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 22

 

The last time Annika had spent the night in the captain’s quarters, she had slept for more than twelve hours.  That appeared unlikely tonight, as she floated in a sea of sensation.  Again and again she found her mouth captured by the captain’s intoxicating kisses that blended soft caresses and ravishing heat.  No words could describe what she was feeling: free, wild, unfettered and yet more deeply connected than she ever dreamed possible.

 

Moaning, she wrapped her long arms around the smaller woman, hanging on for dear life. Instinctively her hips thrust against Kathryn who lay on top of her.  The redhead’s muffled groan against the side of her neck caused Annika to move more vigorously, so vigorously in fact that the two women toppled off the couch and onto the deck.

 

“Ooph…”

 

“Are you all right, Captain?”

 

“Yes,” the older woman replied, rubbing her backside gingerly. She’d taken the brunt of the impact.

 

“Perhaps your bed would be more comfortable for us, Captain?”

 

“When we’re alone like this, call me Kathryn,” Janeway murmured. “And I think you’re right about my bed.”

 

She scrambled to her feet and leaning over kissed Annika again.  Straightening, she tugged her hand. “Come with me…”

 

Smiling at the captain’s eagerness that matched her own, Annika obeyed and moments later the two women were ensconced on the comfortable queen sized bed, the blue Starfleet issued sheets pulled back. Once again Kathryn resumed her position on top, the perfect spot to lean over and tease the young woman, planting kisses up and down the length of her long neck, exploring the tantalizing curve of her ear, and the lush fullness of  pouty lips that she never tired of tasting.

 

Only Kathryn’s command training enabled her to keep the reins on her own raging passions. 

 

Slow down.  It’s not about you tonight. It’s about Annika.

 

For once she was in agreement with her inner voice, determined to make this night of firsts for Annika one that was all pleasure.  She tempered her caresses, making them soothing rather than teasing. 

 

Somewhere between the living room couch and the bed Annika had lost her tunic and like Kathryn was clad only in her sweater and pants.  Deliberately, Kathryn stroked the soft breasts through the cloth, circling the nipples lightly with a fingertip, a movement that brought a ragged groan from Annika.  Smiling, Kathryn bent her head and brushed her nose against the cloth, nuzzling the sensitized flesh.

 

Annika had thought the captain’s kisses on the Ferris wheel had sparked the most electric of responses in her body.  That had been an error.  What she was feeling now was far more explosive…what the starship itself must experience when it shot from impulse to warp. 

 

The clothes were getting in the way.  Growling, Kathryn lifted her head and gathered the bottom of the sweater in her hands.  She pulled it up then yanked it off the blonde’s shoulders. The Starfleet issued bra followed.  And then there was just Annika’s sweet tender flesh displayed for her eyes only.  Beautiful, so beautiful.  Kathryn felt her throat tighten and tears well in her eyes.

 

Annika fought the urge to cover herself,  not just her breasts that jutted up in the night air and which the captain was touching softly and gently, but her implants as well.  To her relief Janeway did not appear in the least repulsed by the silver and blue metal bands on her stomach or the starburst implant on her biceps.  Delicate fingertips trailed over them, and auburn hair dipped as the captain’s tongue lightly surveyed the terrain in front of her, her touches sparking a desperate need in Annika.

 

“Wait…”

           

The single syllable pierced the haze of the captain’s rising desire.  She drew back, panting.  Wait?  Had Annika changed her mind?  Was she moving too fast for the young woman?

 

“You want to stop?” she asked, almost trembling with the effort to speak.  “Just give me a moment.”

 

“No!”  Annika grabbed Kathryn’s hand and pressed it hard against her breast.  “I don’t want you to stop…I just wanted…” her voice trailed off, shy again.

 

Kathryn lifted the young woman’s chin gently with her fingers and gazed into the blue eyes that darkened with desire.  She hadn’t misread this, thank God. 

 

“What do you want, my darling?” she asked.  “Tell me.  Whatever you want me to do tonight, just tell me.  I will.”

 

The enormity of the moment took Annika’s breath away. The woman in front of her was a starship captain who had fought and vanquished countless Delta Quadrant species.  She who commanded so many was willing to be commanded tonight.  By her. Annika flushed, aware of the inner tingling Kathryn’s words caused.

 

“I just wanted you to take off your sweater too…” she said softly.

 

Janeway’s blue eyes glinted with pleasure.  “Whatever you want, my darling.”  She yanked off her sweater and tossed it off the bed. 

 

“The bra too?”  Annika asked.

 

“Would you like to take it off me?” Kathryn asked huskily.

 

Shyness gone, the young woman didn’t hesitate in copying the captain’s previous move and pulled the bra straps down but the sight of the small and perfectly formed breasts gave her pause.  With a sigh, she bent her head and the tip of a tongue lightly grazed a nipple.  Shivering,  Kathryn clutched Annika’s head to her chest.

 

Whatever I want, Kathryn?  Just you, only you.

 

Sometime later, much later, Kathryn Janeway fell into a deep and soundless sleep.

 

*******

 

“The time is 0600 hours,” the computer announced.

 

Automatically Kathryn rolled over, only to find herself being held down to the bed by the weight of a lanky leg thrown over her hip. 

 

To her right Annika lay, dozing, the soft breath tickling Janeway’s ear.  Oh my darling.  Kathryn gave into temptation and leaned over to kiss the starburst implant on her cheek.  It wasn’t just a dream.  It had really happened. She felt sticky and satiated and a little sore, her six years of celibacy having ended gloriously when she and Annika had made love, but now what?

 

Still trying to navigate the consequences of her actions, she drew the sheet over Annika and tucked it around her own breasts.  In truth she didn’t want to think.  She just wanted to sink back in bed and wrap herself around Annika.

 

“What is the matter?” a voice asked.

           

She turned her head to her right.  Annika had awakened, blonde hair spilling over her shoulders, her lips slightly swollen from the hours of love making through the night.  She was like sun shining on the cornfields back home in Indiana.

 

“Nothing whatever is the matter.”

 

Kathryn leaned over and kissed her on the lips firmly.

 

“Were you having second thoughts about last night?”  Annika whispered, her metal tipped fingers lightly circling the captain’s back. 

 

She should be asking that of Annika, Kathryn realized.

 

“Are you?” she countered.

 

“No.  I am with the one I love.  The experience was far greater than I ever anticipated.”

 

Kathryn couldn’t help a glow of self-satisfaction as she threaded her fingers through the blonde hair.  

 

“I feel the same way.”  To hell with Starfleet protocol.  She had no regrets.

 

Annika drew her closer and Kathryn sighed, relaxing into the welcome embrace. Under her cheek, she felt the young woman’s heart beating, steady and sure.

 

“I don’t want to leave this bed.”

 

“Then don’t. You’re the captain.”

 

She laughed.  “Contrary to what the crew may think, captains don’t just sleep in whenever they want.”

 

“Why not?  The ship is in no danger.  Chakotay is capable of commanding it for a day or two.”

 

Her young lover was right.  Janeway couldn’t remember the last time she had taken any personal time.  Chakotay had done so yesterday.  Why shouldn’t she spend the rest of the day relaxing with Annika? 

 

“Computer, log the captain off duty for the next twenty-four hours and put a privacy seal on my communicator. Emergency override only.”

 

“Understood.”

 

“And also log Annika Hansen off duty today, Captain’s direct order.”

 

“Understood.”

 

“You are taking me off duty today?”  Annika asked.

 

“It was your idea.”

 

“It was my idea that you should sleep in today…not that I should be given a day off.”

 

Janeway was pleased to see such devotion to duty.  “I know, darling.  But I won’t sleep a wink without you in bed with me.”

 

“You didn’t sleep much when I was in bed last night.”

 

The captain’s lopsided grin was her only reply.  She settled back down in bed happily enjoying the sensation of a warm naked body next to hers. Oh my, yes indeed, she could get accustomed to having this one around her quarters.

 

“Will Celes worry that you didn’t return to your quarters last night?” she asked suddenly thinking of the blonde’s roommate.

 

“I see no reason why she would. The computer will inform her about my whereabouts.”

 

Oh God.  It would at that.  It would inform Neelix too.  Annika Hansen is in the Captain’s quarters. 

 

Half the ship must know that Annika had spent the night with her.

 

Well, so what. 

 

She had begun a relationship with Annika and she wasn’t about to end it.

 

“Are you hungry, Kathryn?” Annika asked, trying to determine the captain’s mood. 

 

“Yes, I believe I am.”

 

“Shall I replicate something for you?”  She started to rise from the bed, only to find a hand clamping on her wrist and drawing her back.

 

“I’m hungry, but not for food.”

 

“Oh?”  Annika shivered as the captain’s hands began to wandering.

 

“Hmmm….Do you mind if I explore what’s on the menu?”  Kathryn asked as she sucked on ripe  earlobe.

 

“Exploration is the Starfleet way,” Annika murmured, lacing her fingers around the auburn head.

 

*******

 

In the astrometrics lab Lt. Vorick was reviewing long range sensor readings from the night before.  As a rule this department was not manned continually the way that other departments were.  Long range scanners could be set and the results compiled for the morning.  Since becoming head of astrometrics the Vulcan generally looked over the data in the morning, downloading it to his console.  There was nothing remarkable in the data stream until he came across the last three hours.

 

The captain would definitely want to see this.  He touched his comm badge.

 

“Vorick to the captain.”

 

“Privacy seal is in place. Emergency override only,” the computer replied.

 

The Vulcan evaluated this news judiciously.  His request could not be considered an emergency, and yet time was of the essence.  They had already lost three hours and the ship was rapidly moving out of range.  He touched his communicator again.

 

“Vorick to the bridge.”

 

“Chakotay here.” 

Good. Chakotay was in the captain’s chair and not Kim. That simplified matters.

 

“Commander, long range scanners have detected something that the captain needs to see however she has an emergency override on her communicator,” Vorick said.

 

“Send the information to my console, Lieutenant.”

 

“Sending it now, Commander.”

On the bridge, Chakotay stared at his console, a frown crossing his broad face as he interpreted the material that the long range sensors had found. He rubbed the tattoo over his eye.  The Vulcan had been right.  Janeway would want to see this. 

 

And yet he hesitated to interrupt her private time.  Not only was Kathryn taking a personal day, but so was Annika.  He’d discovered as much when he’d stopped in the mess hall for breakfast.  Were the two women planning to spend the day off together?

