think that it would be an efficient way to kiss a lot of different people. Something about maybe sparks would fly."

 

Remembering her discussion with Annika in the middle of the night, Kathryn wondered if the young woman had misinterpreted her words. 

 

“And it’s not just women doing the kissing, Captain.  Tom Paris volunteered to take a turn and so did Lt. Ayala.  We had a lot of same sex kisses being exchanged too.  No one seems to mind.”

 

“I see.”  Kathryn couldn’t think of anything more to say.  The kissing booth was up.  The crew was enjoying it.

 

“Now about the watermelon eating contest, Captain?”

 

“I’m sorry, Mr. Neelix.  I can’t make it.  If you need another contestant, perhaps Commander Chakotay would be available.”

 

“Shall I tell him you recommended him?”

 

“Yes.” That should wipe the smirk off his face, she thought.

 

Circulating around the fairgrounds again, Kathryn made her way to the back of Annika’s line that wound around several other booths.  She was still annoyed at Annika for doing this and annoyed at everyone who kissed her. She was also annoyed with herself for being annoyed. 

 

As the line inched forward her courage began to fail.  What was she doing in line?  Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.  For Chakotay to kiss Annika was one thing, but the captain was something else.  Just as she was about to slip away B’Elanna Torres saw her.

 

 “Captain, what are you doing here?”  she asked, coming to her side.  She had a stuffed targh under her elbow and a flavored ice in one hand.

 

“Standing in line,” Kathryn said, stating the obvious.

 

“You do know what everyone is standing in line for?” the Klingon asked,  her ridged forehead bending closer to the captain. 

 

“Yes, I do,” Janeway replied dryly. 

 

B’Elanna sucked on the raspberry ice that left her lips a deep red.  So Janeway wanted a kiss from Annika?  Too bad the real Seven wasn’t around to enjoy it.  Or maybe she was.

 

“If you stay back here, Captain, you’ll wind up kissing Tom not Annika,” she said.  “He’s got the next shift in the booth.”

 

“You approve of Mr. Paris being in this kissing booth?”

 

Torres made a face.  “It’s not a matter of approval.  We’re not married yet, and he has a right to kiss a pretty girl.  It’s just for fun.”

 

“If you were married would you let him?”

 

“Not a chance.”


Janeway smiled faintly. The line inched forward.

 

“At this rate you’ll never have a chance with Annika.”

 

Torres tapped the person in front of the captain.  It was Lt. Vorick. 

 

“Hey, Vorick, the captain’s in back of you, let her go ahead, would you?”

 

“Lieutenant, that’s not necessary,” Kathryn said, alarmed.

 

“No problem, Captain,” the Vulcan replied.  “Please.” He tapped the person in front of him.  “Captain’s in line, pass it on.”

 

“Take my spot, Captain…”

 

“Go ahead…”

 

“After you, Captain.”

 

Janeway had no option but to accept gracefully and she made her way closer to the head of the line, while Annika continued to bestow her kisses on those who came forward.  She didn’t see the captain until she was her next customer.

 

“Captain,” she said, startled.

 

The auburn-haired woman blew out a breath.  “Annika,  I understand you’re selling kisses here.”  Perfectly inane. Maybe if she stalled, Paris would take over and she wouldn’t have to kiss the young woman in public.  Of course, then she’d have to kiss Tom.

 

“They are three replicator rations.”

 

“Really?” Janeway patted her pockets.  “I seem to have misplaced my ration slips.”

 

“It is all right…I will give the three replicator rations myself,” Annika said, entering the rations from her own padd.   She didn’t like the idea of the captain paying her for a kiss. 

 

“Thank you.”  Kathryn licked her lips.

 

“Shall we commence?”  Annika asked shyly.

 

“Er, yes.”

 

Feeling awkward, Kathryn stepped closer, the edge of the wooden booth pressing against her hip as she leaned forward.  Annika gently cupped her chin and lifted it up.  She ran her thumb against the captain’s lip, opening it slightly.  Where had she learned that from, Kathryn wondered. Then all thinking stopped as her mouth was captured by the other woman’s.

 

Soft.  So soft.  And sweet.  She tasted like honey and strawberries mixed together with just a hint of metal.  Kathryn felt an inward surge carrying her against that sweet mouth.  Her hands grasped that leonine head, bending it closer, fingers pressing urgently on Anika’s scalp.

 

The kiss went on forever, a dizzying climb that set both women’s respiration soaring.  Then Kathryn sighed and broke away. When she opened her eyes, Annika’s hands were still cupping her face, the blonde’s eyes closed.  As they finally opened the azure orbs held a bemused expression.

 

“You were wrong, Captain,” she whispered.


“I was? About what?”  Did Annika regret this kiss…?

 

“No other kiss can generate as much electricity in me as yours,” she said softly.

 

Oh.

 

Then came a loud clearing of a throat, and they glanced over to find Tom Paris smiling at them.

 

“Excuse me, ladies.  I think I have the next shift.”

 

The groans from those waiting in line brought a half grin to the captain’s face. 

 

“I think you’ve been relieved, Annika,” Janeway said.

 

Deftly Paris switched places with Annika, who fell into step with Kathryn as she walked away.  Side by side they strolled for several moments, neither of them saying much after the excitement of the kiss.  It was a real kiss wasn’t it, Janeway thought to herself.  Her fingertips still tingled from it.  As for Annika she felt as thought her feet were walking on air.  Absolutely nothing compared to the captain’s kisses.

 

She glanced shyly at the woman next to her, the red head was always in command, except for that brief moment when they had kissed.  She had felt Kathryn on the verge of losing control.  What would it be like to see the command mask off completely, she wondered. 

 

The two women strolled past the display of watermelons and the table set up for the contestants.  Commander Chakotay had his broad face buried in a pink slab of watermelon and as he lifted his head he began spitting out seeds.

 

That could have been me, Janeway thought, chuckling.

 

“Have you ridden any rides yet, Captain?”  Annika asked as they walked past the preoccupied First Officer.

 

“No. Have you?”

 

“Naomi, B’Elanna and I went on the bumper cars.  They were fun.”  Blue eyes lit up.

 

“There’s a Ferris wheel.”

 

Annika’s smile faded.   “I’m afraid to go on the Ferris wheel.”

 

Janeway was surprised.  It wasn’t like Seven to admit to being afraid of anything.  However Annika wasn’t Seven. 

 

“There’s really nothing to be frightened about.  We could ride it together later if you like.”  She could hold Annika’s hand if she were really frightened.

 

“I shall think about it.”

 

“Good.  There’s no rush.  Have you eaten dinner yet?”

 

“I had some cotton candy earlier with Naomi. I saw a pizza booth and a hot dog stand.”

 

“A hot dog sounds good.”

 

A few minutes later Kathryn was squeezing mustard onto her hot dog and accepting a napkin from Annika. 

 

“I’ve forgotten how messy these things are,” she said, wiping her fingers of the yellow mustard.

 

“Even back in India?”

 

Kathryn chuckled. “I lived in Indiana not India, Annika.  If I lived in India I think I’d be eating something other than a hot dog.”

 

“Your mother was a Traditionalist?”

 

“Yes, so we did cook our own hot dogs, usually over a grill in the back yard,” she said.  She chewed on her hot dog, lost in thought. 

 

Good thoughts, Annika realized as she watched the captain’s face relax in the memory of home.  It was rare when Janeway relaxed completely.  A few times in her quarters Annika had seen her with the lines of command on her face eased.  It was rare, something to be savored like the captain’s kiss.  Just thinking about the kiss made Annika tingle again.  

 

“Captain, I would like to explain my presence in the kissing booth.”

 

Auburn strands of hair flew as Kathryn shook her head. “That’s not necessary.  It certainly added to the spirit of fun and was for a good cause. 

 

“It was not just fun for me, Captain.  I was gathering data.”

 

Oh? Once before Seven had gathered data on human mating rituals when she had followed Torres and Paris around the ship.  Was this more of the same thing?

 

“Data on what?”

 

“On how kissing would feel with other partners. You have been my only partner before today.  I wished to compare the other kisses to the earlier one you and I shared.”

 

“Our goodnight kiss, you mean?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Although interested in about Annika’s conclusions after her shift in the booth and that scorching kiss minutes ago, Kathryn kept a lid on her curiosity. 

 

“You don’t owe me an explanation,” she told the young woman.  “After all, Lt. Torres is fine with Tom taking a turn in the booth and they’re engaged.  You and I don’t have that type of bond between us.”

 

“No, I suppose not,” Annika said, feeling a keen disappointment.  She had wanted to tell Kathryn about the feelings the last kiss kindled in her and yet here was the captain saying that no such discussion was necessary and that they did not have anything except their usual friendship. 

 

Frowning, she finished up her hot dog when Harry Kim suddenly approached, carrying an assortment of stuffed targhs. 

“Good evening, Captain, Annika.”

 

Janeway smiled at the ensign.  “Good evening, Harry.  I see you have been spending your time at the game booths. I’m impressed.”

 

“Would you like a targh, Captain?”

 

“No thanks.  I’d rather win my own.  If you feel like braving the Ferris wheel, I’ll be there in about an hour, Annika.”

 

“Yes, Captain.”

 

Harry watched the captain march off in the direction of the game booths. 

 

“So do you want a stuffed targh,” he offered Annika.

 

“The orphans would probably enjoy them more.”

 

“Take one, please,” he begged.  “I feel silly carrying so many around.”

 

She took a white targh from the top.  “Thank you.”

 

“Your shift is over then?” he asked, looked intently at the blonde.

 

“Yes.  Tom has the next hour.  Maybe you should lecture him about kissing strange women and men.”  She smirked.

 

He flushed. “Come on, Annika.  That’s different.”

 

“I do not owe you an explanation,” Annika said, recalling Janeway’s words to her just a few minutes ago.  “We are not bonded.  Even Lt. Torres allows Tom leeway in such matters."

