DISCLAIMER # 1: Many of the characters used in this story have been borrowed from the existing Trek universe. I mean them no harm and promise to return them intact (more or less) as soon as I am done. No gain, monetary or otherwise, is expected from their use.
DISCLAIMER # 2: All original characters and storylines contained herein belong to me. (Like anyone else would claim them!) This story may be archived by those so inclined as long as permission is obtained before hand, and the story remains entirely intact.
DISCLAIMER # 3: This story depicts a romantic relationship between two consenting females. Some scenes may be graphic, but lovingly so. If you are under the age of 18, either stop reading this now or find a good place to hide it! I don't want to hear from your mother! If this sort of thing is illegal where you live, try looking on the bright side. At least stupidity isn't contagious.
DISCLAIMER # 4: While "Someone To Watch Over Me" is one of my very favorite episodes, I wasn't all that thrilled by the depiction of Sevens first date. Maybe because I had my own ideas about how it should go. In any event, this being fanfiction, I am going to do it my way. So in regards to this bit of fiction, that episode never happened. Aside from that, I have tried to stay as true to the characters as I can.
WHO TO BLAME: Thanks must go out to several people for their inspiration and patience in dealing with a fledgling J/7 writer. In particular, I would like to thank G.L. Dartt, for her incredible, loving look at our favorite ladies. I bow to your incredible talent and thank you for sharing it with us. Thanks must also go to Ky for supplying all the back episodes I desperately needed and craved. And last but not least, my thanks goes out to ANDREA and SHAWN for being my loyal beta readers! They try to help me keep it real lol.
This story is dedicated to Kat, because I can't seem to find the words to express my gratitude. "I miss you like I miss the rain, on sunny afternoons. And darkened nights, with cloudless skies, and nothing there but moon…" This story is also dedicated to Chrissy who, even though she was not familiar with the characters or the back story, still managed to say the right things at all the right times. A tip of the hat must go to the movie "While you were sleeping…" because I just couldn't resist! (And would not presume to take the credit.) I welcome all comments, suggestions, criticism and compliments. Please email them to either of the above addresses. Flames concerning the lesbian content will be promptly laughed at, printed, and used to line my cats litter box. To all that makes us unique!
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.


By Patricia L. Givens


Forbidden fruit a flavor has

That lawful orchards mocks;

How luscious lies the pea within

The pod that Duty locks!

-Emily Dickinson


Chapter One: Questions

So warm… everywhere she touched was so warm. From the sheets tucked firmly around her body to the soft weight pinning her deliciously to the bed. She couldn't remember the last time she had felt so…satisfied, so replete.

It had been years, she knew that much. Years since she'd felt the warm fire in her belly, an eternity since she had experienced the afterglow of love, and she was enjoying every moment of it. It didn't matter that she couldn't remember anything before she had awoken. Only that every part of her was warm and happy now.

The body on top of hers shifted slightly, pulling away and she felt the warmth recede with it. With a playful whimper she reached out, her fingers closing over the soft, smooth skin of her companion's arm. Tugging insistently, she tried to pull her lover back towards her.

"Don't go." She whispered, her voice low and husky. "Stay with me… for just a little while longer."

Her companion hesitated for a moment before moving close once again. She felt warm skin slide up against her body and shivered into the breath that whispered in her ear.

"I will comply…"

Captain Kathryn Janeway of the U.S.S. Voyager woke with a start, her hands flying immediately to the mattress beside her. "Computer! Lights!"

The computer obeyed instantly, illuminating the Captain's sleeping area with a harsh brightness. Blinking to adjust her eyes, Janeway glanced around quickly, only able to bring her racing heart under control when she was sure that she was alone.

With a shuddering sigh she pulled herself up into a sitting position, her knees drawn up against her chest, hands dangling limply from atop them. "Computer…time?"

"The current time is 0300 hours." The feminine voice replied.

"Damn." Janeway sighed again, shaking her head. She had only been asleep for 47 minutes before…

Her eyes widened as her dream began to coalesce into a vivid memory.

It wasn't the first time she had dreamt of being held, of being loved…six long, solitary years would play hell with anyone's subconscious. No, dreams of the "blue" variety, as she liked to call them, had become the norm for her some years before. And they had only increased in frequency since her tenuous romantic link to the past had been broken.

When Voyager had first left Earth, over half a decade earlier, she had been engaged to the proverbial 'boy next door'. A caring if simple man, Mark Johnson had been a fixture in her life for more years than she cared to remember. And if their friendship, and subsequent courtship, had lacked a certain amount of passion…well, his quiet support and easy manner had seemed a fair trade at the time.

Actually, it had been more than fair. It had been exactly what she wanted, not that she would have admitted it or even realized it then. But now, looking back, she could remember the overwhelming sense of relief she had felt when Mark had finally proposed. Not because she had ever doubted that he would. His predictability had been one of the most comforting things about him.

In truth, his proposal had succeeded in accomplishing the one thing that Janeway herself could never do.

It had stilled her restless heart.

From the time she was a small girl, until the moment Mark Johnson asked for her hand in marriage, Kathryn Janeway had been at the mercy of her heart.

Not that mercy had ever been in abundant supply.

It had been a curse to her, how deeply she felt things. An incessant annoyance that caused her to blush at the most inappropriate times, and often stripped her of her dignity when she was most in need of it.

Like that episode with William Riker at the Academy? Her internal voice snickered. How much sleep did that little display cost you?

Janeway sighed.

Eventually, she had learned to turn her emotions inward, trapping them behind the mask of command that she could slam into place at will. Yet, while this gave the appearance that she was in control, all the needs and desires she suffered from still raged deep within her.

And then Mark freed her from them. Oddly enough, with the very thing that was supposed to inspire such emotion.

By accepting his proposal, Janeway had finally found the means to lock away her heart. She would be his spouse, his lover, as he would be hers. For better or for worse, in good times and in bad. Those kinds of vows did not allow her the luxury to want or need for anything more. She had promised him her loyalty and he would have it, completely and forever, mind, body and soul.

And if there was one thing within Janeway that she could use to shield herself from her heart, it was her sense of duty.

It didn't matter that his touch had never been more than pleasant, or that his quiet little life had often bored her to tears. There was no need for her to worry whether or not they were even truly compatible.

She was a Starfleet Captain. A quad pip ship jockey with a mistress she did not have to hide, or be ashamed of.

And a fiancé she would only be required to miss.

That was what made Mark perfect. His existence was a barrier between her and her needs. He kept her focused and closed off, unapproachable to those who might wish to know her, and unavailable to those she might wish to know. His memory had provided her with the only excuse she had ever needed to avoid personal entanglements, even on the other side of the galaxy. And all she had to do in return was miss him.

And she honestly did. She missed his laughter, his way of telling a story. Mostly, she missed telling him about the events of her day, comforted that he was listening, regardless of whatever else he was occupied with at the moment.

Sometimes Janeway wondered if those were truly the kinds of things a woman would miss about her husband. Or were they things you would miss in the absence of a friend? Perhaps it all came down to one simple fact.

That she would only ever be able to miss Mark the same way she had loved him… without passion.

But then, that had always been more than enough for her.

Until recently.

After years of being lost in the Delta Quadrant, Voyager had come across a series of relay stations that stretched all the way back home. Through those relay stations, they had received an encoded message from Starfleet Command. She had expected its content to be purely militaristic and had been shocked, although pleasantly so, to find that it also contained personal letters for her crew from the loved ones they had left behind.

Janeway had been thrilled when she was handed one addressed to her, then overjoyed when she saw that it had come from Mark. The joy had been short lived however, when she read that although he had waited longer than most, he had eventually given up on her and moved on with his life. He was now happily married to a woman who had been his research assistant.

And while she wished him all the happiness in the world, the news had been a bitter pill to swallow.

Since then her dreams had visited all sorts of torment on her. From visions of someone holding her sweetly, to images of lovemaking so intense that they left her physically exhausted, her dreams ran the gamut of the emotions that she was missing in her life.

The only constant that they shared was anonymity of her partner; a dark form that neither spoke nor showed enough of itself to be recognized.

Apparently, that was no longer the case.

For even though she had never opened her eyes in this particular dream, even though she hadn't seen the body that moved so sweetly against her own, the words that still echoed in her mind had been enough to quell any doubts as to the identity of the person sharing her bed.

"I will comply..."

She had heard that phrase a hundred times before from her Astrometrics officer, a former Borg drone named Seven of Nine.

Six feet tall, blonde with ice blue eyes, Seven had been a part of the Collective for eighteen years, having been assimilated at the age of six along with her parents, who had been studying the Borg at the time.

Janeway had first come in contact with Seven when she entered into a short-lived truce with the Collective, which was being decimated by a brutal race designated as Species 8472. Unaware that the Borg had initiated the conflict, she offered them a means to combat the deadly creatures in return for Voyager's safe passage through their space.

Unwilling to allow the Borg to fit them with neural transceivers during the negotiations, Janeway suggested a representative be chosen by the Collective to act as a liaison. The representative supplied had been an arrogant and belligerent young female.

Her designation: Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct to the Unimatrix Zero One.

When the truce had fallen apart, Janeway found herself compelled to take the once human drone with her, ignoring Seven's pleas to be returned to the Collective.

Since then, Captain Janeway had considered it her responsibility to help the young woman embrace her humanity. A task that had proven to be quite difficult thus far.

Stubborn and opinionated, willful past the point of being insubordinate, Seven had clung to her Borg ideals of perfection. She had refused to respect the chain of command; even going so far as to openly oppose the Captain herself when she thought that Janeway was in error.

Because of that, most of the crew treated her as a pariah, giving her a wide berth and refusing to interact with her on any level except when absolutely necessary.

But Janeway had sensed something more within the beautiful young drone than cold indifference and contempt.

She had been intrigued by the subtle complexities that made up Seven of Nine. The displays of individuality carefully hidden behind her disdain for human frailty and disorder.

Because of that, she never ceased in her efforts to reach out to Seven, never stopped trying to make Voyager more than the prison the drone thought it to be.

Whether she had been successful or not was a matter of opinion.

Or more specifically, a matter of whom the opinion belonged to.

Janeway knew that many of her crewmembers resented the ex-drones presence. She supposed she didn't blame them. The fear of being assimilated, or of losing a loved one to assimilation, was a powerful one.

And here she was, inviting the wolf into the fold.

"Once a Borg, always a Borg." That had been Chakotay's opinion.

But from the beginning, she had known…it just wasn't that simple.

Eighteen years ago, Seven of Nine had been human. A precocious six-year-old named Annika Hansen who had had her childhood and future stripped away from her through no fault or choice of her own.

How could she deny Seven the right to become the person she was meant to be?

Janeway sighed. She could sit up all night and debate with herself about the rights and wrongs of what she had done. But the bottom line was still the same.

From the moment Seven of Nine stepped out of her Borg alcove, she had known that there was something special about her. Something reachable… something salvageable…

Something… irresistible?

If she was going to be honest with herself, then she had to admit that there had been something inexplicably appealing about the young drone right from the start.

She had been fascinated with her, feeling as drawn to her arrogance and anger as she was repulsed by her Borg nature. For some unfathomable reason, she felt compelled to know the human buried deep within the machine. Why this particular drone had evoked such strong emotions within her was an enigma she found herself unable to resolve.

Until the first time that Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct to the Unimatrix Zero One…smiled.

It had been nothing more than a small quirk of those full, ruby lips, but it was enough to send the Captain's pulse racing with the sheer beauty of it.

A reaction that had startled Janeway, to say the very least.

Was that when she began to realize that her feelings for the Borg weren't entirely maternal?

Or was it Stardate 52842, when Seven had sat across from her in the mess hall and quietly told her "thank you". There had been something so fragile about the way she had said it, something so endearing in how she shyly looked away.

That shyness had been lucky for the Captain as well. Otherwise, the emotions written so plainly on her face may have led to questions that she wasn't ready to answer.

Are you ready to answer them now? Are you finally willing to listen?

Listen to what? Janeway wondered idly. Pipe dreams and fantasies that could never be reality?

Even if she did finally accept the emotions that were trying so hard to batter down her will, even if she did let herself act on it…revel in it…

It would still never happen. Even if it wasn't against Starfleet protocol for her to become involved with a member of her crew, why would Seven ever choose to become involved with her?

Almost twenty years her senior, with a sense of duty she could not ignore and weary homesickness she could not shake, what did she really have to offer someone like Seven Of Nine? Her first priority would always be Voyager, she had never had much luck with romance and she was well aware that there were people on her own ship that made her look, well… less than desirable… when she stood next to them.

All in all, she was not the first experience that she herself would go looking for. Why would Seven bother? Especially since she was so convinced that romance was a waste of time?

Janeway shook her head. No, there was no way to make it work. The best thing she could do, for both of them, was to forget she had ever even considered it.

With a bone-weary sigh, she stretched out again, calling for the lights as she pulled the covers up to her chin, trying to forget the warmth she had felt so sweetly, if only in her dreams.


Chapter Two: Lessons

Seven of Nine glanced up as she heard the cargo bay doors open, a small feeling of warmth curling her lips into a faint smile as she took note of the person visiting her.

"Naomi Wildman." She looked down at the half-Katarian child with genuine affection. "It is early. Why are you not taking your lessons?"

"Mom pulled extra duty and the Doctor is busy re-calibrating his matrix." The child practically beamed. "So I got the day off. How are you?"

"I am very busy."

"Oh." Naomi's smile faded immediately. "Do you want me to leave?"

Seven studied her face, thinking that her work would be a great deal easier with the child not present. "That is not necessary." She said gently. "You are welcome here."

Naomi relaxed considerably. "Thanks. What are you doing?"

"I am attempting to run a simulation using an alternative variance to the standard slipstream velocity."

"Oh." She glanced at the screen. "Can I help?"

"I do not believe so. However, you may reorganize the data PADDs in that storage container and return them to engineering. B'Elanna Torres has requested their return and I have, as of yet, been unable to accommodate her."

"Sure!" Naomi's chest swelled proudly. "You can count on me!"

"Thank you, Naomi Wildman."

The young girl moved to the next console and began rearranging the contents of the container, glancing at the Borg every so often before finally speaking. "Uh, Seven…can I ask you something?"

"You may."

"Why do you always call me 'Naomi Wildman'?"

Seven glanced at her, a slightly confused look on her features. "Is that not your proper designation?"

"Well…yes… it is." She smiled. "But I meant, why don't you just call me Naomi? And Lieutenant Torres… why don't you call her B'Elanna?"

"I do not see the relevance of your question."

"Well, you and I are friends…aren't we?"

Seven found herself strangely touched by the note of panic that had crept into the child's voice. "Yes. We are friends."

Naomi sighed with relief. "And are you friends with Lieutenant Torres?"

The ex-drone paused, unsure of how to answer that question, but Naomi seemed not to notice.

"When you're friends with people, you're supposed to call them by their first name."


"Because!" Naomi rolled her eyes. "You're closer to them then ordinary people. It's ok to show it."

"Ordinary people?" Seven turned to give the young girl her full attention. "So when an individual becomes a 'friend', that makes them extraordinary as well? Explain."

"Well, Mom says there are four types of people that you can know. There are your enemies…you don't want very many of those."

"I would think not." Seven agreed seriously.

"Then there are acquaintances. People you don't really know that well, but that you are aware of. Like the people you work with."

"I see."

"Then, there are your friends. The people that you socialize with. The ones you care about." Naomi, who had been ticking off the categories on the fingers of her left hand, stopped abruptly. "This is where I think Mom forgot a type."

"Which would be?" Seven asked patiently.

"Best Friends."

"Best friends?" She repeated slowly. "I was unaware that friendship was an area to be rated."

"No." Naomi giggled. "A best friend is someone that you especially care for. Someone that you can confide in or that you feel very close to." She became serious. "Someone you would consider family."

"Ahh." Seven looked at her closely. "Do you have a…'best friend'?"

The young girl walked over to her, encircling the Borg's waist with her slender arms. "You are my best friend."

"I see." Seven stood stiffly, unsure what her reaction was supposed to be. "What are you doing?"

"I'm hugging you."

"Hugging me?"

"It's a form of affection Seven." Naomi looked up at her but didn't let go. "When you care for someone, it's all right to touch them. To show them that you care. That's why I'm hugging you."

"To show me that you care?"


"I…care also." Seven knelt before the child and awkwardly returned the embrace, being careful in the placement of her Borg-enhanced left arm. "Is there more to this 'hugging'?"

Naomi laughed. "No, this is it."

"All right." She released the girl and straightened. "What is the final category?"

"Well…" Naomi wrinkled her nose. "Mom said she tell me more about that type when I get older."


"The last category is for the people that you love. As friends…but more than that, too."

"Ahh." Seven nodded. "You are talking about mates."


"Partners…in copulation?" Seven wondered vaguely if she should be discussing this topic with the child. Especially since she didn't know that much about it herself.

"I think the word Mom used was 'lovers'. And it's more than just that part of it, Seven." Her face flushed slightly. "There's all those icky, googly-eyed feelings too."

"Googly-eyed?" Seven quirked on eyebrow. "Is that the actual terminology?"

"Yeah. You know…like when Lt. Torres and Lt. Paris are in the mess hall together sometimes. They hold hands and look at each other with the silliest expressions on their faces. That's love."

"It seems an inefficient activity."

But Naomi only shrugged. "Some people like it. My Mom says I'll like to too… when I get older."

Seven nodded and turned back to her work. "Thank you for the information, Naomi Wild-" She stopped herself. "Naomi."

"Anytime." Her lips curled into bright smile. "I'm done. I'll run these over to Lieutenant Torres now."

"Thank you." Seven watched her friend struggle against the weight of the container until she was out the door.

Sometimes, she thought, lessons came from unusual places. Naomi had given her much to think about.

Which she would do later, when she was done with her projections.

With a presence of will that would make most Starfleet personnel green with envy, she stilled her curiosity and returned to her work

* * * * * * * * *

Captain Janeway stood before the windows in her ready room, staring quietly out at the passing stars, her thoughts a million sectors away. When her door chimed, she responded automatically, not bothering to turn her attention away from view before her. "Come."


Recognizing her First Officer before he even spoke, she slid her command mask into place and turned to greet him. "Good morning, Chakotay."

At six feet tall, with dark hair and eyes, not to mention a robust physique, Chakotay was an impressive figure of a man. His Native American blood had resulted in a deeply tanned complexion, and the tribal tattoo over his left eye gave him an air of mystery that added greatly to his appeal.

At least she thought so. At one time, she had even indulged in the possibility of a relationship with him. One that she was now convinced would never have been viable. He was just too nice for her, too giving and attentive to bring any sort of balance to her life.

"Good Morning." Chakotay responded cheerfully before noting the dark circles beneath her eyes. "Didn't you call a walking inspection of the Gamma shift last night?"

"I did. Why?"

"I guess I just didn't expect you to be in quite this early." He said carefully. "That's a long inspection."

"And one which was passed with flying colors!" She smiled. "Be sure to log that in the personnel files, would you?"

"Of course." He smiled back at her. "How much sleep have you had?"

"Not much." She sighed. "I think it's just too quiet for me to relax completely."

"You'd prefer that we were under attack?"

Janeway laughed. "At least then we'd know what to expect." She looked out at the stars again. "How long have we been passing through this region?"

"Eight days."

"And how long since we've encountered any type of intelligent species?"

"Eight days." Chakotay moved to stand beside her.

"I can't help feeling like it's just too easy."

"The calm before the storm?"

She nodded.

"Maybe there is no storm. Maybe this region is exactly what it appears to be: An area of space on the verge of evolution. Not every sector of the Delta Quadrant can be harboring belligerent aliens."

"Perhaps." Janeway replicated herself a cup of coffee before returning to her desk. "But we're the aliens here, aren't we Chakotay. We are the ones who don't belong."

Suddenly, he understood where this was coming from…and where it might be going. "Maybe you're right." He said quietly. "Maybe we don't belong here in the Delta Quadrant. But that doesn't mean that we're fair game for any species that might want to take a few pot shots at us." He smiled reassuringly. "Besides, we're not going to be here forever. When Captain Kathryn Janeway sets her mind, and heart, on something… I have no doubt as to what the outcome will be."

Janeway glanced at him sharply. "Meaning?"

