DISCLAIMER # 1: This story is an original work of fiction set in the pre-existing universe of Star Trek: Voyager. As such, many of the characters and references used within belong solely to Paramount Pictures. I have borrowed them for the purpose of creating this scenario and promise to return them unscathed, and smiling, as soon as I am done. No gain, monetary or otherwise, is expected from their use and no copyright infringement is intended or should be inferred.
DISCLAIMER # 2: All original characters and storylines contained herein belong to the author. (Like anyone else would claim them! J ) This story may be archived upon request with the stipulation that it must be posted exactly as it was written, with all disclaimers intact.
DISCLAIMER # 3: This story does depict a loving relationship between to women. Some scenes may be graphic, but they are lovingly so. If this bothers you, then you really need to find another hobby. You don't seem to be very good at finding what you're looking for on the net. I suggest knitting, that way you can make your own head cozy and stop the air that's leaking out from between your ears. If you are under 18, then wear green underwear to school, that way you have an excuse to drop your pants around all the pretty girls. (If you need help picking them out, call me…) If this is illegal where you live then find yourself a girlfriend, I guarantee that will light a fire under your ass to change your local politics…
WHO TO BLAME: Thanks must go out to AW61 for being my partner in crime as well as to Ky, for the hours of laughter she granted me by saying that she could beat me at Texas Hold 'Em Trust me when I say there are things I can do with a good hand that would boggle your mind! Thanks also to Andrea and Anne for continuing to read my drivel without laughing too hard at the typos. This one is dedicated to Bridge Crew over at Voyager Conspiracy, for going above and beyond in their dedication to perviness. (Livin' For Borgamocha!) No little green men were harmed during the writing of this story however 'pot o' gold' took on a whole different meaning. Love Long and Orgasm! DAx =/\=
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.


Dusk to Dust
By Patricia L. Givens


"St. Patrick... one of the few saints whose feast day presents the opportunity to get determinedly whacked and make a fool of oneself all under the guise of acting Irish."

- Charles M. Madigan


"Are you sure these figures are accurate?" Captain Kathryn Janeway frowned as she glanced from the PADD in her hand to the tired face of her Chief Engineer. She already knew the answer, her officer would never supply her with any information that was less than exact, but she needed to hear the words anyway.

B'Elanna Torres ran a tired hand across her forehead, trying to rub away the headache pounding behind the Klingon ridges that were a gift of her half-breed heritage. "Yes, Captain."

Janeway took a deep breath. "How long?"

"If we travel at the lowest possible speed and avoid deviations from our flight path of any kind..." She shook her head in frustration. "A week… at most."

The Captain looked over her shoulder to the science station being manned by her Astrometrics officer. "Seven? Are there any indications of dilithium deposits in any direction within seven days of our present location?"

The beautiful blonde's hands flew over the console, widening her original search pattern as the sensors picked up no sign of the elusive mineral. She felt her stomach drop and frowned. Normally failure was unacceptable to her, but she had found that when it involved disappointing her Captain, it became anathema. Thinking quickly, she broadened the criteria to include free moving masses as well as planetoids. "Captain, I am picking up signs of a small dilithium vein in an asteroid field approximately eight and a half light years from our present coordinates." She glanced up at the diminutive redhead and felt her pulse quicken slightly at the warm smile she was being graced with for her efforts.

"That's my girl." The Captain whispered under her breath, barely stopping herself from winking at the former Borg. They had become much closer than she had ever imagined they would since she had liberated Seven from the collective two years earlier; their relationship moving well beyond mentor and student into the realm of close friends.

And just recently she had grudgingly begun to admit to herself that her feelings for the obstinate beauty were still in flux; that friendship might not be the best definition of what she felt for the blonde at any given time.

Not that it mattered.

How she felt and who she might have those feelings for was not something she had the ability to explore. Not when she had one hundred and fifty people counting on her to get them home.

And most certainly not when you're a week away from being dead in space! She shook her head as though to clear it. "Eight and a half light years. Six days at low warp." She laughed ruefully. "Why does everything always have to be all or nothing? All right, Mr. Paris, set course for-"

"Captain?" Harry Kim glanced up from his console, a sickly look on his face. "I'm picking up a distress signal."

"Of course you are." Janeway leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes as she pinched the bridge of her nose. "On screen."

"It's audio only." He tapped the console and sent the message directly to the comm system. They all listened intently as a high pitched voice filled the bridge.

"To any ships in the immediate area, this is Prime Mginti of the Lekarion Trader Blasscrill. Please we are in need of aid! Our single vessel has been assaulted by seven raiders. Our weapons are offline and our shields are failing. Please, we require assistance."

"Tuvok?" Janeway glanced back at the Vulcan officer manning the tactical station.

"Their ship has indeed been disabled. Their weapons and engines are offline." He lifted one perfectly manicured eyebrow. "Captain, they possess warp technology. The smaller, attacking vessels do not. It appears as though the larger ship has been ambushed."

"How far out are they?"

"Ten minutes at warp nine." Paris chimed in.

"Captain!" B'Elanna looked at her pointedly. "If you jump to warp nine you might as well pick a planet and have us start planting crops, because there is no way we will make it to that asteroid field."

Janeway stared at her, nodding slowly. "Understood, Lieutenant. But there are some situations which do not provide me the luxury of a choice." She turned to the helm. "Tom, lay in a course for that ship. Harry, open a channel." She cleared her throat. "Trader Blasscrill, this is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager. We are en route to you. It will take us at least ten minutes to arrive; can you hold them off for that long?"

"Yes, I believe so." The comm signal was filled by the sound of a large explosion. "However… if you could hurry…"

Her eyebrows rose at the humor apparent in the voice. "We'll do our best. Janeway out." She settled back into her chair. "Warp nine. Engage."

Ten minutes later they emerged into normal space, the view screen before them filled by the sight of a large, sleek looking vessel being surrounded by seven smaller ships. The raiders were obviously less advanced technology wise, but they were quick and agile, darting in to riddle the sides of the Blasscrill with phasers and torpedoes before jumping away only to be replaced by another.

"Status?" Janeway barked.

"The Blasscrill is dead in the water and about to lose shields." Tuvok replied.

"Open a channel to the marauding vessels." When the Vulcan nodded she squared her shoulders, injecting ice into her voice. "This is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the U.S.S. Voyager to the raiders attacking the trader Blasscrill. Stand down immediately or you will force me to take action against you."

There was a pause and then a deep male voice responded. "This is none of your concern, Voyager. Leave the area immediately or you will suffer the same fate."

