DISCLAIMER: Don't belong to me, unfortunately. All things Star Trek belong to them and Paramount. Thanks to Kate Mulgrew and Jeri Ryan for giving life to Captain Janeway and Seven of Nine. There are lyrics to three songs in the story, none of which belong to me. The proper credit will be given at the end of the story.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I don't like Commander Chuckles, so any chance I have to make him look bad, I'm going to take…you have been warned.
THANKS: to Trish and Sarah for their help in making this a better story.
CHALLENGE: Submitted as part of the Epic Proportions challenge.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Getting To Know You
By Joan


Part One


Chapter One

"I'm telling you, Harry, it'll be better than the Captain Proton program." Voyager's sandy haired pilot said.

"I don't know, Tom, it sounds too much like Proton to me. We should find something totally different." Harry Kim's Asian descent showed in his dark hair and eyes.

Tuvok entered the mess hall and headed straight for the two bridge officers' table. "Mr. Paris." The dark skinned Vulcan and chief of security stood at the friends table with as much of an annoyed look as you would ever see on any Vulcan's face, which in actuality wasn't much.

"Tuvok, what can I do for you?"

"You can reprogram my Temple of Amunok to its original parameters and refrain from altering any of my programs in the future."

"I didn't do it, Tuvok." Tom held up his hands in a placating gesture and shrugged.

"What was done to it, Tuvok?" Harry asked to get the commander's attention off his friend.

Tuvok's eyebrow climbed up his brow, letting the sandy haired lieutenant know he didn't for a minute believe him, then answered the ensign's inquiry. "When the Procession of Priests exits the temple, their dress and mannerisms have been altered to coincide with those of, according to the computer, the Radio City Rockettes."

Tom tried his best, but couldn't help laughing. "Tuvok, I swear it wasn't me. I'm innocent … really."

"Mr. Paris, I doubt you were ever innocent. I expect it to be returned to the original programming the next time I access it." He turned on his heel and left the two known jokesters.

Harry turned his attention back to his friend. "What are the, what did he call them, rockers?"

"The Radio City Rockettes were a group of female dancers that started back in the 1930's on earth; they'd mainly line up and do these routines of really high kicks with their legs and wear these skimpy little costumes." He explained.

Harry leaned over the table whispering, "And you didn't ask me to help? Some friend you are." He smiled, letting the helmsman know he wasn't too miffed at him.

"Harry, I'm serious, I didn't do it."

The next morning, the senior staff was sitting in the briefing room waiting on their one missing member, Voyager's Chief Engineer. "Tom," the captain started, "do you know why B'Elanna is late?" The helmsman and chief engineer had recently married.

"No, ma'am, when I left this morning, she was finishing breakfast and said she'd see me here." He explained.

The captain was a compact woman with shoulder length auburn hair and blue-grey eyes that could sparkle in delight or freeze you with their intensity. It was rumored that more than one alien species or green ensign for that matter, had wet themselves when her displeasure had been turned on them. "Janeway to Torres."

"Torres here, Captain."

"Do you plan on joining us anytime today, Lieutenant?"

"Captain, I seem to be the butt of a practical joke and can't find a way to undo it."

"Is it something that jeopardizes your health or well being, B'Elanna?"

"No, ma'am." The half-Klingon half-human responded.

"Lieutenant, I know we are in a relatively quiet area of space at the moment, but I really would like all the senior staff to attend the morning meetings."

"Acknowledged, Captain, on my way, Torres out."

It took a few minutes for the lieutenant to make her way to the briefing room. Unfortunately, Janeway was taking a swallow of coffee when the engineer entered, so coffee sprayed across the table. Chuckles accompanied the chief engineer as she sat down, crossed her arms across her chest and tried to ignore the amused group.

It was the Doctor, an Emergency Medical Hologram, that couldn't resist commenting. "Well, Lieutenant, are you making a fashion statement or is this a new battle strategy? I can see it now, instead of the Klingons killing their opponents in glorious battle, you're going to laugh them to death. And I'm sure a pink Klingon would do it."

Janeway interrupted before the volatile woman, of human/Klingon decedent, went over the table after the smirking EMH, not that she could hurt the holographic doctor, but it wouldn't do to have the senior staff brawling in the meeting. "That's enough, Doctor. B'Elanna," she had to stop and swallow the chuckle that threatened to escape, "what happened?"

"After I finished my breakfast, I went to take my shower and came out pink. I checked myself with a tricorder and somehow my skin pigment has been altered." She explained.

"Could that be dangerous, Doctor?" Tom asked after he was able to get himself under control.

"If it's just the pigmentation that's been altered, I don't believe so. But I'll check." He requested the computer to beam in a medical tricorder and scanned the lieutenant. "Mm, whoever did this," he looked at Mr. Paris, "was exceptionally clever. Your pigment was altered not unlike the way a dermal regenerator can alter one's appearance to resemble another species. I can assure you there is no health risk." He flipped the instrument closed and went back to his seat.