"Meaning you will get us home." He wondered briefly at her response and then dismissed it. "You've brought us thirty five thousand light years in less than a decade. You never let anything get in your way. Not the Kazon, not the Hirogen, not even the Borg. Our faith in you is something you never have to question."

Despite herself, Janeway felt warmed by his response. His initial remarks had made her wonder how lax she had become in hiding certain of her emotions. But he had merely been commenting on her efforts to return them to the Alpha Quadrant.

Besides, didn't you decide that there's nothing else to comment on?

"Thank you." She said quietly.

"Thank you." He responded, allowing the emotion he felt to show plainly on his face.

Nodding, Janeway activated her console. "I am going to work on the departmental reports. Keep our current heading. Inform me if our situation changes. Dismissed."

"Aye, Captain."

When he was gone, she stared idly after him. It was the faith he spoke of that kept her going every day. Just as she knew that same faith set her apart from those she cared for, creating a chasm between them that she could never cross.

What was it her Grandmother had said to her once?

That faith could be its own sort of curse? Both to those who carried it, and the ones they carried it for.

Twin doors slid open silently, admitting a tall, auburn haired woman into the dark confines of cargo bay two. For a moment, she stopped, looking towards the green glow of the Borg regeneration alcoves lining one wall. None of them were occupied so she stepped in further, smiling when she finally caught sight of Seven of Nine, working at her terminal.

"Hello, Seven."

The beautiful ex-drone looked up, her sky blue eyes assessing the woman before her with cool detachment. "Ensign Mahr," Her head tilted slightly to one side as she searched her memory for an appropriate greeting. "How are you this…afternoon?" Her full, bow-like lips stumbled slightly as she calculated the time of day in her head.

Ensign Mahr smiled, causing the light brown markings on the sides of her face to shift slightly as her cheeks dimpled in delight. "I'm good, Seven." She said softly, moving closer to lean against the Borg's computer terminal. "How are you?"

"I am functioning at acceptable levels." Seven replied, looking at the woman expectantly. When the Trill neither spoke, nor moved away, Seven felt her typical impatience vying to overcome her newly acquired manners. "Ensign Mahr? Is there something further you require?"

"Call me Lili."

"For what purpose?" Seven asked.

The Trill laughed. "It's my first name, Seven."

"Incorrect." The Borg gave the smaller woman a slightly odd look. The Doctor would say it was impolite to correct someone in a social situation, but Seven found herself concerned that the Ensign did not seem to know her own name. "Your designation is Alilianna Mahr. You are a member of Species 1499-B, a 'joined' Trill. Your biological and technological distinctiveness was added to our own."

"What?" The Ensign's face went pale. "When?"

"Over a decade ago." Seven continued flatly as she proceeded to enter data into her console, unaware of the coldness in her voice, or the unease that it caused. "A single long range exploration ship consisting of 27 members of Species 1499-A and 4 members of Species 1499-B. We were, at first, unaware of the differences between the joined, and unjoined members of your species, thereby forcing us to append your designation to account for both." She glanced up, the Borg implant over her left eye rising slightly. "Species 1499-B has proven to be more valuable, however, do to your considerable capacity for data storage. But the knowledge gained from both was highly beneficial."

Lili stared at her, her mouth slightly agape. She knew that Seven was not as socially adept as the rest of the crew, but her horrifying remarks, especially the last which had been offered as some sort of compliment, were more than she could take. "I'm glad we could be of service." She said coldly.

Seven looked at her closely, realizing that the Ensign's mood had changed considerably. "Indeed." She nodded slightly and turned back to her work, but not before seeing the woman shake her head slightly, as though to clear it.

"Lili is an abbreviation of my first name Seven." She smiled stiffly. "Alilianna…Lili…get it?" She ran her fingers through her hair. "Listen, Seven… I like you…so I'm going to tell you something that I think maybe someone should have told you a long time ago."

The Borg turned slightly, giving the smaller woman her full attention.

"You used to be Borg…"

"That is correct, I am Borg." Seven waited expectantly for the crewman to turn and walk away, as most did when her past was laid out for discussion. She was slightly surprised when Lili did not leave. Instead, the young woman merely smiled, waving her hand in the air.

"That's not what I meant, Seven. What I mean to say is that you were Borg. You're not any longer. Now you're Human. And being Human means having friends. Otherwise you are looking at a very lonely existence."

The Borg lowered her eyes somewhat. "I am familiar with that type of existence."

The Ensign swallowed, finally understanding how hard a time Seven was having with her newfound Humanity. "Well… I think maybe people might not be so hesitant to spend time with you if you didn't offer them…assimilation information…about their friends and family."

Seven's eyes widened slightly as she listened. "An interesting hypothesis. One that I will consider more thoroughly at another time." she glanced at Lili's face, noting analytically that the young woman had beautiful, dark green eyes that were very clear. In addition to that, her auburn-red haired created a soft frame around her light Trill markings. All in all, Ensign Mahr was quite aesthetically pleasing. And, if her earlier conversation with Naomi had been correct, she was extending an offer of friendship, something Seven had not experienced that often in the past. "Thank you for the information, Ens…Lili."

The Trill smiled at her again. Not a tight, forced smile as the prior one had been, but a full out grin that caused dimples to appear in each of her cheeks and a sparkle to glow in her eyes. "You are very welcome, Seven." The Ensign leaned in a little closer, partially obscuring the display the Borg was working on. "But…I was wondering…since I have provided you with this very useful piece of information, maybe you could…. do something for me?"

Seven felt a strange sensation in the pit of her stomach. Something dark, and very lonely. This is disappointment, she thought to herself. I am disappointed that her help is offered as a debt I must repay. When she looked at the Trill again, her face was composed, her eyes shuttered. "What do you require?"

Lili noticed the change but decided she had come too far to stop now. "A little of your time," She smiled wanly. "Your company, some conversation…" She swallowed hard at the Borg's impassive stare. "Maybe we could get a night cap."

Seven looked confused. "I do not require a nocturnal head dress at this time."

"No…" The Ensign laughed lightly. "That's not what I meant." She decided on the direct approach, thinking she should have tried that to begin with. "Seven…I'm…I'm…asking you out. I am requesting that you spend a little time with me… on a social level?" She clarified when the Borg still did not respond.

"Curious." Seven studied her closely.

"What?" Lili stood up, self consciously straightening her uniform. "What?"

"Ensign Mahr, you are exhibiting emotional and physical characteristics I have, as of yet, only witnessed when in the company of male members of the crew."

"What?" She repeated weakly, starting to feel like a parrot.

Seven picked up a tricorder and held it in front of the flustered Trill. "Increased heart rate, increased respiration, rapid pupil dilation when your eyes focus on certain areas of my body…" She snapped the tricorder shut. "Ensign Mahr, are these symptoms a result of your Trill physiology?"

Lili opened her mouth…then shut it again, swallowing hard against the panic at the back of her throat. She considered fleeing…briefly, until she looked into the very curious, and very beautiful, blue eyes watching her intently. "Are you asking me if I'm attracted to you because one of my past hosts may have been male?"


The Ensign grinned. "Good question." She said with admiration. "Honestly?"

"Is there a purpose, or a use, in being dishonest?"

"No…No I suppose not." The Trill was astounded at the amount of affection she was feeling for the ex-drone. All of her friends, and even a few of her adversaries, had warned her that this would probably not be a good idea.

Screw 'em!

"I guess I have been the victim of a symbiotic 'crush' once or twice. But even as I felt the emotions my symbiont was generating, I knew they weren't mine, and therefore never acted on them." She flushed slightly. "At this moment, I would have to say that the effect you are having on my…'physiology'…is definitely a joint effort."

Seven took a few moments to process this information, finally deciding that the Trill was being sincere in the request for her company. "Very well." She nodded slightly. "I am off duty at 2100 hours."

The smile she received could have rivaled the brilliance of a supernova. "Great! I'm done in Biometrics at 2100 as well. Why don't we keep it simple this time out…dinner? Will you meet me in the mess hall at 2200?"

"That would be acceptable."

"See you then." Lili winked at her before strolling happily out of the bay.

Seven watched her go, intrigued by the emotion she knew was involved in the singular closing of the Trill's ocular cavity.

This was turning in to quite an instructional afternoon.


Chapter Three: Expectations

"Dammit!" B'Elanna Torres tightened her grip on the torque wrench and leaned her whole body into the open compartment beneath the diagnostic console. She had been wrestling for the better part of an hour with a damaged relay and was more than a little frustrated. "C'mon you stupid piece of veQ!!:


The half Human, half Klingon started violently, causing her hand to slip off the wrench and her knuckles to scrape painfully across the grating behind the relay. "What the…!!" She looked behind her, her temper flaring as she saw Seven of Nine standing there. Crawling out of the compartment, she glared at the Borg as she brought her hand to her mouth and sucked at the blood oozing from her fingers. "What the hell are you doing? You should know better than to sneak up behind me when I'm working!"

"You are damaged." Seven said evenly.

"Hell yes, I'm damaged. It's YOUR fault I'm damaged!"

"I did not mean to frighten you."

B'Elanna felt her hackles go up. "You didn't frighten me! You startled me. It's different." She rose to her feet and reached for her smock, looking for the dermal regenerator she kept in one of the pockets. Her hand was throbbing, and the instrument slipped from her fingers as she tried to activate it.

Seven picked it up quickly and turned it on. She reached out and took the Klingon's hand, holding it flat as she ran the instrument over her ravaged knuckles.

"I don't need your help!" B'Elanna growled.

"Perhaps not, but I have already begun. It would be more efficient if you would allow me to finish."

The Chief Engineer glowered but let her to finish, flexing her fingers when she was done to be sure everything was working properly. "What do you want anyway?"

Seven looked at her silently for a moment, her head tilted slightly to one side. "I have finished the latest slipstream simulation and I have brought you the data as you requested."

B'Elanna snorted. "Why didn't you just have your little assistant bring it with the rest?"

"Naomi Wildman is not my assistant. She is my friend. She asked to assist me and I accommodated her. Was my decision to do so incorrect?"

"No, it's fine, Seven. I'm just pissed off at this relay. I can't seem it get it to budge."

"Pissed off?" The Borg looked at her quizzically. "I do not understand."

"I'm angry, Seven."

"Directing anger towards the object does not seem to be aiding in your repairs. May I?"

B'Elanna looked at her suspiciously for a moment and then handed her the wrench. "By all means, knock yourself out."

Seven knelt into the open compartment and grasped the wrench in her Borg-enhanced left hand. With a firm push, the bolt screamed its reluctance and finally gave way.

The Klingon looked at her in exasperation. "Well, I guess if I had your implants it wouldn't have given me a problem either."

"No, it would not. But allowing yourself to become assimilated simply to remove a broken relay does not seem a prudent course of action."

B'Elanna snorted. "What is that, Borg humor?" When Seven didn't reply she grabbed the Padd from her and slammed it onto the nearby console. "Whatever. I'll take a look at the data later. I need to finish this right now."

When the Borg did not leave she took a deep breath and tried to reign in her temper. "Was there something else you wanted?"

Seven hesitated and B'Elanna was surprised when a light flush crept into her cheeks. "May I ask you a question, Lieutenant?"

Her curiosity at what could have caused the normally ice cold Borg to become even marginally flustered won out over her irritation. "Yeah, fine, if it will get you out of engineering faster. What?"

"A member of the crew has requested my participation in a social situation this evening. You are the only one on Voyager presently engaged in a 'romantic' relationship and I wish to avail myself of your knowledge in this area."

B'Elanna blinked. "Someone asked you out on a date?"

"Yes." Seven looked at her intently. "I have no data on what is expected of me in this situation. I understand that a 'first date' is required before proceeding with a personal relationship but I do not understand what I am required to do to facilitate such interaction."

"And you think that I'm the one to help you with this?"

"While your relationship with Mr. Paris is often volatile and quixotic, I find I have no other avenues open to me for such discussion. I wish to know what your 'first date' entailed."

B'Elanna laughed softly. "I seem to recall a couple of emergency evac suits and an incredible view of the stars."


"Seven… Tom and I didn't really have a first date. It was more like…we came to an understanding and just went from there."

"I see." The Borg looked disappointed.

"But," The Klingon sighed, wondering exactly what she had done to make herself seem available for this conversation. "I have had other first dates. Not many, but I guess I can fill in a few of the blanks for you."

"I would be grateful." Seven said honestly.

"All right." B'Elanna looked around to make sure none of her crew were in earshot. "A first date is supposed to allow you to 'try someone on', to see if they fit."

"Fit what?"

"Fit with YOU, Seven. A first date is when you gather information to find out if you're compatible."

Seven looked thoughtful. "How do you go about assimilating this information?"

The Klingon sighed. "You don't 'assimilate', Seven. You ask questions. You listen to their responses. You answer their questions. You watch their body language, their mannerisms. And you get a feel for how comfortable you are when you're with them."


"All right. Ask them about their hobbies, their likes and dislikes. About where they come from and where they might see themselves going. In return you share the same information with them. You open yourself up to them and let them see the real you."

"I see. A mutual interrogation."

B'Elanna sighed. "No…well…yeah, sort of. But in a relaxed way. Don't pounce on them and demand information. Just let it come naturally."

Seven nodded. "I believe I understand. Thank you, Lieutenant." She turned to go.

"Wait, wait!" The engineer looked at her curiously. "So are you going to tell me who the lucky guy is?"

"Ensign Mahr."

"Ens…" The Klingon did a double take. "Ensign Mahr? From Biometrics?"

"I was unaware there was more than one Ensign Mahr on the ship."

"Seven…" B'Elanna said carefully. "Ensign Mahr…is female."

"I am aware of that, Lieutenant."

"And that isn't a problem for you?"

"Should it be?"

"No…no, not at all. I just didn't expect you to choose a female for your first date."

"I did not 'choose' her. She chose me." Seven clarified. "I found her aesthetically pleasing and reasonably intelligent so I agreed to her request."

"Ok." B'Elanna smiled to herself. She couldn't wait to tell Tom that the blonde bombshell who had many of the male members of the crew falling all over themselves was going to have her very first date ever… with a woman. She was actually starting to enjoy herself. "What are you going to wear?"

"Is what I am wearing in some way insufficient?"

"Well, yes. A first date is about making an impression she won't soon forget. You can't show up looking like you do every other day of the year. You need to dress up, get decked out…take her breath away."

"Take her breath away." Seven repeated. "I assume that is another Human allegory."

"Yes, it means that you need to affect her enormously right from the very start."

"I have no other apparel."

B'Elanna looked thoughtful. "What time is your date?"

"2200 hours."

"All right. I'll meet you in cargo bay two at 2100 and we'll find you something to wear."

"I will comply." Seven turned to go and then stopped. When she turned back, there was a strange softness in her features. "Thank you….B'Elanna."

Torres watched her go, shocked at the difference in her manner and her voice. Maybe there was something more to the Borg after all.

Seven went about the rest of the day in her customary fashion, her efficiency unaffected by the strange sensation that had accompanied her ever since her trip to engineering. When she logged off her board in Astrometrics at the end of her duty shift, the feeling was still with her. It was much like a low sonic frequency being coursed through her body from an unknown source. As she made her way to cargo bay two, she searched through her Borg memories until she located the term that came closest to what she was experiencing.

"Anticipation." She said to herself. "Unusual."

When she arrived at her destination, she found B'Elanna waiting for her inside, working at the replicator console. "Lieutenant."

"Seven." The engineer returned her curt greeting. "I think I've found just what we're looking for, in design at least. Now what about the color?"

"Color is irrelevant."

"Trust me, Seven. On a first date, nothing is irrelevant." She gave the Borg a long considering glance. "Your skin is too fair for black, red is a bit…tart. Hmmm…. What about blue, shading slightly to grey? I think that would work, especially with your eyes. Here, look. What do you think?"

She looked down at the screen. "It is without sleeves."


Seven looked slightly uncomfortable. "I have an implant in my right bicep that protrudes outside of the epidermis. I do not believe that it would be considered attractive."

"Oh." B'Elanna said softly. "I didn't know…"

"That I was aware that my appearance has been perceived as unsettling by many members of the crew?" She looked at the Klingon pointedly. "How could I not be aware when so few make an attempt to conceal their distaste?"

The engineer felt her cheeks flush. "I guess I deserved that. I'm truly sorry, Seven. I guess I never bothered to look beyond your Borg implants before. You would think, being who I am, that I would know better."

The ex-drone studied her evenly, before saying very softly, "Your apology is accepted."

"So nothing sleeveless. What about this?"

"It is acceptable."

"All right." She replicated the outfit and held it out to the Borg, turning away as Seven removed her bio suit and attempted to pull on the new garment.

"I am having difficulty."

B'Elanna turned to help and her eyes widened. "Wow."

"What is it, Lieutenant?"

"I dunno." She tried not to smirk. "I guess I always thought that your outfit kind of enhanced your…assets. Apparently I was wrong." She helped Seven step into the dress and pulled it up, fastening it behind her neck. Then she pulled lightly on the sleeves, drawing them down to just above her elbows. "Perfect."

"Do I look adequate?"

"Not bad at all. You sure do clean up good. Now, there's just one more thing."

Seven looked at her curiously.

"What are we going to do with your hair."

"What is wrong with it currently?" The Borg unconsciously reached up and touched the tight bun at the back of her head.

"Well, it's a little severe, Seven. You want your hair to soften your features; to bring out the color in your eyes and give you an approachable look."

"I was unaware that all of those objectives could be met by simply rearranging my hair."

"You'd be surprised."

Forty five minutes later B'Elanna stepped back and looked at the stranger before her. With a wry grin, she nodded. "There are going to be a lot of broken hearts tonight."

"I am acceptable?"

"Oh, yeah. You're good." She laughed. "Makes me wish I could be there. But I'm already late for dinner with Tom. Good luck, Seven. I expect a full report tomorrow morning."

"Thank you for helping me… B'Elanna."

"Anytime." The engineer smiled as she realized she actually meant it. "I'll see you later."

After she had gone, Seven folded her bio suit to be recycled and cleaned up her work station. She was just turning to leave when the cargo bay doors opened. "Captain." She said expectantly.

Janeway stopped in her tracks as she caught sight of the Borg, her mouth opening slightly as her breath left her in one long exhalation.

Seven was exquisite.

The dress was a soft gray-blue, coming down to just below her knees. The front was cut low over her breasts, allowing just the right amount of cleavage to show so that the look was very appealing without being suggestive. As Janeway walked in a circle around her, she noticed that the back was also low cut, allowing a glimpse of an elegant spinal column beneath the golden hair which had been loosed to flow freely around her face and down her back to just below her shoulders. And her eyes… Oh, Lord, her eyes were bright blue, made even more so with the color of the garment and the pale golden hair softly framing her face. Janeway felt like those eyes could see right through her.

"Seven…" She breathed. "You look…very nice." It was a lame save, she admitted to herself. But to use any other appellation would be more than dangerous. She continued to study the strange creature before her, wondering if her heart was going to succeed in its attempt to pound its way out of her chest.

"Thank you, Captain." Seven found that she was warmed by Janeway's compliment in a way she was unprepared for. The pleasure of it traveled down her arms, raising goosebumps under her sleeves as it went. The curious sensation continued on to settle in her stomach when she looked into the Captain's eyes, seeing something there that she had never noticed before and was unable to identify.

"I'm speechless." Janeway smiled. "What's the occasion?"

"I have a 'date', Captain." She explained, startled and disappointed when Janeway's demeanor closed, her body and face sliding back into that of a superior officer.

"I see." Janeway nodded. "This is a new development. Rather sudden isn't it?"

Seven was confused. "Captain? You told me I should examine all the different aspects of my Humanity. I assumed that you meant I should include personal interaction in those examinations."

"Well, yes. If you feel you're ready for it." Janeway said softly.

"Truthfully, Captain, I do not know if this is something I am adequately prepared for, however I do feel that I will be unable to make a proper assessment by merely observing the interactions of others."

"Understood." She hoped her smile was supportive. "Well, have a good time. I'll be here if you need to discuss anything afterwards."

"Thank you, Captain. I apologize but I must go or I will be not be punctual. Was there something you required?"

"No, Seven." She felt chest contract. "Go on. I don't want you to be late."