 

He really had no choice.  Janeway might be annoyed, but she’d thank him later.

 

“Chakotay to Janeway.”

 

“Privacy seal is in place.  Emergency override only,” the computer announced.

“Computer, override, authorization Chakotay alpha-seven-five-gamma-four.”

 

From his station at tactical Commander Tuvok lifted his head, but his expression remained impassive. 

 

“Privacy seal is overridden,” the computer replied.

 

Kathryn Janeway moaned as she felt the sweet tension building up within her body.  It had been a slow easy climb as Annika had led her unerringly toward her peak. The sheer artistry of the blonde’s touch belied her lack of experience in bedroom. In just a few seconds Kathry would reach the summit.  She licked her lips as firm hands cupped her buttocks and a lanky thigh moved forcefully against her. 

 

“Chakotay to Janeway.”

 

The two women froze as Chakotay’s hail came through.

 

“Kathryn?” Annika asked, uncertainly, gazing down at the woman under her then quickly rolled off.

 

No. No. No!  Kathryn snatched her comm badge from her night stand.  This was not happening to her!! She felt the urge to hurl the badge against the bulk head.  Did her First Officer not understand the meaning of the words emergency only?  She had not heard any red alert klaxon.  So unless aliens had taken over the bridge Chakotay should not be contacting her.  Unless, dammit, he knew Annika was with her.

 

“Janeway here,” she said, her arctic tones making plain her displeasure at the interruption.

 

“Captain, I apologize for overriding your privacy command.”

 

“Is there a red alert, Commander?”  she snapped.

 

“No, Captain.”

 

“An emergency?”

 

“No, Captain.”

 

“Then why are you interrupting me?”  she fumed.

 

Annika lay next to her, the blonde hair like a golden fan on the pillow.

 

“There’s an astrometrics scan that needs your attention.”

 

She gave a huff of disgust.  Astrometrics scan.  “Deal with it. You’re my executive officer.”

 

“I’d do that, Captain, except my decision concerning the information could be markedly different than yours,” he warned.

 

Oh? What the hell did that mean?

 

“Notify astrometrics I’ll be down to the lab shortly,” she replied. “Janeway out.”

 

She swung her legs off the side of the bed.  “I’m sorry, darling.  I’d better see what has Chakotay so concerned.”

 

“I will get dressed as well.”

 

Kathryn pushed her gently back onto the bed.  “You stay right where you are.  I want to think of you lying in bed, waiting for me to return.”

 

Annika’s blue eyes narrowed and she licked her lips. “Of course, Kathryn.”

 

Ho boy.  Janeway got out of the bed while she still could walk and escaped into the hydroshower.  She’d need to wash the scent of lovemaking away or everyone she encountered would know what she’d been up to. As she slid a bar of soap up her leg, she thought it a pity that Annika couldn’t join her in the shower, although if she did Kathyrn would never make it to astrometrics.  Maybe later.  That was something to look forward to.

 

She dressed quickly, running her fingers through her damp auburn tresses then padded over to the blonde waiting patiently on her bed. 

 

“I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

 

Annika pulled her in for a good bye kiss, long and leisurely and full of promise.  In the turbolift Janeway touched her fingertips to her lips, still tasting Seven there.  Warmth spread through her body and she couldn’t help grinning as she stepped out onto Deck Eight.  Foruntately no one noticed and by the time she made her way into astrometrics her command mask was back in place.

 

Tal Celes gave her a shy dip of the head and she wondered if the Bajoran knew where her roommate had spent the night.  Too late now.  She’d deal with that later. Spotting Lt. Vorick, she went over to his console.

 

“Report!”

 

“Long range sensors have detected a planet set to the parameters you previously requested, Captain,” Vorick said.

 

“Parameters?”

 

He gazed impassively at her.  “The Builders, Captain.”

 

The Builders.  The nomads who had built the temples on the planet where Seven had been altered months ago.

 

“Show me.”

 

A click of a button and the projections came to life on the screen.

 

“It is a small M class planet. If you wish to investigate the planet we must correct our flight path.”

 

Kathryn moved quickly to his console, double checking the data.  It would seem that the Builders had left their calling card on the planet.

 

“The last planet in the binary cluster about the size of Mars,” she said almost talking to herself.  “Sensor readings on the other planets are negative.”

 

“Yes, Captain.”

 

It was a long shot, and one they’d have to take if they wanted Seven of Nine restored to herself.

 

“At warp three we would be at the planet in nine hours, Captain.  At warp four we would be there in two hours.”

 

Kathryn thought of the woman waiting for her in her quarters.  She would need time to explain things to Annika. 

 

Or maybe just to have a final opportunity to make love to her?

 

She tapped her comm badge.

 

“Captain to the bridge.  Helm, lay in a course to the planet at the coordinates Lt. Vorick will relay to you.  Warp four.”

 

“Aye, Captain,” Tom Paris replied.

 

She left astrometrics.  In two hours they would be at the planet.  They had a chance to get Seven of Nine back to her old self.  Only what did this mean to Annika Hansen.  And what did this mean to their new found love.    

           

             

Chapter 23

 

“Why are you making me do this, Kathryn?” the blonde cried out.  “I don’t understand.” Standing in the living room, dressed in her blue Starfleet uniform, Annika blinked back furious tears.

 

Dismayed at the sight of the distressed young woman, Janeway reached out and squeezed her shoulder lightly.  “Darling,  I’m not ordering you to go down to the planet.  I just thought it might get you back to your old self again.”

 

Annika searched the captain’s face, trying to decipher the expression there.

 

An hour ago Kathryn had returned to her quarters and the blonde had expected that they would make love, not to be told about the possibility of an away mission for her to another planet. 

 

“My old self?” she asked now.

 

“The way you were before you were altered during shore leave,” Janeway said gently.  She had informed Annika about the astrometrics scan but much of the scientific information had gone over her head.

 

“I don’t want to go to the planet,” came the stubborn reply.  “I want to stay here with you and make love.”  She wrapped her long arms around the smaller woman and nuzzled her hair.

 

Kathryn couldn’t help smiling, tempted to do just what Annika had asked.  Tenderly she stroked the other woman’s cheek.  “I’d like that too, darling, but we can’t right now.  The ship will be in orbit over the planet shortly.  I have to be on the bridge and make preparations.”

 

“For my away mission?”

 

“No. Chakotay will take the first away team to scout the area and make sure it is safe. I need to be on the bridge for that.  Once he returns with his report you could go down to the planet, if you decide you want to. I can come with you if you’d like.”

 

Annika shivered.  She didn’t want to go down to the planet, although Kathryn seemed to want her to and as captain Janeway was accustomed to getting her way.  She gnawed on her lower lip, not understanding why this planet was so important. 

 

She didn’t want things to change between them, and if she went down to the planet they would.  She would become that other person. The Borg.  Seven of Nine. The one many on the ship feared and disliked. 

 

“Do you wish me to do this, Kathryn?”

 

Janeway lifted her head and stared intently into the pale blue eyes.  “It’s not a question of what I want, Annika.  It’s what would be best for you.”

 

“And you think becoming this other person, Seven of Nine, is best for me?”

 

The captain hesitated.  She had been so caught up in the possibility of restoring Annika to herself that she did not expect an argument.  Odd the way Annika talked about Seven as though she were a separate identity from her own.  Once before Janeway had struggled with the question of two entities in one body when Tuvok and Neelix had been joined into Tuvix.  It was one of the hardest decisions of her life to terminate Tuvix and regain Tuvok and Neelix. 

 

“Seven of Nine is who you were, Annika.  Just the way she was once Annika Hansen.  I know it’s difficult to understand.  Down on the planet there’s a chance for you to be re-integrated with all your memories, both Borg and human.”

 

“Borg,” Annika shuddered.  “I don’t want to be Borg again, Kathryn.  How can you even think I would want to be Seven of Nine again.”  Her tone was angry, argumentative, as she broke free of the captain’s embrace.

 

“Darling…”

           

“You liked Seven of Nine better than me,” Annika accused.

 

What? Where did that come from?  “That’s not true.  You don’t understand.  Let me explain it again.”

           

“I understand that you wish I were smarter the way she was.”

 

“There is no she.” Janeway was starting to feel exasperated.  “You and Seven are the same person.” 

 

Annika shook her head.  “I do not want to change.  If I change you will not love me.”

 

“Is that what you’re worried about?”  Kathryn put her arm around the blonde’s shoulder. “Darling, I will not stop loving you.  I promise.”  She kissed her slowly.

 

Annika returned the kiss with every ounce of strength in her body.  She couldn’t bear it if Kathryn didn’t love her any more.  

 

“Did you love me as Seven of Nine?”  she asked in a small voice.

 

“Yes,” Kathryn admitted.  “I never told you so.  However I did love you very much.”

 

“You didn’t make love to me then?”

 

“No.”

 

“Why not?”

 

“Our relationship had not progressed that far.”

 

Annika mulled that over for a moment, feeling a momentary satisfaction that in one thing she was the superior to this Seven of Nine. 

 

“She did not wish the relationship to continue.  She thought it against Starfleet protocols,” the blonde said slowly.  “I remember that much.”

 

“Yes.”  Kathryn said, remembering too how much that rejection had hurt.

 

Annika searched her eyes as if recalling the pain she had inflicted.  “I will not change back.  I will not lose you, Kathryn.  You cannot ask that of me.”

 

“You will not lose me.  I will still be here, loving you.”

 

The pale face was unconvinced and Janeway realized that the young woman was adamant in refusing to go down to the planet..  Nothing she said would make any difference.  She had never gone head to head with such stubbornness since…well since Seven of Nine had transported that member of Species 8472 to the Hirogen hunters.

 

“I need to be on the bridge,” she said finally.

 

“I will be in the mess hall, Captain.”

 

“Fine.”

 

Annika hesitated then she reached over and kissed Kathryn goodbye.

 

*******

 

Tuvok directed the phaser fire into the jungle brush, clearing a path for the away team to walk on.  The vegetation had been lush, reminiscent of earth’s Jurassic period.  He was just hoping that the creatures that had roamed earth during that time period were not roaming this planet. 

 

Tricorder readings showed an oxygen and nitrogen atmosphere that would be conducive to higher forms of being.  There was abundant plant life.