The Captain's eyebrows rose as her mouth set in a thin line. "I do not take well to threats. And you do not have the advantage of surprise where we are concerned. Your ships, even seven of them, are no match for mine. Cease your attack and stand down, you have ten seconds to comply."

Five of the small ships broke free from their assault and sped towards Voyager as the comm signal was cut.

"Guess they don't want to negotiate." Tom quipped.

The ships opened fire simultaneously, their phaser beams glancing off Voyager's hull while their torpedoes exploded against her shields. Janeway glanced back at Tuvok.

"No effect. We are not in danger." He looked at her expectantly.

Janeway sighed. "Target their weapons. Disable them. Avoid doing any unnecessary damage."

It was over in seconds. The five ships limped away to be joined by the other two as they quickly vacated the area. She half expected their leader to throw back a meaningless threat but the comm remained silent.

"The Blasscrill is hailing, Captain." Harry said quietly.

"Open a channel." She stood.

"Captain Janeway!" The voice sounded jubilant. "You have our enduring gratitude!"

"What is your status, Prime Mginti?"

"Weapons and engines are down, as are our shields. I apologize for the lack of visual communications but it is at the bottom of our necessary repairs list."

"Understood. Could you explain the situation is with your adversaries?"

"The Malari." The voice became more serious. "The Lekarions and the Malari have shared this region of space for generations. At one time, we considered each other kin. Our paths diverged when our ruling councils disagreed on what direction to take in the advancement of our species. The Malari believed the way to ensure their survival was through the expansion of their territory. They proceeded to construct a military force that was able to conquer worlds in several nearby sectors."

"I take it you did not agree with their methods?"

"It is not the Lekarion way, Captain. We are not warriors. We are… not built for it, nor are we so ethically inclined. We chose instead to improve our society through science and technology. The Malari believe they are entitled to share in our advancements."

"You refused?"

Prime Mginti sighed. "You must understand, Captain. We have made offers to share our medical advancements and our methods for increasing crop yield and food production, but that is not the technology that the Malari are interested in. They want our weapons, our propulsion systems. They believe it will aid them in their endeavor to conquer more worlds. We will be no part of that."

"It seems we have much in common then. The Federation also prohibits the sharing of advanced technology with undeveloped races for many of the same reasons. I am curious though, how did the Malari manage to disable your systems?"

"We were on our way home from a recent trade delegation with a nearby ally. Apparently there was a Malari operative in their midst. They knew our route home and managed to ambush us, knocking out our primary systems before we could fight back. As I have stated, we are not warriors."

"Well, I am not comfortable leaving you here in your present condition. We will take up station keeping off your port bow until you have completed your repairs."

"Captain, if I may make a suggestion?

"Of course."

"The repairs we require are extensive. Our home world is not far, just on the other side of the fourth dwarf star to your aft. If you would be so kind as to aid us in returning home…"

"Captain." Tuvok called her quietly, making her signal Harry to cut the outgoing feed as she turned to look at him expectantly. "According to our scans, there is no planet behind the fourth dwarf star."

Janeway frowned and nodded to open the channel again. "Prime Mginti, forgive us our caution, but we have been alone in this quadrant for far too long to take anything at face value. And according to our scans, the only thing past that star is open space."

The Prime replied, humor once again prevalent in his voice. "There is nothing to forgive, Captain. We ourselves are a very cautious people. Our diminutive size requires that we be very careful about whom we lead to our planet. It is rich in natural resources and unsettled land. As we prefer the more noble pursuits of science and exploration to warfare, we have found it necessary to shield our home world from those who travel through this territory. I am sending you the sensor recalibrations necessary to see past the force field erected around it."

She glanced back at the Vulcan who quickly entered the new information. After a moment, he nodded. "There is in fact a small, class M planet located at those coordinates."

Satisfied, Janeway acquiesced. "We will tow you back to your home. Prepare for our tractor beam."

"Thank you, Captain. We would like to repay you for the kindness you have shown us. Forgive my presumption, but if your statement about being in this quadrant alone is accurate, then supplies must be scarce. Is there any service we may provide for you? As I have stated, our world has abundant resources. Is there anything you require?"

She blinked, startled. "Well… we are in need of certain supplies…"

"Excellent!" She could hear his smile through the comm. "Send us over a data stream of whatever materials you require. If we possess them, they will be yours. In the meantime, I will open our historical databases for your perusal; allow you to get to know us a little bit better."

She turned to Seven, but the Borg shook her head, already aware of the question she was about to ask. "The recalibrations give us the ability to view the planet, but nothing else."

"Tell me, Prime," She said hopefully. "Are you familiar with a mineral called dilithium ore?"

"No, Captain, I am afraid I am not."

"I see." She tried to keep the disappointment out of her voice. "Thank you for your generous offer. I'll have my First Officer send the information as soon as possible. Janeway out."

Chakotay turned to her as she settled back into her command chair. "What we ask for could reveal our present status. How in depth do you want this list to be?"

The Captain shrugged. "At this point it seems as though we have no choice but to trust their intentions. It isn't as if we could get very far should we try."

Her First Officer nodded. "Should I include a request for land?"

She threw a poisonous look at him before heading to her ready room, calling back over her shoulder, "Assemble the senior staff. We need to go over our options."

Two hours later they were still no closer to a solution.

"I don't see that we have many options at all, Captain." B'Elanna slid her data PADD to the center of the conference table. "That last jump to warp burned through almost all of our remaining dilithium stores, and this side trip to tow the Lekarions home will leave us sitting on empty." She slammed her hand down in frustration. "I cannot believe it's all going to end here, at the tiny little planet on the other side of nowhere."

Janeway sighed. "What would you have had me do, Lieutenant? Leave the Lekarions to die?"

The half-Klingon flushed. "Of course not. I know we did the right thing. It's just sometimes… doing the right thing is a major pain in the ass."

"You don't have to tell me that." The Captain sighed. "Maybe we're overlooking something. We don't know yet exactly what kind of natural resources the Lekarions possess. There might be an alternative fuel source available to us."

"And if there isn't?"

"Then we will have to weigh our alternatives." She turned her attention to Seven. "What have you learned about our new friends?"

The Borg cocked her head to one side. "According to their databases, they are exactly as they have described; a science driven race, with numerous technological advances. They have, however, managed to balance their desire for knowledge with a deep appreciation for their planetary resources. They have only terra-formed and settled the land immediately needed by their population and as such, they have vast unspoiled regions Their atmosphere is ninety six percent Earth normal, with compatible fauna and vegetation. The only major difference appears to be in their water masses."

"Their oceans?" Janeway asked. "What's different about them?"

"They are fresh water. All of them."

The Captain nodded thoughtfully then something struck her. "Terra-formed?"