 

“Tom’s experienced in these kinds of things.  You aren’t.”

 

“Romantic matters, you mean?”

 

“Yes.  I didn’t mean to make you mad. I just didn’t like the idea of you kissing a bunch of strangers?”

 

“The captain had no such qualms.”

 

“Maybe her feelings for you don’t run as deep as mine.”

 

Annika frowned.  Was Harry saying he liked her more than the captain did?  If so, why were his kisses so inferior to the captain’s.  Clearly, she required more research into this subject.

 

“Would you like to go on the tunnel of love ride with me?”

 

His eyes brightened.  “I sure would. You know that it will get dark in the ride.”

 

“Yes.  I may need your arms around me for protection.”

 

He grinned.  “I could start now,” he said, putting his arm around her shoulders.  He flinched only a little at the feel of the biceps implant.  If only the damn thing felt more like human flesh.

 

A few minutes later the two of them were seated in a small boat that traveled into the dark tunnel.  Mandolin music played as the water lapped against the side of the small wooden craft.  Annika leaned back against Harry’s arm.  She clasped his hand with her left one.

 

“Harry?”

 

“Uhm. Yeah?”

 

“Aren’t you going to kiss me?”

 

She needed to see how his kisses compared to the captain’s.  Knowing a good thing when it was staring him in the face, Harry reached out.  His fingers lightly brushed Annika’s optical implant and he recoiled momentarily.  Then recovering and telling himself not to be a wimp, he brushed her lips with his.  As her lips parted his tongue snaked inside. 

 

It felt wet and oddly fishlike, Annika thought as Harry continued to kiss her.  His unexpected tongue rooted around against her teeth. No sparks were engendered.  Instead she felt an urge to pull away and did so. 

 

Harry was breathing hard.  He bent his head again and his mouth seized hers, kissing her eagerly.  He certainly seemed more interested in her tonight than the last time they had kissed on their date.  Remembering that night she lifted her hand up to touch his cheek.  As the metal tipped fingers slid along his skin, Harry jerked his head away.

 

“What’s the matter?” she asked.

 

“Nothing.” He rubbed his cheek.  “Could you just use your other hand?”

 

Thanks to her optical implant Annika could see the expression on Harry’s face even in the dim light of the tunnel. 

 

“You do not like my implants touching you.”

 

“No, that’s not it.”

 

She waited for him to explain. 

 

“I’m sorry,”  he said.  “I don’t mean to be jumpy but I am.”

 

“I understand.  Not many people would find them attractive.”  Sometimes when she looked in the mirror at herself she did not find herself attractive at all.  She looked alien, not quite human.

 

“Annika, I like you.  I do find you beautiful.”

 

“Not all of me however,” she pointed out sadly. 

 

Kim felt like a jerk.  He hadn’t meant to hurt her feelings, but there was no getting around the problem of her Borg implants.  In silence they finished the ride.  When the boat emerged from the tunnel, Annika handed Harry the stuffed targh and climbed out.

 

“Annika!”  He caught up to her near the exit to the ride.

 

She smiled at the forlorn ensign.  “It is all right, Harry. I knew there could not be anything deeper than friendship between us.”

 

“You did?”

 

“When we kiss, I do not feel any kind of surge in electricity.”

 

“Electricity?  You felt that when you kissed someone?” he asked.

 

“Yes,” she admitted.

 

“Who was it?”

 

Instinctively Annika knew that the captain would not want her to reveal what had passed between them, so she searched her mind for someone else.  And it wasn’t a lie exactly.

 

“Commander Chakotay.”

 

 

*******

 

The basketball swooshed through the netting.

 

“Fancy shooting, Captain,” Chakotay said as Kathryn pointed to a large brown teddy bear from the top row of prizes.  With its red bow under its chin it resembled a childhood toy she had once had.   She had made three baskets in a row. 

 

The barker handed her the teddy bear. 

 

“Are these prizes real?” she asked Chakotay.

 

He grinned.  “Yes, they are. Not many people get the first prize.”

 

“Not many people can shoot a basket the way I can,” she replied with a cocky smile. 

 

 “I didn’t know you played basketball.  I thought tennis was more your game.”

 

“There’s more about me than meets the eye, Commander.”  She tossed the ball at him.  “Your turn.”

 

He took the challenge and sank a basket, however the next two bounced off the rim.  For his effort he received a small targh. Now Kathryn knew where Harry had got so many of his prizes. 

 

“You owe me more than a stuffed targh, Captain,” Chakotay said. “After I took your place at the watermelon eating contest,  my dignity as a First Officer may never be restored.”

 

She grinned.  “Are you saying you’d rather your captain appear foolish?  Don’t you know that’s why Starfleet invented execs?  To step in and save their captains from embarrassment?”

 

He laughed. “Care to grab a bite to eat?”

 

“No thanks. I’m still feeling the effects of a hot dog I had with Annika.”

 

“Oh?  Where is she?”  He looked around the tent.

 

“She’s off with Harry enjoying the fair.”

 

“Harry Kim?”

 

“Yes.  You remember him? Handsome operations officer who’s been seeing a lot of her?” she teased, fussing with the ribbon under the bear’s chin.  What should she name him?

 

“Are they getting serious?”

 

“I don’t know.  That’s for them to decide, I think.  Not me.”  Unfortunately.

 

“Annika can do a lot better than an ensign.”

 

Kathryn was surprised by his opinion.  While Chakotay handled personnel matters for Voyager, he rarely volunteered his view of the crew’s personal relationships.

 

“Harry may be young but he’s matured in the years we’ve been lost out here.” Blue eyes narrowed. “Unless you know something about him that you haven’t shared with me?”

 

He shook his head.  “He’s fine on the bridge, and he’s handling the gamma shift all right. He’s just not right for Annika.  You should drop a word in her ear, Captain.”

 

She frowned, not wanting to purse the subject. “That’s not my call.”

 

For some reason Chakotay did not give up the subject even when she walked away from the game booth.

 

“Annika admires and respects you.  Surely you can see she’ll be making a big mistake to get romantically involved with Harry.”

 

Good grief, was he trying to persuade her to pursue Annika?

 

“Ensign Kim is a fine officer and a good man, Commander.”

 

“Even so, she needs someone with more life experience, with more shared interests and a more understanding nature.”

 

“Chakotay, this really isn’t a topic I wish to discuss.”

 

“This is Annika.  The two of you share a special bond. You should speak to her.”

 

She stopped in her tracks and glared at him.  “If you’re trying to tell me that I should get romantically involved with Annika you’re out of line,” she said, a warning note in her voice.

 

Her first officer stared at her.  “I wasn’t suggesting anything of the sort, Captain.”

 

“Then who were you imagining to replace Harry Kim in her affections?”  she demanded.

 

 “Actually, I was thinking of myself.”

 

You?”  She hoped she didn’t look as thunderstruck as she felt.

 

He rubbed his chin.  “After that kiss we shared at the booth today, I’m beginning to look at Annika in a different way.”

 

“One kiss with her did all that?”  she asked woodenly.  Of course it would.  Her kisses were so intoxicating half the crew were probably walking into bulkheads.

 

“It sounds odd but yes, it did.”

 

“Perhaps she didn’t have the same reaction you did,” she said gently.

 

“I know she did,” he said with a smug expression that grated on the captain’s nerves.

 

“As a senior officer you know the delicacy of a relationship with a member of the crew.”

 

“I do.  I have also reviewed Starfleet regulations.  However, Annika is not a member of Starfleet or the Maquis.”

 

“So you intend to pursue a relationship with her?”

 

“Is there any reason why I shouldn’t?” he countered, detecting the cold tone in her voice.

 

Because I love her, you dolt!

 

“There is the matter of Ensign Kim,” she pointed out, grasping at straws. “I would hate for my bridge to be the battlefield for romantic rivals.”

 

“Harry and I are capable of mature behavior.”

 

Well, I’m not.  Stay away from her, dammit.

 

“There is also the matter of her inexperience.  She may not know how to act in a romantic relationship.”

 

“I’m aware of that.  I’ll teach her.”

 

 

Teach her!   Of all the arrogance.  Her fingers tightened convulsively on the ribbon on her teddy bear.

 

She turned on her heel before she gave in and strangled Chakotay. 

 

 

 

Chapter 19

 

 

Striding purposefully away from the Tunnel of Love ride, Annika headed in the direction of the Ferris wheel, jutting up into the early evening sky.  Would the captain still be waiting? After the incident with Ensign Kim, her emotions felt jumbled, and she needed the captain’s company.  Somehow everything seemed better when the captain was with her. 

 

Breathless by the time she neared the Ferris wheel, she noticed a dozen people already lined up for the ride, and true to her word, the captain was waiting, actually pacing back and forth near the entrance.  She carried something in her arms and Annika smiled to herself when she recognized it as a stuffed bear.  Because of her enhanced hearing, Annika could eavesdrop on the captain’s one sided conversation with the bear.

 

“Insufferable man.  He’ll teach her, will he?  Too bad I can’t teach him a few things.”

 

What did it mean.  Teach who?  Intrigued, the blonde approached and Kathryn, hearing the footsteps whirled around, embarrassed to be caught talking to the teddy bear.  

 

“Captain, I hope I haven’t kept you waiting.”

 

“No.  I just got here myself.”

 

“You have been busy.” She nodded shyly at the stuffed animal.

 

“Yes. Annika Hansen meet Pooh B. Bear.”

 

“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Bear,” Annika said, amused by the light-hearted introduction

 

“You may call him Pooh,” the captain instructed.

 

“Will Pooh be accompanying us on the ride?”

 

Janeway nodded.  “If you still wish to go on it.  If you’re really afraid, and would rather skip it...”

 

“I would like to, even if I am afraid,” Annika said quickly  “Knowing that you are with me makes me feel less afraid.”