 

“So where are the people?” Ayala asked.

 

“The scans indicated no sentient life forms,” Tuvok said.

 

Next to him, Chakotay was slapping a bug off his arm.  Though higher forms of animal life were scarce, the lower ones had multiplied.  Or maybe it was the opposite.  The lower ones had taken over from the higher forms.

 

Tuvok followed the tricorder readings toward a small clearing.

 

“Find anything?” Chakotay asked.

 

The Vulcan shook his head.  “There is a clearing but no temple.”

 

“Maybe the Builders didn’t get to the building stage and had to be shooed away.”

 

“Perhaps.”

 

“We could always make a wish and see what happens,” Ayala said.

 

Chakotay jerked his head up.  “Don’t even joke about such things.”

 

“It is not necessarily a joke,” Tuvok said.  “We could make such a wish and see what happens.”

 

“Such as?”

 

“Such as finding a wormhole to take us back to the Alpha Quadrant.”

 

“I wish we found a wormhole to take the ship back to Earth,” Chakotay said aloud.

 

Nothing happened. 

 

“Not that we expected anything of that magnitude,” Tuvok explained later during the debriefing to Janeway in her ready room.  Chakotay as the away team leader had submitted his report, however Kathryn wanted Tuvok’s slant on things. 

 

“So you think this detour was all for naught?”  Kathryn asked, conscious of two conflicting emotions warring inside of her: disappointment and relief. 

 

“I believe the Builders left residue of themselves on the planet, which accounts for the sensor readings  However they did not leave behind a temple such as the one we found on the other planet.”

 

“So this was just a wild goose chase,” Kathryn said disgustedly.  She had raised her own hopes and frightened Annika all for nothing.

 

“Not entirely.  The planet does possess some rich stores of deuterium and an abundant supply of plant life.  Mr. Neelix seemed eager to go down to the planet with Samantha Wildman and take samplings for his hydroponic garden.”

 

“Is the planet safe for such a mission?”

 

“Yes, Captain.”

 

“Then I’ll grant Neelix his permission.”

 

*******

“Can I come too?” Naomi asked, helping Neelix find his backpack for the away mission. It was tucked away on the bottom shelf in the galley.  “I’m writing a paper on the Jurassic period on Earth and it would be good to go to a planet like that.”

 

“I don’t know.  It depends on what your mother says,” Neelix said, opening up the bag and wrinkling up his nose.  “I guess it’s been a while since I last used this backpack.”

 

“I replicated a couple of new ones, Neelix,” Samantha Wildman said as she came into the galley.  She handed him one. “And what’s this about something depending on what I say?”

 

“Naomi wanted to go down to the planet with us,” the Talaxian explained.

 

“Can I, Mom?” Naomi wheedled.

 

“I don’t know if it’s safe enough.”

 

“If it’s safe enough for you and Neelix to go to, it’s safe enough for me,” Naomi said.

 

A quick check with Commander Tuvok indicated that the planet held no hostile creatures.  A security detail would accompany them to the planet and stand by just in case while they gathered the plant specimens they needed.

 

“All right, you can come with us..  But don’t wander off.”

                       

“Yaaay!”  Naomi clapped her hands.  “Maybe Annika would like to go too,” Naomi said, seeing her tall friend at one of the tables in the mess hall.

 

“Go where?” Annika asked, looking at the three of them with their back packs.

           

“We are going on an away mission,” Naomi announced.  “To get plants for the garden.  Do you want to come with us?”

 

“No. I don’t wish to go near that planet.”

 

The girl frowned.  “Why not?”

 

“I just don’t, that’s all.”

 

“You’ll be in charge of the mess hall while I’m gone,” Neelix said.

 

“Fine.  Be careful down there…” she said. 

 

“We will,” Neelix said.

 

 Naomi was thinking of Annika’s parting remarks as they materialized on the planet. 

 

“Why would Annika say for us to be careful?”

 

“Probably because of the Builders,” Neelix said, taking his tricorder out and pointing it west where the scouting team had mentioned the vegetation was most abundant.  “Those were the aliens that built the temples on the planets we encountered a while back.”

 

“The one that Tuvok and Annika visited?”

 

“Yes…Oh…look…those are big mushrooms.”  He chortled as he went over to a cluster around a tree. 

 

“They could be poisonous, Neelix,” Samantha warned.

 

“They could also be truffles.  A type of mushroom that grows around the bark of earth’s trees.  It’s supposed to be a delicacy.”

 

“It looks disgusting,” Naomi volunteered.

 

“Before I’m finished cooking with them they’ll look less disgusting,” he predicted.  “I’ll take a few and run some scans when we get back.”

 

For half an hour the three of them gathered different types of plants.  They found one that grew a small fruit, similar to blue berries. 

 

“I know one plant the captain wishes we would find down here,”  Neelix said.

 

“What’s that?” Naomi asked.  She was getting a little tired and sipped water from her canteen.

 

“Coffee plant like the ones they grow back on earth.”

 

“Is coffee a plant?”

 

Her mother nodded.  “It’s a bean actually and grown on tall trees.”

 

 “Well, maybe we should wish for some coffee,” Neelix said.

 

Naomi closed her eyes. “Good idea.  I’ll do it. I wish we could find some real earth coffee trees for Captain Janeway.”

 

She opened her eyes.  “Any coffee trees around?”

 

“Not around here,” Samantha noted.

 

The three of them continued to pick out the edible plants or those which might possibly survive transplanting in the nursery on Voyager.  Naomi enjoyed her time in the fresh air…even though she had to scramble up the narrow pathway.  She watched Neelix use a phaser to clear more foliage.

 

“It’s almost time for our beam out,” Neelix said, lifting the heavy basket holding the plants they had gathered. 

 

“You’ll have new plants to catalog and learn about this week, Naomi,” Samantha said.

 

“But not on Thursday, Mom.  Annika promised that she’d play kodiskot with me.  If she remembers that is.”

 

“She’s getting better about remembering,” Neelix said.  “She hasn’t missed a kodiskot game in over a week.”

 

“I guess.  But her memory is nothing like it used to be.”  Naomi closed her eyes, remembering how Annika used to show up unfailingly for each kodiskot game with her.  That was when she was still Seven of Nine of course.  In some ways Naomi wished Seven were back, still human like Annika but also Borg.

 

“Naomi, we have to hurry.”

 

“Sure, Mom.”

 

******

 

In the mess hall Annika was dishing out a macaroni salad to the crewman standing in front of her when she felt a wave of dizziness come over her and blinked to clear her vision.  Things were still not clear…in fact she saw everything now with a distinct green light. 

 

“Annika, run out of pasta?” Someone asked.

 

She stared as Ensign Kim’s features realigned themselves.  “Why are you calling me by my human designation?” she demanded.

 

Harry grinned.  “Good one, Annika.”

 

She felt her head pounding and her heart was beating faster than it should.  Must get to sickbay….she thought before she fainted to the floor.

 

“Annika!” Kim exclaimed and leaped over the counter. He tapped his comm badge.  “Emergency. Two to beam to sickbay.”

 

They materialized in sickbay and the EMH hurried over, tricorder in hand.

 

“What happened?” he demanded.

 

“She just collapsed in the mess hall,” Kim replied.

 

“No wonder with the type of food Mr. Neelix prepares… Help me get her onto a biobed.” 

 

Kim carried Annika over to a biobed, then the Doctor frowned as he ran a medical probe over her.

 

“What’s happening, Doc?”

 

“It’s her Borg implants.  They’ve been dormant for three months and now they have suddenly gone active again.”

 

“What does that mean?”

 

“That means that they may take over her human organs,” he muttered, reaching for a hypospray. “Unless I can get her nanoprobes to restore order to her body.”

 

The door to sickbay hissed open and he looked up briefly to see the captain.  News of Annika’s collapse in sick bay had made its way to the bridge and she had practically sprinted down the corridor of Deck Five.

 

“Report.”

           

“Annika’s Borg implants suddenly decided to revive themselves, Captain. I’m attempting to use her nanoprobes to slow the revival process.”

 

Kathryn stroked the blonde hair that had fallen over the young woman’s forehead.

 

“Will she be all right?”

 

“She should be,” the EMH said, nodding in satisfaction. “I have slowed the process.  It is curious that they should suddenly start functioning actively after not functioning for so many months.”

 

“Maybe there is a limit for how long they can be inactive before a fail safe mechanism kicks in.”

 

“Perhaps.  Her Borg systems were always functioning though, Captain. It was an autonomic feature of her nervous system.  I think if we can get her into her Borg alcove for a regeneration cycle that should keep this from happening again.”

 

“Let’s do it.”

 

Kathryn tapped her comm badge.  “Two to beam to Cargo Bay Two.”

 

A moment after materializing there the captain saw the shimmer of the EMH’s program.

 

“Allow me, Captain.”  Since he was a hologram, he was able to carry Annika over to the alcove and set her upright while the captain set the regeneration controls.

 

“I only hope that she can regenerate,” Kathryn said, remembering the last time Annika had tried to regenerate and failed.  Months ago it had been, after shore leave on the planet. 

 

Shore leave.  And they were in orbit over a planet where the Builders had been at one time in their history. 

 

“It’s working,” the Doctor said, smiling gleefully at the captain.  “Of course, I knew it would.”

 

“Good.” The captain nodded and headed off.  She would need to speak to Tuvok and find out if anything had happened down on the planet.

 

 

Chapter Twenty-Four

 

“Regeneration cycle complete.”

 

Seven of Nine opened her eyes to find herself standing in her Borg alcove in Cargo Bay 2. Always after a regeneration sequence she felt invigorated, her respiratory and circulatory systems functioning at optimum efficiency.

 

As her optical implant made a visual sweep of the cargo bay, she noticed a small woman dozing in a chair near the storage bins.  Recognition was immediate. Captain Janeway.  Kathryn.  Odd. Seven knew that on occasion the captain watched her regenerate, but to find her asleep in the cargo bay was highly unusual, moreover when Seven stepped closer to the captain to investigate she discovered another oddity. She had on black boots and the blue uniform of a Starfleet science officer instead of her usual high heels and biometric outfit. Clearly something was not right.

 

Alerted by the silence as the alcove shut off, the captain stirred. The sensation of a shadow looming over her brought her to full consciousness. Annika. She let out a sigh of relief when she recognized the young woman standing with head cocked to one side, hands clasped behind her back. 