"Lt. Torres, did you try reactivating the sonic shower to reverse the affects?" Seven asked. The ex-Borg drone and Tuvok had been the only two at the table that hadn't snickered at the chief engineer's appearance.

Most people thought it was because Seven wasn't yet human enough to have a sense of humor, though Janeway knew better. She was one of the few that had taken the time to help the ex-Borg drone during her journey back to humanity.

"Yes," B'Elanna gritted her teeth.

"I will assume the result was less than favorable." Seven persisted.

The engineer blushed, not that anyone could really tell the difference. "It turned me … pinker." The statement started another round of laughter.

"It seems we have a practical joker in our ranks." Tuvok stated. "I too was victimized by them." He related what had happened to his program the night before.

Everyone turned their attention to the known joker. "I swear, Captain, it wasn't me." Tom defended himself.

"If it's not Tom, then who's doing it?" Neelix asked. The Delta Quadrant native was the only Talaxian aboard. He was Voyager's cook and morale officer and his short stature was offset by his large heart. It was the general consensus that he resembled a Terran warthog. His skin was splotched with brown spots and he had tuffs of hair along his jowls. A long mane of hair ran along the middle of his head and fell midway down his back.

"It would have to be someone with the knowledge of how to go about reprogramming the showers. And while that's not very complicated, it would still require knowledge of the system." Harry offered and wished he'd kept quiet when everyone's suspicious look turned to him.

"We could just wait and see if anything else happens." Chakotay suggested. "I mean if it continues; the culprit is bound to slip up and get caught." The first officer's bearish form engulfed the chair he was sitting in. He was of Native American decent, a tribal tattoo was located above his left eye, his short dark hair and eyes a legacy of his people.

"Agreed." Janeway decided. "Report to sickbay after the meeting, B'Elanna, and I'm sure the Doctor will be glad to undo the problem…with no added opinions on Klingons and their battle tactics." She made a point of glaring at the EMH. "Now, what has everyone got to report?"

Later that same day, the prankster planned the next joke, deciding that the overly amused EMH might benefit from a bit of humility.


Chapter Two

The next morning, the briefing room was missing two of its members, until Torres stormed in and sat down. Once again the snickers started.

"Lieutenant, you seem to be a tad green this morning. I take it, it wasn't something you ate."

"Very funny, Captain." She replied, staring down everyone at the table.

"Sorry." Janeway tried for a contrite voice, not quite making it.

"I am assuming you will need to stop by sickbay again before we can start on the modifications in engineering this morning, Lt. Torres." Seven stated.

"You assume correctly."

"Speaking of sickbay," Harry said, "where's the Doc?"

"Chakotay to the Doctor, did you forget the meeting?"

"No, Commander, I am … in the middle of an experiment and need to be excused." The EMH, though now sentient, didn't lie very well.

The tables' occupants looked at one another; it didn't take a very big leap to realize who the latest victim was.

"Doctor," the captain replied, "I'm sure whatever it is you are doing can wait until after the briefing."

An audible sigh was heard through the comm system, "Of course, Captain, on my way."

The Doctor transferred his program to his mobile emitter and made his way to the briefing room on deck one, hoping he wouldn't run into too many people between sickbay and the turbolift.

Janeway's coffee once again spewed across the table. Laughter broke out around the room, this time including the colorful Klingon. The hologram ignored them and made his way to his seat.

The Doctor's program had been altered to include a very much exaggerated bushy mustache that drooped over his upper lip and hung down the sides of his mouth. On his head, the little bit of hair he had, was gone and replaced by a bleached blonde Mohawk. A late 20th century hairstyle.

"I see our 'prankster' has claimed another victim." Tuvok calmly stated when the laughter died down.

"I don't find this the least bit amusing." The Doctor huffed.

"What's the matter, Doctor," B'Elanna grinned, her eyebrows climbing up her ridged forehead, "don't like it when the shoe's on the other foot?"

"Captain, this is most irritating and disruptive." The EMH stated in an aggravated tone. Though it was hard to take him seriously because of his appearance especially with the bushy mustache bobbing with every word.

"I can understand it being a bit inconvenient, but it doesn't seem to be affecting anybody's ability to do their job, Doctor." Janeway stated, still grinning. "B'Elanna can undo your additions after you remove the Lieutenant's latest … shading."

"Are you sure you want to undo it, Doc?" Tom asked. "After all, you've got more hair now than you did before."

It took several minutes for the laughter to die down and the meeting to start.

Janeway was in her ready room when Tuvok requested to speak to her. "Would you like me to investigate the recent outbreak of juvenile behavior, Captain?" He asked as he stood before her desk.

"I'm sure Mr. Paris and Mr. Kim will tire of their jokes before long, Tuvok." She got up and made her way to the upper level and requested coffee from the replicator. "Can I get you anything?"