"Yes." The blond glanced at the PADD in front of her. "The Lekarions are not from this area of space. Their history makes no mention of where they did originate, only that they settled on this planet over twelve generations ago."

She opened her mouth to respond when a hail came over the comm from the bridge crew.

"Ensign Morales to Captain Janeway."

"Go ahead."

"We have reached the Lekarion home world and The Blasscrill is hailing, Captain."

"Open a channel."

There was a small hiss of static and then the jovial voice of Prim Mginti filled the comm signal. "Captain Janeway! Thank you for you aid in returning us to our home. I have been in contact with the Council of Elders. They have gone over your requests and I am happy to report that we will be able to supply you with several of the items on your list. In addition to that, they have a proposal they would like me to make."

"Which is?"

"I would much prefer to speak with you in person, Captain. I have always believed that communication works best face to face. But our visual communications are still down. Would you be amenable to a personal meeting?"

"Of course." Janeway agreed. "We could transport you here, to Voyager, if that would suffice."

"It would indeed. I have a small delegation standing by."

"All right." She nodded to Tuvok. "Meet them in transporter room two and bring them here." She watched him go, her lips pursed thoughtfully. When the doors slid open again fifteen minutes later, there was an unreadable expression on his face. Her eyebrows rose slightly with her curiosity as she stood to greet their guests.

As the Lekarion delegation entered the room, she bit down hard on the inside of her cheek, keeping her face carefully neutral as Tuvok directed them to their chairs.

There was just no way around it.

They were Leprechauns.

Small in stature, the tallest one barely larger than Naomi Wildman, with pale green skin, wide expressive features and flaming red hair, the Lekarions were so reminiscent of the Irish fairy folk that she was hard pressed not to smile in delight. There deep green uniforms did nothing to lessen the effect and from the strangled snort she heard from Tom Paris' direction, she knew she was not the only one to have drawn the correlation.

Prime Mginti came to stand beside her. His generous mouth curved into a huge smile, causing the lines of his face to deepen. If the ones around his mouth were any indication, the Lekarions were a very jovial people. He held out his hands, palms upward, and she covered them with her own to have them squeezed firmly in greeting.

"Captain Janeway!" His voice was high pitched, the words bending into a rough brogue as the translator did its job.

She returned the smile, finding herself charmed by the man's open nature. "You are quite welcome." She released him and motioned to an empty chair to her right. "Please, sit."

The Prime had to hop slightly to settle himself onto the seat and she threw a warning glance at Tom, who had covered his mouth with his hand as he looked at the dignitaries feet, which dangled a good six inches above the floor.

"So," Janeway slid into her own chair. "You spoke of a proposal?"

Mginti smiled. "First, the Council wishes for me to express its unending gratitude for the return of its people." He withdrew a small, flat device that looked much like a data PADD. "And they have gone over your requests, finding them a pittance of what your aid is truly worth. I am happy to inform you that food, water and medicine will be yours in abundance."

She inclined her head graciously. "Thank you, Prime. I must ask however, if you have found any resources which might match our needs in terms of a power source."

The little man's face fell somewhat. "I'm afraid not. We have looked to our own fuels, to see if there might be a method of converting them for your use, but it appears that is one area where our technologies diverge too vastly." He smiled at her suddenly. "However, I did wish to discuss the crag crystal with you."

"The 'crag crystal'? I don't understand."

"My apologies, Captain." He patted her on the hand. "When you first asked about it your terminology, as well as your desire for it, confused us. Crag crystal is a naturally occurring mineral on our home world. In truth, it is more of a nuisance as it comprises most of the outer mantle that we must destroy before we can terra-form to build our homes. I believe you called it…" He glanced at the data device. "… 'dilithium'?"

Janeway's eyes widened. "You… destroyed it?"

"Unfortunately, yes. We had no use for it." He saw her look of disappointment and hurried on. "However, that was only the portion that we had already removed. You will find the unsettled continents to the north covered with it, more than enough to fill a ship this size a thousand times over. You are welcome to all that you can carry, providing you have the ability to mine it."

She glanced around the table, her smile broadening at the looks of amazement on her senior staffs faces. "I don't think that will be a problem. The extraction shouldn't take more than a few days. I can have three runabouts, fully outfitted with mining gear ready by the time we break atmosphere."

"I'm afraid that isn't possible, Captain."

Her eyebrow rose. "But you said..."

He held up his hand. "Let me explain. In one hour, the sun will set on our world. At that time, the Festival of Illumination will begin."

At the other end of the table, Seven's head rose from her PADD, a bright gleam of interest in her eyes that did not go unnoticed by the Captain.

"Once every ten years," he continued. "Our third moon, Lumens, rises in the night sky. When it reaches its zenith, the pull on the tides near the coastal regions is immense. The air becomes heavy with moisture that settles over the land in a thick silver mist. When this mist reaches the Sacred Gardens, the Lunarum plants, which have lain dormant for a decade, will bloom, filling our world once again with the scent of the Lunescence flower. Our people will make a ritual excursion to the gardens to cut bouquets which will then hang above every hearth for the next ten years. This flower holds great importance with my people. It signifies our family unity and celebrates our growth as a species. It is a very holy day on Lekaria. No work may take place during the Festival of Illumination."

"I see. But tomorrow…?"

"As soon as the sun rises you may begin your extraction of the crag crystal." He smiled expansively. "However, the Council's proposal deals with the Festival itself. They wish to extend an invitation to you and your entire senior staff to join us for the celebration. It will be the first time any off-worlders have been in attendance since we cut ties with the Malari over two hundred years ago. You will be our guests at the Elder's Table during the banquet, be given lodgings for the night in the capital and be allowed entrance into the Sacred Gardens to collect the blossoms for yourselves. With bouquets of Lunescence on board, surely luck and prosperity will follow you all the way home. "

Janeway's eyes narrowed. "How did you know we were trying to find our way home?"

The smile never faltered. "You mentioned that you were alone in this quadrant, Captain. Your ship looks like nothing we have ever encountered before, and it is a belief held by the Lekarions that all missions to explore other regions have the same ultimate destination in mind. Home."

She laughed softly. "We truly do have much in common then."

"Will your crew join us for the Festival, Captain?"

She glanced at Tuvok, who merely raised one eyebrow. "We would be honored."

"Excellent!" The Prime took her hand again to squeeze it momentarily. "I have been assigned as your guide while on Lekaria. It is a role I look forward to fulfilling eagerly." He slid from his chair and the rest of the delegation followed suit. "At the moment, however, I must return to my ship and prepare for the crew to disembark. I will have my First send over the coordinates of the transport location within the capital. I will eagerly await your arrival."