 

“Annika, how are you feeling?” Quickly she sprang up from the chair.

 

“I am functioning within acceptable parameters,” came the reply, then the blonde frowned.  That sounded somewhat awkward. She tried again.  “I am feeling all right.”

 

“Good.  Darling, I was so worried.  Do you remember what happened?”

 

Seven lifted her chin. Was the captain implying that her eidetic memory was malfunctioning?  “I was at my duty station in the mess hall,” she began then paused.  Odd.  Astrometrics was her usual duty station, not the mess hall.

 

“Yes,” Kathryn prompted, her blue gray eyes never leaving Seven’s face.

 

“I was placing food onto a tray for Ensign Kim when my equilibrium became unbalanced and I lost consciousness.  I remember nothing more until one minute and forty-two seconds ago.”

 

“Ensign Kim transported you immediately to sickbay,” Kathryn took up the tale.  “The EMH found that your Borg implants were becoming overactive.  He inserted fresh nanoprobes to get your physiology aligned again.  We managed to get you into the alcove to regenerate.”

 

“Indeed.” Seven accessed her cortical node to run a quick diagnostic of her systems. “How long did I regenerate, Captain?”

 

“Twenty-eight hours.”

 

Twenty-eight? That was far longer than her customary period of three to four hours. Why such a long period of regeneration?  Had she skipped a cycle? If so, this might relate to her bout of unconsciousness.

 

Swiftly she checked the history log near the regeneration controls, frowning when she saw the date of her last regeneration. This had to be in error.  The log stated that she had not regenerated for more than 92 days. 

 

Seven accessed her eidetic memory, amazed to discover that there were memory files that she had not accessed before.  Many recent ones had to do with the captain.

 

“I have not regenerated in 92 days,” she declared now, her voice flat and devoid of emotion.

 

“Yes, darling.  The Doctor believes that after such a long period of inactivity your Borg implants needed to be activated again.  Don’t worry, Annika.  We won’t let that happen again.  You’re all right.”  Kathryn laid a hand on Seven’s forearm, a gesture intended to comfort.  Instead the young woman pulled away.

 

“Captain, why do you call me by my human designation?”  she demanded.  And what was this darling?  The captain did not usually call her by any endearment.

 

“It’s your name,” Kathryn said slowly. Something was different in Annika. Was it just the regeneration cycle after so long that left her out of sorts?

 

“From the time I have come aboard Voyager I have requested that you refer to me as Seven of Nine.”  The words were clipped, the tone almost a monotone.

 

A bleak expression crossed the captain’s face.  Annika did not usually reference the period when she had come aboard Voyager.  That had been one of the memories she had lost.

 

“Recently you requested that we address you as Annika Hansen.”

 

Seven lifted an eyebrow, and  Kathryn felt a chill skitter along her spine.  She knew that arched eyebrow and haughty expression.  This wasn’t Annika Hansen she was talking to.  This was Seven of Nine.

 

“However if you prefer, we will call you Seven again,” she said with a calm she was far from feeling.

 

“Good,” Seven said brusquely.  She would function better now that she had her correct designation again.  And she would function even more efficiently once she was out of this blue uniform. “I must change. I am not a member of Starfleet and should not wear its uniform.”

 

“You can if you like.  You fit it well,” Kathryn said. 

 

“My biometric outfits are environmentally controlled and they are more efficient.” 

 

Janeway couldn’t argue that point since she had a partiality herself for the skin fitting biometric outfits.

 

Seven marched to the small corner of the cargo bay where she kept her personal belongings and clothing and found them missing.

 

“Where are my things?”  she demanded.

 

“They are in your quarters on Deck Nine,” Janeway replied quietly, still trying to determine how much of Annika remained with the young woman.

 

Deck Nine.  Seven accessed her recent memory files having to do with living quarters.

 

“I share my quarters with Tal Celes,” she said, turning to the captain again.

 

The redhead nodded.

 

“I sleep there.”

 

Another nod.

 

“I also sleep in your quarters.”

 

Color rose high in the captain’s cheeks, even as she attempted not to blush.  “Yes, you do.  I mean, you have slept in my quarters on two occasions.”

 

“The last as recently as 48 hours ago,” Seven said, regarding her the way she might a spatial anomaly.

 

“That’s right,” Kathryn said.  She met Seven’s gaze squarely.  She had done absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about. 

 

With Borg like efficiency Seven searched the memory files having to do with sleeping and realized that she and the captain had done more than sleep in her quarters.  They had copulated.  She tilted her head and examined the compact woman standing in front of her.  As she thought of the lithe body hidden under the command red, she felt a sudden inner tingling in her own body. 

 

 “I must report for duty,” she announced suddenly, breaking eye contact.

 

She turned and started toward the cargo bay doors. 

 

“What about your change of clothes?”  Kathryn asked, following.

 

Did the captain wish to see her change?  Seven felt another inner tingle at the idea of disrobing in front of her.

 

“For now I shall wear the uniform. I must report to astrometrics.”

 

“I’ll walk you there.”

 

“It is 1015 hours, Captain.  You are needed on the bridge.”

 

“I think Chakotay has matters well in hand there,” Janeway said, wanting to be in astrometrics in case Seven should react badly to the changes there.

 

Kathryn was Voyager’s captain so Seven had no option but to comply. Her initial uneasiness disappeared as they walked down the corridor. Several members of the crew smiled at her as they passed.  Usually people were less animated when they saw her in public, unless this politeness was extended to her because of the captain proximity.

 

The turbo lift arrived and Seven followed Janeway in.

 

“Deck eight.”  The lift started its ascent.

 

“Lt. Vorick works in astrometrics now,” the captain said conversationally.  Might as well prepare Seven for some of the changes in her department.

 

Seven was acquainted with the Vulcan’s work habits from the time she had spent in engineering working on projects together.  He was efficient.

 

“The ensign has received a promotion,” she commented.

 

“Er, yes.” 

 

“He will make a welcome addition to the department. I am surprised that Lt. Torres would part with an engineer of his expertise.”

 

Kathryn laughed.  “Not willingly.  I forced her hand.”

 

Seven glanced down at her two appendages.  “Oh?”  She looked over at Kathryn the way she had in the past when she did not understand something.

 

“I made her choose someone from engineering to help out in astrometrics,” the captain explained.  “Vorick was her choice.”

 

Seven appeared annoyed with the idea of astrometrics needing more help.  But it was understandable.

 

 “Tal Celes does not do her share. I have tried to work with her before.”

 

“Actually, Seven, Vorick was performing your duties not Tal’s.”

 

Seven stiffened, her expression of outrage easily readable.  Was the captain implying that her performance was insufficient?

 

“Explain!”

 

Oh no.  She wasn’t about to have an angry ex-Borg barking orders at her.  “Computer, halt turbolift,” Janeway commanded.  As the lift settled in between decks, she faced Seven, hands on hips.

 

“Do you remember going for shore leave with Commander Tuvok?” Her command tone punctuated her words. One way to get Seven’s attention.  It worked.  The ex-Borg nodded.

 

“My punishment for fighting with Crewman Harren.”

 

“Do you remember what you did on shore leave?”

 

“Tuvok meditated at the temples.  I waited for him and stood guard.”

 

“And when he emerged from his meditation, what did you do?’

 

“I picked some flowers along the trail and then we went back to the seashore and I picked some shells…” Seven’s voice trailed away.  She did not usually spend her time in such frivolous activities.  It was inefficient.  She began to access her memory files of shore leave and became disturbed by what she found.

 

Kathryn could see the consternation on Seven’s face. 

 

“I do not understand.  I remember coming back to Voyager and other activities.  But it is as though the memories are from someone else.” Like the memories of those she had assimilated while a Borg.  “Is this another personality disorder, Captain?” she demanded.

 

“No, Seven.” Kathryn gentled her interrogation.

 

“Then what has happened to me?”

 

“An alien race called the Builders constructed temples on that planet and others,” Kathryn kept her voice soft.  “These sites have the ability to grant the heart’s desire of visitors. Do you remember making a wish of any sort while waiting for Tuvok?”

 

Seven thought back.  “It was not a wish I uttered out loud.”

 

“It did not need to be spoken aloud.  As long as you felt it or wanted something very much that may have been enough.”

 

“I remember wanting to be more human less Borg.”

 

 “That would explain what happened to you,” Kathryn said. At least one mystery was solved. “You did become more human, considerably more human.  You became the human being you always were.  Annika Hansen.”

 

Seven considered the captain’s words, trying to reconcile them with her memory files.

 

“Annika Hansen is who I became during my period of non-regeneration?”

 

“Yes.  You were so human you didn’t need to regenerate.  In fact, you couldn’t.  You didn’t know how. Your Borg enhancements functioned automatically but not from any conscious effort on your part.  And during this period you didn’t remember your knowledge from the Borg.  Hence you were not able to perform adequately in astrometrics.”

 

Anger flashed in Seven’s blue eyes at the notion of being inadequate in any capacity. 

 

“So you appointed Vorick head of astrometrics?”

 

“With Lt. Torres’s input.”

 

“Lt. Vorick can step down. I am fully cognizant of all matters relating to astrometrics now.  I shall resume my duties as department head.”

 

The Borg had returned and wanted her old job back.  Kathryn wasn’t so sure that was a good idea.  Not until she found out what had caused Annika to revert back to Seven of Nine.

 

“For the time being you and Vorick will share responsibilities.”

 

“Unacceptable!”

 

“Seven,” a warning note crept into the captain’s voice.  One that Seven knew very well.  She’d heard it often enough during her early years aboard Voyager.  She also knew other tones the captain used such as the pleased chortle when she had outfoxed another alien predator.  There were also tones that the captain had used exclusively with her, a husky growl, a delightful trill, and the whispery moan, the mere thought of which made Seven’s respiration accelerate and nerve endings tingle.

 

“I am the head of astrometrics.”

 

“You’ve gone through a period of well, amnesia, I guess,  and now you have to reintegrate your new memories to the old ones.  That takes time.”

 

“I have an eidetic memory, Captain.  There is no amnesia.  I have the memory files of everything experienced during my non-regeneration period.”

 

“You do?”

 

The captain doubted her?  “Yes.  Shall I give you an example?”

 

“If you like.”