 

Kathryn’s blue eyes sparkled, and Annika knew her words had pleased the captain.

 

“We’d better get in line then.”

 

The wheel was slowing down and began unloading passengers and loading new ones onto the small chairs.  Standing at the back of the line, Annika felt her breath catch as she gazed up at the darkening sky.

 

“Here, hang on to this if you’re nervous,” a husky voice said in her ear.  Annika looked down to find Janeway, holding out Pooh’s paw to her.

 

“Thank you, Captain.”  Odd.  She did feel less nervous when she clasped the bear’s fuzzy paw.

 

“I do not know why I am so apprehensive. This is a holodeck, after all,” Annika murmured.

 

“Is it the motion of the wheel that unsettles you?”

 

“No. It is the height.  I suppose I’m afraid of falling.”

 

“A very common fear,” Kathryn said.

 

“Strangely enough Pooh does seem to allay my fears right now.”

 

Janeway grinned down at the stuffed animal between them.  “Security blanket.”

 

“I don’t understand.  This is not a blanket.”

 

“When human babies are growing, sometimes they latch onto an object for security, such as a blanket or a stuffed animal.”

 

Annika’s optical implant lifted as she frowned.  “I am not a baby.”

 

“No, you’re not,” the captain agreed.  “However even the most adult of us sometimes needs a security object.”

 

“Or person?” Annika asked, gazing intently into the blue eyes.

 

“Yes,” Kathryn said softly.

 

The line inched forward until they were next for a vacant chair.  After Susan Nicoletti got out of the chair with another crewman, Kathryn climbed in with Annika.  The safety bar slid against their waists, holding them in, just a precaution because the holodeck safeties were on and no one could actually fall out of the Ferris wheel.

 

Once they were settled in the seat, the wheel lurched up a notch as the chair directly below them was loaded.

 

“Are you all right?” the captain asked.  In the narrow seat she could feel the other woman fidget, her long fingers stroking the bear now sitting in her lap. Wish that were me.

 

“I do not know if the security bear will be enough now that I am aboard the ride,” Annika admitted, swallowing hard.

 

Impulsively, Kathryn picked up Annika’s hand and squeezed the metal enhanced fingertips.  “I’m right here.  Nothing is going to harm you, I promise.”

 

The wheel continued to lift them up as more people boarded.  As the distance from the ground increased, Seven’s breathing became more ragged.  To distract her companion Kathryn asked her about the other rides she had been on.

 

“The bumper cars were fun even though Lt. Torres showed a definite tendency to inflict damage on the other vehicles.”

 

“That’s the Klingon in her,” Kathryn said, chuckling.  Her shoulders lightly pressing against Annika’s made her arm tingle as warmth spread through her whole body.  “Any other rides?”

 

“I did go into the tunnel of love with Mr. Kim.”

 

“Oh?  Was that Harry’s idea?” she asked with a calm she was far from feeling.  Drat him and Chakotay.

 

“No, it was my idea.  I wished to be romantic with him.”

 

The wheel lurched forward and the car they was riding in swung, however that was not the reason for the sudden queasiness in Kathryn’s stomach.  Annika wanted to get romantic with Harry. 

 

“Was that just more research?”  she asked. 

 

“Not exactly.” Annika turned her face toward her seatmate. “I wished him to kiss me again.  He complied and the same thing happened that occurred during our last date.”

 

“Your implants bothered him,” Kathryn spoke gently, even as she felt tempted to stroke the starburst implant on Annika’s cheek.

 

The blonde nodded, her grip tightening on the bear.  “He was very apologetic but he cannot find me desirable with them.”

 

“That’s an opinion he will undoubtedly regret,” Kathryn said sharply.

 

The Ferris wheel moved again and they were soon at the very top of the wheel.  Annika felt her head spin as the objects on the ground grew smaller.  The sky too was growing darker.

 

“Hang on to me if you feel dizzy,” Janeway said, sliding her arm through the blonde’s.

 

“I shall,” Annika replied, leaning a little into the captain.

 

The young woman’s fear of heights surprised Kathryn since as a Borg Seven had definitely been in many high positions.  Janeway remembered only too well the thin catwalks that transversed the Borg cube she had once beamed aboard.  Maybe that fear had been suppressed along with Annika’s humanity and now was just coming to the fore.

 

“How did you win Pooh?”  The question brought the captain back from the Borg cube.

 

“Basketball.  I sank three baskets all in a row.  That means I tossed them into a net.”

 

“I am not familiar with that game.”

 

“It was quite popular on Earth for several centuries, particularly in Indiana and my home town of Bloomington.”

 

Whenever Janeway talked about her home town a soft expression came into her eyes and Seven could feel the yearning in her heart.  “Why was it so popular?”

 

“I don’t know, except that it was an indoor sport and Indiana had fierce winters.”

 

“You also swim and dive.  You are quite athletic.”

 

Kathryn hoped she wasn’t blushing.  Starship captains had to be in shape.

 

“Thank you.  I try.”

 

The wheel moved again slowly,  creaking enough to cause a skitter up and down Annika’s spine. 

 

“Will you tell me more about this sport of basketball, Captain?  It may distract me from how high up we are.”

 

Willingly Kathryn described the fundamentals of the game that involved a good deal of running back and forth on a court.  

 

“You would be good at it with your height and your excellent hand-eye coordination.”

 

“Perhaps you and I could play sometime on the holodeck.”

 

Kathryn cocked her head and searched the pale blue eyes. “You’re not really serious?”

 

“No,” Annika admitted.  “I am just interested in being with you. Playing this game like our Velocity games appears to make you more relaxed.  I enjoy seeing you at ease.”

 

Feeling anything but at ease now, Kathryn smoothed her hair, which had gotten tossed by the wind, and searched for something to say.  Absolutely nothing came to mind. 

 

“We are coming down from the top,” Annika observed. “Our ride must be nearing its conclusion.”

 

Janeway laughed.  “No, actually we’re just getting started.  Once everyone is finally aboard, the ride can begin in earnest.”

 

“Oh my,” Annika said as the wheel began to speed up, lifting the chairs at a faster rate than before.  Their chair actually swung back and forth and she hung onto the captain with more force than before. 

 

“It’s all right,” Kathryn soothed, tightening her own grasp on her companion.  “I’ve got you.”

 

“Yes,” came the breathy reply as Seven relaxed somewhat. 

 

“Better?”

 

Annika nodded, wondering if she should let go of the captain, however Janeway didn’t appear to mind so she kept her arm where it was.   

 

The wind whipped against their cheeks and as Annika’s nervousness settled she felt exhilaration taking its place. She actually began to enjoy the ride, which afforded a view of the entire fairgrounds.

 

After several revolutions, the wheel slowed, this time allowing a chair to dangle from the top for a few minutes.  Annika held her breath, not sure how she would like to be up there for longer than a few seconds.  To be in the wheel while in motion was one thing, but to be held up there alone.  Of course she wasn’t alone.  Kathryn was with her.  As if to reassure herself, she pressed the captain’s hand lightly and felt an answering squeeze. 

 

“You okay?” Janeway asked.

 

“The wheel’s slowing makes me apprehensive again.”

 

“We’re nearly at the top. If it disturbs you to look down just shut your eyes.”

 

“I could fall with my eyes shut.”

 

“No, you won’t. I’ll be right here.”

 

Suddenly a loud bang went off.

 

“What was that!” Annika demanded.   It sounded like an explosive device.

 

Green and red starburst flew in a circular pattern up in the dark sky.


“Fireworks display,” Kathryn soothed.  “Compliments of Lieutenant Paris.”

 

The fireworks continued to shoot skyward as the wheel creaked to a halt with their chair at the top. They couldn’t have planned this better.  A perfect view of the fireworks from on top of the Ferris wheel.

 

“Aren’t the fireworks beautiful, Annika?”

 

“I don’t know.  I have my eyes closed,” the woman replied.

 

Kathryn turned.  Indeed Seven had her eyes squeezed so tight that Janeway very nearly laughed.

 

“Open your eyes.  You’re missing quite a sight.”

 

“Are we still at the top?”

 

“Yes.”  The boom from the fireworks rang in Kathryn’s ears, almost deafening her.  Lt. Paris was a stickler for authenticity.  What must the noise sound to poor Seven with her Borg enhanced hearing?

 

“I need to distract myself again,” Annika murmured.  She bent her head closer to Kathryn’s.  “Will you assist me?”

 

“Certainly.  Shall I tell you more about basketball?”

 

“No, just kiss me.”

 

“Kiss you?”

 

“Please,” Annika whispered.  It was the one thing she knew would take her mind off the fireworks and the precarious position of the ride. Kathryn found herself automatically answering that plea and pressed her lips firmly against Annika’s.  They were as sweet and soft as she remembered from the kissing booth.

 

Annika sighed and her mouth opened as she felt all of her opening to the captain.  Soft and warm and gentle, her tongue caressed Kathryn’s.  She broke away momentarily, only to bring her hands to the back of the captain’s head and pull it more urgently against her.

 

The fireworks were going off in the holodeck and inside Janeway. Annika’s moan set off a groan from her own throat.  Lips moved urgently, tasting and savoring.

 

This was the best distraction of all, Annika thought. 

 

***********

 

Commander Chakotay watched the fireworks fade into the sky and then clapped and cheered with the rest of the onlookers.  As he turned around his elbow jostled someone in the ribs.  

 

“Watch it!”  Harrry Kim snapped, before realizing who he was addressing.

 

“Excuse me, Ensign.”

 

“No,  excuse me, Commander,” Harry said.  Great, the last guy he wanted to see and he had to run into Chakotay. 

 

“Great fireworks show.”

 

“Tom did a good job.”

 

“You don’t happen to know where Annika is, do you?” Chakotay asked, remembering the captain had mentioned Harry was escorting her around the fair.