Janeway watched as the Borg strode purposefully from the cargo bay. She waited until the doors had slid shut behind her before leaning heavily against a nearby crate, disturbed by the profound affect Seven had caused within her. The Borg's beauty had been an almost painful thing to bear and in that moment she knew how completely captivated she was by the young woman.

Not that it's going to do you any good now! How long did you think it would take for someone else to see just how special she is?

Janeway sighed, aware that she had been hanging on to a fantasy. Even if Seven would welcome her feelings, she was still a member of her crew, a line that she could never cross. It was better that Seven become involved with someone else. That way, there would be one more wall between them, one she would never try to dismantle.

Squaring her shoulders and raising her chin slightly, the Captain left cargo bay two.


Chapter Four: Uncertainties

Tom Paris could not stop laughing. He was laying on his side on his bed, doubled over with his arms across his stomach trying desperately to stop the cramps tying up his abdomen. Unfortunately, the harder he tried to stop, the harder he laughed.

B'Elanna was not impressed. In fact, she was starting to get irritated. "Are you almost done?"

"C'mon, B'Elanna!" Tom wheezed, tears rolling down his face. "You gotta admit it's pretty damn funny."

"I fail to see what's funny about this situation." B'Elanna snapped. "No wonder Seven doesn't understand 'our' humor."

Tom finally sat upright, quelling his mirth to a few chuckles and a random snort here or there. "Leave it to the Borg to get even this wrong."

"What are you talking about?"

"Well, for a race so obsessed with perfection, you would think they would have purged this type of deviation from their drones. Hardly seems an 'efficient' means of procreation."

"Wait a minute… are you implying this is some kind of 'defect' in Seven?"

"Well…isn't it?"

B'Elanna snorted. "That has got to be the most idiotic thing you have ever said, and trust me after almost six years of knowing you, that is really saying something. You must be aware that same sex relationships have existed for…ever??"

"I guess since Seven has always taken the hard road, this is just par for the course." Tom wiped his eyes.

"You're really starting to piss me off, Tom."

"What's the deal here? It wasn't so long ago that you were taking your own pot shots at our resident Borg. Why the sudden change?"

"You're right, I did treat her like she was defective." B'Elanna said softly. "That's not something I'm proud of. I guess I just never looked beyond what she was to see what she was trying to become."

"I think you're getting a little sentimental. We're not talking about you here, ya know."

"We might as well be. She's a hybrid, I'm a half-breed. I know all about what it's like to be picked on, called names, made to feel like an intruder for no other reason than what I looked like on the outside."

Tom took a deep breath. "I think your taking this a little too personally. Wait until I tell Harry, he'll probably laugh just like I did."

B'Elanna turned on him so quickly he took a step backwards. "Don't you dare. I didn't share this with you so you could turn it into some kind pool in the lower decks. I'm warning you, Tom. If you think I'm angry now, you definitely won't like what happens if I find out you did anything to make this harder on Seven."

Without another word, she turned and stalked out of his quarters.

Tom watched her go, weighing his options. Finally, he smiled and tapped his commbadge. "Computer, locate Seven of Nine."

As soon as Seven of Nine heard the cargo bay doors close behind her, she slowed her gait, leaning lightly against the bulkhead as she tried to slow her heart. She had no idea what had caused her pulse to race and her chest to pound as she stood looking at the Captain. All she knew was that her survival instincts had kicked in and demanded that she vacate the area…immediately. Taking several deep breaths, she composed herself as she walked along the corridor, very aware of the surprised glances tossed her way as she passed several members of the crew. One or two of them stopped dead in their tracks, turning to watch her as she moved away. She bore their scrutiny with consummate grace, but inside she felt small tendrils of doubt work their way through her body. Did she look that out of place? Were her attempts to appear appealing insufficient? Would this be just one more failure on her part to be bandied about the ship as a particularly interesting piece of gossip?

A person with less strength of will would have turned around and sought the shelter of the cargo bay, where she felt at home and impervious to the unfamiliar sensations she had experienced this evening. But Seven was not any other person. She had promised her participation to Ensign Mahr. Regardless of her feelings at the moment, she would adapt.

When she reached the mess hall, Seven stopped. Taking a deep breath as she brushed lightly at her hair with her fingertips, unaware of the countless others that had felt the same apprehension she was feeling. Straightening her back and lifting her chin, she entered the room.

The messhall was mostly empty, except for a few Ensigns from the lower deck who were talking quietly in the corner. They glanced at her, surprise and appreciation in their eyes, before returning their attention to their conversation.

"Seven!" Neelix approached her, a huge smile on his face. "My, don't you look lovely this evening!"

The Borg regarded him for a moment before deciding he was being sincere. "Thank you."

"I have your table all ready. Your date has already arrived."

As if on cue, Lili Mahr stood and turned to Seven. When she saw her, her eyes widened and she looked slightly dizzy, as though her breath had left her much faster than she intended. The look on her face was one of gentle wonder and Seven was shocked to realize it was the same look that the Captain had given her when she first arrived in cargo bay two.

So this is what B'Elanna had meant by 'Taking her breath away'."

"Seven," The Trill swallowed as though there was something caught in her throat and her cheeks took on a reddish hue.

"Ensign Mahr," The Borg tilted her head slightly. "Are you experiencing difficulty? You seem somewhat…uncomfortable."

Lili laughed. "No… No I'm all right. It's just that… you look incredible."

"My appearance is sufficient then?"

"More than sufficient, Seven. I have always thought you were lovely, but tonight you have even exceeded my imagination." She led the Borg over to their table. "Would you sit on the far side, please? I would very much like to look at you with a backdrop of the stars."

Seven nodded slightly. "I will comply."

Once they were seated, Neelix joined them again, bringing over a bottle of wine and a loaf of bread. "Tonight's special is a Terran dish called Prime Rib with russet potatoes and green beans. I trust that will be acceptable?" Lili nodded and the Talaxian went back to the kitchen to prepare their meal.

"Would you like some wine, Seven?"

"Synthehol inhibits my cortical function."

Lili smiled. "How about just a little? You look like you need to relax."

"Very well." Seven held her glass as the Trill filled it half way with a light reddish fluid. She tasted a small sip and then looked up in surprise. "This is acceptable. What is it?"

"It's a blush wine call White Merlot. Very light, easy on the palate, and it shouldn't have any adverse affects in small quantities."

The mess hall doors opened and Seven looked up to see three crewmembers enter. They glanced at her briefly before heading to a table not too far away. They were followed by another group of four Ensigns, and then by Tom Paris, Harry Kim and several others from the Gamma Shift bridge crew, all of them casting surreptitious glances at the two women.

"Seven? Are you all right?" Lili was looking at her oddly. "You seem a little pale."

"I am functioning at acceptable levels." Seven responded absently as she watched several more of the crew enter the mess hall and make their way to various tables around the room. "I dislike crowds."

The Trill looked around, a light frown on her face. "It does seem a bit populated in here tonight doesn't it?"

At that moment, Neelix arrived with their meal. He set the platters down with great flourish, looking slightly puzzled when Seven regarded hers with obvious distaste. "Is something wrong?"

"These nutritional components have not been adequately prepared. " She prodded the meat with a fork. "It is still bleeding."

Lili laughed. "That's the way it's supposed to look, Seven." She said gently. "The more rare the meat, the more tender it is. Try it."

Reluctantly, the Borg cut off a small piece and brought it to her lips. She chewed it thoroughly before swallowing, following it with a long drink from her glass. "It is acceptable." She said after a few moments.

She was so adorable that, for a moment, Lili forgot where she was and raised her hand, running her fingers lightly across the Borg's cheek. Seven blushed slightly, her response cut off as the mess hall doors once again opened. She looked up to see the Captain walk in.

"Neelix!" Janeway smiled. "Looks like you have quite a crowd in here tonight." She glanced around the room and caught sight of Seven and Lili sitting at a table in the corner. The Trill's fingers were still tracing lightly down the Borg's jawline and Seven was astounded to see a distinct look of disappointment on the Captain's face.

At the same time, Seven was unable to hide the light that came into her own eyes, the pleasure she felt at seeing Janeway was an almost physical reaction, and she had to look away as she felt herself become slightly light headed.

Lili noticed the difference come over her companion and turned to see who had captured her attention. She caught the barest glimpse of the look Seven had seen before Janeway retreated behind her mask of command.

"I think I'll get supper in my quarters, Neelix. Looks like you have your hands full. Have a good night." Without another word, the Captain turned and left the mess hall.

For a few moments, the two women sat quietly. The brief moment of connection she saw between Seven and the Captain made Lili realized that she was way out of her league. The only thing keeping her from being completely embarrassed was that Seven didn't seem to understand what had just happened any more than she did. She looked flustered and confused, almost upset by the interruption, but after six lifetimes, Lili was wise enough to know that the Borg's consternation did not involve her.

Leaning forward, she placed her hand on Seven's and said gently, "Do you want to leave? I know you're not comfortable. This was a bad idea. I thought the familiarity of the mess hall would make things easier for you, but I can see I misjudged the maturity of the crew."

Seven began to object but then realized that Lili wanted to leave almost as badly as she did. "Please."

"May I walk you home?"

"I would enjoy your company." Seven said honestly.

They conversed lightly as they made their way back to cargo bay two. When they arrived, Lili kissed her lightly on the cheek and bade her goodnight before heading off to her own quarters.

Finally alone with her own thoughts, Seven changed out of her dress, placing the garment into the replicator for recycling before changing into her bio suit. Her mind was in chaos, trying to make sense of all the emotions she had experienced on her 'first date'. She was well aware of the fact that Lili had been in some way disappointed by her reaction to the Captain, but she didn't understand her reaction herself.

With a frustrated sigh, she stepped into her alcove.

"Computer, begin regeneration cycle." Seven closed her eyes, and fell into the blackness with a sense of relief.

Captain Kathryn Janeway sat quietly on her ready room couch, lost in her thoughts as she idly watched the stars glide past the window.

Seven hadn't come to see her after her date. She knew the date was over, and that it had been short, that much had reached her through the gossip conduits aboard the ship. The consensus was that something had gone wrong.

There had been a time, not so long ago, when she would have expected Seven to come to her immediately, asking questions and seeking advice.

Apparently that time was over.

She tried not to feel the disappointment coursing through her. It had been a shock to see that Seven's first date had been with a female. Some small part of her had reveled in the fact that it made her own fantasies a little more attainable. That brief joy was quickly squashed as her logic once again asserted itself, ticking off all the reasons that it still would not work, even if Seven somehow preferred her to the auburn haired beauty she had been dining with. That in itself would be something that not even the most committed gamblers below decks would wager money on. The odds were just too long.

The chime of her ready room door broke through her thoughts.

"Come." She said softly, a small tendril of anticipation running through her. She smiled stiffly when she saw that it was her first officer. "Commander?"

Chakotay smiled back. "I have the long range sensor readings you asked for. It looks like it's going to be smooth sailing for at least another week."

"Thank you, Commander." She took the PADD and laid it absently on the table. "I'll look at it later."

"Well," He did not turn to leave. "there may be no intelligent species for us to interact with, but there is an unusual nebula about a day and a half from our present position. I think you'll find that it-"

"Thank you, Commander." Janeway snapped. "I said I would look at it later." She took in his stricken look and automatically reigned in her irritation. She put her hand up in apology. "I'm sorry, Chakotay. I guess I'm just a little out of sorts at the moment."

"If I may, Kathryn," He sat down next to her. "You've been 'a little out of sorts' for days."

"I know. I guess I'm just a little bored. I've had too much time to think lately."

"Some things never change." He smiled.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Whenever we have had a prolonged period of inactivity, as rare as they have been, you always become reflective. Unfortunately, your reflections tend towards the negative, instead of all the positive things that we've accomplished."

Janeway supposed it was a good thing he had not figured out what was really bothering her. It was not something she should discuss with anyone, no matter how much a friendly ear might help.

"I'm a Starfleet Captain. A certain amount of reflection on past mistakes helps to ensure I don't repeat them."

"Agreed. But does the Starfleet Manual also have a chapter called 'Hindsight is 20/20'?"

Janeway laughed. "All right, I get your point."

Chakotay patted her gently on the arm. "Get some rest, Kathryn. Good night."

She watched him go, truly glad for his friendship, even if she could not always avail herself of it. With a deep sigh, she turned her attention back to the stars.

Once outside the ready room doors, Chakotay stood for a moment, thinking silently. He was used to the Captain becoming melancholy for reasons he did not always understand. But if history had taught him anything, this situation needed to be addressed before it got any worse. Making up his mind, he tapped his commbadge.

"Chakotay to Neelix."

"Yes, Commander?" Came the Talaxian's good humored voice.

"I have a mission for you, Neelix. Meet me in the mess hall and I'll fill you in."

"On my way."

Chakotay smiled and turned to go. "Ensign Kim, you have the bridge."

He was gone before he saw the look of pride that entered the young man's eyes.

Seven's eyes flew open and she stepped down from the dais quickly.

"Regeneration cycle incomplete." The computer complained.

She placed her fingers against her lips, almost able to feel the soft warmth that had so briefly been pressed against them. Her heart pounded as she realized she could almost catch the scent of the Captain's hair.

This memory was incorrect. The events that occurred on Arturis' ship as he flew them towards Borg space, and their own oblivion, were indelibly etched into Seven's eidetic memory.

And that was not what had transpired.

"Computer, run a full diagnostic on Borg alcove two."

"In process." The computer replied. "Diagnostic complete."

"State the results."

"Borg alcove two is operating within specified parameters."

Seven frowned. If the alcove was not malfunctioning, then there was only one other possibility. She tapped her commbadge. "Seven of Nine to the Doctor."

"Yes, Seven?" The Doctor's voice held a note of warmth that the Borg had come to expect.

"I believe that one of my implants may be malfunctioning."

"Come see me. You're due for your weekly maintenance anyway."

"Now? It is 0300 hours."

"No time like the present."

Pushing her thoughts of the Captain aside, she headed to sickbay.

It was quiet when she arrived. The Doctor currently had no other patients and she was grateful for the silence. She went to her customary biobed and sat down as the Doctor rolled his cart over and began to take readings of both her internal organs and her cybernetic implants.

"What seems to be the problem?"

Seven shifted uncomfortably. "I was unable to complete my regeneration cycle."

"Hmm." He entered some data into the computer. "Did you do a diagnostic on the alcove?"

"Of course."

"Right, silly me." He studied the information he had gathered and turned to her with a smile. "Well, all your systems seem to be operating perfectly."

"That is not possible." Seven asserted.

"Why? What happened?"

The Borg studied his worried expression. "I do not know. I was regenerating normally and I experienced… something I am not familiar with. It caused me to leave the alcove, ending the cycle before it was complete."

"What was it you experienced?" The Doctor asked gently.

"I do not know."

After a long moment, he closed his tricorder and gave her a small smile. "It might have been another side of your humanity surfacing, Seven. I believe you may have experienced a nightmare."

"I do not have 'nightmares'."

"Maybe not before. But remember, all of the quirks of your human physiology have been slowly coming to the surface. It's quite normal that you would experience a nightmare of two after everything you've been through."

"So there is no malfunction in any of my implants?"

"None that I can find. I suggest you return to your alcove and try to complete the cycle. Let me know if anything else happens."

"Yes, Doctor."

Sliding off the biobed, she headed back to cargo bay two. Once there she ran another diagnostic of her alcove, with the same results. In exasperation she tapped her commbadge. "Seven of Nine to Lieutenant Torres." A moment passed. "Seven of Nine to Lieutenant Torres, please respond."

"Yeah?" A sleepy voice came back.

"I require your assistance in cargo bay two."

"It's 3:30 in the morning, Seven. Can't this wait?"

"I would not have called you if it was not important."

There was a deep sigh. "All right. On my way."

"I'm just not finding anything, Seven." B'Elanna sighed, they had been running diagnostics for the last two hours… mostly in silence. "Maybe if you could be a little more specific as to what the problem is…"

"My regeneration cycle was interrupted by an error."

"You said that already. What was the error?"

"That is irrelevant." The Borg said coldly.

The Engineer gave her a long look. "Are you angry with me about something?"

"No." Seven's voice was devoid of any warmth. "I am angry with myself."


"Because I allowed myself to believe you wished to be my friend."

"I do want to be your friend!"

Seven turned on her. "Is that why you informed the crew of my plans with Ensign Mahr?"

B'Elanna shook her head sadly. "Seven, I swear, I did not inform the crew you had a date. I only told one person, unfortunately my trust in him was apparently misplaced."

"Tom Paris." It was not a question.

"Yes." She put her hand on Seven's arm. "I thought he had matured over the last few years. Apparently I was wrong. I warned him not to say anything to anyone. I guess he didn't think I was serious. But believe me, when I talk to him, he will understand just how badly he screwed up this time."

The Borg considered her statement, finally deciding that B'Elanna was being sincere, she nodded slightly. "My memory failed."

"Your memory? I thought your cortical implant maintained your memories perfectly."

"It does. Or at least, it used to. I do not know why it failed. Only that it did."

B'Elanna closed her tricorder. "Have you seen the doctor?"

"Yes." Seven sighed in frustration. "He was unable to find any malfunction in either my organic or cybernetic systems."

"Maybe it was just a 'glitch'?"

The Borg turned to her. "If the warp core experienced a 'glitch' would you be content to designate it as such and move on?"

"No," The Engineer smiled. "But the warp core is just a piece of technology. You're more than that. A lot more. Even the Doctor isn't sure what will happen as your natural systems start to reassert themselves. Maybe you just need to try regenerating again. In any event, it's 0530 hours. I'm on duty in half an hour and so are you. I'll come back after our duty shifts and we'll try again, all right?"

Seven's shoulders sagged slightly but she nodded. "That would be acceptable. Thank you, B'Elanna."

"Like I said, any time. See you at 1600."

A few moments after the Klingon had left the cargo bay, the doors opened to admit another visitor.

"Ensign Mahr… Lili."

"Good morning, Seven." The Trill smiled brilliantly.

Seven was momentarily nonplussed at the woman's good mood. Their abortive attempt at a first date did not seem to have affected her. "I believe there is something we need to discuss, Lili…"

The Ensign surprised her by smiling again and laying her hand on the Borg's shoulder. "It's ok, Seven. I think I know what you're going to say."

"You do?"

"Yes. I'm not really what your looking for in a 'mate', am I?"

Seven's cheeks flushed slightly. "I apologize that I am not able to accommodate you in this matter."

"I'm OK with it, Seven. Really. Especially since I think I know why you can't be with me the way I'd like you to. I would be very happy to have you as a friend, however."

"Acceptable." The Borg looked at her in confusion. "What is your assessment of my inability to engage in a romantic coupling with you?"

Lili laughed. "I don't believe your heart is available right now."


The Trill sighed. "Seven, I know that all of this is new to you, but I don't think your that naïve."

"You are correct. I am not. However, I am unsure as to what my intentions are at this point. I only know that I have begun to consider a course of action that I had not realized was a viable option."

"Well, considering who that option is, I don't know that she is any more 'viable' to you than you are to me."


"Ok, well, let's stop playing the word game, first of all. I saw the look in your eyes when the Captain walked into the mess hall. That's when I realized that I had no chance with you at all. How long have you had feelings for her?"

"I am uncertain. I have never considered the situation carefully. I was only aware that she was someone I respected a great deal. Someone who I always enjoyed spending time with, but I thought it was merely her ability to engage me intellectually. It did not occur to me that the emotions she evoked in me could be anything more than that… until recently."

Lili smiled at her a little sadly. "You do realize that as the Captain, she has obligations that may keep her from being able to reciprocate, even if she is interested in more than your friendship."

Seven nodded. "I know that she is bound by Starfleet Protocol."

"And there is always the chance that she isn't attracted to females. Although, from what I saw on her face before she left the mess hall, I don't think that's a problem."

"What course of action should I take?""

"Right now? I think you should probably report for your duty shift. So should I or we're both going to be late. I'll meet you here after our shifts and we'll figure something out, ok?"

"That would be acceptable."

"You can't be serious!" Tom looked at B'Elanna incredulously. "You're breaking up with me?"