"Thank you, Prime. Neelix will see you back to the transporter room." She nodded at the Talaxian who led the miniscule group from the room, chatting with them as he went. When they were gone, she turned to the group seated at the table. "So? Any concerns?"

"They appear to be quite a congenial race, Captain." Tuvok said thoughtfully. "If their intentions can be trusted, this could definitely be a fortuitous situation."

"Seven?" Janeway turned her attention to the end of the table. "You've researched their databases. Any indications that we're heading for trouble?"

"None, Captain." The Borg tapped the PADD in front of her. "We have been able to scan the surface of the planet and there are several weapon installments, but they appear to be merely defensive in nature."

"How about you, Doctor? Any misgivings?"

The EMH shook his head. "All of my environmental scans back up the data that Seven has supplied us with. The air, water, vegetation… it all seems to be well within tolerances."

"And the mining of the ore?"

B'Elanna perked up. "That won't be a problem, Captain." The Klingon smiled. "I can have my people prepare the runabouts while we're on the surface. Tomorrow, Tom can take the Delta Flier and Chakotay and I can fly the other two. If we each work with five man crews, it shouldn't take us more than two days to mine enough dilithium to stuff every available crevice we have on the ship."

"So that just leaves making it through the festival." Chakotay smiled.

"Do you believe there will be problems?" The Captain looked at him curiously.

"We still don't even know what the festival really represents." He shrugged. "I recommend caution, that's all."

"You may be right. But then, the Lekarions have been completely straightforward with us thus far. Whether they're celebrating the moon or the flower...who knows? Either way, they have dilithium they are willing to give us. Not trade us, GIVE us. For that, I'll dance with the damn flower in my teeth."

Chakotay smiled. "I think I'd pay to see that. It looks like your luck has held out for us yet again, Captain."

"Yeah!" Tom laughed. "The luck of the Irish! Who would have thought, way out here in the Delta we'd find a pack of Leprechauns to lead us to their pot of gold!"

Janeway swallowed a laugh and waggled a finger at him. "They're the Lekarions, Tom, not the Leprechauns. I suggest you continuously remind yourself of that. Otherwise you might say something unfortunate at an extremely inopportune moment."

The fair-haired helmsman immediately looked contrite. "Sorry, Captain."

"Best behavior, people." She chewed on her lip to hide a smile. "Dress uniforms, transporter room one in forty five minutes. We don't want to be late, considering we are the guests of honor. Dismissed."

She watched them file out one by one, looking at Seven expectantly when the Borg stopped in front of her. "Yes, Seven?"

"I have read about this festival extensively, Captain. I look forward to attending, from a purely anthropological standpoint, of course."

"Of course." Janeway smiled.

"While the lunar phenomena and its effects on the planetary tidal systems are interesting, it is the blossom itself I find most intriguing. Lunarum Rosari Verdiana. " She leaned her head to one side and studied the Captain's face. "The flower is most unusual Captain."

"Is it dangerous?"

"Not in the least."

Janeway shrugged. "Then I don't care." She gathered her PADDs and stood.

One eyebrow arched curiously. "Are you certain you do not want to hear about my research?"

"Tell me tomorrow, Seven. Right now, we're late."

The corners of Seven's lips twitched slightly. "Very Well, Captain. As you wish."

They left the conference room together, Janeway turning the bridge over to the beta shift on their way to the turbo lift. As the doors slid shut, she looked at Seven speculatively. "What are you going to wear?"


"This is a formal event, Seven."

The Borg looked down at her biosuit. "I do not possess a dress uniform, Captain. What would you suggest?"

Janeway bit down on her tongue, fighting the urge to say something completely inappropriate. For some reason, the desire to do so seemed to increase exponentially in direct relation to proximity to the lovely blonde. "Check the computer." She cleared her throat. "Be creative."

Seven sighed. "Yes, Captain."

Captain Janeway entered transporter room one forty minutes later, smiling at the members of her senior staff who were in attendance; all of them decked out in Starfleet's finest. But there was one member noticeably absent.

"Where's Seven?" She asked.

Tom grinned. "Maybe she's still primping. It is a woman's prerogative to be late you know." He grunted as B'Elanna placed a well aimed elbow in his ribs. Chakotay and Harry began to chuckle, only to have their laughter die out immediately as the doors slid open and the crew member in question stepped into view.

Janeway stared, her mouth going dry. She couldn't help it.

Seven was devastating.

Her blonde hair was loose, one side flowing freely over her forehead where it hid much of her ocular implant from view. The other side was tucked neatly behind her ear, showing off the brightly glimmering starburst that adorned her cheek. She wore a sleeveless gown of deep crimson, the color exactly matching that of the Captain's dress uniform, thin straps held it up over her shoulders while the bodice was cut low, showing the swells of her breasts as they struggled against the thin fabric across her chest. The hem of the dress ended just above her knees, showing several inches of smooth, cream colored legs before they disappeared into high black boots that laced up the front.

The Borg took in their stares with good grace as she came to stand before the captain. One perfect eyebrow rose slightly as she whispered, "Creative enough?"

Janeway swallowed. "Perfect." She pulled at her collar slightly. Why were transporter rooms always so warm? "You look lovely." She cleared her throat and turned her attention to rest of the senior staff, hoping like hell that she had hidden her admiration far better than they were. "All right. Let's make our appearance."

They beamed down en masse, appearing in the center of a wide courtyard. The darkening sky was a deep, bruised blue, the two moons already high overhead casting a soft light on the green grass and the dark marbled stone beneath their feet.

Prime Mginti was awaiting them with a small entourage. "Captain!" He took both of her hands again in greeting. "We are honored by your presence."

"No more so than we are by your invitation." She smiled.

He nodded graciously. "Please, if you will follow me, the Great Hall is already receiving guests for the celebration." He led them through a tall archway and into a large, grand looking building decked out in flowing purple tapestries and impressive artwork. Their path led them down a long corridor, lined on both sides by larger than life statues that were still barely taller than Chakotay, until they came to brief halt outside of wide double doors that were crowded by hundreds of the diminutive Lekarions.

As they waited, Janeway leaned closer to Seven and whispered, "You're with me tonight." The Borg looked at her curiously, causing the heat to rise into her cheeks. "You're the most knowledgeable of Lekarion history and social interaction." She explained quickly, her lips curving into a slightly amused grin. "Besides, we're dressed to match."

Seven nodded. "Indeed."

The crowds in front of them parted suddenly and Prime Mginti waved them forward. As they entered the Great Hall, the murmur of voices died down immediately to be replaced by thunderous applause.

Bemused, the Captain looked at him.