 

“I have no idea.  I think she said something about the Ferris wheel ride with the captain.”

 

“That gives me a starting point.  Thanks.”

 

He headed off toward the Ferris wheel and spotted Annika and Janeway exiting the ride area together.  They were carrying a stuffed animal of some sort.

 

“Captain! Annika!” he called out as they disappeared into the crowd. He hurried after them, apologizing as he made his way through the swarm of people and holograms. Finally at the game exhibit he caught up to them when an errant basketball bounced into their path, causing them to stop.

 

“Captain!”

 

Janeway turned, her frown knitting in recognition. After the fireworks display and the Ferris wheel ride had ended she and Annika had threaded their way silently through the crowd, neither of them knowing what to say to the other after the fervor of kissing had subsided. Kathryn had continued to clasp Annika’s hand since they might get separated in the crowd and had been secretly relishing the contact until she had heard Chakotay calling them.

 

 Drat the man.

 

“Enjoying the fireworks, Commander?” she asked, her command mask not allowing any of her disgruntlement to show as she let Annika’s fingers slip from hers.

 

“Yes.”

 

Assuming that the First Officer had something urgent to convey to the captain, Annika had taken a step back, however he appeared to be gazing over at her. 

 

“I just wanted a word with Annika,”  he explained to Kathryn.

 

To arrange teaching sessions, no doubt. 

 

“Of course,” she said, preparing to leave them alone.  To her surprise Annika touched her arm lightly. 

 

“I will just be a moment, Captain.”

 

Janeway moved away to let Chakotay speak to Annika in private, wishing that she could eavesdrop on the conversation.  However, she had some pride.

 

Chakotay scratched his tattoo and smiled at Annika.  “I’ve been trying to find you ever since you left the kissing booth.”

 

“I have been enjoying the fair.”

 

“Yes, I heard.  Would you like to go on another ride?” 

 

“I have been on the Ferris Wheel, the Tunnel of Love, and the bumper cars,” she replied.  “I think that is enough for one evening.”

 

“Fair enough.  Annika, I’d like to spend time with you.”

 

“Spend time?”

 

“Go out with you.  If you would like that too?”

 

“I see no reason why I should dislike it.”

 

“Good.  How about a picnic in the hydroponic gardens tomorrow?”

 

“That would be fine.”

 

Smiling broadly, he left after a quick good night to the captain.. 

 

“What was that about?” Kathryn couldn’t avoid asking.  Chakotay looked too damn pleased with himself. 

 

“The commander invited me on a picnic tomorrow in the hydroponic gardens.”

 

“That sounds like fun.”

 

“Would you care to come along, Captain?” Annika asked. 

 

Kathryn chortled.  “I don’t think Chakotay would like that.”

 

“Why not?  You and he are friends, aren’t you?”

 

“I think he has in mind a private picnic with you.”

 

So he could teach you a few things, she wanted to warn but didn’t. 

 

“Curious.  He never seemed desirous of my company before.”

 

“I think the kissing booth had something to do with his change of heart,” she blurted out.

 

To her surprise the other woman’s pale cheeks pinked suddenly.  Had Chakotay not been exaggerating?  Had there been some connection between the two in the booth? 

“I think I’ve had enough of the fair,” Janeway said.

 

“Computer, exit,” Annika declared. 

 

The exit doors formed and they walked through them into the ship’s corridor. The swift change back to real life made the captain feel dizzy.  As did the next question from the blonde.

 

“Where should we go next?”

 

Janeway gazed into the light blue eyes, surprised that Annika would assume that she would accompany her.

 

“Well, I don’t know,” she admitted.  She realized that Annika was still holding on tight to Pooh. 

 

“I have an idea.”

 

“Oh?”  As her gaze moved across Annika’s face, Kathryn noticed that the coral lips were fuller than usual. Were they swollen from her too ardent kisses?

 

“We could go to your quarters.”

 

A  shiver skittered up Janeway’s spine.  Yes, take Annika to her quarters.  Let her sleep in her bed the way she had months ago.  Only this time the captain wouldn’t be sleeping on the couch. 

 

“I think we’d better not,” she said, clamping down on her inner voice.

 

“Why not?”

 

“One thing might lead to another,” Janeway said obliquely, nodding at some crewmembers who were just going into the holodeck.  “Let’s get the turbolift.”

 

Obediently Annika trailed her to the lift.  Once inside, the captain hesitated again.  She had never been this unsure of herself before.  Where was all that command training?  Captains were decisive, ready to make a decision at an instant’s notice.  So where should she go?

 

“Deck Nine,” Annika announced and the lift started moving.  “If we can not go to your quarters, we will go to mine,” she explained with a casualness that took the captain’s breath away.

 

Hers. Janeway did not make a habit of frequenting the lower decks and could only imagine what someone walking around on the deck would think if they saw her with Annika.  And was she seriously inviting Kathryn to her quarters?

 

“Is Celes inside your quarters?” Kathryn asked.

 

“I’m not sure.” Annika frowned.  “Computer, locate Tal Celes.”

 

“Tal Celes is in holodeck two.”

 

 “Celes is still at the fair.  We will be alone.”  She smiled happily at the captain.

 

Oh boy. That’s what she was afraid of.  No way was she letting herself stay in Annika’s quarters alone. 

 

The turbolift opened and Annika stepped out.  “Captain?” she asked, looking over her shoulder at Janeway who hadn’t moved an inch.

 

She would escort her to the door and then leave, Kathryn told herself as her legs finally started moving. She continued down the corridor after Annika.  To her relief they encountered no one else.  Everyone must still be enjoying the fair. 

 

Annika keyed in her entrance code and the doors to her quarters opened.  “Would you like to come in?” she invited.

 

Yes!

 

“No!” She said more forcefully than normal and Annika appeared taken aback.  “I have a head ache.”

 

“If you are ill, I will take you to sick bay.”

 

“No, it’s just a leftover from the fireworks booming.”

 

“Perhaps I should escort you to your quarters,” Annika said, her concern for the smaller woman reflected in the azure eyes.

 

“That’s not necessary.”  Then she’d just be tempted to drag Annika to bed.  “I’ll be fine.  I just wanted to make sure you got to your quarters safely.” 

 

“Thank you.  And for the ride on the Ferris wheel.”  And for the kisses.

 

“You’re welcome.” 

 

Annika started to hand over the teddy bear however Janeway held up her hand.

 

“Keep him, please as a momento of a wonderful time at the fair.”

 

“Thank you, Captain.”

 

Janeway hurried off and Annika went into her quarters with the bear, feeling oddly bereft now that the captain was gone.  Why hadn’t the captain wished to come in, even for a moment?  The quarters were messy, she noted.  She and Celes were not the tidiest roommates.  She put Pooh down on her bed.  He looked so comfortable lying there that after a moment she lay down and curled up with him in her arms. 

 

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

 

“Computer, time.”

 

“The time is 0200 hours.”

 

Kathryn kicked the sheet off and sat up in bed.  So much for trying to sleep.  She had spent the past three hours, tossing and turning.  Each time she closed her eyes she saw Annika’s head dipping closer to hers and felt her lips on hers, an image hardly conducive to a restful night’s sleep.  It left her feeling restless and hot.

 

“Computer, lower temperature in the room by five degrees,” she commanded.  That might help her overheated body. 

 

She padded to the ensuite and splashed cold water on her cheeks, hoping that would cool her off.  As she stared at her reflection in the mirror, she frowned.  Was it her imagination or the poor lighting but did her lips look a little plumper than usual.  Good heavens, were they swollen from Annika’s kisses?

 

“Computer, increase lighting.”

Squinting in the light that now suffused the room, Janeway leaned closer to the mirror, examining her mouth.  Maybe it was just her imagination.  She touched her lips gently. Her mouth was the same as always.  And nothing was swollen. 

 

Not up there anyway!  her inner voice snickered.

 

“Computer, close lights!” she ordered and marched to the bed, stubbing her toe on a padd that had fallen in the path.  Damn.  She hopped on one foot. That’s what she got for trying to work in bed.  She had been trying to review the modifications of the sensor array that Vorick had sent to her earlier in the day.  Not exactly light bedtime reading.

 

She crawled back into bed and fluffed her pillow.  All she wanted was a good night’s sleep.  That wasn’t too much to ask, was it?  Her head sank back onto the pillow as she stared up at the ceiling. 

 

Kissing Annika in the fair booth had been foolish and kissing her on the Ferris wheel was down right idiotic.  She wanted more and that was impossible. 

 

It’s only impossible because you think it is.

 

I am the captain.  I cannot have a relationship with a crewmember.

 

Would you rather Chakotay have a relationship with her?

 

She heard the sound of teeth gnashing in the dark.  Her teeth. 

 

Shut up.

 

She rolled over in bed and punched the pillow under her head.

 

He doesn’t seem to have any problem with Starfleet regulations. 

 

Shut up!

 

And Annika seems to like him well enough.

 

SHUT UP!

 

She yanked the pillow out from under her head and shoved it down over her ears, in a vain attempt to silence her own mocking inner voice.

 

 

Chapter Twenty

 

Feeling agitated from lack of sleep, Kathryn strode onto the bridge the next morning to find Ensign Kim still occupying the captain’s chair.  Usually Chakotay arrived before Janeway did for the alpha shift.

 

“Report!”

 

“Nothing unusual to report, Captain.” Kim rose quickly to relinquish the seat.  “We are on course for the Alpha Quadrant.”

 

Translated that meant they would reach earth in approximately twenty seven years and four months, she thought dourly.

 

“Where is Commander Chakotay?”

 

“The commander sent word that he would be unavailable today.”

 

Odd. “Is he ill?” Maybe he wouldn’t be able to make that picnic with Annika.

 

“No, he needed to attend to private matters.”  Kim’s lip curled slightly for just a split second.  Long enough for the captain to catch it.