 

“You and I copulated for 6.2 hours in your quarters.”

 

Kathryn flushed nearly as crimson as her uniform tunic.

 

“Is that memory in error, Captain?” Seven asked, looking at her as though she were speaking about a not very interesting nebula.

 

“No.”

 

“I also possess memories of being Tal Celes’s roommate and working in the mess hall with Mr. Neelix.  I excelled at making pasta.”

 

So maybe she did remember.  But what happened between them wasn’t just copulating and Kathryn needed Seven to know that. 

 

“You and I began an intimate relationship a few nights ago.  We didn’t just copulate, Seven.  We made love.”

 

“If you prefer that term, Captain.”  Her shrug and dismissive tone stung Kathryn to the core.

 

“I prefer that you keep this relationship to yourself for the time being.”

 

“It is a secret?”

 

“It is no one’s business except ours.”

 

“It was no one’s business except yours and Annika Hansen’s,” Seven corrected.  “As far as I am concerned, we never made love.” 

 

If Seven had suddenly slapped her across the face Kathryn couldn’t have felt more stunned.  Annika had tried to warn her.  That’s why she hadn’t wanted to go down to the planet.  She had been convinced that their relationship would end.  And looking into the pale eyes of Seven of Nine, Kathryn felt that’s exactly what had happened.

 

Gathering the remains of her composure around her, Janeway faced the turbolift doors again.

 

“Computer, resume turbo lift,” she said quietly.

 

*******

 

The doors to the astrometrics lab opened and Tal Celes glanced over automatically.  At the sight of the captain she straightened and trying to appear busy at her console.  She also tried to catch Annika’s eye, but her roommate ignored her and headed straight for Lt. Vorick’s console. The blonde elbowed the Vulcan from the console and began a series of diagnostics.

 

“The recalibration of the sensor array is off by .0015,” she announced moments later.

 

“That is within Starfleet standards,” Vorick replied.

 

“Not if we want the department running at peak efficiency.  I shall do it myself.”

 

“Seven,” the captain’s tone was firm. 

 

“Captain?” Vorick asked. 

 

He did not appear perturbed by Seven’s behavior or criticism.  But then he had served under B’Elanna Torres.  Oh to be Vulcan and have that dispassionate disposition.  Was it too late for Kathryn?  Could Tuvok teach her more about controlling her emotions?

 

“I am reassigning Seven to astrometrics, Lieutenant.  The two of you will share duties as head of the department.”

 

“Understood, Captain,” Vorick said.

 

“Seven, if you start to feel unwell for any reason go to sickbay.  That’s an order.”

 

“Yes, Captain.  I do not believe that there will be any cause for alarm.  I was not myself before.  I am now.”

 

That’s what I’m afraid of, Kathryn thought.  The expression of regret flitted across her face and Seven found herself wanting to comfort the captain.  She could put her arms around the captain and hold her.  Kathryn enjoyed that.  But she wouldn’t do that now while on duty.  And anyway it was Annika that Kathryn had enjoyed an intimate relationship with.  Not Seven.

 

Janeway nodded her dismissal and left the lab.  She kept her command mask on until she was alone in the turbo lift, then the emotional weight of the last hour hit her full force.  Annika was gone.  Seven was back.  What the hell had happened down at the planet? She tapped her comm badge. 

 

“Janeway to Tuvok.  I need to see you in my ready room.”

 

“Understood, Captain.”

 

********

 

Tuvok’s dark brown eyes fixed attentively on the captain’s face as she described what had happened to Seven of Nine.  When she finished she glanced across her desk at him.

 

“Any ideas, old friend?”

 

“There are two hypotheses that I could venture.”

 

She picked up her coffee mug.  “Venture away, by all means.”

 

“The first is that the alteration to Seven of Nine was temporary. Given her Borg nature it was only a matter of time that her implants would fail and that she would need to regenerate and become herself again.”

 

“Plausible.  And what’s the second hypothesis?”

 

“That somehow or other during our away missions to the planet below us someone wished Seven of Nine to be restored to herself.  I have done some preliminary investigation, Captain.”

 

“I thought you would,” Janeway said dryly.  She leaned forward in her chair.  “What have you found out?”

 

“The approximate time when Annika Hansen collapsed in the mess hall coincided with the visit to the planet by Mr. Neelix, Ensign Wildman and Naomi Wildman.”

 

“I thought you gave strict instructions to all of the away missions.”

 

“The instructions…Be careful what you wish for… were given to all parties.  However, Mr. Neelix is of such a gregarious nature that he is prone to saying things on whim.  And Naomi is just a child.”

 

“Talk to Mr. Neelix and Ensign Wildman.  See if they can recall anyone saying they wanted something or wished for something.”

 

“Yes, Captain. And Naomi?”

 

“We’ll see what the adults have to say first.  I really don’t wish to interrogate the child.”

 

“Understood.”  Tuvok rose.  “Whatever the reason for Seven of Nine’s return to herself I am glad she is back.”

 

Janeway peered at him closely. “You preferred her to Annika, didn’t you?”

 

“It was not a matter of preference, Captain.  Annika was a charming young woman, however in intelligence and complexity she could not match Seven of Nine.”

 

“There’s more to someone than just intelligence or complexity.  Sweetness. Gentleness.”

 

“You preferred Annika?”

 

“It is not a matter of preference,” she echoed his own words.  “I grew to appreciate Annika very much.”  And I loved her. I also loved Seven of Nine.

 

“Nonetheless the ship needs Seven’s expertise in astrometrics more than they need another pasta dish in the mess hall,” he pointed out.

 

“Never underestimate the importance of a good meal on ship’s morale,” Kathryn replied. Or a captain’s heart.

 

*******

 

Seven spent several hours reviewing the data of the past three months, finding several quantum singularities that might have inflicted considerable damage on Voyager and which had not been investigated further. Apparently Vorick had not thought it worth studying.  She wasn’t sure if she did either, but she would reference it just in case the information was needed at a later date.  As for the error in the sensor array calibration, she knew that the fastest way to get it corrected was to do it herself.  This task occupied her for at least another hour.

 

Vorick took a dinner break but she did not, continuing her work reviewing the latest of Celes’s error-filled assignments.  Unacceptable.  She marched over to the Bajoran’s console.

 

 “Tal Celes.”

 

“Hi, Annika.  How are you doing?  Harry told me about your collapsing in the mess hall.  Are you feeling okay?”

 

“I am better,” Seven said, disconcerted by these personal remarks.  And yet it felt good to have such concern voiced.

 

“That’s great.”  The Bajoran noticed the blonde’s features had become stiffer. Less relaxed.  Was that because of the captain?  She lowered her voice.

“So did the captain like it?”

 

Puzzled, Seven gazed into the merry brown eyes.  Was she speaking of copulating with the captain?  From her memory files the captain had liked it very much.  But she would not speak of that matter to Celes or anyone. 

 

“The bear,” Celes continued.  “Pooh bear.  Did the captain like it?”

 

Seven conducted a brief search of Pooh bear in her memory and saw that Celes was referring the stuffed animal the captain had won at the state fair.

 

“Yes.  She found it most acceptable.”

 

“Annika, are you feeling okay?  You’re talking strangely.”

 

“I prefer that you call me Seven.”

 

“Okay. Sure.”

 

“And you have made three errors in this algorithm sequence,” Seven said, pointing out the mistakes.

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

“Do not be sorry. Be accurate instead.”

 

“Yes, Seven.”

 

The blonde started to leave to return to her own console then turned back. “I wish to thank you for allowing me to be your roommate for these past 92 days.”

 

“No problem.  I’m glad to have you around.”

 

“I will not require living in your quarters any more.”

 

“Really?” The Bajoran glanced over her shoulders. “You bunking with the captain?”

 

“No,” Seven said, blinking in confusion.  Why would Celes think she and the captain would be sharing quarters? How much did her roommate know about Annika’s relationship with Kathryn?  Since the captain had asked for secrecy on the matter she would not be able to discuss it. 

 

“It would be an inefficient use of my time and ship’s resources.  I have my area in Cargo Bay Two.”

 

“That’s not like having a place of your own,” Celes pointed out.

 

“It will suffice.”

 

“You know best.  Feel free to drop by anytime if you feel like chatting or hanging out.”

 

Seven nodded, pleased that the matter had been resolved so easily. She would also need to inform the captain about her change in living quarters and that she would not be sleeping in the captain’s bed in the foreseeable future.  

 

 

Chapter 25

 

Janeway keyed in the command codes to her quarters. As soon as she was inside she walked straight for the replicator.

 

“Whisky and soda,” she ordered. 

 

A minute later the whisky was burning a warm path down her throat. Better, much better. Her shoulders sagged as she unbuttoned her tunic, draping it across the arm of the chair. What a day. How would she even begin to write about it in her captain’s log?  Today Seven of Nine returned to the ship and Annika Hansen departed.  A hell of a log entry.

 

Within minutes her glass was empty.  Tempted to replicate another, she went into the bedroom to change first then stopped dead in the doorway at the sight of her unmade bed. Earlier in the day she had neglected that task and the tangled sheets reminded her of the night before where she had tangled her limbs gloriously with Annika’s. 

 

Knees wobbling slightly, Kathryn sat down on the side of the bed and picked up the pillow the blonde had slept on.  Holding it to her face, Kathryn inhaled.  The young woman’s scent, spicy and metallic filled her nostrils and head.  Oh my darling Annika.

 

She was gone.  A wave of sadness overcame the captain as she hugged the pillow to her chest.  She beat a fist into the mattress under her.  Why had she allowed herself to fall in love with Annika?  Another fist hit the mattress. And why the hell had they made love?   Now she knew exactly what she was missing.

 

Her fists continued their pummeling until finally exhausted, Kathryn fell asleep.

 

She woke to a rumbling noise in the middle of the night.  Not the warp engine.  It came again. Her stomach grumbling about the meal she had missed. Could she last until morning?  Another growl.  Apparently not, she kicked the sheet off and got out of bed. She’d go to the mess hall and raid the refrigerator or maybe she could grab a hot dog at the holodeck fair.  The more Janeway thought of the fair the better she liked it.  Happily she rummaged in her closet for her jeans and plaid shirt.  The fairgrounds meant people and that was better than brooding in her empty quarters. 