"News of your assistance has already spread in our world. Your presence here is an honor to us all."

Slightly embarrassed, she merely nodded and allowed him to lead them to a long table at the front of the room. It sat on a raised dais, a purple cloth draped over it that was covered with dozens of different kinds of food and drink. He sat her staff first, alternating them between members of the Elder council until the only seats left were at the very center of the table. "You and your companion will sit at the head of the table, Captain, as is befitting your status."

Janeway shot a sideways glance at Seven, wondering how the Borg would react to being labeled her companion, but the blonde merely inclined her head in thanks and settled into the chair to her left. Taking her own seat, she threaded her fingers together before her on the table.

The Prime leaned over from his own seat to her right and whispered, "Elder Silus will now open the celebration."

A small figure dressed in deep green robes stood, his silver hair the only indication of his age. The hall immediately fell into a reverent silence as he began to speak.

"My fellow Lekarions, I welcome you once again to the Festival of Illumination." He waited patiently as the cheers that met his words died down. "Once again, we are blessed to see the rising of Lumens. Once again, we are blessed to witness the blossoming of our sacred flower. May the next ten cycles bring us all health and happiness, joy and peace, and more friends such as the ones who grace our table this night. Eat your fill, and drink hearty for in a few short hours we will once again venture into the Sacred Gardens to bring Lunescence back into our hearts and hearths."

Every glass was raised to share in the toast, before the Lekarions tilted their heads back to drain them dry. Janeway sipped from hers, her eyes going wide as the strong alcohol burned down the back of her throat. She threw a cautionary glance to her crew as the cups were filled again by the staff circulating with large pitchers of the brew.

Aside from the initial toast, the banquet resembled nothing of the formal affairs she was used to attending. The crowds became more boisterous with each passing hour, the sounds of laughter and joy loud in her ears. Her own attention was torn between the humorous stories being shared with her by the Council Elders and the woman who sat quietly at her side.

Seven listened intently, interacting with those who spoke to her, a small smile on her face as she watched the Captain being charmed by the Prime who seemed intent on keeping her attention off the activities of her crew, most of whom had joined in the dancing taking place on the open atrium floor. She herself drank nothing but water, noticing that the Captain did the same, only sipping from her wine glass when another toast was raised in their honor.

The small smile turned to a carefully hidden grin when Prime Mginti took the Captain by the hand and dragged her out to the dance floor where, after a humorous discussion as to who should lead (he was of the opinion that she should) the two of them sped around the floor in broadening circles to steady beat of drums and horns. Once their dance had ended, Janeway found herself besieged by requests until she finally collapsed back into her chair, winded and laughing, quite a while later.

The time slipped past quickly and The Captain found herself surprised when the Prime stood and extended one hand to her and the other to Seven. With a smile, he placed the Captain's hand within Seven's, closing his own firmly over both. "It is time."

"Time?" Janeway looked from him to Seven, then down to their tightly linked hands.

"Yes. Time to enter the Gardens."

She looked up, noticing that everyone else had begun to stand and pair off, joining hands before they left the hall through a silver archway at the other end.

"It is customary to enter the Gardens in pairs, Captain." He gestured to her party. "We have assigned guides to those of your crew who are in need of them. But as you came with your own companion, you shall enter with her. If you will follow me."

She looked past him to see Chakotay, Harry and Tuvok all paired up with Lekarion females. Tom and B'Elanna had linked their hands together as well. She glanced at Seven, expecting to see confusion on her face, but was met with a warm, gentle look instead.

"Shall we?" The tall blonde asked quietly.

Janeway stared at her for a moment as a small charge of electricity traveled down her spine. "Of course."

They waited patiently for their turn through the arch, politely declining several offers to let them pass ahead. When the finally reached it, the Prime steered them gently through the opening, smiling as he watched their eyes widen on the other side.

The Sacred Garden was lush, teaming with life, green vines hanging from the trellises overhead as soft grass bent beneath their boots. The back side was lined by tall thin trees that swayed gently in the breeze, while the area directly across from them was filled dozens of green, broad leafed plants. To the right there was a heavily wrought railing, constructed of some metal that faintly resembled iron. The fence was barely waist high to them, but to him, it came nearly to his shoulders.

Looking around, Janeway blinked in surprise.

The Garden was empty.

"Where is everyone?" She turned back to study the silver arch behind them. "It's a transport arch!"

"Yes!" He laughed in delight. "There are thousands of these small gardens all along our coast. Most are shared by whole communities or at least several different families, but this one is meant for your enjoyment alone." He led them to the railing which overlooked a broad expanse of black sanded beach a hundred feet below.

The water was incredible. It moved in ever increasing waves towards the shore, its surface further out flat and serene, and so clear she could see the dark shapes of sea life moving beneath it, even with only the light from the two moons high overhead.

"It's incredible." Janeway breathed.

"Thank you." The Prime nodded slightly. "Lumens will rise from behind the trees in just a short while." He gestured to the plants. "The flowers will blossom there, not that you would be able to miss them. Stay in the garden for as long as you wish. When you are ready, your quarters are through there." He indicated a large ornately carved door that had initially been hidden by the trees behind them. "Or you are welcome to return to the Great Hall. The celebration will continue until dawn." He bowed. "Fair night, Captain." Turning, he gave Seven a long look, a gentle smile and a small wink before disappearing through the arch."

"Well," Janeway leaned up against the railing, the warmth at her fingertips and the pounding of her heart informing her that their hands were still tightly linked. "This is something, isn't it?"

"It is quite beautiful, Captain." Seven said quietly.

She smiled and looked up to answer, only to have her voice die in her throat when she realized that the Borg was not looking out at the beach, but at her instead. "Seven…?"

Before she could continue, the sound of the waves below intensified; the crash of the water onto the sand louder with each passing swell, but it did not pull her attention away from woman at her side.

Seven had begun to glow.

At first it was subtle; a low light reflected off the paleness of her skin. Then it became brighter and the Captain watched, her lips parted in wonder, as the third moon rose behind the younger woman, the glowing disc creating a shimmering halo behind hair made all the more pale by its light. Her eyes became caught briefly in the almost ghostlike blue of her companions, before dropping to take in the deep red of her lips.

A huge crash sounded to her right and she turned, gasping in wonder as a huge wave crested, it passed the height of the railing to crash loudly against the shore, sending small droplets of water cascading over them both.

As they watched, a thick silver haze began to form beneath them. It rose effortlessly, caught on the cool night breeze to be dragged into the garden around them. Janeway followed it silently, leading Seven over to the plants which had begun to quiver as tendrils of water laden mist licked at their leaves.