"No, thank you, Captain." He did however join her when she sat down on the couch. "Then you believe it is the two of them even after the denial by Lt. Paris?"

"Do you have reason to believe it's someone else, old friend?" She leaned back and gave him her full attention.

"No, I, too, believe it to be them. I do think that with Mr. Paris' imagination and Mr. Kim's intelligence, they make a formidable pair."

"It's a good thing they're on our side." The captain laughed. "Let's give it a bit more time, Tuvok, I'm sure they'll grow bored before long."

"Very well, Captain."

Janeway was meeting Seven the next morning in the mess hall for breakfast, sitting at one of the smaller tables next to the viewports, they were discussing the readings astrometrics had taken of the area of space they would be heading into in the coming weeks. The captain was so wrapped up in watching her table companion that when the occupants of the room reacted to the person that had just entered, it took her a minute to notice.

Janeway's eyes widened and Seven looked over to see the first officer walking uneasily towards them. The captain had to bite her tongue to keep from laughing.

"Captain, Seven." He looked extremely uncomfortable. "I seem to be the latest … recipient."

"Are you sure it wasn't just a malfunctioning replicator, Commander?" Janeway asked; the grin appearing on her face no matter how hard she tried to keep from it.

"Yes, I had the computer run a diagnostic, twice." He replied.

"Would you like to be excused from wearing your uniform, Chakotay?" Janeway couldn't hold it any longer and started chuckling.

"Every piece of clothing I ask for is two sizes too small; I even tried the replicator in my office." He stated.

"I see you're the latest addition to the ranks of the preyed upon." B'Elanna joined them. "Or have you hit a growth spurt?"

The engineer poked him in his belly, which was protruding from between his uniform top and pants. The sleeves of his jacket were several inches too short as were the legs of his trousers. Not to mention his squirming around trying to remove the seat of his pants that kept riding up uncomfortably.

"You are yellow, Lieutenant." Seven stated as the metal eyepiece above her left eye rose.

"Thank you, Seven, I hadn't noticed." She added. "Also, Captain, the Doctor has his Mohawk and mustache back and believe me when I say he wasn't too happy about it."

"Maybe its time to have a word with Mr. Paris and Mr. Kim." Janeway admitted.

Seven waited for the other two to leave before looking at the captain, "I do not believe they are the responsible parties." She stated quietly.

"Really?" The captain leaned forward, resting her chin on her hand, her elbow propped on the table.

"Indeed, while Lt. Paris is a known prankster and Ensign Kim is a talented programmer, I do not believe they possess the knowledge to pull off the 'jokes' that are being played."

"Who else could do it? Well, besides you or me that is." She looked intently at her companion. "Are you confessing, Seven?" She added in mock seriousness.

"On the contrary, Captain, I can assure you that I am not the 'trickster'." Then she realized Janeway was 'pulling her leg' when the blue eyes actually sparkled with mirth.

"Okay, but if it isn't those two, why haven't they had a joke played on them? I would think that they would be the first ones 'hit' since they are always pulling them on everyone else." Janeway picked up her fork and returned her attention to her plate.

"I believe the person responsible wants everybody to think it is them. That 'is' the joke on them." Seven stated.

"Or maybe that's what they want you to think." She paused and finished the last bite of breakfast. "I'll tell you what, why don't we team up to see if we can catch the culprit that's doing it?"

"Acceptable." Seven agreed. "We should meet tonight after our shifts to plan our strategy." The Borg suggested. "And you can instruct me in the workings of the Human 'funny bone'."

The captain nodded. "My quarters 1900 hours. We can have dinner while we plan and discuss emotions."


Chapter Three

The two women were sitting at the dining table in the captain's quarters, enjoying their meal. Janeway had programmed a boiled fish fillet served on a bed of rice with a mild white sauce. The replicator had behaved itself and the meal came off without a hitch.

Seven had observed her dinner companion grinning on several different occasions, "Captain…"

"Kathryn," she interrupted, "you're supposed to call me Kathryn when we're off duty."

"Kathryn," Seven corrected, "you keep smiling. Is there something about my attire you find amusing?"

"On the contrary, Seven, you look wonderful tonight. Did you pick out the dress yourself?" The captain asked as she picked up her wine glass and took a sip.

"No, Ensign Wildman helped me." She was wearing a simple light blue silk dress that fell to just above her knees. Three quarter sleeves hid the implants on her arms and the simple belt showed off her trim waist. "We can add the Ensign to the list of crewmembers affected by the joker."

"Oh, what's happened to Samantha? Nothing has affected Naomi I hope."

"No, in fact Naomi finds it very amusing. Every time Ensign Wildman asks the replicator for juice, it sprays out and hits the Ensign in the chest. However, when Naomi asks, it produces the juice in her cup." Seven placed her fork on her empty plate.