 

*******

 

Seven rubbed the back of her neck, feeling the stiff muscles bunched there after her long duty shift in astrometrics.  She had finally caught up on all she had missed during her period of non-regeneration.  Her internal chronometer put the time now at 0300 hours.  Time to close up the lab.  But then what would she do? 

 

Of course she could return to the cargo bay, however her personal belongings were still at Tal Celes’s and she did not wish to disturb the Bajoran this early in the morning. She had no need to regenerate.  So just how would she spend the free hours before the alpha shift began. Fleetingly she thought of paying a visit to the captain.  Janeway had always welcomed her even in the middle of the night for philosophical discussions.  But would she still, especially since the captain and Annika had found other activities to indulge in during the middle of the night.  Agreeable ones, Seven admitted to herself.

 

During the past hour, she had replayed the memories of her night with the captain, discovering just how skillful and enthusiastic a lover the starship captain had been. Even the memories of the captain kissing Annika made Seven shiver, feeling the press of lips and tongue on her own, far more intense than the peck on the lips the captain had given Seven months ago.

 

“Computer, locate Captain Janeway.”

 

“Captain Janeway is in holodeck two.”

 

Holodeck.  Was she meeting her lover Michael Sullivan there?  She closed the astrometrics lab and made her way to Deck Six, curiosity driving her to see if the captain was once again kissing her holographic boyfriend, the way she had months ago. 

 

It was not the Fair Haven program, Seven saw immediately upon entering Holodeck Two.  It was a fair from the late twentieth century.  She watched as crewmen meandered past.  Accessing her memories, she realized that she had been at the holodeck fair before and her optical implant arched at the recollection that she had kissed almost all of the males on board Voyager and maybe a quarter of the females.  Including Kathryn. 

 

This is where it began.  Their kissing.   She glanced up at the Ferris wheel, remembering the fireworks that they had seen from the top of the wheel.  Lost in thought, she didn’t notice anyone turning the corner until they collided with one another. It was the captain.

 

Cheek bulging with part of her hot dog, the redhead looked up in surprise.  The last person she expected to see was the ex-Borg. 

 

“Excuse me, Captain. I should watch where I am going,” Seven replied.

 

“I believe you were standing still.  I was the one on the move,” Kathryn said, trying to wipe a mustard stain off her shirt with a napkin.

 

Seven had replicated a plum biometric suit and it now bore a yellow stain on its front.  No mystery where that had come from.  Kathryn began to wipe it with a napkin. Under the captain’s ministrations the stain grew bigger until it occupied one half of the ex-Borg’s chest.

 

“I’m sorry, I’m making it worse,” Kathryn said.

 

“It is unimportant,” Seven said, glancing down and realizing that the nipple of her left mammary gland had hardened. 

 

Janeway came to the same realization at the same moment. 

 

“This is a new holodeck program,” Seven said, hoping that the captain would not stare at her chest.  Her gaze caused the strangest sensations in Seven.

 

“Yes.  Well, it’s been running for a week.” Kathryn forced herself to keep eating her hot dog.  “In fact, I think B’Elanna is going to take it off line tomorrow.  That would account for everyone filling it up tonight.”

 

“I have been here before.  I mean, Annika has been here before.”

 

“Seven, I think you’re going to be confusing yourself if you continue to talk about Annika as though she weren’t you.  The two of you are the same person.”

 

“I am not so convinced, Captain,” the blonde replied. 

 

Relish had fallen off the hotdog and onto Kathryn’s fingers.  She began licking it off and Seven felt a sudden ache as she remembered the captain’s tongue licking other things. 

 

“I know it is difficult right now, Seven.”

 

“Very difficult,” Seven agreed, thinking of those elegant fingers and ardent mouth.

 

“But if you just have faith that things will turn out all right, they will.”

 

“The way you have faith that Voyager will return to the Alpha Quadrant some day?”  Seven said.

 

“Yes.”

 

“When I was Borg I did not experience uncertainty in any form, Captain.  The Hive Mind took care of everything.  When you severed my link I felt confusion and pain.”

 

“I’m sorry,” Kathryn said.

 

“Slowly I began to adapt.”

 

“Yes.  You’ve done wonderfully.”

 

“As wonderfully as Annika did?” she could not resist asking.

 

You did wonderfully, Seven.  You and Annika are the same person.  I know you don’t think so, but you’ll realize that Annika is still part of you.  Just the way Seven was still part of her.”

 

“Explain.”

 

Janeway didn’t know if she could, however she sensed that this was important. She tossed the remainder of the hot dog into a rubbish bin.

 

“Sometimes just the way she’d move would remind me of you.  The expressions she’d use. Adequate.  Sufficient. It always felt perfectly natural coming from her.  And sometimes when we were alone, just the two of us,  she’d look at me…”

 

“Yes?”

 

“And I felt you were there, gazing back at me too.”

 

“Indeed?  Did you enjoy that, Captain?”

 

“Very much so.  It made me feel as though you were still with me.  As though I hadn’t lost you.”  Kathryn linked her arm with Seven’s.  “Come on, let’s get some cotton candy.”

 

“Have we eaten cotton candy before?” Seven asked, as they walked toward a vendor.

 

“I think you had some with Naomi the other day.”  The captain purchased a pink cone and tore off a piece of the airfilled candy.  “Try it?” she held it out to Seven.

 

Seven frowned in concentration as she placed a piece of the cotton candy on her tongue.  The air filled treat quickly shrank down on her tongue, leaving behind a sticky sweet residue. Sweet and sticky.  For some reason this combination of textures reminded her of the captain.

 

“Good?” Kathryn asked.

 

“Yes.”

 

As they walked around the fairgrounds, Seven pointed out things that she remembered.

 

“I rode rides at the fair. The Ferris wheel with you, the bumper cars with Naomi and Lt. Torres, the Tunnel of Love with Ensign Kim.”  She frowned, remembering how that ride with Kim had turned out.  He had not wished to copulate with her after all. 

 

“Yes.  Would you like to go on a ride?”

 

“No, thank you, Captain.  Instead I believe I would like to win a stuffed animal.”

 

“Really?” Kathryn grinned. “You sound pretty confident.”

 

Seven arched an eyebrow  “You won one at a game booth, did you not?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“I will win one as well.”

 

“Just don’t be disappointed if you win only a little targh, Seven.  Chakotay and Ensign Kim couldn’t win the big prize.”

 

“I am__”

 

“Borg, yes, I know.”

 

“I was not going to say that,” Seven said.

 

“Oh?”  Janeway was surprised.

 

“I was going to say that I am not Chakotay or Ensign Kim.”

 

“No, you’re definitely not,” Kathryn said chuckling.   Thank God.

 

They had reached the row of game booths and Seven followed Kathryn to the basketball booth, however she did not wish to throw the ball through the hoop.  Instead she went on to another booth, one that had colorful balloons pinned to a board and people throwing darts at them.  Given her hand eye coordination and visual acuity she should excel at dart throwing. 

 

“How many balloons must I pop to win that stuffed lion?” she asked the worker, pointing to the top shelf.

 

“Let’s see. You get a small animal if you pop three.  And it takes three small ones to get a medium sized one and three medium sized ones to get a lion.”

 

“Maybe you should give the basketball booth a try,” Kathryn said.

 

“This will be sufficient,” Seven said.  She paid the three ration strips and picked up three darts.  As long as she popped a dart she would not have to pay another ration strip.

 

In just a few minutes the large lion was being handed over to her.

 

“Well done, Seven,” Kathryn said.

 

“Thank you, Captain,” Seven said, looking down at the stuffed animal.  It was about the size of Pooh, the bear that the captain had won and given to Annika. She really had no use for the lion and wondered if the captain would want another stuffed animal.  Of course the one Annika had given the captain back had been dressed.  Perhaps she ought to replicate some clothes for the lion before giving it to the captain. 

 

Before she could say anything however they all felt a jolt as something hit the ship. Immediately the klaxon sounded the red alert.

 

Janeway slapped her comm badge.  “Janeway to the bridge.  Report.”

 

“Energy wave hit Voyager when a ship dropped out of warp around us,” Ensign Kim said.  “It’s right on top of us, Captain.”

 

“Begin evasive maneuvers, Ensign.  I’m on my way.”

 

She nodded at Seven.  “You’re with me. We can use your expertise at tactical.”

 

Since Lt. Vorick would be covering astrometrics during the red alert, Seven assumed the secondary tactical station on the bridge.  As soon as Janeway took the chair, Kim went over to ops.

 

“The ship is a match to ours technologically and heavily armed,”  Tuvok reported.  “Aside from its abrupt appearance it has not made any aggressive action.”

 

So far.  “Hail them, Mr. Kim.”

 

“They are not responding.”

 

“Why didn’t we pick them up before this?”  Janeway demanded.

 

“They must’ve been cloaked,” Lt. Paris volunteered from the helm.

 

Seven looked at the readings from her console.  They matched the ones from the quantum singularity she had noted earlier that day.  The one that had been encountered over a week ago.  Perhaps the ships had been in the singularity all this time.

 

“Captain, I have something on visual,” Kim reported.

 

“On screen.”

 

A.pale alien with hair coiled like ribbons stared at them. 

 

“I am Captain Wardvark of the Paaktore. Who are you and what are your intentions?”

 

Surprised by the question, Janeway responded quietly.

 

“I am Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Starship Voyager.  We are a peaceful ship and are on our way through this area of space.  We have no wish to engage anyone in hostilities.”

 

“That is good to know.  Our ship has been caught in a quantum singularity for some time.  We suddenly emerged here.”

 

“Do you have any injuries?  Can we be of help?”

 

“Thank you.  I have two crewmen that have been sick.  Our doctor died and we have no medical supplies.”

 

“We’ll beam your crewmen aboard Voyager.”

 

“Thank you, Captain.”

 

The view screen shut down.  “Mr. Kim, lock on the two life signs on the ship. Beam them to sickbay.”

 

“Captain, I believe this is a deception,” Seven spoke.

 

“Explain.”  The captain swiveled her chair to look at the blonde.

 

“Captain Wardvark is a member of  Species 627, the Vuhalli.  The Borg encountered them in a century ago. They are a deceptive species, their usual mode of attack one of subterfuge.  They use robot ships, usually cloaked.

 

“That would account for their just dropping out of warp.  You believe there are other ships nearby?”