"You behaved like a p'taqh!" The Klingon snarled at him. "I told you to leave it alone, to let Seven have her date in peace, but you went and spread it all over the ship like it was some kind of game!"

"C'mon, B'Elanna." He flashed his puppy dog eyes at her. "I just told a few people. I didn't know-"

"No, you didn't think! You wanted your entertainment and you didn't care if it was at the cost of Seven's feelings. That's reprehensible. I had thought you would have gotten most of this childish crap out of your system by now. I was wrong. It's not a side of you that I like and it has affected my respect for you. I can't be involved with someone I don't respect."

"So that's it? You're just going to throw away the time we've spent together?"

"I'm not the one who threw it away, Tom. Maybe this will make you think about the things you do, maybe it won't. But either way it's not my problem anymore."

"Fine." Tom yelled. "Whatever. There are plenty of women on this ship who would love my company."

"Good." B'Elanna turned on her heel and walked away, calling back over her shoulder, "I hope you find one with a lot of patience!"

Trying to reign in her anger, the Engineer hurried to cargo bay two. She was already late to meet with Seven and she didn't want her to think she had forgotten. She was more than a little surprised when she arrived at her destination to find that the Borg was not alone.

Lili Mahr looked up and smiled as B'Elanna stopped in her tracks just inside the door. "Lieutenant."

"I'm…I'm sorry." B'Elanna stammered. "I didn't realize you had company, Seven. I'll come back later…"

"That is not necessary." Seven motioned for the Klingon to join them. "You are not interrupting. Ensign Mahr and I have concluded that our personal affiliation should remain friendly, nothing more."

"Oh." B'Elanna didn't know what to say to that. "So…what are we working on?"

Lili looked at Seven. "Does she know?"

"Not as of yet." She sighed slightly and turned to the Klingon. "Ensign Mahr is attempting to assist me in resolving my intentions toward another individual. They involve emotions that I was not cognizant of until recently."

B'Elanna blinked. "Who?"

Seven hesitated.

"You don't have to worry, Seven. I won't be telling Tom about it, or anything else for that matter. We aren't together anymore."

The Borg's eyes widened. "That was not necessary, B'Elanna. The damage he inflicted was not that severe."

"Oh, I didn't do it for you. I did it because he's let me down far too many times. I put up with it because it seemed harmless, but what he did to you showed that he has no regard for anyone else's feelings. I don't want to be involved with someone like that."

"I see." Seven nodded. "The Captain."

The Engineer looked at her blankly. "What about the Captain?"

Lili laughed at her confusion. "She tends to jump from topic to topic quite quickly. Try to keep up."

"What do you mean?" Suddenly B'Elanna's eyes grew very wide. "The Captain?!? You can't be serious!" Seven flushed slightly and B'Elanna realized that she was completely serious. "You mean you're…with…"

"I think she caught up." Lili smiled at her and the Engineer idly noted that she had incredible eyes, then shook her head, wondering where that thought had come from.

"I am unsure of what I am feeling. I only know that my interest in the Captain has changed greatly over the last few days. I am unsure as to how to proceed."

The conversation was cut off as the cargo bay doors opened and Neelix entered. "Hello ladies!" He smiled. "I hope I'm not interrupting. I need to get some supplies for the party."

"Party?" B'Elanna and Lili said at the same time. Lili laughed, reaching over to pinch the Klingon on the arm. "Jinx, you owe me a beer."

Neelix picked up a few canisters. "The First Annual Captain's Appreciation Day party will be in the mess hall the day after tomorrow at 1900 hours." He grinned cheerfully. "I think it's time we showed the Captain just how much she means to us. Don't be late!"

After he had gone, Lili smirked. "This is the perfect chance to show the Captain what she means to you, Seven."

"How would I accomplish that?"

"Bring a gift to the celebration. Something that shows how you feel."

"But it has to be subtle," B'Elanna chimed in and the Borg thought it amusing that she was being cautioned about subtlety by a Klingon. "You don't want to embarrass her."

"No, I would not. I do not know what would be appropriate."

"You've got all that Borg intellect," The Engineer smiled. "I'm sure you can come up with something." She turned to Lili. "So I owe you a beer?"

"Yes, you do. And since you are dateless at the moment, would you like accompany me to the party?"

B'Elanna swallowed, a light blush creeping into her cheeks. "Sure. I'd like that."

"All right. In the meantime, would you like to join me for dinner?"

"Uh…ok." She nodded, feeling a little foolish about the spark of electricity that ran up her spine.

"Great. See you in a half an hour? In the mess hall?"

B'Elanna nodded again taking in the Trill's bright smile before she left the cargo bay.

"Interesting." Seven mused.

"What?" The Engineer picked at an invisible piece of lint on her uniform.

"It would appear that you now have a 'first date'."

"Don't be ridiculous! I've had dates before."

The Borg carefully kept her attention on the workstation in front of her. "With a female?"

"I'm sure that's not what she meant! I mean…she was…it was just a friendly invitation, Seven!"

"Of course." She looked at the Klingon out of the corner of her eye. "How will you be altering your apparel? And what will you do with your hair?"

B'Elanna growled at her. "Just figure out what you're going to give to the Captain. I'll see you at the party."

Once she had gone, Seven focused her attention completely on her data screen as an idea began to form. "Computer, show me all information available on early Earth history, topic: metallurgy."

Kathryn Janeway was very angry.

The news had finally reached her as to the reason behind the failure of Seven's first date.

Tom Paris.

She secretly felt a great deal of affection for the fair haired helmsman, but his behavior was something that had always frustrated her. She knew he never meant any harm, but that didn't mean he never caused it.

Getting a cup of coffee, she settled behind her desk and took several deep breaths, trying to calm herself down.

What was it about Seven that brought out the worst in the man?

What is it about Seven that brings out the protectiveness in you? Her little voice chimed in.

She thought about that for a few minutes. It was true, anything that had a negative affect on the young woman seemed to have the same affect on her.

"I'm her Captain." She said stubbornly to no one. "She is my responsibility."

Really? Come on, Katie. You might be able to fool your staff, but if you are going to try to fool yourself then you're in for a disappointment.

But wasn't that the eventual outcome of any of her deeper feelings? Disappointment? No, there wasn't anything deeper. And even if there was, it was futile.

She smiled softly at her own choice of words. Just how much impact did the young woman have on her?

"Janeway to Paris."

"Here, Captain."

"Join me in my ready room, Mr. Paris."

"On my way."

Her ready room doors slid open and Tom entered. "You wanted to see me, Captain?"

"Sit down."

Tom flinched. He had heard that tone of voice before and if the look on the Captain's face was any indication, he was in trouble. He sat silently and waited.

Janeway stared at him for a few moments, taking in his nervousness. Good, she thought to herself. Let him squirm.

"Do you know why I wanted to talk to you, Tom?"

"No, Captain."

"It's about Seven of Nine."

His heart sank. He had hoped he had already paid enough for his error. Apparently not. "I see."

"It has been brought to my attention that you played a big part in making Seven's most recent foray into Humanity difficult. I want you to explain yourself."

"I didn't mean any harm, Captain. I just thought Seven's choice for her first date was… interesting."

"And that led you to spread the news all over the ship?" Her tone dropped several octaves and became noticeably cooler. "Don't you think the situation was precarious enough without your involvement?"

"I didn't mean any harm…"

"You never do." Janeway snapped. "But that doesn't change the fact that your behavior was unacceptable. Seven is trying very hard to fit into this crew and I think that it would be more mature of you to aid her in that endeavor than to make light of it."

"Yes, Captain." He said miserably.

"Tom, you are a senior officer. Many of the crew look to you as a basis for their own behavior. You set an example for them and I cannot have it being one of contempt for another officer."

"Yes, Captain."

"You are better than this, Tom. And as a senior officer, I expect you to act like it. I can't dictate how you behave in your off hours, as there is no specific protocol that governs personal behavior of this kind. But I want you to know how deeply disappointed I am in you."

His shoulders slumped.

"I also expect you to apologize to Seven personally."

"Yes, Captain."

"That will be all. You are dismissed."

The helmsman returned to his post, and Janeway tapped her commbadge again.

"Janeway to Seven of Nine."

"Yes, Captain."

"Seven, could you come up to my ready room? I'd like to speak with you."

"On my way, Captain."

Janeway moved to the couch beneath her windows as she waited, pouring two cups of tea and placing a cube of sugar in her own. When the doors slid open, she smiled to herself. Seven still hadn't gotten used to ringing the chime.

"You wanted to see me, Captain?" The blonde stood at attention, her hands linked behind her back as she looked at the older woman curiously.

"Come sit down, Seven."

The Borg looked as though she was going to say something, and then surprised the Captain greatly when she joined her on the couch. She sat primly on the edge of the cushion, her hands still linked, this time in her lap.

"How are you, Seven?"

"I am functioning adequately, Captain."

Janeway sighed. She never made things easy.

"I was wondering if you were all right, after what happened with Ensign Mahr."

Seven looked at her curiously. "I was not aware that you had been informed as to the failure of my 'first date'."

The Captain smiled. "It's a small ship."

"What information is it that you require?"

"Tell me how you're feeling."

Seven looked directly into her eyes and Janeway felt her heart rate increase slightly.

Noticing the minute change in the Captain's physical condition, the Borg felt her own respiration increase. "It was…an interesting experience." He did not want to lie to this woman, who meant so much to her. But she did not want to give away to much information either. "It has led me to question many things about my interacting with… the crew."

Janeway took a few shallow breaths, trying to will her body to calm itself. "In a negative way?"

"Not at all." Seven assured her. "It has just… caused me to shift my attention to a new line of reasoning. One I am currently exploring to the best of my ability."

"I see." She was positive that the younger woman was hedging. She had no idea that Seven was able to do that, let alone why she would. "Did you want to discuss it?" She laid her hand on the Borg's shoulder.

"Not at this time, Captain."

The blue eyes widened at the contact and Janeway was sure she felt a slight tremor in Seven's body. She withdrew her touch hesitantly, unsure what was going on.

"You know I am here if there is anything you need to talk about. Anything at all."

"I am aware of that, Captain. I simply feel the need to examine these knew feelings completely before I seek your counsel about them."

New feelings. Janeway groaned inwardly. About the beautiful Ensign Mahr no doubt.

"All right, Seven. I'll be here when you need me."

"I know."

The Captain flushed slightly. Those two words were spoken with a conviction and emphasis that affected her greatly.

"Good night, Seven."

"Good night, Captain."

Seven left the ready room, her thoughts in turmoil. It was almost as if the Captain were asking her specific questions that she simply did not know how to answer. Heading to the mess hall, she saw Lili and B'Elanna sitting off to one side.

"May I join you?" She asked quietly.

B'Elanna looked at her curiously and gestured to an empty chair. "What's wrong?"

"I have just come from speaking to the Captain."

Lili smiled. "What did she want?"

"I am unsure." Seven shifted slightly, very unlike her normal demeanor. "She seems to be under the impression that I am suffering feelings of remorse about the inadequacy of our first date."

B'Elanna laughed. "She was pumping you for information, huh? Well, that's a good sign."

"A sign?"

"Yes, " Lili reached across the table and took Seven's hand gently, managing to brush B'Elanna's in the process. "She's feeling you out about what happened."

"I see. I am unsure as to whether or not I answered her questions adequately."

"Did she seem confused? Unfocused? A little agitated?"

"Her heart rate and respiration increased as we spoke." Seven looked at their smiling faces. "Am I to understand that that is a 'good sign'?"

"Very much so." The Klingon answered, trying to ignore the tingle she felt at the Trill's inadvertent touch. "She can't ask the questions she really wants to ask so she talks about something else instead."

"That seems inefficient."

"Love usually is, Seven." Lili smiled at her kindly. "It must be really tough for her, being in her position and having feelings for you."

"You believe she does? Have feelings for me?"

"If what I saw on our date was any indication, then yes I would say she does."

"I've noticed it too, Seven." B'Elanna chimed in. "I just hadn't put it into context until now. During our staff meetings, she is usually looking at you. Whenever something happened and you were in danger, she reacted almost too strongly. I've seen her touch you, comfort you, in ways she just doesn't do with the rest of the senior staff. Also, I know for a fact that she has never invited anyone else into her DaVinci holoprogram."

Seven thought quietly for a few moments. "What should I do?"

"Just be yourself." Lili counseled. "But make yourself available to her whenever she seeks you out. Maybe let a little of that reserve slip and show her you're happy to see her?"

"All right." Seven stood. "Thank you for your help."

After she had gone, Lili looked at the Klingon with surprise. "I didn't realize you had a romantic streak."

B'Elanna flushed. "Why would you? We haven't spent any time together at all, until now."

"Maybe," The Trill said softly. "But I was always aware of you. You have a very strong presence, Ms. Torres. I don't believe anyone could miss it."

"Why haven't we spoken before now?'

Lili shrugged. "Timing? Opportunity? Most of your off duty hours were spent with Tom Paris." She eyed her keenly. "How are you doing with that anyway?"

"I am actually a lot more ok than I thought I would be." She said honestly. "I don't think I ever believed that Tom and I would last. But he was a nice diversion, for a little while."

"That's an odd reason for being in a relationship."

"Do you know a better one?"

Lili looked directly into her eyes, getting a little lost in the soft brown color. "Passion? Love? Desire?"

B'Elanna snorted. "Those things are all well and good. But they're not that easy to find out here on the other side of the galaxy."

"Maybe…" The Trill said softly. "You just haven't been looking in the right place."

The next afternoon, Seven sat in the senior staff meeting, her mind lost in her own thoughts as the group discussed the particularly boring area of space they were traversing. She was thinking about all of the information she had assimilated recently in regards to the Captain. Glancing up, her breath caught when she realized Janeway was studying her intently.

Startled at being caught, the Captain nodded slightly and turned her attention back to the Doctor, who was going over the weekly medical reports.

"Thank you, Doctor." She smiled at him when he was finished. "B'Elanna?"

The Klingon threw her an unfathomable grin. "All is well in Engineering. With nothing interesting happening," She looked at Seven with a slight grin. "We've been able to give the warp core an entire overhaul. We should be done tomorrow morning."

"Good work." She nodded. "Seven, do you have anything to add?"

It took a few moments for the Borg to realize she was being addressed. A slight flush crept into her cheeks, amazing everyone at the table. "Astrometrics is utilizing this time to examine star charts of the area. We are engaged in a survey for any nearby planets that would allow us to replenish our supplies. As of yet, we have found none, but we will continue our endeavors."

"Excellent." Janeway looked at her oddly. "If there is nothing else, you're all dismissed. Seven I'd like a word with you."

The rest of the officers filed out. B'Elanna paused at the door to smile back at the Borg before leaving with the rest.

"Yes, Captain?"

"Seven, are you all right? You seem a little… distracted."

"I apologize, Captain." The flush returned and she found it easier to study the older woman's right earlobe than to look directly into her eyes. "It will not happen again."

"That isn't what concerns me, Seven. I guess I've just never seen anything that could pull your attention away so thoroughly. She picked up her coffee cup, taking a long drink before looking at the Borg again. Idly, she let the finger of her left hand circle around the rim of the mug.

Seven realized she was staring, but she couldn't seem to stop herself. The sight of that one long, elegant finger moving in what could only be described as a caress around of the lip of the cup affected her profoundly. She felt in herself a longing she could not identify. She wondered what it would feel like to have the Captain touched her in that matter and she gasped softly.

"Seven?!" Janeway stepped close and placed her hand on the Borg's arm, surprised at the slight tremor she felt. "Are you sure you're ok? Maybe you should go to sickbay."

Seven merely nodded, thinking she needed to be anywhere else but here at this moment. She needed to be somewhere she could think, to still the restlessness she felt throughout her body and make sense of it. "I will comply."

She left quickly, leaving the Captain staring after her in confusion.

What the hell was that all about?

Captain Janeway left her quarters. It was early, and she wanted to catch a cup of coffee and think before she headed to the bridge. She was so caught up in her thoughts about the previous afternoon that she had already retrieved her coffee before she realized that the object of her musings was sitting off to one side with B'Elanna and Ensign Mahr.

"Captain," Seven stood. "Will you join us?"

Janeway nodded silently and sat in the empty chair, very aware that her Chief Engineer was sitting on the same side of the table as the lovely Trill while she and Seven occupied the other. "What are you three doing up so early?"

Seven opened her mouth to reply but B'Elanna jumped in quickly. "We just wanted to catch a quick breakfast before our duty shifts." She looked at Seven pointedly and the Borg seemed to swallow her initial comment. "Just in for coffee? The eggs benedict is pretty good this morning. You should try it."

"I'm not a big breakfast person." The Captain looked at each of them in turn, feeling as though she had just missed something. "What do you have planned for the day?"

"Biometrics is working with some of the plants from the last away mission. The Doctor thinks they might contain some medicinal compounds."

Janeway nodded, sipping her coffee thoughtfully.

"Engineering is still focused on the warp core. We should be done right on schedule." B'Elanna beamed.

The Captain laughed softly. "I wasn't asking for a status report. I just wanted to know if anything interesting was going on."

B'Elanna kicked Seven lightly under the table.

The Borg started. "I have found an interesting nebula on long range sensors, Captain. You may wish to come to Astrometrics to view it with me. I believe you may find it... " She looked into Janeway's blue-gray eyes. "Beautiful."

This time it was Janeway's turn to be startled. "I thought beauty was irrelevant."

The corner of Seven's lip quirked slightly. "I am beginning to reevaluate that statement, Captain."

"All right." She said slowly, not sure what had just happened. "I'll come down around 1300 hours."

"I'll… see you then." Seven stumbled over the words slightly but the Captain was affected nonetheless.

After she left, B'Elanna and Lili turned to her, they both had huge smiles on their faces. "Nicely done, Seven. Is the nebula really that beautiful?"

"I hope the Captain thinks so."

Seven studied the viewscreen in front of her, changing the angle selection until she found one that she thought would be particularly appealing.

The cloud mass was a deep blue and was periodically highlighted by a crack of lighting from the encompassed plasma storm. She had just decided that it would do nicely when the doors to Astrometrics slid open and the Captain entered.

"My god, Seven." The older woman came to stand beside her, placing a hand gently on her shoulder. "You weren't joking. It's exquisite."

As they watched, twin streaks of lighting shattered the calmness of the blue gasses. The arcs of light seemed to play together briefly before they disappeared.

"Does that happen often?" Janeway asked in slightly husky voice, affected by their closeness.

"In truth that is the first time I have seen more than one. It is remarkable."

The Captain touched the viewscreen controls, changing the angle, chasing the lightening as it moved from one place to the next. It was not lost on her that when the arc lit up the nebula, the blue changed to the exact color of Seven's eyes. Unconsciously, she moved a little closer.

Seven shivered slightly, feeling Janeway rest lightly against her side. The experience was disconcerting, although not unpleasant so she did not move away. Together, they stood like that for several minutes until the plasma storm seemed to dissipate and the nebula returned to its normal deep blue shading.

The Captain seemed to come back to herself at that moment. She realized how closely she was standing to the Borg and shifted slightly, moving away.

Seven found she missed the warmth of her, the intimate contact. She noticed that the older woman had not removed her hand, however, and she reveled in the warmth of it through her biosuit, recognizing that the Captain's little finger was actually resting on the skin of her neck.

"Thank you, Seven." She breathed. "Sometimes I miss the forest for all the trees. It's easy to take things for granted when you're whizzing by at warp 6."

The Borg nodded. "I am gratified that you enjoyed the experience, Captain." She awkwardly placed her hand on Janeway shoulder, feeling her freeze beneath the contact.

She's never done that before. Janeway caught her breath. She's never returned my offers of physical closeness.

"Well," She swallowed and reluctantly moved out of the casual embrace. "I should get back to the bridge."

"Of course, Captain. I will make sure my logs of this phenomenon are complete so that you may experience it again at your leisure."

Janeway nodded. "Please. I'd like that."

Seven went back to entering her data as the Captain left, not noticing when Janeway stopped at the door to turn back and look at her.


Chapter Five: Appreciation

"Chakotay to the Captain."

Janeway sighed and set her book down on her lap. She had left the bridge with the notion of calling it an early night, but had found herself unable to draw her thoughts away from Seven of Nine. Eventually she had given up on relaxing altogether and had pulled out a book of Earth poetry by Emily Dickinson. If she was going to suffer from unrequited affection, she might as well do it in style.