"Well, that joke is obviously keyed to activate by Samantha's voice. Just as Commander Chakotay's must be set to his clothing specifications because when I tried to ask the replicator in my ready room for his uniform, it still came out too small." She said laughing.

The captain's deep throaty chuckles had been sending pleasurable sensations through Seven for sometime now. Her research telling her that she had developed more than friendly feelings for her captain and mentor. "You are finding these jokes amusing." She stated.

"Yes, I suppose I am." She grinned once again.

"Why do people play jokes on one another, Kathryn? In my computer search on practical jokes, I found a reference to the Terran calendar date of April the first being called April fool's day, when people used to play jokes on one another, but why devote a day to jokes?"

"Mm, I'm not really sure, but I believe I read somewhere that some believed it started when earth's New Year changed, some time in the 1500's, from April first to January first. News didn't travel very fast in those days and it took a while for the change to make it's way around, some of the people refused to acknowledge the change so they were called 'fools' and were sometimes made the butt of practical jokes." The captain placed her napkin on the empty plate and continued her explanation. "Harmless pranks are done for their amusement value. You get to laugh with the person the joke is played on and it brightens people's day. As long as the joke is not done in anger, it usually benefits everyone by lifting the mood so to speak."

"The joke played on the Doctor did not brighten his day." Seven pointed out.

"But it did B'Elanna's and right after the Doctor had found her predicament so amusing. The Doctor takes himself way too seriously at times."

"He does." She agreed. "So turn about was fair play? I wonder if Lt. Torres is the one that played the joke on the Doctor, she would have the necessary skills to accomplish it."

"Could be." The captain shrugged. "She also could have done the shower programming to throw everyone off. Or we could have multiple jokesters on our hands."

"So how do you propose we catch the culprits?" Seven stood up from the table as the captain did.

"Let's move to the sitting area where we'll be more comfortable." She picked up the empty dishes too and placed them in the replicator to be broken down. "Would you like more sparkling cider?"

"Please." Seven replied.

Janeway replicated the cider for her companion and another glass of wine for herself; carrying them to the couch where Seven was already sitting. "I believe B'Elanna is too clever to be caught by leaving a trail in the computer, but if it is Tom and Harry, even with their combined skills, more than likely we will find a trail." The captain handed the glass to Seven and sat down beside her.

"So you are suggesting a computer search would eliminate Lt. Paris and Ensign Kim?"

"Possibly, I could however be wrong about Harry, he has been hanging around Tom for six years now and isn't the green ensign that came aboard fresh out of the Academy."

"Indeed, he is not." Seven agreed. Seven had come on board Voyager after Captain Janeway had severed her from the Borg Collective in their fourth year of crossing the Delta Quadrant, after a being known as the Caretaker had flung them some 70,000 plus light years away from earth in the Alpha Quadrant.

"In fact," Janeway turned sideways on the couch to face Seven, "I'm willing to bet that if you offered to copulate with him now, he'd accept. As would several other people." She sipped her wine never taking her eyes off her companion. She had given up trying to repress her feelings for her Borg crewmember. And the way Seven had been acting lately gave her hope that the blonde woman had similar feelings for her, but she wanted to be sure before completely opening her heart to the possibility of being hurt.

Seven remembered that incident. Not long after she had been on board Voyager, she had made an offer to the young ensign, who had a crush on her, to 'copulate'. "Really, Cap … Kathryn?" The redhead nodded. "I can assure you it is not Ensign Kim or 'several other people' I would make that offer to."

"Really?" Janeway echoed. "Is there anyone you would make that offer to now?"

"No, I would not offer to 'copulate' with anyone." She stated.

"Oh." Janeway frowned. 'God, have I been reading her wrong? It has been such a long time, but I could've sworn the attraction was mutual.'

Seven continued, "There is one person that I would 'make love' to, Kathryn." Seven smiled.

"I see, and who might that be?" She asked as her heart practically pounded out of her chest.

"Kathryn, you are well aware that we have been, as Lt. Torres would say, dancing around one another. Especially, since I downloaded too much information and overloaded my cortical node and suspected you had been sent on a mission to retrieve me and return me to the Federation to be dissected and analyzed. My feelings since then have grown exponentially for you."

Janeway exhaled in relief, "I had to be sure you felt the same way. I didn't want to lose you as a friend, Seven." She grasped the Borg's hand and laced their fingers together. "I value your friendship too much."

"You will not lose it, Kathryn. I too was unsure about your feelings for me. It was after you came for me, once again, that I started wondering if there could be more between us."

"So, should we consider this our first date?" The captain questioned.

"That depends." Seven answered.

"On what?" Now she was confused. "I know it's been a while since my last date, but I don't think things have changed that much."

"I have 'dated' once and according to my research, it is considered inappropriate to have 'sexual relations' on the first date. So, I was hoping this could be our second date."