 

“The Vulhalli generally attack in groups of three.” She entered the flight pattern on the screen.  “The lead ship is generally manned by their species.  A crew of usually no more than four.  The other ships are manned by robots.”

 

“If we set a cluster of photon torpedos off the cloaked ships bows, we could make them decloak. It would level the playing field. Might make the captain think again about fighting us,” Janeway speculated.

 

“Is that before or after we beam the two ailing crewmembers over?”  Chakotay asked.

 

“At the exact moment of transfer we could fire the torpedoes,” Tuvok said.  “It would illuminate the area.”

 

“Wouldn’t it be premature to fire first?” Kim asked.

 

“The Vulhalli take no prisoners, Ensign.  They generally kill all of the crew,” Seven said.

 

Janeway nodded.  She’d heard enough. 

 

“Map out the movement of the cloaked ships.  Erect a level 10 force field around the transporter area, Tuvok.  As soon as we have their people,  Mr. Paris, I want you to go to Evasive Maneuver Tri Alpha.”

 

“Understood, Captain.”

 

“Hail the Paaktore again.”

 

A moment later the pale alien was back on the viewscreen.  This time with two people lying on beds in the background.

 

“We are awaiting transport, Captain.  Is there a delay?”

 

“We had to correct something in the transporter,” Janeway said. “We are ready now.  Captain, it occurs to me that you and any of your crew might wish to transport over as well.  We can offer you a hot meal in our mess hall.”

 

“You are too kind, Captain.  We will accept.  That would make four to beam over.”


“Yes.”

 

 The more security he brought over, the less would be on the ship monitoring the battle. 

 

“Mr. Tuvok, are we ready for our guests?”  Janeway drawled.

 

“We are, Captain.”

 

“Energize, Mr. Kim.”

 

“They are in the transporter room,” Kim announced.

 

“Security field is in place,” Tuvok said.

 

“Fire photon torpedoes.”

 

“Torpedoes one and two are away.”

 

The torpedoes exploded in space and for a moment Kathryn wondered if Seven had been wrong, then gradually two ships came into view.

 

“Life signs?”

 

“None, Captain,” Kim replied. 

 

“Captain, they are charging weapons.”

 

“Fire, torpedoes three and four.  Target their weapons array.”

 

“Torpedoes three and four away,” Chakotay said. 

 

The two torpedoes tore into robot ships.

 

“Direct hit to the weapons array,” Tuvok announced.  “Security forces have the Vulhalli contained in Cargo Bay One.”

 

Janeway rose from her chair.  “Tuvok, you’re with me.”

 

The Vulhalli captain did not appreciate being confined behind the security field. He and his two men stood glaring at Janeway when she walked into the cargo bay.

 

“I will have you destroyed,” he threatened.

 

“I doubt that,” she snapped back.  “Your companion ships have been badly damaged.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

She flipped a console and allowed him to see the wreckage of the robot ships. 

“You fired on us!” he accused.

 

“Before you could fire on us,” Janeway retorted.  “Odd. Your crewmen appear to be perfectly healthy.”

 

The alien captain stared at her in mute fury.

 

“You will release us,” he said coldly.

 

“Or else?”

 

“Or else you will regret it.”

 

Life was filled with regrets.  But starship captains didn’t have time for them.

 

“We’ll beam you down to the planet below us. It is an M class planet.  We’ll leave some supplies with you.”

 

“We’ll need weapons.”

 

“You’ll have to improvise something.”

 

“Is it inhabited?”

 

“Once you get there.”

 

She left the cargo bay with Tuvok. “Transport enough supplies so they can build shelter.”

 

“Yes, Captain.  You realize this is the planet where the Builders left their traces.  After what happened to Seven of Nine are you sure this is the place to maroon the Vulhalli?”

 

“From what the monk told us about the Builders only someone with an innocent heart can make a wish come true.  I don’t think these aliens would qualify.  Besides the robot ships may come to their assistance after repairs are made and we won’t be around when they do.”

 

“Understood, Captain.”

 

A few minutes later she stepped back onto the bridge “Mr. Paris, as soon as Tuvok has transported the supplies and people down to the planet set a path out of here, warp six.”

 

“Aye, Captain.”

 

Seven still stood at the secondary tactical station.  The stuffed lion she had won was sitting on the console. 

 

“Well done, Seven,” Kathryn said.

 

The blonde nodded in acknowledgement.

 

“It’s good to have you back.”

 

“Thank you, Captain.”

 

 

Chapter 26

 

Early in the alpha shift the doors to the astrometrics lab hissed open. Seven of Nine, working diligently at her console, did not glance up.

 

“Lieutenant Torres,” she greeted calmly.

 

 “How do you do that, Seven,” B’Elanna demanded. “Know exactly who it is without looking up?”

 

“You have a distinct…” Seven paused, considered and rejected smell, odor, scent, and aroma from her vocabulary files.  “Fragrance,” she finished the thought.

 

Fragrance seemed to please the half Klingon-human hybrid who flashed pointed teeth as she smiled.  “Tom gave me that perfume when we started dating.”

 

“That must be it,” Seven agreed.  “How may I assist you?” She turned her full attention to her visitor at her elbow.

 

B’Elanna crossed her arms on her chest, prepared to do battle.  “You changed the Borg modifications on the warp drive during the gamma shift.”

 

“That’s correct.  It enhanced the drive by .002 percent.  A minor increase but one that might help if we are in battle,” she explained.

 

“I’m not complaining about that.”

 

“What are you complaining about?”

 

Torres glowered.  “You’ve got Borg encryption codes all over the modifications.  During these past three months I couldn’t get the drive to work right because of the old codes and now you put new ones in.”

 

“Understandable.  I will download the schematics of the modifications to a padd,” Seven replied, tapping a button.

 

The Chief Engineer had anticipated an argument and found the ready cooperation disconcerting.  It was almost too easy. 

 

“You okay, Seven?” she asked as they waited for the download to be completed. 

 

“Yes.”

 

“Things getting back to normal for you?  I heard you moved back to Cargo Bay Two.”

 

“That is correct.  I do not require living space or a bed.  I still see Celes frequently in the mess hall or here in the department of course, and also the others once a week for poker.”

 

Torres laughed.  “Annika a poker player, who knew?”

 

“Not I.  Celes and Harry invited me to play last week but after I won every hand because I was able to discern who might be bluffing readily, I was given the task of being the dealer.”

 

“You don’t mind?”

 

“It is a pleasant way to pass the time.”

 

“Your social life seems to be on the fast track.”

 

“Fast track?”  Seven looked puzzled.

 

“Zipping along nicely,” B’Elanna explained.

 

“Yes…except for the matter of the captain.”

 

Torres leaned closer, her ears pricking.  “What about the captain?”

 

Seven hesitated, noticing the glint in the brown eyes. She had confided in B’Elanna before about her feelings for Kathryn.  Should she again?

 

“Prior to my becoming Annika you and I engaged in conversation about the captain upon occasion, exchanging confidences.”

 

“Yes,” Torres said, wondering where this was heading.

 

“With Annika however you did not.”

 

“Yeah, well, you ran with a different crowd then.”  She didn’t see the point of telling Seven that she and the captain had talked about Annika.

 

“Explain.”

 

Torres shrugged.  “It happens all the time.  People get close and then later not so close. It happens in all friendships.”

 

“Annika was not your friend?”

 

“Annika didn’t know beans about engineering.  She was nice and all, don’t get me wrong.  But I prefer you with a little Borg sass to make life interesting.”

 

“Indeed.”  Seven was skeptical about that.

 

“Did anyone ever tell you about what happened the first year we were stranded in the Delta Quadrant when I got split into my two halves, Klingon and human?”

 

Seven shook her head, her attention riveted on the other woman’s face.

 

“One of me became completely Klingon and the other completely human.”

 

“What happened to the two yous?”

 

“My Klingon self, my warrior half, sacrificed herself and I was re-integrated again.  So I understand what it is to walk around with two halves making up a whole, Seven.”

 

The blonde absorbed this information for a moment.  “Do you still feel conflicted?”

 

“Sure.  Not as much as I did before.  So tell me, one hybrid to another, what’s bothering you about the captain?”

 

Seven stared down at her hands for a moment then looked up into Torres’s sympathetic eyes. “We do not spend any time together. She does not seek out my companionship the way she used to.  She doesn’t pay me visits here in the astrometrics lab.  It is as if I am just her crewman.”

 

“Ah…well, you are.” One among many.

 

“She had a much closer relationship with me when I worked in the messhall with Mr. Neelix.”

 

“Yeah…well, as I said, sometimes relationships go through a hot period and a cooling off period.”

 

“Annika experienced a hot period with the captain.  I never did.”

 

Something in Seven’s voice made B’Elanna narrow her eyes.  “Seven, don’t forget Annika was you.”

 

“I realize that.  I have accessed my memory files.  And yet I believe Kathryn preferred Annika to me as I am now or before.”  This confession brought tears to the ex-Borg’s pale eyes.  She blinked them back, guessing that Torres would not wish to see her so emotional.

 

“Nonsense,”  Torres said gruffly.

 

“She never made love to me.  She did to Annika.  Four times in one night!”

 

Too much information.  B’Elanna really didn’t want to know about the captain’s life in the bedroom, though she could see it coming after the way the two women were kissing at the holodeck fair.   And four times!  Way to go, Janeway.

 

“Maybe you never gave her a chance to make love to you before.”

 

Seven fell silent.  She had spurned the captain’s advances earlier when she was unhappy about her visit to the hologram Michael.  Did Janeway still seek him out? 

 

“You’re making yourself your own rival. That’s a little weird, Seven.”

 

“I have been very weird of late,” the Borg replied. 

 

The engineer laughed.  “Listen, one thing I know for sure Janeway had feelings for you before the alteration and you turned her down.  She had feelings for Annika and Annika didn’t turn her down.”

 

“I will not in the future.  But what can I do now to win the captain’s attention?”  Seven fretted.  She had never had to worry about that before. 

 

“Show an interest in her.  Ask her out to the Bijou Palace.  Tom is running some movies during the weekend.”

 

“I do not think a movie is a good idea.”  It would remind the captain of being stood up.

 

“Invite her to do something else, play Velocity.”

 

Seven brightened.  “Yes, that would be acceptable and normal.”

 

The console beeped, and Seven handed Torres the padd.

 

“Oh, there’s one more thing,” B’Elanna said.