 

Her blue-gray eyes narrowed.  Was that a hint of disdain on the ensign’s face?  Damn.  She couldn’t allow the two men to carry any grudges about Annika onto her bridge. She’d told Chakotay that yesterday and now would be a good time to inform Kim. 

 

“Tuvok, you have the bridge,” Janeway said.  “Ensign Kim, my ready room now.”

 

Kim had pulled a full shift and wanted to nothing more than getting some sleep. Wondering what he had done wrong this time, the ensign followed the captain into the ready room.  As soon as the doors closed behind them, Janeway whirled around. 

 

“Whatever your personal rivalry with Chakotay may be, it ends on my bridge. Is that clear, Ensign?” Her words were short and clipped, no chance of misunderstanding her tone.

 

Kim pulled his shoulders back automatically. “Yes, Captain.” Crystal clear.

 

Janeway paced in front of her desk like a caged animal.   “This is why they have regulations against officers fraternizing with the crew. It leads to exactly this type of sniping.”

 

“I didn’t snipe, ma’am,” Kim protested, then as two laser like beams shot out of Kathryn’s gray eyes, he dropped his head.  “There’s no problem, Captain.  I’m not Chakotay’s rival any more.”

 

Janeway stopped her pacing and eyed his flushed face, curious about his version of what happened in the Tunnel of Love ride with Annika last night. 

 

“Really?” she said, noncommitally, propping one hip on the edge of her desk.

 

“Yes, ma’am.”

 

He fell silent.

 

“Annika is not interested in you?”  She couldn’t avoid prodding him a bit.

 

His dark head snapped up.  I’m not interested in her.”

 

Kathryn had to restrain herself from slapping him across her ready room.

 

“If you’re so disinterested, Ensign,  why were you speaking disdainfully about Chakotay?”

 

Harry gritted his teeth. “I meant no disrespect to Chakotay, Captain.”

 

She stared at him for a long moment. “At ease, Harry. What’s this all about?”

 

He blew out a breath. “I guess I don’t like being second best at anything.”

 

Kathryn emitted a bark of laughter. “No Starfleet officer worth his pips does,” she replied.  Wanting to be the best at anything was what drove many in the Starfleet Academy.  “And just because Chakotay wishes to pursue his romantic interest in Annika doesn’t mean that he’s necessarily the best one for her.”

 

“I wouldn’t be too sure about that, ma’am.”

 

Her smile disappeared.  “Oh?  So you think Chakotay is the right one for Annika?”

 

“Doesn’t matter what I think.  It’s what Annika thinks that counts.”

 

Kathryn couldn’t have phrased it better herself.

 

“And,” Harry went on, “she told me herself Chakotay’s kissing was superior to mine.  Not exactly something a guy wants to hear.”

 

Or a woman either.

 

“Get some sleep, Ensign.  That’s an order.”

 

“Yes, ma’am.” Kim spun on his heel and marched out of the ready room.

 

Alone,  Kathryn replicated a cup of black coffee, her third consumed since leaving bed, then sat down behind her desk.  She took a long slow sip of the coffee,  as she idly scanned a work padd.  Somehow her mind just wasn’t on Lt. Vorick’s recalibration.  Instead she kept wondering what Chakotay was planning to serve on his picnic with Annika.  More kisses, no doubt.

 

*********

 

“Oh this bear is so cute, Annika….” Naomi Wildman beamed as she hugged the stuffed animal sitting on Annika’s pillow.  “Did you win it at the fair in the holodeck?”

 

“I didn’t win it.  Someone else did,” Annika said.  She had finally brought the girl to her quarters to show her the shell necklace she was stringing only to find the child more interested in the bear than the necklace.

 

“I bet Harry Kim won it for you,” Naomi guessed.

 

Annika shook her head.

 

“Commander Chakotay?”

 

Another shake of the blonde head. “It was the captain.”

 

“Captain Janeway gave you this bear?  Wow. She must really like you,” the child said naively.

 

“I suppose.  She likes everyone on Voyager.”

 

“Some more than others,” Naomi said with a wisdom beyond her years.

 

 “I’m not sure it was a gift really, more like a loan.”

 

“Were you having trouble sleeping?” Naomi asked, fussing with one of the bear’s fuzzy ears.  “Sometimes when I have trouble sleeping I hug one of my stuffed animals.  Maybe that’s what the captain intended.”

 

Annika frowned, trying to recall the events that led to the bear now residing with her.  “I do not recall telling the captain I had any trouble sleeping.”

 

“Well, the captain has had trouble sleeping herself,” Naomi said, sprawling on her back with the bear on her stomach.

 

“How do you know that?”

 

The child shrugged her small shoulders.  “I hear things.  For instance take today.  Neelix said the captain came in before breakfast wanting coffee.  That usually means she can’t sleep.  Sometimes it’s because of the space we’re traveling through and other times it’s something else.  I guess a captain never sleeps very much.”

 

“If so, she needs the bear more than I do. I’ll give it back to her.”

 

Naomi held the stuffed animal up to the ceiling.  “You should dress him up first. We could replicate a hat or a uniform.  We could make him a whole wardrobe.”

 

“I don’t know,” Annika said.  It was probably a waste of replicator rations. She picked up the Pooh Bear.  Would he look better in clothes? 

 

“Perhaps a simple blue T-shirt.”  She went to the replicator and punched in the measurements needed and a minute later a small blue T shirt materialized 

 

Grinning, Naomi helped slip the bear’s  paw through a sleeve.

 

“We should put pips on him,” she said.  “Then he’d look like part of the Starfleet crew.”

 

“I have pips,” Annika said.  “I was saving them to use in the necklace but you’re right, they would look good on him.”  Bending down, she found the box under her bed and brought out the four gold pips she had saved. 

 

“How many are you going to put on?”  Naomi asked.

 

“Four.”

 

“That would make him a captain.”

 

“Appropriate for Captain Janeway, don’t you think?”

 

Naomi giggled her agreement.  Annika was just fastening the last of the pips onto the T shirt when Samantha Wildman’s voice came through the communicator.

 

“Samantha Wildman to Naomi.”

 

“Uh-oh.  Mom wants me.” The girl tapped her badge.  “Hi, Mom.”

 

“Naomi, you’re late for your lesson in Katarian history.”

 

“On my way, Mom.”  She scooted off the bed.  “Bye.  I hope the captain likes her bear.”

 

After Naomi left, Annika gazed at the bear with the four pips in its T shirt.  Should she replicate a tunic as well?  No, that might be overdoing things.  She glanced down at the necklace in her hand.  She had not strung enough shells to complete the necklace, but perhaps there was someone who did not require a long necklace.  She held the shell necklace up to the bear’s chin and grinned.  Perfect. 

 

A few minutes later the door to the quarters opened and Tal Celes came in.

 

“Hey, are you still here?” she greeted her roommate.  “I thought you were on a picnic with Commander Chakotay.”

 

“That’s not until 1130 hours.”

 

“Well, it’s 1145 hours right now,” Celes pointed out.

 

“What!  Oh no…”  The blonde scrambled off the bed, placing the bear back on her pillow.

 

 “That’s a cute bear.  Is he wearing the shells you were going to string for yourself?”

 

Annika nodded, picking up a brush and drawing it through her hair.   “I thought the captain would enjoy seeing them on her bear when I return it.”

 

Celes took a closer look at the stuffed animal. “That’s the captain’s bear?”

 

“She won it at the fair and loaned it to me. Since she was having trouble sleeping last night  and Naomi said a stuffed animal to hug in bed can help one sleep, I’m planning to give it back to her.”

 

Celes snickered at the image of the Voyager captain clutching a stuffed bear in her bed, however she saw that her roommate was perfectly serious.

 

“I don’t think that’s the reason the captain was having trouble sleeping.”

 

“Oh?  Why then?”

 

Celes sent her a curious look.  In some ways Annika was such an innocent.  Everyone on the ship who was near the kissing booth had seen the sizzling liplock the two women had exchanged.  Celes had heard about it from at least three people. That was why she’d stayed out late last night, not wanting to return to her quarters to find Annika entertaining the captain.  Instead Annika had blithely informed her that she was having a picnic with Commander Chakotay today.  Talk about playing the field. First the captain, now the commander, and what ever happened to Ensign Kim.

 

“Maybe for the same reason you were tossing and turning last night,” she said obliquely.

 

Annika’s pale cheeks flushed a delicate pink.  She had spent a restless night, thinking about the kiss she and the captain had shared and comparing it to the others she had experienced in the booth, and she didn’t think the Bajoran had noticed. 

 

“Annika, why are you going on this picnic with Commander Chakotay?” Celes asked.

 

“He asked me,” the young woman replied.

 

“Do you want to go.”

 

“I suppose so.  Why?  Weren’t you the one to tell me that I should socialize more?”

 

“Yeah, but after what happened between you and the captain at the kissing booth….and you’ve got her bear so I thought…”  the Bajoran broke off.

 

A frown knit the blonde’s eyebrows. “You thought what?”

 

Her roommate exhaled an exasperated breath.  “I thought maybe you and the captain really liked each other…”

 

“I do like her.”

 

“More than you like the Commander?”

 

“Yes.  Much more.”

 

“So why are you going on the picnic with him?” she repeated her earlier question.

 

“You went on dates with different men, Celes.  Sometimes on the same evening.”

 

The Bajoran nodded. “Yeah. I was just trying to find one who I really liked.  If I had, then I’d just date him for sure.  If you really like Janeway and want to concentrate on her you might want to ditch the competition.”

 

“We haven’t really been dating,” came the soft reply.

 

“Would you want to?”

 

Annika didn’t answer, thinking of how her invitation to come to her quarters had been rebuffed by Kathryn. “She is the captain and has many things on her mind.  She can’t always be interested in someone like me.”  Especially now that Annika wasn’t as smart as she used to be.