"Go ahead, Commander."

"Captain, we have a situation in the mess hall. I could use your help."

"What's going on?"

"It's really too much to explain. It would be better if you came down here."

She took a deep breath, trying to quell her irritation as she dropped her book on the table and grabbed her jacket. "On my way."

She stalked through the corridors, vaguely aware that they were remarkably empty at such an early hour. She didn't know what kind of emergency could possibly involve the mess hall, but whatever it was, it had better be important. She hoped there wasn't some kind of replicator failure. Rationing was bad enough as it was.

Unbidden, an image of Seven popped into her mind. It was from the last time they had had breakfast in the mess hall. Neelix had gotten her to try a particularly vile concoction that he had assured her would fulfill all her nutritional needs. After trying it, she had mumbled under her breath, "I was incorrect. Taste is not irrelevant."

It had been the first attempt at humor she had ever witnessed in the Borg, and the adorable image of her scrunching up her face in disgust had stayed with the Captain ever since. Along with images of Seven frowning, Seven smiling, Seven walking... especially Seven walking. Those long, slender legs balanced perfectly on the heels the doctor insisted she wear for some unknown reason. The hips swaying every so slightly…

"Enough!" Janeway groaned. Reaching the mess hall, she shook the thoughts off as she entered, surprised to find herself in darkness.

"Computer, lights."

The computer obeyed immediately and with the illumination, came the cheering of many voices.

"Captain in the mess hall!" Harry Kim called playfully as the rest of the fifty or so crewmembers present broke into an off key rendition of 'Hail to the Chief'.

"What the…?" Janeway turned in circles as her crew gathered round her, nudging her over to a chair set up at the front of the room.

The tables had been lined up under the windows and were covered in every kind of food imaginable, as well as several tubs filled with wine, beer and other non alcoholic beverages.

Once they had her seated, Chakotay came to stand on one side of her and Neelix on the other.

"We are gathered here today to celebrate the First Annual Captain's Appreciation Day." Neelix called out. "And as far as I am concerned, it's long overdue!"

The Captain found herself smiling, even though she didn't want to. She jabbed Chakotay lightly in the ribs with her elbow and whispered, "I'm going to get you for this."

Chakotay simply smiled and handed the Captain a glass of wine, motioning the rest of the crew to get their drinks as well. "We have celebrated many things over the last six years. Birthdays, holidays, successful missions, even unexpected alliances. But in all this time we have neglected to show our appreciation for the person who has done more than just kept us alive out here, so far from home. She took a ragtag group of people from every background and way of life and managed to keep us all from killing each other." The crowd laughed. "She has made us into more than a crew. She has made us into a family, and this ship into a home." He turned to her and raised his cup. "To Captain Kathryn Janeway, our guiding light in the darkness of the Delta Quadrant!"

The entire room cheered and took a hearty drink as Harry Kim stepped forward.

"When I first came to Voyager, "He said. "I was as green as green can be. Young, idealistic, and wanting nothing more than to find a way to prove myself. Captain Janeway took that young officer and taught me what it meant to be a member of Starfleet. She taught me to never compromise my principles, no matter how much it might hurt and to never, ever stop trying to be more than the uniform I wore. Being so far from home has been the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with, but having her for a Captain, has made it more than bearable. It's made it worthwhile." He raised his glass. "To Captain Janeway, my mentor in more ways than she will ever know."

Tom Paris stepped forward. "Before I came to Voyager, I didn't have much going for me. I'd made mistakes that I couldn't let go of, and lost much of myself in the process. Captain Janeway gave me a second chance. She looked beyond my official record to see who I was underneath. And, more than that, she made me realize that I could like who I was underneath. Thank you, for believing in me." He raised his glass with the rest of the crowd and they all took another drink.

B'Elanna took his place as he eased back into the crowd. "It's no secret that I wasn't very…appreciative of our situation back when this all began. I was angry, belligerent, willing to fight anyone who looked at me sideways. I can't say my personality has changed all that much..." The crowd laughed. "But I can say that the time I have spent here, under your command, has made me a better person. You've taught me that fighting is not always the best course of action. And you've shown me what it means to belong to something greater than myself. No matter what happens from here on out, no matter where I end up, I know I will be richer for having known you, for having served under you. You have my respect and my loyalty, Captain. Now and forever."

As she moved aside, Tuvok stepped up to take her place. He raised his glass slightly. "You are an exceptional Captain."

Janeway laughed. "That's my Tuvok. Short and sweet."

The toasts continued as each member of the senior staff, the Doctor and Neelix, extolled the Captain's virtues. When they had all finished, Chakotay stepped forward only to be stopped by a slight murmur from the back of the room.

Janeway watched as the crowd parted slowly, creating an opening with her at one end of it. At the other end, was Seven of Nine. She felt herself hold her breath as the young woman came to stand before her.

She was holding a slender box, a little less than a meter long and about 15 centimeters wide.

"Humanity has been…a difficult concept for me." Seven found herself fascinated by the blue in Janeway's eyes. She had never seen them that particular shade before. "It is a term that encompasses more than your culture. It symbolizes your strength as a race, your…'unity' as a species. It grants you your own thoughts, your own desires. It allows you the freedom to hope, to dream, to laugh, and to care, as well as the need to cry, to hurt, to feel anger and loss. It defines you as an individual, even as it governs you as a being. It represents a common bond that, as Borg, I was never able to understand. At least now I know why."

"Why?" Janeway asked softly.

Seven studied her for several moments before finally responding. "When I was severed from the Collective, I felt…small. One mind, one voice…they were not sufficient. I did not wish to be like you." She smiled slightly. "My bond to the hive was broken in seconds, leaving me useless and weak. I was unable to function on any level…because of my fear of being alone. Your bond has endured through six years of hardship, disappointment and loss. Your "humanity" has survived and flourished 70,000 light years from your own collective, with nothing more to draw from but what you carry within you." She looked down, her voice softening. "It would appear that perfection is a matter of opinion."

She gently placed the box on Janeway's lap.

The Captain was speechless. She would have sat there for much longer, watching the slight blush creep upwards into Seven's cheeks if Chakotay had not cleared his throat, bringing her back to where she was, and what she was supposed to be doing.

"Open it!' The crowd started to call out. "Open it, Captain!"

Janeway ran her fingertips lightly over the outside of the box, taking in the texture and color of the wood; it was darkly stained, with a high gloss meant to preserve it for a very long time. "Seven…is this..?"

"Autumn Blaze Maple." The Borg nodded slightly. "A hardy species which thrives in the climate and conditions of Indiana. It derives its name from the foliage it exhibits during the 'fall' months, at which time the leaves take on a brilliant auburn color…"

"Like your hair." Chakotay quipped.

Janeway smiled. "We had several of these trees on the farm where I grew up. I used to sit beneath them at night and look out at the stars. It's lovely, Seven."

The Borg raised one eyebrow. "The box is not the gift, Captain."

The group laughed and crowded around as Janeway gently lifted the lid. She felt her breath catch in her throat as she looked inside.

There, nestled in a bed of crimson velvet, was a sword.

The hilt was made of the same wood as the box, inlaid with some sort of faintly glowing green crystal tendrils fashioned to look like ivy leaves wrapped around the handle. The scabbard was made up of a satin smooth dark metal that looked suspiciously like that of a Borg alcove. Gleaming silver fittings held the scabbard to a delicately tooled leather belt and near the opening, there was a finely made representation of the symbol of The United Federation of Planets.

Standing, the Captain pulled the sword from its scabbard, marveling at the gleaming steel that emerged. The same ivy filigree was engraved along the top edge, while the bottom edge looked wickedly sharp.

"I advise caution, Captain." A small smile curled the edges of Seven's mouth. "The weapon is functional."

With an impish grin, Janeway placed the edge of the sword against the back of her chair and pushed lightly. To her amazement, a small chunk was cut away and fell solidly to the deck.

"As I said," Seven repeated. "Functional."

"What's that along the blade?" Chakotay asked, craning his neck to see more clearly.

The Captain ran her index finger down the length of the sword. "It's Latin. ex terra ut astrum quod domus iterum." She tried hard to swallow the lump in her throat as her eyes grew moist. "Translation: From Earth to the stars and home again."

She slid the sword back into its scabbard, taking a moment to wipe away the threatening tears, something the crew respectfully ignored. "It's exquisite, Seven. But why?"

"I have heard the crew state, on more than one occasion, that all their Captain need do to send her enemies running, is to 'rattle her saber'. I found the expression curious as you had no such weapon. I wished to rectify that situation." Seven took a breath. "Additionally, in my research into Earth's history, I have found that many of your past heroes were known to carry such a weapon. It seemed… fitting."

Janeway moved closer, laying her hand on the Borg's arm. "Thank you, Seven."

After a moment's hesitation, Seven wrapped her arms around the smaller woman, drawing her close. She felt the Captain stiffen for a moment, and then relax into the embrace. With her lips near Janeway's ear she whispered, just loud enough for her to hear, "You are my hero, Kathryn."

The Borg's voice was soft, almost intimate, and she felt a surge of emotion shoot through her. Not knowing what to do for one of the few moments in her life, Janeway slid the command mask back into place and slowly extricated herself from Seven's arms. "I… don't know what to say."

"You don't have to say anything, Captain." Chakotay raised his glass. "To our Captain!! If we have to be lost in the Delta Quadrant, I wouldn't want anyone else to be leading us home."

"Here, Here!" The crowd joined in, raising their own glasses in a final toast to their Captain.

The rest of the party went well. There were more stories, much laughing, and probably far too much drinking.

The Doctor is going to have his hands full in the morning. Janeway laughed to herself.

She had noticed that Seven had stayed close by for most of the party. The Captain had looked up several times throughout the evening to see the Borg studying her intently. Each time, Seven had flushed slightly, nodded and turned her attention back to whatever conversation was going on around her.

Even more interesting was the fact Ensign Mahr had spent the entire evening sitting off in a corner with B'Elanna Torres. The Klingon had laughed out loud several times, causing the Ensign to flash her brilliant smile, complete with dimples and sparkling eyes.

She didn't have a clue what was going on, but it was obvious that the rumors had been true. Seven's first date had not worked out.

Janeway closed her eyes for a moment and remembered the words she had whispered in her ear. 'You are my hero, Kathryn.'

Seven had never used her first name before. Nor had she ever used the soft, sensual tone the whisper had carried with it. It had cut through her like a knife, the words wrapping themselves around her heart with a painful intensity.


She opened her eyes to see the Doctor looking down at her. "I'm sorry. I guess I'm just a little tired."

"You should turn in." He said gently. "The party is winding down anyway. We're all going to help Neelix clean up."

"All right." She smiled and stood, holding the box tightly in her arms. "Thank you, all of you."

The crowded wished her a good night and she turned to go. As she reached the doors she looked back to see Seven watching her with a soft, puzzled look on her face. She smiled at the Borg and left the mess hall.

Janeway meant to head to her quarters and was surprised when her feet led her to her ready room instead. She retrieved a cup of coffee from the replicator and then sat down, laying the box gently on her desk before flipping the lid open.

She sat quietly for several minutes, sipping from her favorite mug as she studied the sword intently.

The craftsmanship was remarkable. There wasn't a flaw anywhere on the blade, not a nick or scratch anywhere on the hilt. The scabbard was one, smooth cylinder without joint or seam.

She knew there was no way the replicator had produced this piece of art. Seven had made it herself. How she had done it was a mystery.

An even bigger mystery was why.

It wasn't practical, not many Starship Captains engaged in hand to hand combat. And a sword could not be considered as efficient as a phaser. Yet it was not ornamental either. It was meant to be functional.

It was almost as if the gift was the fact that Seven would spend her time making something simply to bring joy to her Captain.

Her Captain.

Kathryn Janeway closed her eyes and finally admitted to herself that she truly was her Captain, whether she wanted it to be that way or not. Like the sword, it simply was.

"What am I going to do?" She whispered.


Janeway started so violently she spilled her coffee.

"I'm sorry." Chakotay rushed forward and lifted the box off the desk as the Captain grabbed a towel and wiped up the mess. "I didn't mean to disturb you. I hit the chime twice before I came in."

"It's all right." She sighed as he placed the sword back on the desk. Sitting back in her chair she motioned him to another across from her. "What's on your mind?"

Her First Officer turned the box slightly toward him. "That's really something. Seven outdid herself."

"Yes, she did. I was just admiring it. I wonder what she used for the ivy on the hilt."

"Borg resonance crystals." Chakotay smiled. "I asked her about it after you left. Apparently she took apart one of the alcoves to get them."

"But how did she make it? You can't tell me there's a pattern for this in the ships data banks."

"There isn't. Seven reprogrammed some of her nanoprobes to 'assimilate' the raw materials and reform them into the shapes she specified. You could say she put a great deal of herself into that swords creation."

"I didn't know she could do that." Janeway said softly.

"From the way she explained it, she wasn't sure she could do it either. But she was hell bent on creating something very special for you." Chakotay looked at her pointedly.

"What?" She said defensively.

"I think you know what, Kathryn. It's very obvious, to me at least, that Seven feels very strongly about you. And I may be out of line, but I'd say the feelings are mutual."

"I don't know what you're talking about." Janeway said weakly.

"I'm talking about that display of affection during your party."

"What… because she hugged me?"

Chakotay smiled. "She hugged you… and you leaned."

"I leaned." She repeated. "What is that supposed to mean?"

"It means that normally, when you are presented with displays of affection, you tolerate them. Tonight, you participated. You didn't just accept the hug, you leaned into it. You…enjoyed it."

Janeway sighed. "I suppose people are going to be living off that piece of gossip for a very long time."

"I don't think so. Most of the crew just saw it as appreciation for a very thoughtful gift. But they don't know you like I do. And I'm certainly not going to be gossiping about it any time soon."

"What am I going to do?"

"I think this is where this conversation started." He smiled. "Do you love her?"

"Does it matter?"

"Of course it matters. You're not a machine, Kathryn. You're a vibrant, caring woman who has been alone much too long. Now, finally, you've been presented with a situation where that could change. Are you really going to turn your back on it?"

"How can it work, Chakotay? I'm the Captain. There are protocols against me becoming involved with a member of my crew."

"But Seven is not a member of you're crew." He held up his hand to forestall her argument. "She has no commission, has never even applied to join Starfleet. If anything, she would more aptly be described as a civilian scientist hitching a ride to the Alpha Quadrant. By your own criteria, Seven is not just a choice. She is the only choice."

"How could I do that to her?" The Captain ran her fingers through her hair. "She's… innocent. I can't prey on her feelings of gratitude towards me."

"Is that what you think?" Chakotay snorted. "You may be blind, but I'm not. I watched Seven tonight. Watched her look at you, study you, get lost in you and I can honestly say that gratitude was not the emotion I saw on her face. Wanting…longing… and yes, maybe a little confusion as to why she was feeling that way, but that doesn't make her emotions any less valid. In my opinion, you would be doing her, and yourself, a grave disservice by ignoring this chance at happiness."

Janeway didn't respond.

"Does it rattle?" he asked.

"I beg your pardon?"

"The sword. Does it rattle?"

"You know, I didn't think to check." Picking it up, Janeway wrapped her fingers around the hilt and shook it gently. The sound that greeted her was not so much a rattle, as it was a melodious ringing. "Leave it to Seven to turn an imperfection into art."

Chakotay laid his hand on hers gently. "Imagine how hard she had to work to include that imperfection. It must have been ten times harder than it would have been for her to simply make it perfect in the first place."

"All right," She sighed. "You have all the answers. What do I do now? It's been a long time since I've seriously contemplated this kind of thing. How do make my intentions known?"

"Well, Seven gave you a gift. You might try the same approach."

"I could never create something like this, Chakotay."

"Maybe not. But there has to be something that only you can give her. Something just as special. Think about it. Goodnight, Kathryn."

"Goodnight." She mumbled absently, her thoughts already a million sectors away.


Chapter Six: Revelations

"Regeneration cycle complete."

Seven of Nine stepped down from her alcove, gratified that she hadn't experienced anything unusual. Walking towards her data console, she stopped short when she caught sight of something sitting on top of it. Something that hadn't been there the night before.

It was plaque of some sort, very solid, created in shape of a Starfleet commbadge, with a smaller, silver insignia near the bottom. She just had picked it up and turned it over when the cargo bay doors opened and Lili walked in.

"Good morning, Seven!" She smiled cheerfully. "I just wanted to stop by and tell you what a wonderful job you did on the Captain's gift. And to invite you to breakfast with me and B'Elanna."

"Are you sure you wish me to accompany you?" Seven raised an eyebrow. "I would not want to intrude."

Lili laughed. "We have a ways to go before someone would really be intruding. But I do like a challenge, and B'Elanna doesn't seem too adverse to the idea. What's that?"

"I do not know. It was here on my workstation when I completed my regeneration cycle."

The Ensign reached out and took it from her, examining it closely. Then she set it down on the console and touched her finger to the silver insignia.

A small holographic projection appeared above the plaque. As they watched, a star system came into view. Seven recognized it as one they had passed a few weeks back; a type G sun surrounded by six planets of varying size. The view changed to focus on the fifth planet in the system, and then on the nine moons surrounding it. Finally, the hologram began to revolve around the seventh moon. It was a brilliant crimson, with large plains of shimmering crystal embedded in its crust. When the projection came to a halt, a series of astral coordinates appeared at the bottom, and below that the words 'Lunar Constellation 7 of 9. Designation: Annika Prime'.

Seven was speechless.

"She gave you the moon?" Lili laughed in delight. "Wow, our Captain has quite the romantic streak."

"You believe this is from the Captain?"

The Trill rolled her eyes. "Do you know anyone else who has the authority to name constellations?"

Seven considered that. "What did you mean, 'a romantic streak'?"

"It's a metaphor made real, Seven. To 'give someone the moon' means you would do anything for them. I do believe Captain Janeway got your message loud and clear, and has responded in kind. What are you going to do?"

"I do not know." The Borg studied the hologram from all sides. "I am still trying to decipher the emotions that I am feeling. Until I do, I am unsure of what course of action I should take."

"That's understandable. I remember my first love. What a mess I was. But I'll tell you something… it was probably the sweetest experience of my life. Take your time, Seven. I don't think the Captain is going anywhere."

Seven declined Lili's breakfast invitation with a promise that she would join them sometime later in the week. Instead, she went straight to astrometrics, burying herself in her work to try and keep her thoughts focused.

For the first time, it did not work. She found herself wondering where the Captain was, what she was doing, why she hadn't come to astrometrics in the past week. Several times she had to stop herself from heading to the bridge. She would have had no professional reasons for being there, and her personal ones were inappropriate.

It took all her will to keep herself at her post and she was only one short hour from the end of her shift when B'Elanna showed up.

"So…" The Klingon smiled. "I heard about the little present your secret admirer left you this morning. Can I see it?"

Seven was slightly embarrassed that she had brought it with her, but showed it to B'Elanna anyway.

"That is so incredible, Seven. You do realize how huge this is right?"

"It is very… beautiful." The Borg agreed.

"It's more than that, Seven. Have you ever noticed that the Captain doesn't name things here in the Delta? I asked her about it once and she said it would be pretentious for her to give names to constellations that belonged to other species. She broke that rule…for you."

"I had not considered that."

"Then, there is the fact that, once Voyager gets home, her database will be downloaded into the Starfleet main computer systems. That moon will be Annika Prime for as long as there is a United Federation of Planets. That's some gift."

Seven felt dazed. She had not realized how large a gift the little holoprojection truly was.

"Well, I have to go. I'm meeting Lili for dinner." She ignored Seven's smirk. "Have a good one!"

As she logged off her board, Seven suddenly felt overwhelmed by everything she had been feeling and experiencing that last few days. She picked up her plaque and headed to cargo bay two. Once there, she placed the holoprojector on the control panel where it would be the first thing she would see when she awoke and then practically fell into her alcove. She knew she should not need to regenerate so soon after her last cycle, but she hoped that it would help her to clear her mind so that she could arrange her thoughts and emotions into some kind of a coherent pattern.

"Computer, begin regeneration cycle."