"Well, that's … um," Janeway cleared her throat, trying to clear the images that flashed through her mind. "God, Seven, we haven't even kissed yet and you have us 'hopping in the sack'."

Seven looked perplexed. "I do not recall anywhere in my inquiries, anything to do with a bag."

The captain chuckled. "I'm sorry; sack is a slang term for jumping into bed and having sex." Seven smiled and Janeway felt her heart stop beating, only to start back several seconds later at least twice as fast.

"Kathryn, I would like to remedy the 'have not kissed yet' part, now." She said and leaned closer to her companion's mouth.

"Oh, yes, Seven." She watched mesmerized as the full lips got closer. "I most definitely would like that, too." The captain's eyes fluttered closed.

Lips met briefly, delicately pressing together before pulling back slightly. "Kathryn." Seven's voice was ethereal.

Janeway placed her hand behind Seven's head and guided their mouths back together. The contact this time was deeper. And when the captain's tongue brushed across Seven's lips, she opened them to give access.

This time when they parted, both were breathing heavily. The captain leaned her forehead against Seven's. "Oh my, I knew it would be fantastic to kiss you, but I never imagined it would be this wonderful."

"Kathryn, I would very much like to do that again, many more times in fact."

Janeway chuckled. "So would I but if you kiss me like that again, I won't be held responsible for my actions."

"Is that a promise?" The Borg's ocular implant rose sharply.

"Seven." Janeway said; her voice a husky purr. "What about finding our practical joker?"

"Kathryn, would you really rather spend tonight tracking the practical joker down instead of us being together?"

Seven had been correct earlier when she said they had been dancing around each other for months. "I'd much rather spend it with you." The captain said. "Otherwise I'd have to have my sanity checked."

Seven smiled and tilted her head, bringing their lips together again. The kiss steadily deepened, but eventually they broke apart for much needed air before resuming once again. This activity continued for some time before the captain pushed the blonde into a reclining position on the couch covering the tall lean body with her compact form.

"Kathryn," Seven moaned her name, "this feels wonderful, you feel wonderful." Their mouths met again, tasting and teasing, and in Seven's enthusiasm she rolled them over and onto the floor.

Janeway landed on her back with an exhale of air.

"Captain, are you alright?" Seven's body partially covered her companion's, her top half propped on her elbows.

"I'm fine, Seven." She chuckled. "Maybe for the time being we should sit while kissing, it might prove less dangerous."

"Or," Seven stated as she lifted her body from the captain's, "we could utilize a larger, than the couch, horizontal surface."

"Like the bed?" Janeway grasped the young woman's hand and allowed herself to be pulled into a standing position.

"Yes." Seven put her arms loosely around the captain's waist and looked into eyes that were now more blue than grey.

"Have you ever been … intimate with anyone?" Janeway knew of the Borg's 'boyfriend' Axum in Unimatrix Zero, a dream world some Borg drones 'visited' during their regeneration cycle. She found it hard to understand how Seven, who was assimilated at such an early age, could imagine something she had never experienced before she had become a drone. She also knew that while the Collective would more than likely retain the medical knowledge of how species reproduced, they would deem how that act was accomplished irrelevant. So, if Seven had been intimate with someone, it would've been somebody on Voyager or one of the passing aliens. Neither one of those scenarios was very appealing.

Seven looked down at the older woman. "Kathryn, I have only had one date and you are aware of how badly that ended. No, I have not 'been' with anyone."

"That date wasn't your fault. I shouldn't have encouraged you when I was in the process of rushing to get ready for an away mission. I should have told you we could discuss 'dating' when I returned." She sighed; rather disgusted with herself. "I'm really sorry about that."

"It was not your fault either."

"Yes, it was. A hologram, sentient or not, was left in charge of helping you learn human practices. I just thought with his experience in learning to deal with the crew, he could be helpful to you. To be honest, I knew that watching you fall in love with someone else … would have been very painful."

"Kathryn, if you felt something for me then, why did you 'encourage' me at all?" Seven asked genuinely confused.

Janeway moved out of Seven's arms. Picking up her wine glass, she twirled it, watching as the contents swirled. "The truth was … I was scared."

"You are not scared of anything." Seven was quick to reply. "You have stood your ground against the Borg, the Kazon, the Vidiians, the Hirogen, the Malon, flown your ship into a binary pulsar, called the bluff of a nebula dwelling entity when it tried to take over the ship. I do not understand how you could be scared of telling me your feelings."

Janeway chuckled. "Captain Janeway isn't scared … of much. But Kathryn Janeway, well, there are several things that terrify her."

Seven realized that talking about one's self in the third person was a little irregular, but in the case of a starship captain, probably wasn't that much out of the ordinary. She moved closer behind the captain and placed her hands on the shoulders that supported the entire crew and ship. "Tell me what terrifies you."