 

“So you’re going to settle for Chakotay?”

 

“No…” Annika felt confused.  “It’s not like that.  And now I’m later than ever for my picnic with him.”

 

She dashed out of her quarters without bothering to change out of her Starfleet uniform, her roommate’s words still echoing in her brain.

 

In the hydroponic gardens Commander Chakotay spread out a picnic blanket and wondered if Annika was going to stand him up the way she had Janeway at the Bijou some months ago.  It was already twenty minutes past their agreed upon time.  Seven of Nine never was late.  Annika was nearly always. 

 

The ship’s First Officer smiled to himself as he took out the plates from the basket. Of course, punctuality wasn’t the main thing in life.  Although he knew some of the crew including the Doctor and Torres missed the old Seven of Nine, Chakotay for one did not. Annika Hansen was so much better than Seven.  She was sweet and gentle and very trusting.  And she liked him. 

 

His grin widened.  And there was that kiss.  If he had ever tried to kiss Seven she would probably have knocked him to the deck.  Not that he would have made any attempt.  There was a coldness to Seven that just wasn’t there when you looked at Annika.  And he was looking forward to experiencing more of that warmth.

 

The sound of hurried footsteps caused him to look over at the entrance to the gardens.  Long hair trailing behind her, Annika hurried in, out of breath and apologetic.

 

“I’m sorry to be late,” she said.

 

He held out his hand.  “Come and sit down.”

 

Gracefully, she sank down onto the blanket.   “I was talking to Naomi and then Celes came into our quarters…”  she explained.

 

“It’s all right. I’m just glad that you’re here now with me.”

 

He squeezed her hand and waited for her to say that she was glad to be there too.  Instead she slipped her hand out of his.

 

“For a minute I thought you might be standing me up,” he joked. 

 

She flushed, remembering how she had stood up the captain for their movie date.   “I’ll never do that again,” she said quietly.

 

Chakotay’s chest puffed out.  So Annika didn’t mind standing up Kathryn but wouldn’t stand him up. He liked the sound of that.

 

“I hope you’re hungry.  I’ve got sandwiches and lemonade and brownies.”

 

“Caramel brownies?” she asked.  The captain was fond of caramel brownies.

 

“No, just regular ones,” he said.  “So what will it be? Replicated pastrami on rye or corned beef?”

 

“Whichever you prefer, I will take the other.”.

 

He nodded, pleased that the young woman had left the choice up to him.  “I’ve always been partial to pastrami.”  He gave her the corned beef and she peeled off the stasis wrap.

 

“It’s very nice here,” she said, gazing around at the line of green shrubs.  Behind them were the rows of vegetables that Neelix used for cooking.

 

“It was Kes’s idea to make these gardens.”

 

“I did not know Kes.”

 

“She left Voyager just about the time you came aboard. She was Ocampa and possessed some psychic ability.  She was gentle and sweet like you with light blonde hair.”

 

As she chewed on her sandwich, Annika gazed at him.  “You have not always thought that way about me, Commander.”

 

“Maybe not in the beginning,” he admitted.  He had been against bringing Seven of Nine aboard Voyager as a crew member.

 

“Since I have been changed…?” she asked.

 

“Since you have regained your humanity,” he corrected.  “That’s always a plus, Annika.”

 

“You disliked me as Seven of Nine.  You sometimes mistrusted me.”

 

Chakotay put his sandwich down, preferring not to dwell on that period.  “That’s all in the past.  Would you like some lemonade?”

 

She nodded and accepted the glass he poured for her.  Her mouth puckered after her first sip.

 

“It’s sour.”  Had he played a trick on her?

 

He chuckled.  “One thing good about sour lemonade…it brings the lips into the perfect position for a kiss.”

 

Deliberately, she patted her mouth with a napkin.  “I am ready for dessert.”

 

“I’d rather have another of your kisses for my dessert.”

 

Startled, Annika stared at him.  The commander was smiling at her with a definite glint in his eyes.  She had seen such a look on Harry’s face and even on Kathryn’s.  However when Kathryn looked at her it brought up different feelings than when Harry or Chakotay looked at her. 

 

“My shift in the kissing booth is over, Commander,” she said stiffly.

 

His smile faded.  “I know that.  I was hoping that what we started there could continue.”

 

Started?  “What do you mean?” she asked, puzzled.

 

“You don’t have to pretend, Annika.  Harry told me what you said about how my kiss generated electricity in you.”  He grinned and there was no mistaking the pleased expression on his broad face.

 

Too late, Annika remembered what she had told Harry in the Tunnel of Love.  She had not expected her white lie to be repeated to anyone, much less Commander Chakotay.  Was this what men did?  Gossip about the women they kissed?

 

“Commander Chakotay, I am sorry.  I was not honest with Ensign Kim.  He was asking me questions about the kissing booth, and I did not wish to answer so I told him that about our kiss.”

 

Chakotay was not dissuaded by her protests.  “It’s not just what Harry said.  I felt that spark when we kissed.  It was undeniable. You must’ve felt it.”

 

I only felt it because I was thinking of Kathryn.

 

She knew better than to utter her thought aloud.  The captain would not wish to be the subject of gossip.

 

“I am sorry.  I was thinking of someone else when we kissed.”

 

Chakotay did not manage to hide his annoyance at this disclosure.  Who was she thinking about? Not Harry? 

 

“Can I ask who’s the lucky fellow?”

 

She shook her head. “Too much has been made about the kissing booth.  Those were just kisses for the fair to raise money for the orphans, nothing more,” she declared.

 

“I see.”  So it was just a fund-raising activity.

 

“Well, I must return to the mess hall.  I will be late for my duty shift,” Annika said, getting to her feet.

 

“You haven’t had a brownie.”

 

“I am not hungry.”

 

He dusted his knees off as he got up from the blanket.  “Annika, I’m sorry about asking you for another kiss so soon.  It must’ve seemed as though I were trying to pressure you. I’d just like to see you again.”

 

“We will see each other in the mess hall, I am sure.”

 

He chuckled.  “I meant privately.”

 

“I do not think so.”

 

“I didn’t mean to rush you about the kiss,” he said. “I can wait.  I’m very patient.”

 

Why was he being so persistent?  She had no wish to continue any personal relationship with him.  “I’m sorry, Commander.  I enjoy your company, however someone else interests me more.”

 

Someone else?  Chakotay was intrigued.  It couldn’t be Harry Kim.  Was it Lieutenant Hopkins?  He had looked dazzled when he stumbled from the kissing booth. 

 

“And this fellow returns your interest?”

 

“I believe so although…”

 

“Yes?”

 

“It’s not really a fellow.”

 

 

Chapter Twenty-One

 

Not quite a fellow.  Now what did that mean?  Was Annika talking about a hologram?  Chakotay wouldn’t put it past the old Seven to do a little experimenting in the holodeck, but Annika was another story.  He stowed the picnic basket away in his quarters, wondering when he would use it again and what he should do with the rest of his day off.  Since the state fair was still running, he decided on a return visit to Holodeck Two. 

 

The rides and games were still underway and the fairgrounds bustling with the Voyager crew on beta and gamma shifts. If the program’s popularity had waned in the last twenty-four hours, it wasn’t by much.  The kissing booth was still doing a brisk business for the orphans.  Off to the side Chakotay noticed B’Elanna Torres standing with her back to the line of game booths,  sturdy arms crossed over her chest as Tom Paris took another shift in the kissing booth.  The Klingon did not look amused.

 

“Care for a hoverball game, B’Elanna?”  Chakotay asked, sidling up next to her.

           

The engineer’s sharp teeth flashed in a smile.  “Sure, just not right now. I’m supposed to be working my butt off in Engineering.  Don’t tell the ship’s First Officer.  I hear he’s a real bear for rules and regulations.”

 

He threw his head back and laughed at her jibe. 

 

“Taking your lunch break at the fair?”

 

She nodded.

 

“And now you wish you hadn’t,” he guessed, nodding at Tom in the booth.

 

Torres snorted.  “If he thinks that he can kiss all those girls and then come around and kiss me tonight…” 

 

“It’s just a kissing booth, B’Elanna. Those kissing booth kisses don’t mean anything.”

 

She glanced up at him and his brown eyes met hers. Chakotay had been the captain of the Maquis ship that Torres had served on, the one Janeway had chased into the Delta Quadrant, and there had always been a closeness between the two Maquis.  She wondered if he were just trying to be a friend and make her feel better about Tom.

 

“What makes you say that?”  she asked.

 

“I’ve been told that by someone who took a shift in the booth.”

 

“Who?”

 

“Annika.  She claims that all the kisses she gave in the booth last night were just that, kissing booth kisses.  Nothing more.  The same probably goes for Tom.”

 

“Maybe,” Torres said reluctantly.  “Thanks.”

 

“So hoverball some time?”

 

“Sure. And now I’d better go back to work or the First Officer will chew my ass out.”

 

“You’re mistaking him for the captain.  She does the chewing.”

 

Laughing, Torres heard someone call her name.  It was Harry Kim.  Feeling annoyed at the sight of the younger man who had told Chakotay that Annika preferred his kisses to Harry’s, the commander left the area.  Maybe a session with his animal guide would help to calm his spirits.  

 

“B’Elanna, wait up a sec,” Harry called out.

 

“Not now, Harry,” she said, not breaking stride.  “I gotta get back to Engineering.”

 

“I’ll walk with you,” he said, following her past the game booths and out of the holodeck toward the turbo lift.

 

“Engineering,” Torres gave the command in the lift, then she looked at her companion.  “So, what’s on your mind?”

 

“Any idea when you’ll put Fair Haven back on line?”  he asked.

 

“Kahless, Harry,” she exclaimed.  “It’s only been two days.”

 

“I know.”

 

“Can’t you go that long without a make out session with Megan.”