Seven opened her eyes, feeling her emotions finally coalesce into solidity within her. Stepping down from the dais, tapped her commbadge. "Computer, locate Captain Janeway."

"Captain Janeway is in her quarters." The feminine voice replied.

Seven exited the cargo bay and headed straight for the Captain. She could think of nothing else but the feel of Janeway's lips against her own, the way they sent a thrill racing through her body like an electric shock. Reaching her destination, she touched the door chime and waited for admittance.

Inside, Captain Janeway groaned and sat up. "Computer, time?"

"The time is 0020 hours."

No one would wake her at this hour if it wasn't important. She pulled a thin, silk robe over her nude form and went to the door, her heart jumping into her throat when it opened to reveal Seven of Nine.

"Seven?" She breathed. "Is something wrong?"

"I…apologize, Captain. I did not consider that you would be regenerating. I will return at a more appropriate time."

"No!" Janeway startled herself by reaching out to grab the young woman's arm. "Come in. It's all right. I'm always available for you."

"Thank you." She entered and looked around. The sight of the unmade bed sent another shock along her spinal column and she walked over to it, sitting down without thinking.

The Captain joined her, trying to ignore the thought that Seven was finally on her bed. Something was obviously bothering her, and she would not allow her own emotions to get in the way of whatever help the young woman needed.

"What's wrong, Seven?"

The Borg looked at her, taking in the Captain's disheveled appearance and thinking she had never looked more beautiful. "For the past few days, I have been experiencing difficulty regenerating."

"Have you seen the Doctor?"

"Yes." Seven was unable to tear her gaze away from the Captain's eyes. In them, she saw her own emotions reflected back at her. "There is no physical reason for my inability to complete the cycle. Nor is my alcove functioning improperly. Yet, I am experiencing a defect in my eidetic memory."

"What kind of defect?" She asked gently.

"My memories…the ones replaying in my mind, have been doing so incorrectly. In the past, the memories accessed during my regeneration have always been important to the conditions surrounding us. They have always contained information that would help us to resolve the conflict currently occurring."

"And now?"

"Now, we are experiencing no such conflict, and yet my memories have still been accessed. However they are…less than accurate."

"Dreams." Janeway smiled. "You're dreaming, Seven."

"The Doctor referred to them as nightmares."

"Are they frightening images, Seven? Do they disturb you?"

"Yes, but not in an unpleasant way."

"Then they're dreams. They are your unconscious mind showing you new scenarios. Ones that have become available to you with the growth of your imagination."

"So these 'dreams' are…"

"Manifestations of things you desire... Perhaps things you had never considered before now. Tell me about them. What's the focal point of your memories."

Seven found herself falling into the soft cadence of Janeway's voice. She looked down, unable to meet the older woman's eyes. "You." She said quietly.

"Me?" The Captain straightened slightly, swallowing back the emotion that was beginning to beat down her resolve.

"More precisely…us."

"I see. And what happens between us?"

Not allowing herself to think for fear it would stop her from acting, Seven reached out and gently took the Captain's face between her hands. Leaning forward, she touched her lips softly to Janeway's, feeling a vibration in the smaller woman as she began to shake.

"You have become all that my mind can focus on this past week, Kathryn." She savored the sound of the name as she spoke it. "Thoughts of you are with me while I work, while I regenerate. I find myself unable to think of anything else. All I wish to do is to exist in the moment of your lips touching mine, as they did in my 'dream'. It is a need that I cannot seem to resolve. So I came to you."

"Seven," Janeway clasped both of the Borg's hands within her own. "I think you may be confusing gratitude for something deeper."

"Is that what you feel, Kathryn? Gratitude? Because I have seen my own emotions reflected in your eyes. When you saw me in the mess hall with Ensign Mahr. When I felt you…shake…as I placed my arms around you at the celebration. Is gratitude all that you have to offer me?"

"No, Seven. But I have lived much longer than you have. I know more about what you're asking for than you do."

"Do you?" The Borg's face became thoughtful. "A romantic relationship is inefficient, Kathryn. It relies on emotional responses rather than intellect and logic. It can not be categorized or theorized. It cannot be set aside like some computation to be returned to when you have more time to solve the enigma. It is, by its very definition, the epitome of chaos. I have spent my brief duration as a Human, trying to bring order to all things around me. I have tried to distance myself from things that have no practical use, no value to an analytical mind. For me to now embrace this part of my Humanity, is no small thing. I simply have no means with which to fight these emotions. So logic dictates that I cease to try."

Janeway had never heard a more dry description of love, yet it brought tears to her eyes nonetheless. "Do you love me, Seven?"

"Yes." The Borg did not hesitate. Did not falter in her acceptance of what simply was.

"Why?" Janeway asked quietly.

"Because we are very much the same." She smiled slightly at Janeway's look of surprise. "There is one aspect of you which can be very cold, very calculating and precise. When you are in command, you are strong, unflinching, prepared to do whatever is necessary to complete your duties. You do not hesitate to make decisions that others could not, often acting against your own best interests to serve those under your command. And yet, there is another part of you that holds great compassion and warmth, whether for an entire race… or a single Borg drone. I have seen both sides of you war against each other, and yet you always manage to maintain a balance between the two. I am Borg, but also human. Two parts which war within me every moment of my existence. I have discovered that in order to function, I am required to also create a balance between the two. I can no longer exist in one facet or the other. I must embrace both in order to survive." She took a breath. "At the same time, we are very different. It is those differences that make us challenge each other in ways others cannot. When I am analytical, you are creative, when I am incensed, you are calm, when I am antagonistic, you are patient. You are the most infuriating individual I have ever known. And the only one able to evoke in me an emotional response. In all my interactions with the crew and the alien life forms we have encountered, it is only your opinion of me which I value. It is only your existence of which I am constantly aware." She lowered her gaze to the floor and asked very quietly, "Do you love me, Kathryn?"

Janeway sighed. "It's more complicated than that, Seven. I am the Captain. I have obligations to this crew and this ship. My duty will always come before anything that I may want or need. That doesn't leave much room for anything else."

Seven looked directly into her eyes. "Then why did you promise me the moon?"

The Captain blinked in surprise. She hadn't expected the younger woman to understand the intentions that went along with her gift. For once in her life, words failed her.

"Do you love me, Kathryn?" She asked again.

If nothing else, she knew Seven deserved the truth. "Yes."

The Borg smiled. "Then I see no need for us to have a 'first date'." Without hesitation, she pulled the smaller woman closer and wrapped her arms around her, bringing her lips to the Captains once again.

This time, Janeway did not stop her. Instead, she parted her lips slightly, allowing her tongue to enter the younger woman's mouth, to taste its recessed and to revel in the feeling of Seven doing the same.

In one fluid movement, the Borg pulled her backwards, down onto the bed and on top of her long, graceful form. Her hands moved gently down Janeway's back before returning to her shoulders, and then higher to tangle her fingers in the Captain's hair. Pulling her head down, she kissed her again. It was a slow, sensual kiss that quickly deepened, becoming almost ravenous in its need. She conveyed all her feelings, all her desires through that one joining of their lips and when she finally released her, Janeway found herself slightly dizzy, reeling from the intense passion that had curled her toes and made her heart thump painfully in her chest.

Seven looked at her with azure eyes made dark with desire. "I wish to feel you against me, Kathryn. Is that acceptable?"

"Yes," Janeway laughed softly. "That is very acceptable."

Seven stood and began to remove her biosuit, peeling the garment away from herself. The Captains pulse quickened as she revealed full, flawless breasts tipped with soft, rosy nipples. Her abdomen was smooth, the ribs that had shown through her garments had apparently been part of the suit. When she was finished, she stood shyly at the foot of the bed, one hand unconsciously covering the implant in her right bicep, the other resting over another one, in her upper right thigh.

"Don't cover them." Kathryn whispered. "They're a part of you."

"They are not attractive."

"I beg to differ." Janeway held out a hand and when Seven took it, she pulled her back into the bed. Once she was stretched out beside her, she took a moment to kiss the implant above the Borg's eye, then the small starburst on her cheek, before running her hands over the remaining Borg technology evident on the young woman's body. "Every part of you is attractive to me. There is no part of you that I have not come to love."

"Kathryn," Seven began to shake as Janeway ran her hands up her arms, then down the outside of her breasts to brush lovingly across her stomach. "I did not take the time to research what is expected of me before I came to you. I do not know what to do."

The older woman laughed softly. "In all honesty it's pretty new territory to me as well." She did not stop her hands from wandering over Seven's body. "Why don't we take it slow, do what we feel like doing. You tell me what feels good to you and I'll do the same."

"Acceptable." She brought her right hand up and gently cupped one of the Captain's breasts, her palm brushing gently over the nipple, which become firm under her touch. Intrigued, she softly closed her fingers on it, exerting a light, teasing pressure. She was startled when Janeway moaned and arched her back, pressing her body into the contact. "Is this enjoyable, Kathryn?"

"Very," Came the breathless reply. She kissed the Borg lightly along her jaw before dropping her face to gently nip at her throat. Gratified by the soft murmur of pleasure that escaped Seven's lips, she moved lower, closing her mouth over one of her nipples, finding it already firm under her tongue, she sucked lightly, aware of the hand that tangled in her hair, holding her to the body shaking beneath her.

"Oh…Kathryn…" The voice was ragged, filled with need and some part of Janeway's mind registered that this was the younger woman's first time. Slowing her tongue, she moved to the other breast, giving it the same loving attention she had given the first.

Seven lost herself in the feel of the Captain's mouth against her, her body reacting unconsciously as she arched her back, offering herself up like some kind of sacrifice. She kept one hand gently on the back of her lover's head as the other slammed down onto the bed, her fingers grasping at the sheets in an unconscious reaction.

Without hesitating, Janeway trailed kisses down Seven's stomach, stopping only to nuzzle her lips briefly in the pale thatch of hair between the Borg's legs. Seven's thighs parted automatically and she settled herself between then, breathing the scent of the younger woman in greedily. Gently, she slipped her tongue into the warm moisture that awaited her, finding the small nodule hidden within the cleft. With a slow, stroking motion, she licked it gently, stopping to suckle on it intently as the woman writhed beneath her.

Seven was in ecstasy. The Captain's tongue was sending tendrils of pleasure to all parts of the Borg's body, raising goosebumps along her arms and causing her mind to reel in sheer delight. She found she could think of nothing but the sensations that were wracking her body, making it hum like a delectable current along all of her nerve endings.

She stiffened slightly as Janeway entered her. A single, long elegant finger stroking her firmly from inside while the Captain's tongue continued to love her from without. Then she felt Janeway's finger curl to touch a spot deep within her, and it felt as though her entire body was on fire.

"Kathryn!" She called out loudly, her body shuddering as all of her senses seemed to overload, slamming together to create wave after wave of incredible pleasure, all emanating from that one singular point in her body. She arched up yet again, raising her back almost completely off the bed as her mind short circuited, and for one long, glorious moment, she experienced… perfection.

It took her a few moments to come back to herself to find Janeway looking at her intently. "Did I hurt you?" She asked anxiously.

And for the first time in her short life as a Human, Seven of Nine laughed out loud. It was a soft, loving sound and the Captain thought she might die from the unadulterated joy it conveyed.

"No…Kathryn." She wrapped her long arms around the older woman and buried her lips in her hair. "I think you have finally made me understand the appeal of humanity."

Janeway smiled and returned the embrace.

"How long have you loved me?" Seven asked quietly.

"For quite some time." Janeway admitted. "Though it has become stronger over the last couple of weeks. Strong enough that I had no way to deny it when I was forced to examine it closely."

"Why did you not tell me?"

"For many different reasons. My duty, to this ship and to you. The difference in our ages. The feeling that it wouldn't be fair to you because of how unfamiliar you are with your humanity. Mostly I think I was afraid."

"Of what?" Seven looked at her curiously.

She smiled as she brought her lips to touch briefly against Seven's. "That you didn't feel the same way about me."

The Borg sighed. "Why do Humans fight so hard against the things they want the most?"

"I have no idea." Janeway laughed. "Just one of our little quirks I guess."

"Unfortunate." Seven tightened her embrace. "We could have been engaging in this activity long before now."

"I take it that means you enjoyed the experience."

"Very much so. But we are not done yet, are we?" She rolled them over so that Janeway was beneath her. "I believe I now know of what is expected of me."

"Oh, you do?" The Captain asked playfully.

"May I demonstrate?"

"I was hoping you would."

Seven trailed her fingers lightly across Janeway's stomach as she captured one of her nipples with her lips. She caught the nub of flesh between her tongue and her teeth, raking it gently as her fingers moved lower to play lightly in the hair at the juncture of her legs. When the older woman gasped and spread her legs slightly. Seven explored the warm wetness with her fingertips, rubbing them softly over the small protrusion of flesh, simulating with her fingers what Janeway had done with her mouth.

The Captain began to shake. "Please…" She begged quietly. "I want to feel you inside me."

"Anything." Seven played in the moisture surrounding the older woman's opening before sliding her middle finger inside. Fascinated by the feel of warm satin that enveloped it, she slid her index finger in as well and felt Janeway began to undulate against her. Catching the rhythm of her lover's movements, she began to move her fingers, alternating between pushing them in deeply and then pulling them back without ever leaving the warmth completely.

"Oh my god, Seven!" Janeway tangled her fingers into the Borg's hair, pulling it from the confines of its bun, allowing it to fall gracefully around her lover's face before wrapping her fingers in it once again. "Please… your mouth…"

"Anything." Seven whispered again, sliding down Janeway's body to taste the moisture between her legs. It was sweet, with a tang of salt, and Seven found herself lost in the musky taste and scent of it. She rubbed her nose lightly against the small bundle of nerves before capturing it with her tongue, suckling it with wild abandon without ever stilling the movements of her fingers.

After a few moments of her feasting on the smaller woman's body, the Captain began to shake, her head slammed back against the pillows and a low, keening wail began in the back of her throat. Seven felt herself edging towards the same release she had felt before and as the Captains climax exploded around her mouth and fingers, she felt herself shake quietly. It was a much smaller reaction than she had had under Kathryn's ministrations, but enormously enjoyable nonetheless.

She remained where she was for several minutes, witnessing the small fluttering spasms of the muscles surrounding her fingers, her lips and nose, lost in the taste and feel of her lover until finally, Janeway reached for her, drawing her up to wrap her arms around the younger woman and kiss her deeply.

"Incredible." The Captain whispered breathlessly. "You are so incredible."

"As are you." Seven said sincerely. "I am unsure how, but I was also…gratified by your experience."

"I'm glad. So how do you feel about this part of your humanity?"

"Pleased." She said seriously. "If you had started with this lesson I would have been much more receptive to whatever else you wished to teach me, Kathryn."

Janeway laughed out loud. "If only I had known."

"What happens now?"

"Now? Now we sleep."

"I was speaking of our relationship."

"I know, my love. But sleep with me anyway. We can figure out the rest in the morning."

"Acceptable." Seven wrapped her arms around the smaller woman and drew her close. "Are you certain we must sleep?" She stroked the inner muscle of Janeway's thigh with obvious intent. "I find myself invigorated at the moment. It seems inefficient to allow so much energy to go to waste."

The Captain laughed, wrapping her fingers in white-gold hair as she drew her lover in for another kiss. "That's one of the things I love about you, Seven. Your unwavering commitment to efficiency."

B'Elanna Torres unconsciously straightened her uniform as she waited outside Biometrics. She was nervous, and couldn't seem to figure out why. It wasn't as if she and Lili hadn't been spending most of their time together lately. In truth, she had found herself in the Ensign's company most mornings and every evening since the Captain's celebration.

And she enjoyed that company.

She tried to remember the last time that someone had been able to take her mind off of Engineering, even for a few minutes, and couldn't come up with anything. All she knew was that, whenever Lili was around, she found herself captivated by her smile, by her eyes…and by thoughts of exactly where the markings that trailed down the sides of her face led.

B'Elanna blushed and then blushed harder at the thought of someone catching her blushing. Of course it was at that exact moment when the object of her thoughts exited the turbo lift and walked towards her.

"B'Elanna!" Lili smiled happily, her eyes twinkling as she took in the engineer's slightly flushed skin. "Oh my… whatever is going on in that devious mind of yours? You look like the cat that ate the canary…and then decided she really liked the taste."

"Uh..." Oh for Kahless' sake! The Klingon flushed even harder. You'd think I was sixteen years old! What was it about this woman that made her brain shut down whenever she smiled? "I was waiting for you."

"I see. Any particular reason?"

"I was wondering if you wanted to join me after our duty shifts. I have some time scheduled on the holodeck and I thought maybe we could spend it together."

"I'd love to!" Lili leaned up against the bulkhead, her body just a few inches from B'Elanna's. "What kind of program did you have in mind?"

"It doesn't matter." The engineer said a little shyly. "Not so long as you're there."

The Trill's smile lit up her eyes and showed off her dimples. "Well, I saw something in the data banks the last time I was looking through the programs. An earth gathering called a 'Renaissance Faire'. Apparently it was a celebration of Earth's medieval history. I thought it might be interesting."

"Ok…" B'Elanna looked a little wary. "Do we have to dress for the period?"

"I don't think so. We certainly don't have to if you don't want to. What time is the holodeck scheduled for?"

"1800 hours."

"Want me to meet you there?"

"Uhm, no." B'Elanna idly touched the wall between them. "I thought I would pick you up at your quarters. 1730 hours?"

"Why, Ms. Torres," She smiled. "Is this a real date?"

"Well…I…," The Klingon straightened her back and took a deep breath. "Yes. Yes it is."

"I can't wait!" Lili reached out and trailed her fingers lightly down the engineer's cheek. "Seeya then." With a wink she was gone.

B'Elanna let out the breath she was holding. She smiled all the way to Engineering.


Chapter Seven: Intentions

"The time is 0500 hours."

Captain Janeway opened her eyes, taking a moment to let her mind clear out the cobwebs of sleep. What a dream! She swallowed, finding her mouth very dry. She breathed deeply, catching the musky scent of sex in the air and registering the soft warmth against her side at the same time. She froze for a moment before glancing very slowly to her right.

The first thing she saw was a halo of white-gold hair fanned out across her pillows. Below that was the face of an angel.

Seven's eyes were closed, all her formidable intellect shuttered away behind long, silky lashes. Her lips were parted slightly, her breaths coming long and deep as she slumbered quietly beside her.

She looked so incredibly young and innocent.

Well… not so innocent. Janeway smiled softly as the memories of the previous night came back to her. The young woman had been voracious, reveling in the moans and cries of passion she could elicit from her partner. Their lovemaking had gone on for hours before they had both passed out from sheer exhaustion.

A soft sound of confusion drew her attention back to her bedmate. Seven had opened her eyes and was looking at her with something akin to wonder in them.

"Kathryn?" She whispered softly, bringing one hand up to gently touch the Captain's lips. "Is this a 'dream'?"

Janeway laughed softly and pulled the Borg into a tender embrace. "No. Not unless it's one we both shared." She ran her fingers through white-gold silk. "You have the most beautiful hair. I still can't imagine why you keep it pinned up the way you do."

"It is efficient." Seven blushed and Janeway thought her heart would break at the beauty of it. "You let me love you. Thank you."

"I should thank you, Annika." She kissed her softly on the lips. "You've made this old Captain feel young again."

Janeway stretched gracefully, arching her back as she raised her arms over her head. "Oh!' She made a soft sound of pain as she grabbed her shoulder and rubbed it firmly.

"Kathryn?" Seven sat up slightly and looked down at her in concern. "Are you damaged?"

"I don't think damaged is the right term, love. This is just one of the many side effects of being a few years older than you."

"16.2 years older to be exact." Seven replied helpfully.

The Captain eyed her sardonically. "How about that's the last time we actually do the math?" She said dryly.

The Borg ignored her. "Can I be of assistance?"

"Oh, I'd love a back rub.."

"A 'back rub'?"

"Yes," Janeway smiled and sat up, placing her palms against Seven's shoulders, she rubbed gently, her fingers working into the muscle with gentle force.

"Oh." The younger woman closed her eyes and swayed gently under the touch. "I believe I can replicate this experience for you."

The Captain smiled and moved away, flipping over so that she was laying on her stomach, she raised her arms and wrapped them around her pillow, shivering in anticipation.