Janeway leaned back into the comforting body. "I'm scared of losing you; I'm scared of you not needing or loving me the way I do you; I'm scared of not being the best person for you. Plus I'm much older than you and I'd have to put your needs behind the ship's. God knows I have to put my own last, but I knew that when I accepted command and at that time I could separate the captain from Kathryn. But this little excursion into the Delta Quadrant has changed that. I'm also apprehensive to how the crew will react to my being involved with a crew member."

Seven circled the captain's smaller body with her arms. "If by losing me, you mean to someone else, I can assure you that will not happen. This may be the first time I have been in love, but I can recognize it for what it is. Kathryn, I assure you that I do love you and need you, very much. I do not care that you are 'somewhat' older. And as for putting the ship first, both our duties take priority over our personal time. But here in your quarters when we are together and off duty, we are just Kathryn and Seven, not Captain and crew member. Finally, is there not a saying, 'As the captain goes, so goes the ship'? I would think most of the crew would be happy for you."

Janeway pulled Seven's arms tightly around her. "Envious you mean. But thank you for putting things so logically, for loving me and for being willing to put up with a duty-bound, grumpy old starship captain."

"You are welcome." Seven gently squeezed her. "And I can assure you, the crew would not be envious of you."

The captain was surprised, did Seven really not know? "I see the way some of the crew watches you, the heads that turn when you pass them in the corridor, eyes that track up and down your body." She looked at their reflection in the viewport. "You are very beautiful, Seven, and not just on the outside. You have a very loving heart and when you let people see that part of you, you're going to have more people falling in love with you."

"Kathryn, if anything, they will be jealous of me. Half the ship has already 'fallen' for you."

"Not for me, for the 'captain'. That always happens; I believe it's the lure of power that attracts them. It's actually something that command training addresses."

"No, it is because you are intelligent, self-assured and incredibly beautiful."

"Thank you, love. But I think you're stretching the truth a bit. If anything I'm probably a maternal figure to them, especially since we're so far away from home and our families."

"Kathryn," Seven was exasperated with the way the captain couldn't or wouldn't see herself. "I do not believe Commander Chakotay thinks of you as his mother or any other relative for that matter. And he is just one example."

Janeway turned around to face Seven. "What do you mean?"

"I have seen the way some of the crew watch you. Tal Celes talks about you non-stop in astrometrics; she has a crush on you, as well as many others. But the Commander's feelings are even more obvious, at least to me. He watches you with a longing in his eyes."

"What makes you so sure about him?"

"Because I have seen the same look in my eyes. My reflection in a viewport or in the holodeck grid after one of our velocity matches and it is the same." She explained with one of those very looks.

Janeway groaned. "I thought we settled that years ago. I explained to him that I didn't feel the same way about him."

"That does not keep him from feeling that way about you."

"Damn." She laid her head on Seven's shoulder and sighed. "That's going to make this just a wee bit more difficult."

"Kathryn, if he really does love you he will want you to be happy no matter whom you are with."

"Mm, I hope so. But sometimes hard feelings need to be worked out first. It doesn't help that he…"

"That he really does not like me?" She finished. "Should I expect the Commander to challenge me for your affections?"

The captain laughed. "I sincerely hope he has more sense than that. Otherwise, I'd wonder why I appointed him as my first officer?"

"Why indeed."

She lifted her head. "Seven?"

"He challenges you far too often." She stated.

"And you don't?" Janeway smiled at the blonde to assure her she was mostly teasing. "Besides, that's his job."

"He should support you in front of the crew. And I have since learned more about the chain of command and to respect your authority; he should already know this due to his Starfleet training."

"True, you have offered more alternatives instead of questioning me lately. And I admit Chakotay has circumvented my orders, to the extent that I doubt my faith in him." Janeway recalled two incidents that Chakotay had disobeyed her orders, the first time they had encountered the Borg and the time they came to the aid of another Federation vessel, the Equinox. It had taken her a long time to come to terms with his decisions. Janeway hugged Seven tightly and sighed. "Computer, state the time."

"The time is 2347 hours." The female computer voice obediently stated.

Seven smiled. "It is getting late. Maybe we should 'hit the sack'."

Janeway raised an eyebrow. "You, my love, need to regenerate. And remember this is our first date."

"Kathryn, I want to stay and make love with you."

"I want that too, believe me I do. And we will, but not tonight. After all tomorrow night we can have our second date. What does your research tell you about them?"

"That with some people it was permissible." Seven grinned. "Are you saying that is it acceptable to make love on the second date?"

"I'm not saying anything; although you might want to regenerate before our date."

"As you wish, Kathryn. May I kiss you good night?"

"I'd be disappointed if you didn't."

What seemed like several minutes later, Seven released the captain and turned to go. "Good night, Kathryn."

"Good night, my love." 'God, I must be crazy to let her leave.' The captain thought as the door swished shut behind the blonde woman.