Without warning, tightly closed pods at the tip of each branch split open and a shower of silver dust covered them as pearl white flowers erupted from their cocoons. The petals were thick, with light pink veins that traveled through them to form a deep crimson bed at the center of each blossom.

Janeway closed her eyes and breathed in deeply as the most incredible scent filled the air around them. It was sweet, but not cloying, reminiscent of lavender and lilac and she could not stop herself from reaching out to pluck a flower from its branch. Laughing in delight, she turned to Seven holding the flower up to ask her a question she suddenly could not remember.

The third moon shone down from directly above, casting a silver light over the entire garden and causing the azure of Seven's eyes to flash with an ethereal fire.


The breath caught in Kathryn's throat; the words died on her tongue.  The only sound she could hear over the pounding of her own heart was the waves crashing against the shoreline below them.


Everything else in the garden faded away as she raised the flower to Seven's face, trailing the silken petals over perfect alabaster skin, trailing them through the faintly glowing dust, before winding the stem into her hair.

For a moment she merely looked at her, absorbing the beauty of the moment, memorizing the lines of the blonde face with the intensity one my have when staring at a work of art. Her thoughts raced through her mind, recalling every moment of shared intimacy, every longing look, every quiet word.

All thoughts of the ship, the crew… even home, vanished from her mind as she reached up to trace her fingertips across Seven's lips. The taller woman stepped closer and without hesitation, she slid her hand behind the long, elegant neck and pulled her down into a passionate kiss.

It was incredible.

Seven's lips were warm and soft, eager against her own, the tip of her tongue shyly reaching out to touch Janeway's as the kiss deepened. She felt an intense fire begin in her belly that spread out to all the other parts of her body as the Borg pressed against her; felt her heart constrict painfully in her chest as strong arms circled her and drew them tightly together.

When the kiss ended, they stood there for several long moments, bathed in the silver light, staring intently into each others eyes.

"Kathryn…" Seven whispered before trailing her lips down the Captain's cheek, making the smaller woman shake violently. "I do not wish to return to the celebration."

"Are you…?" Janeway swallowed hard, unable to complete the question.

The blonde smiled gently. "Yes." She released Kathryn and took her by the hand, leading her to the door at the back of the garden. As it swung open and they stepped inside, Janeway looked around the room in wonder.

It was long and wide, the walls decorated with paintings of the garden they had just left, each with a small plaque denoting a date beneath it. There was a door to one side which she surmised must lead to an ensuite, but what really caught her attention, was the huge four poster bed situated in the center of the room. The wooden posts were carved to represent the trees outside with the branches of the Lunarum plants winding around them. Her eyes followed them all the way to the ceiling, or at least to where the ceiling should have been. The room was covered by panels that had been slid back, opening the room to the night time sky, allowing the silver light of Lumens and the deep scent of the blossoms to fill the air around them.

Before she knew what was happening, Seven was in her arms, kissing her hard. Her hands slid up and over smooth shoulders to wind fingers into pale golden hair before traveling back down to settle on the Borg's slender hips.

It was happening too fast. Some part of her tried to cry out in warning, but the feelings and emotions coursing through her over rode her common sense and she did not stop the eager fingers that parted the front of her tunic. In a daze, she felt it slip from her shoulders to fall to the floor. The warm hands then slid under the grey shirt she had worn beneath it, pulling it over her head to toss it aside.

"Kathryn…" Seven whispered as she splayed her hands across the smooth expanse of the Captain's back. "Please…"

The one word set her on fire.

She worked her fingers under the straps that crossed over Seven's shoulders, sliding them off to watch the red dress puddle at the blonde's feet. With a low growl, she pushed Seven backwards until they both tumbled onto the softness of the bed behind them.

Her lips trailed down Seven's smooth skin, stopping to taste the light sheen of sweat that pooled in the hollow of her throat. Her fingers slid up to cover the firm swells of breast, feeling the sharp points of hardened nipples against the palms of her hands.

Moaning, she bit lightly against the pulse steadily beating beneath her lips, earning a small cry from the form below her and the feel of a strong hand wrapped around the back of her head. The sweet, flowery scent in the room became laced with another, more enticing aroma. One that captured her attention completely and drew her downward where she found it's wellspring between softly parted thighs. She nuzzled through coarser hair with her chin and then her nose, before finally dipping into the wetness, reveling at the taste of it as her tongue found a small hardened ridge that quivered beneath her touch. She caressed it with long, languid strokes as she brought her hand down to part Seven's thighs further, sliding two fingers inside the velvet warmth that waited for her there.

The blonde moaned above her, her hips rising off the bed as she was held tightly against her. Smiling, she increased her tempo and was rewarded by soft cries of her name from above.

"Kathryn…Kathryn… Yes… more…"

The hips were moving erratically now as Seven was caught in the grip of her orgasm. The hand in her hair tightened painfully and she reveled in the taste and the sound of her lover as the velvet muscles around her fingers convulsed. With a final shuddering breath, the Borg fell back and lay still.

She took her time, withdrawing slowly, licking away the essence that still flowed against her tongue. When there was none left to drink, she crawled up Seven's long, glorious body and lay on top of her. Strong supple fingers slid down her back to cup her buttocks, fanning the flames of her own need, making her whisper quietly, "Raise your knee."

The blonde smiled and did as she was asked, groaning at the wetness that bathed her skin as Kathryn parted her own thighs and settled upon it.

She moved slowly at first, the over stimulated nerve endings of her sex singing in delight at the friction, but when Seven laid her palms against her hips and began to pull her more firmly, she lost all control.

Throwing her head back, Kathryn looked up at the three moons shining down from above her, calling her lover's name out to the nighttime sky as she felt moist lips cover one firmly tightened nipple. As strong teeth grazed across it, she felt her climax tear through her, making her quake in the other woman's grip until she fell forward, breathing heavily, into warm and welcoming arms.

There was a bright light coming from somewhere and Janeway cracked one eye open, stretching lazily as she looked up at the early morning sun that shone down from the open panels above her. The sky was a beautiful clear shade of blue, one that reminded her of azure eyes staring into her own intently.

"Oh my god!" She sat up quickly as memories of soft skin and fiercely whispered words fought their way to the forefront of her mind. They were followed by remembrances of warm breath and wet kisses that caused the sore muscles between her legs to tingle pleasantly. She looked down, her eyes widening in shock as she realized she was naked. Panicked, she glanced around the room, sighing in relief when she saw that it was empty.

"A dream… oh thank god." Trying to regulate her breathing, she sank back into the bed, allowing the images to flow over her as her fingers trailed down her belly. A slow smile spread across her face. "One helluva dream."