Seven considered the form before her carefully, trying to decide on the best positioning of her own body to facilitate the exercise. Finally, she straddled Janeway's hips, a soft sound of pleasure escaping her throat as the sensitive flesh between her legs came in contact with the Captains soft, warm buttocks. Ignoring the sensation, she leaned slightly forward and placed her hands on each of the strong shoulders, feeling the muscles that were tensed into knots. Using her fingers to dig into the muscles gently, she was startled when the Captain responded to her ministrations verbally.

"Oh, God, Seven." Janeway practically purred. "Oh that feels soooo good."

The Borg's respiration and heart rate increased significantly, leaving her slightly flustered.

"Oh yes," The Captain wiggled unconsciously, her backside causing friction against the younger woman's already inflamed nerve endings. "Oh Seven, a little to the left… oh! Right there…Harder..."

Seven found her hips beginning to undulate against the Captain's posterior, the swollen flesh and small bundle of nerves rubbing deliciously into the crease between the buttocks. Unconsciously, her hands tightened on Janeway's shoulders, holding her firmly in place as she ground herself against her.

Below her, Janeway felt the change in Seven, felt the way the younger woman was moving against her and the way her own mound was being ground against the bed underneath. Even though it felt incredibly good, she looked back over her shoulder. "Seven, what are you doing?"

The young woman ignored her for a moment before she seemed to come back to herself. Her movements stilled and she looked at The Captain in wide eyed wonder. "I am… unsure." She breathed heavily. "Do you wish me to stop?"

Janeway considered briefly. There was something very much like being dominated in the position, but she found she did not chafe against it as she had with other bedmates in the past. "I didn't say that," She smiled and settled back against her pillow, rocking her hips up and back to increase the pressure between the two of them.

Seven closed her eyes, allowing her body to take over completely. As she continued to thrust against the willing form beneath her, small guttural sounds began to emanate from deep within her, each one punctuating the moment when the two bodies met most strongly.

She could not make sense of all the feelings that were colliding within her. The heat, the sweat slickness against her skin, the incredible friction that could be caused by two soft places rubbing against each other. It was all more than her mind could process and so, for the first time in her life, she shut off her cognizant functions and focused with everything she was on the physical. The need within her seemed to multiply when she did so. Driving her to grind harder, in circular motions against Janeway's backside. She could feel the same reaction in the body beneath hers and, when the Captain arched back in pleasure, she removed her hands from her shoulders, sliding them around to the smaller woman's front to cup her breasts. Capturing the already swollen nipples in her fingers, she rolled them firmly between her fingers, gratified when the firm body beneath her began to buck quickly.

Janeway's climax was very near. She could hear the sounds escaping from her own throat but could not concentrate on them as her entire body began to convulse in an orgasm unlike anything she had felt before. It was as if her toes were locked in a curled position, the hair on the back of her neck standing stiffly as her nerve endings sang out with pleasure. She felt a change in the movments above her. Felt the motion of Seven's hips become faster, erratic. Heard her name whispered in that guttural way that cut through Janeway like a knife.

"Kath…Kath…Oh..KATHRYN!" Seven finally screamed, pushing down heavily on the Captain as her hips ground in small circular motions.

The movement pushed Janeway over the edge, her orgasm exploding within her as she whispered harshly. "Annika….oh dear god…"

Seven collapsed on top her, resting for a moment before rolling onto her side as she gathered Kathryn into a tight embrace. With an almost feral intensity she growled, "Mine!"

The Captain was startled. She had never heard her Astrometrics officer respond to anything on such a primitive level before. "Where did that come from?" She asked softly.

"I…" Seven seemed a little startled herself. "I do not know. I only know that I do not wish anyone else to be with you this way. I do not wish anyone else to touch you… to love you, except me. Is that wrong?"

"No," Janeway said carefully. "It isn't wrong, Seven. Those feelings are natural when you love someone. You just have to be aware of their appropriateness when and if you say them."

"You are concerned that I will allow my feelings to impact our professional relationship."

"Well, yes." She sat up and looked at her young lover. "I guess this is something we need to talk about."

"You do not wish for the crew to become aware of what we have done." Seven's voice had become cooler, more remote. "You do not think that what we have done is appropriate."

"It isn't that, Seven." She took the Borg's face in her hands and kissed her gently. "I am not ashamed of what we've done. We just need to keep it to ourselves until I figure out the best way to make our relationship known."

"But we will?" Seven said hopefully. "Make it known?"

"Of course, love." She smiled. "Besides, nothing on this ship is a secret for very long and I certainly don't intend to stop being with you. Not now that I have found the one thing that makes me happier than I've ever been before."

The younger woman considered that for a moment. "Acceptable." She smiled. "You have made me happy as well." Wrapping her arms around the Captain, she pulled her gently back down to the bed, kissing her passionately.

"Mmmm, Seven. We need to get ready for our duty shifts. I can imagine the gossip it would generate if we are both late for work."

Seven sighed. "As you wish." She looked guilty for a moment. "There is something I must tell you, Kathryn."

"What's that, love?"

"There are two people who are already aware of our 'situation'."

Janeway blinked. Well, that was quick. "Who?"

"B'Elanna Torres and Ensign Mahr. I sought their advice in regards to my feelings for you."

"I see."

"Are you angry with me?"

"No. I just hope they can keep it to themselves for the time being."

"I will see that they do." Seven said emphatically. "They are my friends. They would not do anything to harm us."

"Of course they wouldn't. But B'Elanna does tend to share things with Tom."

"Not anymore. Tom Paris and B'Elanna are no longer copulating."

"I think I'm going to have to start getting my information from you. I seem to be a little behind." She stood and held out her hand, helping the young woman up out of bed. "But for now, let's get up and take a shower. Wouldn't do for the Captain to be late."

Captain Kathryn Janeway walked onto her bridge with consummate grace. She nodded to Tuvok at the aft security station and made her way over to her chair, which Chakotay gave up with a smile, settling into his own seat.

"Good morning!" She said brightly.

"Is it?" He rubbed his chin. "I think I can change your mind." He handed her a pad and laughed at her pained expression.

"Personnel reports already?" She sighed dramatically. "Oh, what I wouldn't give for a hostile species at the moment."

"Be careful what you wish for," He quipped. "The gods have been known to have a sadistic sense of humor."

Janeway laughed and settled back to start reading over the information, becoming aware after a few minutes that her First Officer was looking at her speculatively. "What?"

"Nothing." Chakotay grinned. "You just seem like you're in an awfully good mood this morning."

"A good night's sleep can do wonders, even for Starfleet Captains."

He didn't say anything about the small, dark circles under her eyes, choosing instead to switch his attention back to the viewport in front of them.

The morning progressed quickly, sliding into the afternoon without much fanfare. Two hours before the end of the Alpha shift rotation, the bridge doors opened and Janeway did not have to look back to see who it was. She could feel the presence of the person who had entered.

In fact, she felt proud that she hadn't looked back. And that she still hadn't spared even a glance at her Astrometrics officer as she took over her station.

She was just thinking how well everything was going when she realized that the bridge had gone absolutely silent. Looking around, she realized that everyone was staring at the aft science station. Sparing a quick glance, she felt her heart jump into her throat.

Seven of Nine stood quietly, entering information on the last area of space they had passed. If she noticed that the attention of the entire bridge was centered on her, she didn't acknowledge it; she merely went about her work silently.

With her hair flowing loosely down past her shoulders to gently caress the back of her plum biosuit.

Janeway felt her palms begin to sweat as she took in the glorious sight of that white-gold mane. It immediately made her think of their interlude that morning, of wrapping her fingers in it to bring Seven's lips to hers in a passionate kiss.

At that moment, the Borg glanced back over her shoulder and locked eyes with her. The shared look was brief, but it was like an arc of electricity shimmered between them and one word jumped unbidden into her mind, impacting her stomach, and her lower regions, with the force of a photon torpedo.


Janeway looked away quickly and stood. "You have the bridge." She nodded to Chakotay. "I'll finish these reports in my ready room."

"Aye, Captain."

She tried to ignore his smirk as she walked at a normal pace, trying to maintain her dignity when what she really wanted to do was sprint off of the bridge at warp ten. All she knew was she had to put some distance between herself and Seven before the entire senior staff knew something was up.

Once inside her ready room, she got herself a cup of coffee from the replicator and then sat down at her desk. Slowly she lowered her face into her hands as she allowed the memories of the last twenty four hours to play back in her mind. She could feel the heat of her cheeks against her palms and she knew she wouldn't be able to keep up the façade of a professional relationship with Seven for very long. Just one glance from the Borg had shaken her completely.

The sound of the door chime startled her out of her reverie. "Come."

Chakotay entered quietly, Taking a seat across from her and looking at her expectantly.

Janeway sighed. "I have faced the Borg, the Kazon, the Hirogen, Species 8472, even the Q Continuum…"

Her First Officer started to laugh softly.

"And none of them have been able to shake the Starfleet out of me. But one look from Seven and I feel like I'm a raw recruit again." She dropped her head back into her hands. "I'm not handling this well am I?"

"That depends what you mean, Kathryn." He said, not unkindly. "I don't think anyone has noticed anything unusual…yet. But if what I think has happened actually has, you are going to need to address it before it becomes fuel for the gossip conduits on the ship."

"I know you're right. But how do I handle this?" She stood up and began pacing. "Call a Red Alert to discuss my damn love life?"

"Well, I think that you should address the senior staff as soon as possible. With all of us behind you, we'll be better able to handle any repercussions quickly and with as little disruption as possible."

"And what if the entire senior staff isn't behind me, Chakotay?" She ran her fingers through her hair. "And what if the crew does see this as a violation of protocol? What then?"

"I think you're underestimating the crew, Kathryn. It might be a little odd to people at first. I know that people will wonder and speculate how it all happened. But I don't think for a second that anyone would begrudge you a measure of happiness. You have given us everything you are for six years and we might be lost out here for a lot longer than any of us want to think about. No one expects you to spend your life alone. I honestly think most of the crew will take it in stride, even embrace the fact that you are, indeed, human." He smiled. "Of course, you'll have to deal with all the admiring glances. You two do make quite a striking pair."

Janeway quirked one eyebrow at him. "That's all I need. Speculation about my personal life."

"Are you under some delusion that the crew doesn't speculate already? I'm pretty sure you're a topic of a lot of conversations. I hear tell there are a couple of pools going below decks in regards to who will finally be the one to break down all that 'Janeway Resolve'. I know there are at least a couple of people who have thrown Seven's name into the hat."

"You, of course, would not be one of them."

Chakotay laughed. "Actually, I bet on myself."

Her sarcastic look softened. "Chakotay.."

He held up his hand. "No, it's alright. I pretty much gave up hope for that a few years ago. If it was meant to happen, it would have. Now I just want you to be happy. If Seven is the one to bring you that happiness, then I'm all for it."

"Thank you." She sighed. "So…how do I bring this new development to the attention of the senior staff?"

"Call a meeting?"

Janeway shot him a poisonous look.

"Or," He reigned in his humor. "You could talk to each of them one by one. A little personal interaction might be just what the Doctor ordered. You might want to include him too, by the way."

"All right. I guess there's no time like the present."

"Who do you want me to send in first?"

"First?" She smiled. "I think I would like to talk to Seven first. This is going to affect her as much as it will me."

"I'll send her in." He stood and turned to go.

"Chakotay?" Janeway looked at him fondly. "If you knew there wasn't a chance…why did you bet on yourself?"

He grinned. "A guys gotta have hope."

She laughed with him as he left the ready room and leaned back in her chair. A few moments later the doors slid open to admit Seven.

"Captain?" The Borg stood at attention, her hands clasped behind her back. "You wished to speak with me?"

Janeway stood and came around the desk, stopping when she was a breath away from her lover. "You really undid me, you know that?"

Seven raised one eyebrow. "I'm sorry, Captain?"

"No, I'm pretty sure you're not sorry. In fact, I would bet that you knew exactly what you were doing when you came onto the bridge, looking like that."

"I have not deviated from my normal attire, Kathryn." She attempted to look completely innocent but one corner of her full ruby lips quirked up in a small smile. "I am unsure as to what you are referring to."

The Captain growled and wrapped her fingers into the younger woman's platinum blonde hair, pulling her into a torrid embrace and kissing her passionately. When she released the Borg, she was more than a little smug to see that the younger woman was visibly shaken. "You are exquisite with your hair up. With it down, it's all I can do not to throw you across my desk and take you right now."

Seven looked intrigued.

"No." Janeway held her hands up. "I was making a point, Annika, not a proposition."

The Borg pulled her close again, tasting her lips and tongue in a kiss that was both tender and passionate before releasing her. "Unfortunate."

The Captain slowly backed away, needing to put some distance between them. "Chakotay thinks that we need to inform the senior staff of the change in our relationship. He feels that their support would be beneficial to the crew accepting us as a couple. What do you think?"

"I find that a logical assumption. But what matters, Kathryn, is what you think."

"I disagree." Janeway sat down and began to drink her coffee. "You're my partner. Your opinion matters just as much as mine does."

"Partner? Is that like a fiancé?"

The Captain choked, coughing violently as the liquid went down her windpipe. "Fiance?" She croaked. "Uh… Where did you learn that word?"

"Is that not the proper designation?"

"Well…uhm…" Jesus, Katie get a grip. You'd think she just asked you to marry her. It's just Seven requesting information. "It is the natural progression of things for partners to become engaged. But that is after a period of courtship."

"I see." Seven looked thoughtful. "What is the standard amount of time involved in this 'period of courtship'?"

"That depends…" Janeway took a deep breath. "We're just now discussing sharing the parameters of our relationship with the crew. Why don't we see how that goes first?"

The Borg studied her intently. "Acceptable."

Oh thank god. The Captain started to breathe again until her little voice piped up. But really…how bad would that be? Seven would be yours, to have and to hold… emphasis on the holding part…

"All right. I do think this might go better if I addressed the senior staff one on one. That way they would feel more inclined to voice their opinions without unduly upsetting you."

"You are concerned that they will not appreciate the change in our affiliation?"

"I don't know, Seven. I just don't want them to feel like they can't speak their minds."

"Very well. I will comply, so long as you are aware that it is only your opinion that concerns me."

"Oh, I am very aware." She took another drink from her coffee and nodded. "Send in Tuvok on your way back to Astrometrics."

"Yes, Captain." On her way out the door, she shook her head slightly from side to side, causing her hair to sway softly across her back.

Oh dear lord. Janeway felt her palms start to sweat again. You're going to pay for that later.

B'Elanna looked around the faire, taking in the brightly colored banners and people laughing around them. Anything to keep from looking at the woman at her side.

True to her word, she had shown up right on time and Lili had been ready. She just hadn't been ready for Lili.

The Trill had met her at the door, a shy smile on her face that turned into a huge grin as the Klingon openly stared at her. She was wearing a crimson colored tank top that ended just above her midriff and a short black skirt that ended mid thigh. Her hair had been brushed back and was caught up in silver combs that pulled the sides away from her neck. B'Elanna could see the light trail of spots that trailed down across her shoulders. They disappeared beneath the shirt to reappear briefly on the sides of her abdomen before continuing under the skirt to resume along the sides of her thighs where they disappeared into black leather boots that tied up the front and ended a few inches below the knee. B'Elanna had had a roommate at the Academy that had owned a pair of boots that were very similar. 'Fuck Me Boots' she had called them.

"B'Elanna?" Lili's voice was full of humor. "All you all right?"

"Uhm, yeah." The engineer swallowed thinking that the corridor was somewhat warmer than it should be. "You look… incredible."

"Thanks." Her eyes sparkled as she took in her date's appearance, which consisted of a t-shirt and fairly form fitting shorts. "You look pretty cute yourself."

Since then B'Elanna had been hard pressed to keep her eyes off the beautiful Trill to the point where she was starting to feel like an adolescent schoolgirl fawning over some crush. But she couldn't help it. She had never been affected by a woman so profoundly before. She sent a silent thank you to Seven as she glanced at her again to find Lili smiling back at her.

"Caught you looking." Lili laughed.

"I'm sorry," The Klingon blushed to the roots of her hair.

"Don't be," The Trill beauty linked her arm through B'Elanna's as they walked. "I dressed this way for you, you know."

"Oh," She was completely flustered when their arms dropped until they were holding hands. "Thank you?"

Lili smiled and leaned into her.

"Your hands…" B'Elanna wrapped her other hand around the Trill's and rubbed lightly. "They're very cold."

"I know. It's a quirk of Trill physiology. Besides, you know what they say: Cold hands, warm heart." She smirked slightly as the Klingon flushed. "So what do you think of the faire?"

"It's… interesting. What made you choose this program?"

"I thought it would be something fun to do. And I thought there might be something here for you to enjoy."

B'Elanna looked around at the women surrounding them, their breasts pushed up by the corseted vests they were wearing.

"Not that!" She laughed again. "Over here." Lili led them to a set of bleachers erected around a large fenced in area. They had just seated themselves when the sound of trumpets began to emanate from the tents at either end of the field. B'Elanna watched expectantly as two armored figures emerged from either side. They were both on horses and held long poles in one arm. "Gladiators?"

"I think they called them Knights. This was called the Joust." Lili kept their hands linked as she pointed towards the long fence in the center of the enclosure. "Apparently they ride towards each other as fast as they can and use the 'lances' to try and knock their opponent to the ground."


"I honestly don't know." The Trill shrugged. "Money and honor apparently."

"I see." B'Elanna really didn't but with her hand tucked snugly in Lili's embrace and her body warm against her side she really couldn't have cared less.

"Want to make a wager? On which one will win?"

"Ok." The engineer looked at both of the riders, sizing them up before pointing at the one wearing black armor. "I choose that one."

"Always go for the dark ones, huh?" Lili laughed. "Ok, I'll take the one in silver. What should we bet?" She leaned in a little closer. "How about a kiss?"

"Uhm…ok." B'Elanna felt her primary heart start to thud loudly in her ears.

The joust began and the two riders sped towards each other. They met loudly, the sound of splintering wood accompanying the crash of the black knight being put quite solidly on his ass.

Before she could lament on her loss, Lili wrapped her arms around her neck and pulled her close, pressing her lips to B'Elanna's in a soft kiss, her tongue licking gently at her bottom lip before they parted.

"But I lost." The engineer pointed out, a little breathlessly.

The Trill just smiled. "I didn't."

They watched the rest of the entertainment, making casual conversation about technique during the sword trials, B'Elanna explaining the differences between Klingon swordplay and what was on display before them. During their silent moments, she found herself studying Lili from the corner of her eye. She seemed to really be enjoying herself. One more than one occasion she had pointed to one of the contestants, managing to lean her whole side into the engineer. By the time the contests were over, B'Elanna was more than a little flustered.

"How about something to drink?" She croaked. "I'm a little parched. I guess it's the sun."

"Right." Lili's eyes twinkled as she led her to the drink booth. "Must be the sun. I'll have a mead."

"A mead? What's that?"

"It's a little hard to explain. I guess it's kind of a fruity beer. Try one."

Once they had secured their refreshments, they walked quietly along the edge of a serene pond at the center of the faire. Eventually they came to a little bridge that led across the water to a small gazebo that looked unoccupied. "Let's sit over there." B'Elanna led her onto the bridge, only to be stopped at the midway point by a gaily dressed jester who crossed his arms and blocked their path.

"No crossing without proper payment." He said sternly.

"Oh…uhm, ok." B'Elanna reached into her pocket for some of the coins that had come with the program but the hologram put his hands up and laughed at her.

"My dear," He said with a smirk. "That type of payment will get you no where. This is the Kissing Bridge. To pass you must kiss your partner and show your affection as the area ahead is meant for lovers."

This time it was Lili that blushed and the engineer thought something in her chest might break from the shy beauty that emerged. Without hesitating, she wrapped her arms around the Trill and kissed her softly, nibbling at her bottom lip until Lili's tongue returned her caress. When the kiss ended, they stayed in each others arms for a few moments, foreheads touching as they smiled.

"Very acceptable." The jester stood to the side. "Enjoy your time on the isle."

Moving past him, they made their way to the gazebo and sat down quietly, both of them looking out at the water. It was finally Lili that broke the silence.