Outside the captain's quarters Seven passed Chakotay. "Commander." She acknowledged as she continued on her way to the turbolift.

He nodded his head. 'I wonder what she was doing in the Captain's quarters this late and dressed like that.' He almost stopped to request entrance when he remembered why he had been in his office this late. He had been trying to find a crewmember that matched his measurements so he could find a uniform that fit him instead of having to walk around looking ridiculous. He wasn't about to face Kathryn anymore than he absolutely had to, he had seen the mirth in her eyes every time she looked at him.

So, he continued past her door and into his quarters; disappointed that he couldn't find a match and wouldn't be able to spend any off-duty time with her until he resolved the uniform problem. Not that they had been spending that much time together lately. He blamed the ex-Borg drone for taking so much of the captain's time since coming on board.

'So, what was Seven doing in the Captain's quarters this late? Maybe she had another date and wanted to discuss it.' Kathryn had mentioned that they had 'philosophical discussions' now that Seven was adapting to her humanity. 'Like the drone could ever become human again.' He thought, but was smart enough not to mention that to the captain. Three years ago, he attempted to change Janeway's mind about keeping Seven of Nine on board and hoped it was just a matter of time before she would betray them and then they would be free of the Borg. But every opportunity they had to finally be rid of her, the captain would go above and beyond the call of duty to save Seven's life or to get her back. Though he readily admitted that the Borg had saved the ship and its crew time and again, he resented that smug look and superior attitude she frequently displayed

He thought for sure when her cortical node was failing that would be their best chance, but even then Kathryn risked herself to go find one, even after he pointed out that they might all end up with one if she went back to the Borg debris field. But she had gone anyway. It hadn't worked, but Icheb ended up saving her, much to his dismay. He just didn't understand the bond between them; maybe it was a mother daughter type thing.

He changed and crawled into bed. 'At least I didn't recycle my sleepwear, so it still fits.' He thought just before dozing off.


Chapter Four

The next morning, the senior staff sat in the briefing room for their meeting. Today B'Elanna was a bright cranberry red. The Doctor's facial hair and Mohawk were a horrible neon yellow color. Then Chakotay walked in, wearing the smaller sized uniform, and as he sat down, his pants split.

There was complete silence for several seconds, no one looked at the Commander, and then most everyone burst into uncontrollable laughter. It was the chief engineer who finally said, "Hey, Chakotay, your face is now the same color as mine." This set everyone into another round of giggles, except Tuvok and Seven, but Janeway saw the glimmer of amusement in Seven's eyes.

As they regained control, Neelix commented on something the others had failed to notice. "Mr. Vulcan, are you alright?"

"I am perfectly fine, Mr. Neelix." Tuvok replied.

"It's just that you seem to be … fidgeting." The Talaxian remarked at the unusual display.

Tuvok almost sighed. "I believe I have been the recipient of another 'joke'. There," he subtlety squirmed in his chair, "seems to be some kind of itching irritant that was inserted into my uniform when I recycled it this morning."

"I … um," Janeway cleared her throat, "guess you better report to sickbay along with B'Elanna after the meeting." She stated as she tried desperately to keep a straight face.

"Captain," the engineer said, "I'd just as soon stay this way. It's a lot less trouble and I'm actually starting to look forward to seeing what color I'll be the next morning."

"Alright, B'Elanna, it's your choice." Janeway agreed.

"Well, I still expect you to fix me." The Doctor spoke up. "It's embarrassing to be seen like this."

"Why, Doctor?" The lieutenant asked. "It's not like it's hurting us and it actually cheers up my engineering crew. They've even made a game of it, to see if they can guess the next color. The winner gets their duties covered by the losers for the afternoon. It's actually raised morale and after I got my temper under control, I've joined in on the fun."

This of course started a heated debate on the identity of the joker and why he, she or they were playing these jokes.

Seven just listened as she observed each person around the table, wondering which one of them had the wherewithal to pull off the technical part of the jokes. She had the ability of course, but even in her developing humanity thought this to be a frivolous and inefficient activity. Tom and Harry combined had the know-how and so did B'Elanna. Tuvok had the security clearance to pull if off, but Vulcans were not known for showing their sense of humor. She didn't think Chakotay or Neelix had the technical competence and the commander definitely would not pull that particular joke on himself … it made him look to idiotic. Kathryn had the technical ability and security clearance but would she resort to such juvenile recreation. Perhaps the captain was doing this to cheer up the crew, especially since they hadn't been able to find a suitable planet for shore leave. And no one would suspect her. Plus, Janeway had suggested they team up to find the joker. So, she figured Tom had to be the culprit since he was known for his juvenile behavior. She mentally sighed and brought her attention back to the debate. As it drew to a close, the meeting got back to ship's business.