 

He flushed and she felt suddenly ashamed of herself.  Just because she was mad at Tom was no reason to take it out on his best friend.

 

“Sorry, I didn’t mean that.”

 

“It’s okay.”

 

“The fair’s still running.  I’d scheduled it for a week. When that’s over maybe then we can put the Fair Haven program back up. Of course I just saved the original parameters.”

 

“No problem. I can modify Megan’s character matrix again.”

 

B’Elanna rubbed her ridged forehead.  “If you do that so will everyone else and the program will expand again and eat up ship’s resources. I’d hoped this time to keep it simple, stripped down to just the essentials.”

 

“Have you run that past the captain?”

 

“Why?”

           

“She’s always had a soft spot for Michael Sullivan, at least the version of Michael with her modifications.”

 

The turbolift doors opened and Torres stomped out.  Perfect.  Trust Harry to dump another problem in her lap, one involving the captain and her holographic boyfriend. 

 

*******

 

On the bridge Kathryn slouched in the command chair, one leg crossed over the other. Where was a red alert when she needed one?  If time passed any more slowly she would soon go mad.  And it would be the real thing, not the way she had nearly gone berserk, chasing down Ransom and the Equinox.

 

Or even the way she had holed up during Voyager’s period in the Void.  She was talking bouncing off the bulkhead crazy.

 

Was it only 1400 hours? Annika’s  picnic with Chakotay should be over by now. 

 

Unless he was snoozing with his head in her lap.

 

Tight-lipped, the captain clamped down on the mocking words her little voice was throwing up to tease her.  She could’ve used another cup of coffee however she was not about to stop in at the mess hall to take a peek at the blonde.  She had been betraying her feelings too much of late, otherwise why would the young woman have asked her for a kiss on the Ferris wheel.

 

What about those kisses, Kathryn?

 

Dammit, stop!  She growled low in her throat now, not noticing the way the others on the bridge, alert to any shift in the captain’s mood,  stiffened automatically in their chairs.

 

Where was all her command training of late? 

 

A captain did not leave the bridge in the middle of the day to flirt with someone in the mess hall.  No matter if she was the most beautiful woman on board the ship.

 

“Torres to Janeway.”

 

“Janeway here.” With relief, she turned her attention to the Chief Engineer’s hail. Maybe there was something in Engineering that needed her attention, like a warp core breach?

 

“Captain, can I see you for a moment.”

 

“Is there a problem, Lieutenant?”  She really just had been joking to herself about a warp core breach.

 

“No, Captain.  I just need to consult with you on something.”

 

“I’ll be right down. Janeway out.”  She was out of her chair and headed for the lift.  “I’ll be in Engineering, Tuvok.”

 

“Aye, Captain,” the Vulcan replied.

 

When Janeway’s familiar command red came into view from the second level of Engineering, Torres hurried down the stairs.

 

“I would have come to your ready room, Captain,” she said.

 

“The matter must be serious if you’re volunteering to visit my ready room,” Janeway said dryly.

           

Torres’s teeth gleamed.  “I guess you’re right there, Captain.”

 

Janeway was leaning her elbows on the railing overlooking the warp core. She was always fascinated by this green glowing core that kept the starship going.   The few times when they’d had to eject the core the ship had been dead in the water without it and she had sweated bullets until they had retrieved it.

 

“What did you want to consult me on?  Warp core giving you any problems?” she asked, eager to wrap her mind around an engineering problem.  She had always been a hands on type of captain, even when the ship was in dry dock.

 

“Everything’s fine with the warp core and with engineering,” Torres said.  “At least fine enough by Voyager standards.”

 

“Good.”

 

“Let’s speak over here, shall we?”  Torres asked, seeing the unspoken question in the captain’s blue eyes.

 

Once in the quieter section of Engineering, Torres hesitated, not certain how to broach a delicate topic to the captain.  The Klingon had no way of knowing it but the captain had gotten better at reading her crew.  B’Elanna did not usually hesitate to speak her mind about anything.  She was like the old Seven of Nine in that respect.

 

“I’m waiting, Lieutenant,” Janeway prompted gently.

 

“It’s about the Fair Haven program, Captain.”

 

“I thought we took care of that matter during our last staff meeting.”

 

Torres nodded.  “Harry asked me today if I’d bring it back online as soon as the state fair was over.”

 

“He’s not wasting any time, is he?” Janeway murmured.

 

“I’ve scheduled the fair for a week.  By then people should have tired of the novelty.”

 

“Close down the kissing booth and they’d tire of it more quickly,” Janeway said half to herself and half aloud.

 

Torres snorted.  “I’d have to agree with you about that.” Her dark eyes glittered.

 

“Is the kissing booth a problem for you and Tom?” Kathryn asked.

 

B’Elanna’s head shot up and her eyes flashed angrily.  Then she realized who had asked her the question and she swallowed hard. 

 

“No, Captain.”

 

“I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to pry into your personal matters.”  What was getting into her, Janeway thought.  She was turning into one of those touchy feely captains.

 

“You didn’t pry.  Tom does seem to be enjoying himself but as Chakotay told me less than an hour ago, a kissing booth kiss is just a kissing booth kiss.”

 

Kathryn blinked in surprise.  Spouting platitudes didn’t sound like Chakotay’s style.  He usually couched his advice in animal metaphors.

 

“Chakotay said that?”

 

“Doesn’t sound like him, does it?” Torres grinned. “He was actually quoting Seven, I mean Annika.”

 

“Really?”  Kathryn asked.  A kissing booth kiss is just a kissing booth kiss.  What had Annika meant by that?  Was it possible that she wasn’t interested in anything further interaction with the handsome First Officer? Maybe Annika had put a stop to Chakotay’s lessons in romance.  She couldn’t help answering Torres’s smile with one of her own.

 

Annika was quite particular.  First Harry Kim had gotten dismissed and now Chakotay.  Who would be next?

 

Maybe her?

 

Kathryn’s elation came to a stand still.  Was her kiss with Annika just a kissing booth kiss?  What about the electricity they had sparked?  And what about the kisses on the Ferris wheel? 

 

“She’s showing a sensible streak, isn’t she?”  Torres said.  Her comment broke into Kathryn’s self searching.

 

“Yes.  Now what is it about Fair Haven that you wanted to see me about?” Kathryn asked, not wanting to think any more about Annika’s kisses.  “I still don’t see the need for my input.”

 

“I saved the original parameters of the program and I just wondered if that would be sufficient when I brought it back.”

 

“Why wouldn’t it be?”

 

“There have been modifications to the character matrices,” Torres pointed out.  “For example Megan and the priest and well, Michael.  He was a bit shorter and not as well read in the original version.  And there is also the matter of his wife.”

 

His wife.  Kathryn felt a jolt, remembering how she had ordered the computer to delete the wife when she had made changes to his character program. 

 

“I wasn’t sure if I should re-establish Mrs. Sullivan,” B’Elanna said, fascinated by the way the redhead’s classic jaw clench for just a moment.

 

Then the blue eyes met hers coolly. “If she’s part of the original programming, Lieutenant, then do it.”

 

“Aye, Captain.”  One wife for Michael coming right up.

 

**********

 

“I guess that’s it for tonight, Annika,” Neelix said as he finished up the last of the pots and pans in the galley. 

 

“There were fewer diners tonight,” the blonde said.

 

“I guess they’re enjoying the food at the fair.  Nothing beats a hot dog or so Tom Paris says.”  Neelix wiped his hands on a towel and looked over at his pretty assistant. “I’ll keep the lights on in case anyone gets hungry for a snack, but you’re free to go.”

 

“Thank you, Mr. Neelix.  See you tomorrow.”

 

Annika picked up the small bag that she had carried into the galley.  After her picnic with the commander she had returned to her quarters and grabbed the Pooh bear, hoping to present it to the captain during the afternoon if she came in for a cup of coffee or at dinner.  However, the captain had not come into the mess hall. She must’ve replicated dinner in her quarters or gone to the fair again.

 

And that presented Annika with a problem. Just how would she give the captain the bear?  As she chewed on her lip, examining the question from every angle possible, the turbolift arrived and she stepped in.

 

“Computer, Deck Three,” she ordered without thinking.

 

Yes!  She would take Pooh to the captain’s quarters herself.  Or was that too presumptuous?  The captain had seemed uneasy last night’s invitation to join Annika in her quarters…perhaps she wouldn’t want Annika coming to her quarters.

 

What should she do? She couldn’t just leave Pooh outside her door.  Or could she?

 

A few minutes later Annika walked down the corridor of Deck Three, passing Commander Chakotay’s quarters and the VIP quarters until she reached the quarters at the very end belonging to Captain Janeway.

 

Stooping slightly, Annika placed the brightly colored bag holding the bear by the captain’s door, not directly in front of it in case the captain might trip over it, but to the side in plain view.  Janeway would see it when she arrived or left the quarters.

 

What if she didn’t see it until morning?

 

 The whole purpose of giving her the bear was to help the captain get a good night’s sleep. The young woman threw her hands up in frustration.. There had to be a way of getting the captain to find the bear tonight.  She began to pace back and forth in the corridor, stopping abruptly by the VIP quarters as she tried to think of a method to bring the captain out of her quarters.

 

She could ring the chime and run off, but that would seem like a trick.  Perhaps a message on the comm?

 

As Annika continued to pace and think, her mind busy dreaming up and rejecting several different schemes, the turbolift doors opened soundlessly. The auburn haired passenger froze.  Was that Annika in the corridor?  The blonde hair and curvaceous body could belong to no one else aboard Voyager.

 

For a moment Kathryn paused, drinking in the sight of Annika then she stepped out of the lift and walked up.

 

“Annika?”

 

So absorbed was she in her thinking that Annika didn’t hear the captain until she was standing at her elbow.  She whirled around. 