That was when she heard it; the sound of a clear, high sweet voice from behind the closed door to her left. It was… singing?

"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy, when skies are gray, you'll never know dear, how much I love you, please don't take my sunshine away."

Swallowing, she sat up slowly, calling out, "Hello?"

The door opened and she felt her heart jump into her throat.

Seven stood before her, her hair still wet from the shower she had been taking and Janeway found herself mesmerized by the rivulets of water that escaped from the tresses to trail slowly over the tops of the blonde's breasts. They disappeared into the towel that was wrapped around her body, held in place by the mesh covered hand that held it bunched over her chest.

"Kathryn." Seven purred and released her grip, allowing the sheet to drop to the floor.

Panicked, Janeway could only stare in wonder as six feet of naked blonde Borg moved towards her.

When she reached the bed, Seven grabbed the blankets and pulled them away, placing a hand on the Captain's shoulder to push her backwards, down onto the bed, so that she lay her nude body on top of her. "Good morning." She whispered before capturing the older woman's lips with her own.

Janeway felt her head swim under the passion of that kiss, felt her heart race as the crystal clear memories of everything that had happened slammed home. For a moment, she gave into it, sliding her fingers into the damp hair and returning the kiss with abandon. Then she came to her senses and pushed the blonde away, pulling herself up to lean back against the headboard. "Seven, stop!"

The Borg raised one eyebrow and looked at her curiously, a small look of hurt filling her features, one Janeway could not abide. "We have to get back to the ship." She smiled reassuringly. "We need to get the mining operation underway."

Seven's demeanor instantly changed. She slid from the bed and began to dress. "Of course, you are correct." As she was pulling on her boots, she glanced at Janeway, and the Captain could see a small amount of confusion still remained. "We will discuss this later?" She asked quietly.

Kathryn reached out and took her chin between her thumb and forefinger, immediately flooded with a deep yearning to pull the blonde back into the bed and never let her go. Her memories were quite clear about what had happened between them and she owed Seven better than she was able to give her at the moment. Leaning forward, she kissed her briefly, trying to reassure her. "Yes, we will."

"Very well."

Voyager was bustling with activity when Janeway and Seven stepped out of the transporter room and they had to sidestep several times to allow crewmen to pass by, their arms filled with food and other items supplied by the Lekarions. They said parted at the turbo-lift, both of them needing to change before Seven reported to Astrometrics and the Captain to the bridge.

When she finally arrived, she nodded to Tuvok who was seated in the command chair, inclining her head towards the ready room doors. The Vulcan followed her silently, his expression one of very mild curiosity as she waited for the doors to slide shut behind him.

"What's our status?" She asked as she slid into the chair behind her desk.

"The supplies that have arrived thus far have been allocated to the appropriate departments and are being stored. All three of the mining operations are proceeding well, if slightly different than planned."

"What do you mean?"

He cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Lieutenant's Torres and Paris were extremely reluctant to be separated this morning. I spoke to Elder Silus and he informed me that it is customary for those who have shared an intense experience in the Sacred Gardens to spend the following day together in solitude. Since that was not possible, I made the decision to allow them to at least be together on the same mining crew. Ensign Kim and Commander Chakotay are leading the other two teams. The extraction was proven very successful and we are currently at one quarter of our dilithium capacity."

She waved her hand absently. "That's good."

The Vulcan studied her for a moment. "Captain, if I may, you seem a bit distracted this morning. Is something wrong?"

She shook her head. "I have no idea." A thought suddenly struck her. "Tuvok, you went into the Gardens with a member of the Lekarion council."

"That is correct. Councilwoman Lirani."

"Can I ask what happened?"

Tuvok's eyebrows rose slightly. "We watched the third moon rise, and then she cut several flowers from the Lunarum plant after which we retired to my room."

Her eyes widened. "And?"

"And?" He cocked his head to one side. "And we spent the evening engaged in conversation, Captain. She told me of her husband, Renam, who had passed away several years earlier in a Malari attack and I shared with her stories of my life with T'Pel."

"That's all?"

"In truth I found it a most gratifying experience, Captain. I do not often feel moved to share my personal experiences with anyone, let alone an individual I had only recently been introduced too."

"I see." She pursed her lips thoughtfully. "And what about Harry and Chakotay?"

"The Commander and Ensign Kim went back to the celebration after visiting the Gardens. I believe they stayed for a short while longer and then returned to the ship." He slid into the chair across from her. "Captain, what is troubling you?"

Janeway hesitated for a moment and then told him everything, dropping her head into her hands when she had finished.

Tuvok was quiet for several long moments and then said, very gently, "Captain, I did not experience what you did. To my knowledge, neither did Commander Chakotay or Ensign Kim. Lieutenants Torres and Paris might be a different matter."

"But why, Tuvok?" She held her hands up in frustration. "I think it is safe to say that I have more restraint than Tom and B'Elanna!"

"I would have to agree. I believe your best course of action would be to ask the Lekarion Elders."

She nodded. "You're right, of course." She ran her fingers through her hair. "Oh Tuvok, what you must think of me. What the entire crew will think of me if this should get out."

He stood and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder in an uncustomary gesture of support. "Why would any of us think less of you, simply because you finally acted upon your feelings?"

Her jaw dropped. "You knew?"

He raised one eyebrow sarcastically. "Your crew is respectful, Captain. Not blind."

Janeway stood outside the doors to Astrometrics, her heart hammering loudly in her chest. Squaring her shoulders she stepped through the doors. As they slid shut behind her, Seven turned, a small smile curving the edges of her mouth.

"Computer, seal the doors and shut off all recording devices in this room." The blonde said quietly as she walked towards her. When she was close enough, she leaned down and captured the smaller woman mouth with her own, tracing the smaller woman's lower lip with her tongue.

The kiss shook the Captain to her core, stirring feelings of passion within her she was hard pressed to ignore. But ignore them she did. The blonde was still behaving like she had on the planet! She took responsibility for her own actions, but if the younger woman's were the result of her nanoprobes reacting to the pollen…

"Seven!" She pushed her away gently. "Are you feeling all right?"

"I am operating at exceptional levels, Kathryn." She moved close again and buried her nose in Janeway's hair, breathing the scent of it in deeply.

The Captain gripped her arms firmly. "I want you to go and see the Doctor."

The Borg's eyes darkened. "Why?"

"Because I believe you may still be under the influence of the Lunescence flower."

Seven's brow furrowed in confusion. "But-"

"No arguments, Seven." She placed her finger against the blonde's lips. "Just… do it for me, please."

"Very well." She stepped back. "Will I see you after?"

"Yes." Janeway nodded. "I need to make a trip to the planets surface, but I promise you, we will talk when I return."