Janeway left the bridge in the commander's hands and headed for astrometrics. She wanted to see Seven, but the truth of the matter was, Chakotay had split his third pair of pants in as many hours and she was hard pressed not to laugh. Every time he'd start stand up, he'd remember his predicament and quickly drop back into his chair.

She exited the turbolift, started down the corridor and froze. A second later Vorik turned the corner and also came to a stop.

"Mr. Vorik, you're squeaking." She needlessly informed him. "Loudly squeaking."

"Yes, Captain, actually it is the footwear that is producing the auditory disturbance."

"That's good to know, Ensign. I'm assuming you are the latest … victim?" She questioned.

"Indeed, Captain."

"You did try replicating a new pair I presume."

"Yes, Captain."

"Mr. Vorik, feel free to go without footwear if the noise gets to be too bothersome."

"Thank you, Captain, but I assure you, the 'noise' does not keep me from performing my duties."

"As you wish, Ensign, carry on."

"Yes, Captain." He inclined his head, turned and squeaked off down the corridor towards the turbolift.

She had to bite her lip to keep from laughing as she entered astrometrics. "Seven."

"Captain," the blonde looked at her commanding officer and stifled a grin. "I take it you encountered Ensign Vorik in the corridor."

"Correct." Janeway moved over to lean against the wall by the steps leading up to the astrometric lab's display screen. She couldn't risk standing too close to the other woman; she'd want to kiss her and anyone could walk into the lab.

"I believe B'Elanna sent him on the errand on purpose. It appears like she may be our practical joker." Seven stated as she turned to face the captain in her customary pose; standing straight, hands clasped behind her back, though this time it was a precautionary measure, since what she really wanted to do was reach out and touch Kathryn.

"Possibly, but I still wouldn't rule out Tom and Harry just yet." The captain replied.

"Very well, I will not rule them out. Is there something you wanted, Captain?"

"Mm, I want you … but unfortunately we're on duty." Janeway grinned. It was the little crooked grin that lifted up one corner of the captain's mouth that Seven found incredibly cute. "But I did want to ask you what time I should expect you tonight."

"I will log off duty at 1700 hours and regenerate until 2000. Would 2030 hours be suitable, Kathryn?"

"It will be perfect, Seven. I guess our prankster is safe for another night." She left and headed back to the bridge wondering how she was going to get through the rest of the afternoon. Perhaps staying in her ready room would be the best idea. It would alleviate having to control her merriment at her first officer's expense, especially knowing how he felt. But it wouldn't help her pass the time until she and Seven could be together. 'Good lord, I sound like a love sick teenager.'

Janeway did spend part of the afternoon on the bridge, but finally retired to her ready room. It just wouldn't do to have the captain break out in laughter every time she looked at the first officer. At least Tuvok had finally gone to sickbay for a hypospray to stop the itching. She had signed off on a few requests; currently she was working on an astrophysics report. They wanted to try to recreate the nebula they passed a few weeks ago, on the holodeck, in order to study its unusual composition. But every time she tried to concentrate on the report, her thoughts would stray to Seven and her preparations for their upcoming date. 'What should I wear? What should I make for dinner? I want tonight to be more casual and relaxed; not stiff and formal like last night.'

She moved to the couch on the upper level. 'Maybe an old country staple; fried chicken, potato salad and baked beans. Mm, maybe not the beans.' Remembering how they affected some people. 'I'll serve corn on the cob instead of the beans. Now, if the replicator will behave for another night, I'll have it made.' She returned to her desk and sent a message to Seven.

Seven's console beeped and she read the incoming message. "Tal Celes."

"Yes, Seven." The young woman asked cautiously, wondering what she'd done wrong this time.

"What is considered to be appropriate casual clothing?"

That completely surprised Celes. "Well, that depends. Do you know what you'll be doing that requires it?" The dark haired Bajoran left her station and walked over to Seven's console.

"Something called a 'picnic'." The Borg replied.

"Oh, well … a picnic, let's see, you could be eating at a picnic table," she noticed the curious look; "a table with benches that's usually located outdoors or some people spread a blanket on the ground and sit on it to eat. So, I'd say maybe a pair of shorts or linen pants and shirt or maybe a sundress." She wasn't sure if Seven had ever worn a dress and decided to err on the side of caution. "As, um, long as you're careful how you sit in the dress if you're going to be on the ground."

The implant above her left eye rose. "I remember seeing a sundress when Ensign Wildman helped me pick out my attire last night. I think that will do." She knew it would be a little awkward sitting on the 'ground' in a dress, but it would be easier to remove later that night. "I will be careful how I sit. Thank you for your assistance, Tal Celes."

"Sure, Seven, anytime." She went back to her station wondering who it was among the crew that had the courage to date the Borg, especially after her disastrous first date. 'I bet it's the Doctor, everyone on the ship knows how he feels about her; though she claims he's just her friend. Lt. Paris is bound to have a betting pool going. I wonder if I can get some inside information from Seven.'

Part 2

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