 

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.”  Janeway laid a hand on Annika’s back.  She could feel the muscles trembling.

 

“No. I mean, yes, I was surprised, happily so.”

 

Kathryn smiled, glad to see the young woman. What in the world was she doing pacing in front of Chakotay’s quarters. Chakotay?  Janeway’s hand dropped to her side.

 

“Were you thinking about visiting Commander Chakotay?”  she asked.

 

“What? No!” Annika said so forcefully that Kathryn couldn’t help breaking into a smile again. “I came to see you, Captain, only I couldn’t decide whether to ring the chime and I see you were not even inside your quarters, so my indecision and confusion were in vain.”

 

“I’ve been working in my ready room,” Kathryn explained, a little confused herself by Seven’s explanation.

 

“Did you have dinner?  You did not come to the mess hall.”

 

“I replicated something…” Kathryn said, touched that Annika would worry about her eating habits. “Let’s go in,” she said, walking down the corridor toward her quarters, where she noticed a purple and green bag in front of the door. Instantly, she tapped her comm badge.

 

“Janeway to Tuvok. Security alert to Deck Three.  Unknown item left in front of the captain’s door.”

 

“No, Captain!”  Annika exclaimed.  “It’s not unknown.  It’s from me.  A gift.”

 

“Security team on its way,” Tuvok replied at the same time.

 

“Tuvok, belay that order,” Janeway barked.  “The object is not suspicious.”

 

“You are certain, Captain?”

 

“Yes, it turned out to be a gift from a friend. Janeway out.”

 

Annika picked up the bag. “I wanted to give this to you earlier,” she explained, “but you didn’t come to the mess hall so I left it here by your door because I didn’t want to disturb you in case you were sleeping. I know you haven’t been getting much sleep lately.”  Her voice trailed off as she became aware of how stupid she must sound.

 

“Come inside,” Kathryn invited, keying in her lock and feeling in the need of a stiff whisky.

 

Annika followed, clutching the bag. 

 

“Sit down, please. Would you like something to drink?”  she called over her shoulder as she headed for the replicator.

 

“Yes, Captain.”

 

“Apple juice?”

 

Annika nodded, pleased the captain had remembered her favorite beverage.   As Kathyn replicated the drinks, she sat down on the couch, recalling vividly the night she had slept over in these quarters.

 

“Here you go.” She looked up to see the captain with her apple juice.

 

“Thank you.”

 

Kathryn sat down beside Annika, her knee lightly brushing the blonde’s.

 

They each took a long swallow of their drinks. 

 

That was much better, Janeway thought as she draped her left arm on the back of the couch.  If Annika leaned all the way back she would be encircled in the redhead’s arm.  Kathryn found that so distracting she quickly moved her arm away.

 

“So you wanted to give me a gift?”

 

“Yes, Captain.  You were having trouble sleeping and you need someone in bed with you, to hold onto until you feel relaxed enough to fall asleep.”

 

“I do?” Kathryn muttered.

 

Sure you do, Kathryn.  And you know who you want to take to bed and not just to hold!

 

Behave yourself, she groaned silently and drank down half her whiskey in one gulp.  As it burned a path down her throat, Annika extended the gift bag shyly.

 

Automatically Kathryn took it and pulled out the stuffed bear. 

 

“What’s this? Pooh wearing four pips, a shell necklace and a blue T shirt?” She couldn’t help laughing at the sight of the bear she had won at the fair.

 

“Yes,” Annika said, pleased at the captain’s reaction.  The blue gray eyes showed much more blue now, a sign that the captain was enjoying herself.  “Pooh helped me fall asleep last night.  Perhaps he will assist you.”

 

“He’s adorable,” Kathryn said, inspecting the bear’s T-shirt.  “But he’s yours.  I gave him to you last night.”

 

“I would like you to keep him tonight, Captain.  We could share him.”

 

“Joint custody, you mean?”  Kathryn teased.

 

“Yes.”

 

Janeway held the bear in her lap, looking very different from her usual command self.  “Should I add him to the crew manifest?”  the captain asked, still in that light-hearted way.

 

“You are joking.”

 

She chuckled.  “Yes, I am.  Thank you, Annika.  This is very sweet of you.”

 

“You will hold him when you fall asleep?”

 

Oh yes, my dear.  That I will.

 

“Yes. With luck he will lull me to sleep, if this whisky doesn’t.”  Her fingers gently stroked the shell necklace.

 

Annika sipped her apple juice, enjoying once more being in the captain’s quarters, which were neat and orderly. The captain looked relaxed and comfortable, although she still wore her uniform.  In the past when she’d visited Janeway the captain had often been reading, relaxed with her tunic off.

 

“Would you like to take your tunic off, Captain?” she blurted out.

 

Janeway spluttered her drink down the front of the tunic in question.  Had Annika just invited her to undress?

 

“I’m sorry?  What did you say?”

 

“I wondered if you would be more comfortable with your tunic off and just in your sweater.  Like Pooh Bear.”

 

“Ah…Well, since it’s got a whisky stain on it at the moment, I might as well,” Janeway agreed.  She unbuttoned her tunic and took it into the ensuite to be recycled.  While there she glanced in the mirror, realizing that in her blue sweater top and with the four pips she did resemble the stuffed bear.

 

“Just where did Pooh’s pips come from?” she asked Annika when she returned to the living area. “Did you replicate them?”

 

“No, Captain.  I already had them.”

 

“In anticipation of being promoted?” she teased.

 

The young woman flushed.  “No, Captain.  Sometimes I’d just find a loose pip on the floor.”

 

“They do have an alarming habit of falling off.  I seem to be replicating them frequently myself.”

 

“I have the same problem with hair pins.”

 

Remembering how she had kept Annika’s hair pins, the captain flushed.  She hid her confusion by asking if her guest would like another apple juice.

 

“No, Captain. I would like to talk instead…”

           

“Of course.” She sat down again, her attention on her guest.  “What about?”

 

“Romantic matters.”  Annika had spent the hours after the picnic reviewing what Celes had told her about playing the field. She felt herself drawn to the captain and enjoyed kissing her more than she had any of her other partners.

 

Janeway held up her hand to forestall any more discussion on this topic. 

           

“Annika…I don’t have any more advice to offer you on romance.  You seem to be doing quite well on your own.”

 

“I am not so sure.”

 

“Oh?” Was that a note of uncertainty in Annika’s voice?

 

“I misunderstood Celes completely when she told me about playing the field.”

 

“Playing the field, you mean dating more than one person at the same time?”

 

The young woman nodded.  “What are your feelings on the matter?”

           

The redhead eyed her empty cocktail glass,  wishing that she had replicated a double. “I suppose it makes sense when you’re young and inexperienced,” Janeway said, truthfully.   “That way you don’t get too serious about someone.”

 

“Why shouldn’t I be getting serious about someone?”

 

“Well, you are young,” the older woman pointed out.  “So perhaps there are advantages to playing the field.”

 

“Do you play the field, Captain?”

 

Kathryn chuckled.  “No.  I tend to be a one man woman.”

 

Annika cocked her head, her blue eyes showing keen interest in the captain’s words.

 

“I couldn’t juggle different romantic suitors if I tried.  So I confess I didn’t try.”

 

“Will you always be a one man woman?”

 

“I think so.”  Not that there was any man on Voyager to interest her.

 

“You wouldn’t be a one woman woman perhaps?” Annika asked innocently.

 

Woman? Did Annika say woman?  Slowly Kathryn lifted her eyes to meet the two pale blue orbs scrutinizing her with an intensity that took her breath away.  “When I said one man, I meant one person,” she clarified.

 

“So you would not be adverse to a relationship, a serious relationship, with a woman.”

 

Hell no! The captain wiped her sweaty palm on her pants leg. Was it her imagination or was Annika’s voice sounding huskier than usual.

 

“Depends on the woman,” she replied softly.  “But I would not be adverse to such a relationship if  I cared about her and she were agreeable to the idea.”

 

Thanks to her Borg implants Annika could detect the rising color in the captain’s cheeks and could hear the accelerated respiration. Her own breathing was becoming more rapid as well.

 

“How would a woman tell you that the idea was agreeable?  Particularly if she were inexperienced in matters of love and romance.”

 

“By taking an interest in things that interested me.”

 

“Such as Velocity.”

 

“Yes. Spending time together, asking me questions…”

 

“Giving gifts…”

 

“Yes…” 

 

“Exchanging kisses…”

 

God yes.

 

Janeway nodded, almost afraid to speak.  Somehow or other Annika was leaning over so close that she could feel the exhalation of her soft breath against one cheek.

 

“May I ask you a question, Kathryn?”

 

“What? Yes…”

 

“Would you like a substitute for Pooh in your bed tonight?” came the shy query.

 

“A substitute?”

 

The tip of a pink tongue lightly touched Annika’s lower lip.  “Myself.”

 

Oh darling.

 

“Annika, do you know what you’re saying?”  Or what you’re doing to me with that tongue.

 

Long languid fingers gently stroked Janeway’s hair, and she leaned into the caress, feeling all the nerves in her body sensitized to the pull of Seven’s hand.

 

“I am asking if you want company in bed.”

 

“Company?”

 

Annika frowned.  Had she made herself unclear?

 

“Do you want me to join you in bed?”

 

Join. Oh yes, in every sense of the word.

 

Giving in to her heart’s desire, Kathryn allowed her own hand to creep along Annika’s strong biceps and she smiled when the young woman shivered. 

 

“Are you displaying an interest in me, Annika?” she asked huskily.

 

“I believe I am…” The blonde leisurely brushed her lips against Kathryn’s, causing a jolt in the pit of the captain’s stomach that traveled down to her toes.

 

“If you are agreeable to the idea,” the young woman murmured.

 

Kathryn’s answer came then, a low growl as she pulled the blonde head closer and hungrily began to kiss her.