For a moment it looked like Seven was going to argue, then she merely nodded. "Yes, Captain."

The older woman watched her go, trying to stave off the pain that had filled her chest when the blonde had gone back to calling her 'Captain'. After a moment, she tapped her commbadge. "Janeway to the Doctor."

"Go ahead."

"Doctor, Seven is on her way to see you. I want you to do a complete workup on her."

There was a slight pause. "What exactly am I looking for?"

"I believe the pollen produced by the flowers at the celebration last night might be causing her to react erratically."

"Really?" She could hear the confusion in his voice. "That doesn't make sense. Seven is-"

"Just do it, Doctor." Janeway cut him off. "I will check in with you for the results shortly."

"Yes Captain."

The Great Hall was quiet when she entered, the only activity that of the staff as they went about removing the last of the tables from the celebration the night before. She saw Elder Silus near the silver arch at the end of the room and held her hands out to have them clasped in greeting.

"Captain Janeway!" He smiled. "I was not expecting to see you today."

"No, I guess you weren't." She smiled sardonically. "But I have a few questions for you."

"Of course," He led her to a small office off to the side of the main chamber, directing her to take a seat as he poured her a glass of water which he sat on the desk before her. "How can I be of assistance?"

Clearing her throat, she approached the conversation carefully. "I am curious about the real meaning behind the Festival of Illumination."

He looked confused. "The real meaning?"

"Yes. I mean no disrespect, Elder Silus, but I need to know. Is it a mating ritual of some kind?"

He stared at her for a moment longer and then he began to laugh.

"I don't find what happened to me amusing, sir."

"No, no. My apologies." He sank into his own chair, wiping at his eyes. "You just took me by surprise, Captain. The Festival is no mating ritual."

She leaned forward. "Then what is it? The pollen from those flowers has quite an… unusual effect."

"I see." He laced his fingers together. "What you mean to say is that it had an unusual effect on you You are ordinarily quite reserved are you not?"

She blinked. "I suppose I could be described that way."

"And you found your reserve lost amidst the effect of the flower?"

"You could say that."

The Elder smiled at her gently. "You are worried that the dust caused you to act in a manner contrary to your nature. I assure you that is far from the truth. The pollen does not create emotions, Captain. Nor does it even enhance them. It merely… frees them."

"Frees them?"

"Yes." He sipped from his own glass. "The Festival is about solidifying the union between two people. That is why participants enter in pairs. Those pairs are not always romantic in nature, however. In some cases, friends or family members choose to enter together, to reaffirm the bonds that unite them. All the pollen does is to remove the reticence that normally surrounds feelings of deep emotional intent. It strips away the apprehension and fear that would keep two people from truly relating to each other on the level they were meant to. It does not cause reactions or force a person to respond in any way they do not wish to."

Janeway felt the heat rise into her cheeks. "So what you're saying is…"

"That the only passion you will find in the Sacred Garden, is that which you have brought in with you." He watched as his words sank in. "Did you not read about the Festival when Prime Mginti opened his databases to you? All of this information is contained there."

"No," Janeway admitted quietly. "I had a member of my staff go through that data. She failed to share that with me."

The Elder's smile broadened. "I see. Would 'she' happen to be your lovely companion last night?"

The Captain flushed.

"It would seem, Captain, that you are seeking answers in the wrong place."

Janeway stepped onto the bridge, waving to Tuvok for him to keep his seat as she headed for her ready room. As she stepped through the door, she was caught by an intoxicating scent and glanced over at the table situated beneath the wide view port. Sitting there, in a small vase of water, was a single Lunescence blossom.

Walking over to it, she pulled it from the water and stared intently into the deep crimson at its center, her thoughts so chaotic that she did not hear the chirp of her commbadge.

"Doctor to Captain Janeway."

"Go ahead."

"I wanted you to know that I finished by tests on Seven and I have released her to return to her duties."

"I see." She said absently. "What did you find?"

"Absolutely nothing."

"Nothing?" Her voice registered her surprise. "Are you sure?"

"Captain, there is nothing influencing Seven's physical or emotional responses. In fact, there never was."

Janeway's eyes widened. "Explain."

"I tried to tell you before, but you cut me off." She could almost hear him roll his eyes. "Seven's nanoprobes would never allow a foreign substance to compromise her systems. They filtered the pollen out the instant it entered her bloodstream."

"So any behavior she has been exhibiting…"

"Is hers and hers alone."

"Thank you, Doctor."

"Do you want to tell me what this is all about?"

"No, Doctor. Thank you for your help."


She cut the comm signal as she headed for the turbo-lift.

Captain Janeway entered Astrometrics quietly, standing in the back of the room, watching Seven as she went about entering information into the computer. Every so often, the blonde would stop, her entire body going still as she stared absently at the screen above her, a small smile on her face.

"You knew." The redhead said softly.

Seven spun around quickly, her eyes going wide when she saw Janeway standing behind her. "Captain…" She faltered. "I did not hear you enter."

"I'm not surprised." She stepped forward and laid the flower on the console. "It looks like your mind is on other things."

The Borg reached out and touched a petal, her fingers tracing over the red veins that still pulsed slightly within it. "Indeed."

"You knew." Janeway repeated. "Didn't you?"

Seven didn't answer, she simply nodded.

"And you didn't tell me."

"I believe I tried."

The Captain snorted. "You didn't try very hard."

"No, I did not."


The blonde's shoulders shook slightly. "Because you would not have participated in the celebration. That would have been unacceptable."

"Again, why?"

"I needed to know… if my assessment of our relationship was correct."

"Which is?"

"Captain," Seven looked down, unable to meet her eyes. "You had become more than a mentor to me. You had become a friend… and yet I found that my feelings and intentions towards you could not be appropriately categorized in the scope of that definition. I found myself thinking of you in ways that were unfamiliar and unsettling and yet… pleasing at the same time. I have come to care for you in a way that I did not believe was possible and from our interaction, I believed that you shared these feelings for me as well. But I needed to be certain. The risk of damage to our relationship should I act on my feelings was too great."

The Captain laughed softly. "You couldn't just ask me?"

"Would you have answered me truthfully?"

"I guess we'll never know."

Seven nodded sadly.

Shaking her head, Janeway smiled. "Computer, log me as unavailable for the next twenty four hours except for emergencies, personal priority." She reached out and took the blondes hand. "Log Seven of Nine as the same."

Blue eyes, bright with tears, stared directly into hers. "Captain?"

"It's Kathryn." She whispered before placing a kiss on gently trembling lips. "And you need to come with me to my quarters. We have a lot to discuss…"

The End

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