 

“Are you having a problem with Mr. Paris?”  Seven was prepared to help the Klingon with her romantic travails.

 

“No, this is ship’s business.”

 

“Proceed.”

 

“How badly do you need Vorick in Astrometrics?”

 

“We are co-department heads.”

 

“Does he have enough to do or do you do it all?”

 

Seven frowned.  “I leave work for him to complete.”

 

“Work you could do in your sleep.”

 

“I no longer sleep. I regenerate.”

 

“You know what I mean.”

 

“What is your point, Lieutenant?”

 

“Good engineers are hard to find.  If you don’t need Vorick in astrometrics I’d like him back in engineering. I can put him to good use.”

 

“You may need to discuss this with Vorick and the captain.  He is co-head of a department now.  He will not be if he returns to engineering.”

 

“I know that.  I just wanted your input.”

 

Seven considered the matter.  “I have no objection.”

 

“Good.”

 

“I appreciate your input as well regarding the captain.”

 

“Glad to help.  Good luck.”

 

*******

 

 

Kathryn Janeway controlled her impulse to drum her fingers on the conference table.  Staff meetings were usually routine and boring.  In the old days she would distract herself from the tedium by peeking surreptitiously at Seven.  But she didn’t indulge that impulse now.  Ever since Seven had come back to herself, Kathryn found it difficult to be around the young woman.  She couldn’t look at the blonde without remembering kissing her.  Her heart felt weighed with wanting. The brief night of ecstacy had kindled a wish for more.

 

But that was Annika.  Seven was something else.  She wasn’t sure where she stood with Seven.  The old Seven had quoted Starfleet regulations at her.  The new Seven might be the same and yet different too.  She kept abreast of ship’s gossip and knew that Seven had moved out of Celes’s quarters, returning to her own in Cargo Bay Two. She also knew that Seven continued to go to the mess hall at meal times, even though she didn’t eat much, just to accompany her group of friends.  Kathryn had often wished that Seven had been accepted by more people on the ship.

 

Be careful what you wish…She told herself, giving a short laugh in the middle of Tuvok’s security report of two crew members being intoxicated and coming to blows in the middle of Deck 12.

 

“Captain?” the Vulcan lifted an inquiring brow.

 

“Sorry, Tuvok.  I was just thinking of how we had bested the Vulharri.”

 

“Thanks to Seven,” Kim said.  Now that the Borg was herself again, the ensign found himself stealing long lingering looks at the blonde.  She was more attractive than ever.  He was kicking himself for having found Annika’s implants ugly. Of course Seven had those same implants.  He stared at her lost in a day dream.

 

Everyone was looking in Seven’s direction except the person whose gaze she yearned for.  The captain had not looked at her once, instead her attention was focused at a padd on the conference table.

 

Unacceptable.  You will look at me. 

 

Seven put the entire force of her being into that thought as she looked at the woman at the head of the conference table.  Slowly Janeway lifted her head and turned in her direction. 

 

Seven’s eyes were stormy and turbulent, the force of her gaze hitting Janeway like a phaser on stun. Somehow she managed to get her tongue working.

 

“Lieutenant Torres has requested that Lt. Vorick be re-assigned to engineering.  I have granted that request with his consent.  That means that Seven will once again be head of astrometrics.”

 

“It’s good to have our Borg expert at astrometrics,” Chakotay said.

 

“A fine idea, Lt. Torres,” Tuvok approved.

 

“Well, you know Tuvok, every now and then she has one,” Paris teased his Klingon sweetheart. 

 

“Mr. Neelix, you have something to report before we adjourn?”  Janeway cut short the compliments.

 

The Talaxian nodded, whiskers twitching.  “The holodeck fair was a great success, Captain.  We were able to raise enough money for the orphans to help them through the year.”

 

“Good.”

 

“Of course now that we took down the holodeck fair the crew has been feeling a little less festive.”

 

“We can’t afford the ship’s resources to run such a large program permanently,” Torres objected.

 

“I know. I was thinking of just something small in the mess hall to boost morale.”

 

“Better food might help,” Paris wisecracked.

 

Kathryn directed a quelling look at the helmsman.  “What did you have in mind for the mess hall?”

 

“A pot luck,” Seven answered instead of Neelix.

 

Once again Kathryn glanced her way and once again she felt that electric shock. 

 

“Really?”

 

“The crew replicates or cooks a favorite dish.  Every one shares.  It’s a great way to try something new and build morale,” Neelix said.

 

“I have no objection to a pot luck,” Kathryn said.

 

“Good.  I’ll send the message out to the crew.”

 

“If there is nothing else, you’re dismissed.”

 

As the staff filed out, Seven lingered, wanting to find a moment to bring up Velocity to the captain.  However others were vying for her time, including Chakotay who was leaning on the table and seemed intent on charming the captain.  He had used a similar technique with Annika on the picnic, Seven recalled. 

 

She hoped the captain was immune to such strategems.  Should she warn the older woman?  Probably not.  The captain was more experienced in matters of romance that she.  As she thought of just how experienced the captain was a warmth spread through her body.

 

“Seven, you okay?”  It was Harry Kim.

 

“Yes, Ensign.” Seven moved quickly out of the conference room.  She would see the captain some other time.  

 

“Feel like strolling along the beach on the holodeck sometime?”

 

“To what purpose?” Seven asked.

 

Kim shrugged. “I just thought it would be nice.”

 

“We have strolled on the beach before.”

 

“Glad you remembered.”  Kim smiled.

 

“My implants are still with me, Harry.”

 

“Seven…”

 

“In fact they are more active than ever.”  She lifted up her left hand and wiggled her metal tipped fingers, tempted to let her assimilation tubes jut out.

 

The tubes were not necessary.  Harry gulped down his next words and beat a hasty retreat.  Amused, Seven cast a last look over her shoulder and saw the captain watching her.  That was one way to get the captain’s attention.

 

*********

 

 

Kathryn reached into the replicator and brought out the scorched pot roast.  Damn.  She almost dropped the hot dish onto the counter.  Sucking on a sore thumb, she waved away the smoke.  The door chimed while she was still running the smoke disperser.  Chakotay was early. 

 

“Come,” she called out.

 

Seven of Nine stepped into the quarters to find the captain standing in a cloud of smoke, with cheeks flushed and her hair damp.

 

“Captain?” she exclaimed.  “Are you damaged?”

 

“I’m all right, Seven.  I’ve just been replicating.”

 

“Not too successfully, it would appear.”

 

Kathryn sent her a wry smile as the automatic smoke ventilation system finally kicked in and the smoke dissipated. 

 

“Would you like me to replicate something for you, Captain?” she offered.

 

“No, thank you, Seven.  Chakotay will just have to be satisfied with peanut butter sandwiches.  He’s eaten worse at my table, believe me.”

 

Chakotay?  Seven took in the wine glasses and the china plates and the light jazzy music playing in the background.   She felt the swift tug of jealousy in her heart.  The captain was not in uniform and the scoop necked emerald green tunic top and white slacks brought another tug, that of desire to her.

 

“Maybe you could take the peanut butter sandwiches to the hydroponic gardens.  Chakotay is fond of picnics,” she said.

 

Kathryn glanced up at the sharp tone in the Borg’s voice.  Was Seven jealous because Chakotay was coming to dinner? 

 

“Was there something you wanted to see me about?”  she asked now, a little nervous and trying not to remember the last time she had been alone with Seven in her quarters.

 

“I came to challenge you to a Velocity match, Captain.”

 

Kathryn lifted an eyebrow.  “Challenge?”  Come to think of it, Annika had issued a challenge to her too.  How much of Annika was left in Seven?

 

“Yes.”

 

The half crooked grin Seven loved so much appeared on the captain’s face.  “You expect to win?”

 

“That is always my expectation,” Seven said sincerely.

 

Kathryn chuckled, low and husky.  The sound sent skitters of desire up Seven’s spine.  She found it hard to concentrate on what Janeway was saying.

 

“We haven’t played in a while. Think you can beat me?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“The last time I thrashed you pretty soundly.”

 

“I was not myself,” Seven said drily.

 

Kathryn laughed outright.  “You’ll give me a better match than Annika, I bet.”

 

“You would win that wager.  I have better reflexes and hand eye coordination.  My physical abilities are superior to hers.  I am stronger and my endurance is greater, allowing me to excel at Velocity and other things…” 

 

Other things. God, she just says those two words and I’m on fire.

 

“When would you like to play?”  Kathryn said, lifting her hair from the back of her neck and trying not to fan herself.

 

“Tonight would not be a good time?”

 

“No.  It would be rude to Chakotay for me just to replicate and run…or play Velocity as the case may be.”

 

“Unfortunate.”

 

“How about tomorrow night?”  Kathryn suggested.

 

“1900 hours?”

 

“Fine.”

 

“I look forward to the match.” 

 

Seven turned to leave, and Kathryn escorted her to the door, both women acutely conscious of what had occurred on other occasions when they said goodbye in these quarters.

 

“Seven?”  the captain whispered.

 

Pale blue eyes were almost translucent as they gazed on Kathryn.

 

“Captain?”

 

Janeway forced herself not to reach up and bring that face closer to kiss.  Chakotay would be here any minute.

 

“One question.  Why didn’t you just send me a message requesting the Velocity game?”

 

“I will do so in the future.”

 

“I’m not criticizing,” Kathryn said gently, seeing the furrowed brow on the blonde’s forehead. “I just wondered.”

 

Seven tucked a lock of auburn hair behind Janeway’s ear. 

 

“I just wanted to see you, Captain.”

 

Oh. 

 

“You saw me at the staff meeting.”

 

“Yes.”

 

The heat from those pale eyes was scorching Kathryn again.

 

“It was not enough.  It’s never enough any more.”

 

The door chimed, startling them both. 

 

Kathryn cleared her throat and stepped back from Seven. “Come.”

 

Chakotay bustled in with a container of Andean stew. 

 

“The computer detected an increase in smoke in your quarters, Kathryn.  So I thought I’d bring my own dinner.”

 

Janeway smiled.  “You know me too well, Chakotay.”

 

“After six years…I think that’s inevitable. Good evening, Seven.”

 

“Commander.  Captain. I will wish you both a pleasant dinner.”  The blonde stepped into the hallway.

 

“Good night, Seven.  I’ll meet you tomorrow for Velocity.”