"B'Elanna…" She turned to the Klingon and gently took her hand. "What are we doing?" She ran her thumb in light circles on the engineer's palm. "I mean, I know what I'm doing here, what I want. And it's quickly reaching a time where I need to know that you're here for the same reasons. Otherwise, someone is going to get hurt and I'm pretty sure that someone is me."

B'Elanna found her concentration centered on the sensations emanating from her palm. "I'm… well…" She took a breath. "This is all new to me, Lili. I'm still trying to make sense of everything that I'm feeling. But I do know this; there's no where else I would rather be right now, than here with you. Is that enough?"

"It is for now." The Trill moved closer and they wrapped their arms around each other, sharing a long, slow kiss that made a part of B'Elanna start to think that maybe it wasn't enough. That part of her definitely wanted more.

"You wanted to see me, Captain?"

"Yes, Tuvok." Janeway came around the desk and moved toward the couch under the window. "Please join me?"

"Very well." The Vulcan stood at the railing looking at her expectantly.

The Captain looked up at him and took a deep breath. "I need to inform you of something that has occurred recently. It is not something that I would normally bring to the attention of my security officer but I am sure you will agree these aren't normal circumstances.

He raised one eyebrow but said nothing.

"It's been six years since we landed here in the Delta Quadrant. In all that time I have done my best to represent Starfleet and the principles that govern it, but I have come to realize that we may be out here for a very long time." She poured herself a cup of tea from the pot sitting on the table. "So long that I found myself allowing connections to form that I would not have allowed otherwise…"

"Captain," Tuvok interrupted. "If you are trying to inform me of the situation between yourself and Seven of Nine, then I must inform you that I am already aware of the change in your relationship."

Janeway's teacup froze halfway to her mouth. "You already know?" She whispered.

"Of course, Captain. There is very little that occurs on this ship that I am not aware of."

"Why didn't you say something?"

Tuvok considered her question for a moment. "As security officer on this vessel it is my responsibility to maintain order and to minimize any activities that would be counterproductive or harmful to the ship's status. Is that not a correct assessment, Captain?" He did not wait for a response. "As the change in your relationship with Seven of Nine does not constitute such a threat, I determined that my involvement was not necessary."

"You honestly don't think this is going to cause a problem with the crew, Tuvok?"

"I did not say that, Captain. I am sure there will be many on board who will not be happy with the situation, but as they are probably the same crewmen who are not happy to have a Borg on board in the first place, I do not see this new situation being any more difficult than the previous one. Additionally, your happiness does have a direct effect on the morale and function of this vessel. In my opinion, the positives simply outweigh the negatives."

"I see." She put her cup down and looked at him closely. "Succinct and to the point as always."

"Captain, in the time I have known you, you have behaved in accordance with your Human emotions on many occasions. Many times in ways that were detrimental to your own well being. It is only logical that eventually your Humanity would require you to find a companion, to offset and balance the negative impact of your actions on your own happiness. That is not only understandable; it is, in some ways, expected and necessary. You have my support in this, as in all things."

Janeway felt tears start to form and took a drink from her tea to cover the emotional moment, knowing that it would only serve to cause her Vulcan security chief discomfort. "Thank you, Tuvok. I appreciate that more than you know."

"You are welcome, Captain. Am I to assume that you will be calling in all members of the senior staff to discuss this?"


"Very well, I will send in Mr. Paris."

The rest of the meetings went remarkably well, after her staff recovered from the initial shock. The only two rough spots came from the Doctor and Ensign Kim. The Doctor was visibly shaken, but assured her that he had no problem with the development before quickly transferring his program back to the sickbay.

Harry however, looked for a moment as though someone had struck a heavy blow to his midsection. The look was brief however, and he quickly recovered himself enough to wish them well before she dismissed him to go back to his station.

The task done, she felt a sort of peace steal over her. It was only a beginning to the changes that were to come, but knowing her senior staff supported her made the future seem that much brighter.

B'Elanna hefted the dagger in her hand, getting a feel for the weight of it. Lili had pushed her towards the area of the faire that held many different games of chance and had asked her to show off her prowess on the dagger throw. It had been a while since she had used those skills, but how hard could it really be?

She had just pulled her arm back for her first throw when she felt the Trill's hand run lightly across the back of her neck. Shivering, the blade fell from her fingers and landed in the dirt at her feet. "Not fair!" She turned on the laughing Ensign and poked her in the ribs. "You want me to win you a prize? Then go stand over there."

Lili obeyed, moving a meter or so away as the Klingon tried her first throw again. The dagger arced end over end before thudding into the center of the target resoundingly, burying itself into the wood. Her next two throws were just as graceful and she picked out her prize, holding it before the Trill's dancing eyes.

"What is it?" Lili took the long slender chain from her hand.

"It's a…well…I don't know what you call it but it goes around your stomach." She took the chain and reached around the Trill, securing it behind her back before turning her to see how it looked. "Very nice."

The auburn haired woman looked down at her midsection where the Klingon's hands still rested on her sides and then kissed B'Elanna softly. "It's lovely."

"Yes," The Klingon found she could not pull her eyes away from Lili's. "You are…I mean…it is." She ran her fingers through her hair. "You know what I mean."

"Yes I do." Lili kissed her one more time. "Come on, let's get something to eat."

The food was quite good and they found themselves eating in companionable silence. Once they were done, B'Elanna smiled and took Lili's hand again, the coolness a nice contradiction to her sun warmed skin. "I was wondering about something."

"Yes?" Lili layed on her back to place her head in her companions lap. She breathed contentedly as B'Elanna began to stroke her cheek.

"This program. It's a recreation of a recreation celebrating a specific period on Earth. Wouldn't it have just been easier to access one of the ships programs depicting the time period itself?"

Lili laughed softly. "In the six lifetimes I have lived, I have discovered that the remembrance of something is usually much more appealing than the actuality. In this period of Earth history, the people were ill tempered and violent, lacking in hygiene and social graces. Not exactly the backdrop for a 'fun' afternoon."

B'Elanna had slipped her hand down and was now running her fingertips lightly along the spots on the Trill's neck. She was surprised when the hand she held lightly in her grip suddenly warmed considerably. Before she had time to ask about it, Lili jumped up and brushed the hay off her outfit.

"Come on." She pulled the Klingon to her feet. "We only have about a half an hour left on the holodeck. I want to see what's left before we have to go."

They spent the remainder of their time wandering from one artisan's booth to the next, admiring some of the artwork and laughing at others. When their time was finally over, they exited the holodeck smiling, their hands still entwined. After a few steps, B'Elanna stopped her.

"Oh!" She frowned slightly.


The Klingon placed her hand lightly on the Trill's stomach. "We forgot to keep the chain." She felt a flutter in the muscles beneath her fingertips and looked up in surprise.

Lili's eyes, and the spots on her face and neck, had darkened considerably. Grabbing B'Elanna she ushered her into a jeffries tube alcove, pushing her up against the bulkhead solidly before capturing her lips in a rough kiss.

The physical contact enflamed the Klingon and she allowed her baser instincts free reign. She wound her fingers into Lili's auburn hair and returned the kiss passionately before dropping her lips to the Trill's neck to nip lightly at her pulse point. This went on for several moments before Lili regretfully tore her mouth away, uttering a little groan of protest in the process. "Stop…stop, B'Elanna."

"I'm sorry." The Engineer leaned heavily against the wall, trying to will the strength back into her knees. "I didn't mean to-"

"Well I certainly did." The Trill took a moment to catch her breath. "But if we don't stop now, I don't know that I'll be able to. And I think taking you up against the bulkhead would definitely be deemed conduct unbecoming."

"Right." She breathed deeply. "Maybe we should just call it a night."

"Agreed. But I really did have a wonderful time." Lili leaned in and kissed her tenderly. "Breakfast? In the mess hall at 0530?"

"I'll be there." The Klingon watched her walk away with no small amount of regret. She knew Lili was right, that their bodies wanted each other profoundly, but until she knew the status of her heart, it was better to wait. She took a few moments more to catch her breath before heading to her own quarters for a long, cold shower.

Seven of Nine stood at her station in Astrometrics, idly watching the data stream past her on the screen. She had been attempting to decipher the information acquired from a distant star cluster for the past hour, without much success. She found herself…preoccupied with her thoughts, to the point where they were interfering with her work. That was something she was extremely unaccustomed to. Squaring her shoulders, she informed herself, as she had repeatedly over the last few hours, that she must finish with this data before she could join Kathryn in her quarters.


Just thinking the name sent a spark of electricity down her spine and drew her thoughts away yet again. Irritated with herself, she forcibly pushed the Captains image from her mind and keyed in that last few bits of data. Satisfied, she shut down her board, looking up as the Astrometric's doors opened to admit the Chief Engineer.

"B'Elanna Torress." She greeted her friend. "I apologize, I was just leaving."

"I'm sorry to catch you on your way out, Seven. But I was hoping you could help me."

The Borg swallowed her impatience, remembering how helpful the Klingon had been to her the last few days. "What is it you require?"

"Well," The Engineer looked a little embarrassed. "I want to give Lili something to show that I am thinking of her, or more precisely, how I think of her."

"I see. You wish to offer her a token of your affection, much as I gave the Captain during her celebration."

"Yes! Exactly. Only, I don't know how to do what I want to do. I am sure you could do it for me but…"

"But that would in some way diminish the importance of the gift." Seven raised one eyebrow. "Am I to understand that your relationship has entered a new phase, B'Elanna?"

"I certainly hope so. I am also hoping that this token will say what I'm not quite ready to put into words yet."


The Engineer sighed. "I care for her a great deal. But it is all coming at me so fast. I just don't feel ready yet to make a formal declaration, especially since I don't know exactly how she feels. But an informal gesture might let her know how I feel without putting my heart out there on my sleeve."

Seven looked repulsed. "On your sleeve? Is that a Klingon custom? Is this the cause behind the redundancy in your pulmonary muscle?"

"No, Seven, it's a figure of speech. It means I'm…scared." B'Elanna looked amazed that she would make such an admission. "I don't want to be hurt."

"Understandable." The Borg looked at her thoughtfully. "I will be comply with your request tomorrow. Right now I am tardy for a previous engagement with the Captain. Is that sufficient?"

"Yeah, that's great, Seven. Thank you! I'll come by tomorrow afternoon."

"Acceptable." The Borg nodded. "Good night, B'Elanna."

Without waiting for a reply she headed for the Captain's quarters.


Chapter Eight: Resolutions

Captain Kathryn Janeway of the U.S.S. Voyager sat quietly on the couch in her quarters, watching the stars as they silently slid by.

The peace that had descended upon her earlier in her ready room had stayed with her throughout the day before finally following her home. She thought the galaxy outside her viewport had never looked more lovely, had never seemed more comforting as it did now, as she waited for her lover to join her.

My lover. Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct to the Unimatrix Zero One… is my lover. She tasted the words as she smiled silently to herself. Who could have known that a single Borg drone that she had liberated in the Delta Quadrant could make her feel closer to home than she had at any time previously in their voyage.

She thought of all the things that she wanted to share with Seven. Her home in Indiana, the way the stars looked from the ground instead of through a viewscreen, the scent of the summertime air. She wanted Seven to meet her mother and her sister, to be embraced into her family completely. In fact, she could no longer picture herself finally sliding Voyager into Earth's orbit without the young woman held firmly by her side.

What did I do before? How did I ever make it through all the nights without her?

She found that she didn't want to think about it. The memories of loneliness and solitude did not have a place in her heart anymore. Where they had been was the distinct image of a willful and insubordinate young woman, her eyes flashing fire as she stood her ground against the galaxy itself.

Smiling softly, she remembered the many times that fire had been directed at her, how it had infuriated her, challenged her, and finally, how it had excited her. Now she knew that fire would be there to protect her, to care for her, to love her in ways she had only ever dreamed about.

And oh how those ways have exceeded even your dreams, Katie.

They had only had one night together and she already knew she loved Seven to the very depths of her soul and that nothing, no matter how dire, would ever change that.

So what does that mean? Her little voice asked softly.

Her thoughts were cut off by the chime of her door.


Seven of Nine stalked into the room, her calm outward demeanor contrasted by the emotion in her eyes.

"Seven." Janeway stood and went to her, wrapping her up in an embrace that was returned very gently. "What's wrong?"

"I do not know, Kathryn. I am not functioning properly."

"In what way?"

"I have always found my eidetic memory to be an asset to my duties here on Voyager. It allows me to accomplish many different tasks at one time. Unfortunately, it seems to be malfunctioning."

Janeway took her hand and led her over to the couch. "Sit down," She urged settling in close to the younger woman. "What's going on?"

The Borg looked slightly embarrassed for a moment before she spoke. "I have been experiencing certain memories over and over throughout the day. No matter how many times I stop and try to refocus my thoughts, these memories always resurface. They have become detrimental to my duties. I am late to meet you this evening because I found that I had to redo much of the work I had already completed in order to correct errors. The Borg do not make errors." She drew in a shaky breath. "In addition to the memories, I find myself reacting inappropriately to the situations around me. My palms become moist, my breath becomes labored and I find myself…flushed in a most unproductive manner."

"Seven, what memories are we talking about here?"

The Borg turned to look at her and Kathryn was startled. Her eyes were very dark, the irises seeming to dilate immediately upon looking at her. Her skin flushed a deep crimson and her breath became ragged as she tried to move a little further away. "They are memories from our night together, Kathryn. It is as though I can taste you on my lips, I smell your scent when you are not there and my hands want nothing more than to touch you in every way imaginable. There were several occasions throughout the day when I found myself in the turbo lift on my way to your ready room without realizing what I was doing. I only knew that I had to be near you, to touch you, to hear you call out my name the way you do right before you achieve orgasm, shuddering in my arms as the last waves move through you." She drew in a long breath. "Even now, all I want is to take you, make you mine, right here on the couch, or on the floor, it makes no difference so long as your body is beneath me, so long as your hands are touching me the way only you can."

The Captain wrapped her arms around her and held her, whispering quietly in her ear. "I love you, Seven."

"How can you love me? I am not myself. I am malfunctioning."

"No. No, you are not malfunctioning." She kissed the Borg gently and found her lips tasted salt-sweet. Seven was perspiring, something she had only experienced while they were making love. "What you are experiencing is desire, deep, all consuming desire. I have been fighting with it myself all day."

"But you are functioning acceptably." Seven arms tightened around her, becoming almost feral in their embrace.

"On the outside, yes I am. But I've been human a lot more years than you have, love. And I've learned how to hide it better."

"So you are… having these experiences as well?"

"Yes I am, in my own way. I don't have your eidetic memory but my own has still been working overtime. Showing me little glimpses of your body as it arches against me, the way you moan when I first taste you, how your eyes close as you call out my name…"

Seven groaned and captured Kathryn's lips with her own, kissing her hungrily as her hands pulled at her clothing. Finally, she gave up and used her Borg enhanced strength to shred the Captains t-shirt and undergarments, her lips dipping down to capture one of her nipples, making it ache as she bit and teased it mercilessly.

If Janeway had been startled at the abrupt maneuver, she didn't show it. Instead she reached for the clasp at the back of Seven's biosuit, pulling it down to allow her hands access to her lover's perfect breasts. Seven's skin was hot, almost feverish, and flushed a dusky red in the starlight. She ran her hands across the smooth plains of her lover's back, pulling her in closer as the younger woman ravished her breasts.

Almost desperate in her need to fill her senses with her beloved, Seven pulled off the Captains trousers and undergarments in one graceful movement. She slipped her hand down over the smooth skin of her lover's stomach before tangling her fingers into the dark auburn curls between Janeway's legs. She was already wet, slick to the touch, and she wasted no time before entering her quickly, two fingers thrusting in and out as she searched for the high, slick spot that drove Kathryn to distraction. Without pausing her ministrations, she allowed her tongue and lips to travel down the Captain's body, stopping only when she felt the little bundle of nerves at the apex of her lover's cleft. She alternated between sucking on it and licking it as she luxuriated in the feel of the petite body undulating beneath her.

Janeway was in heaven. She wrapped her long, elegant fingers through Seven's hair and held her in place as her hips began to buck wildly. Their first experience together had taught her how passionate her young lover was, but this was incredible. Seven's free hand roamed up to her breast, teasing the nipple again as she quickened her thrusts, keeping time with the movement of her hips.

Ravished. The word shot through her mind like a spark, traveling down her spinal column to settle with an electric jolt between her legs. I'm being ravished. Oh my god…it's never been like this…not with anyone else…

Instantly, she felt herself flood with wetness around Seven's fingers, her back arching as she groaned. "Oh…Annika…Yes…OH DEAR GOD YES!!!" Her orgasm was overwhelming and for a moment she thought she might pass out as her nerve endings continued to sing, but Seven did not stop. Thrusting more quickly, her tongue moving faster than Janeway thought would be humanly possible, she was pushed to the edge again and past it, her entire body going rigid, unable to speak, unable to breathe until the last wave passed through her and she collapsed, limp beneath the Borg's body.

Seven finally relented. She withdrew her fingers gently and let her lips travel back up her Captains body, stopping to lap at the dew collecting on her skin. When she reached her lips, she kissed her with a tender passion that made Janeway feel like weeping.

"Oh, Annika…that was…you are…incredible. I love you." She held the younger woman motionless for a few moments and finally registered how her body was shaking. The Borg was being consumed by her desire to be touched while she waited for her Captain to recover. With a feral growl of her own, she flipped Seven over and began to knead her breasts, pinching her nipples with more force than she normally would as she bit the tender spot on her neck below her right ear, she didn't draw blood, but it was a very close thing.

Seven reacted wildly, her breaths coming in gasping sobs as she took Kathryn's hand and led it between her legs.

Janeway gasped. Seven was more than wet. Her essence was practically flowing down her thighs and, without waiting, she moved down the Borg's body and closed her lips around the small nub that seemed swollen beyond belief. She licked and sucked on the bundle with wild abandon and joy, slipping one finger into Seven's narrow channel to stroke her from within. She could feel both of her lover's hands on her shoulders, felt them garb her firmly, holding her right where she wanted her as her body began to shake.

"Kathryn…" Seven moaned as her hips ground up into her Captain's lips. "OH! OH! KATHRYN!" And then she was there, at that moment where her whole world stood still as her body thrummed with chaotic energy, causing her limbs to shake before she collapsed, drawing the smaller woman up into her arms as she wept.

"Shhh." Janeway kissed her gently, licking away the tears rolling over her alabaster cheeks. "It's ok. I'm here."

"Kath….Kathryn…" Seven shivered as her thoughts came back to her. "I love you. You are… perfection."

The smaller woman laughed. "I think you're pretty terrific yourself. Thank you."

"You never have to thank me for loving you, Kathryn." Seven said quietly. "In truth I would not know how to stop doing so anymore than I would know how to stop breathing."

Janeway rested her head on her lover's breast, breathing in the scent of their love deeply. She chuckled a few moments later as Seven's hands began to roam across her back to cup her buttocks. "Oh my… I think this is going to be a long night."

Janeway opened one eye and groaned. She was sore in places she didn't even know existed. And she was stiff. Why did her back hurt so much? Looking around, she realized she was on the floor. At some point during the previous night's lovemaking, they had slipped off the couch. She sighed and looked down at Seven who was sleeping peacefully, half draped across the smaller woman with her head resting on her breast.

She took a deep breath, smiling as she realized her entire quarters were musky with the scent of their love.

God what a night.

It had been incredible. Just remembering made her blush and sent her blood singing through her veins. She tightened her arms around her lover and ignored it, not wanting to wake her.

She knew she should get up, otherwise she would be in pain for her entire duty shift. After a moments thought, she found her commbadge on the table and tapped it.

"Janeway to Commander Chakotay."

"Chakotay here."

"Status Commander?"

"I was just getting ready to call you. We've come across a nebula that is showing promising signs of deuterium in a gaseous form. If we come to a full stop B'Elanna thinks she can use the Busard Collectors to replenish our supply."

"That sounds like a plan." She took a breath. "Seeing as how I am sure you can handle this mission, I do believe I am going to take the day off."

"Captain?" The surprise was evident in his voice and she couldn't help but smile.

"I think a little R&R is in order. Please log me as unavailable today except for emergencies."

"Aye, Captain." He paused for a moment.

"Yes, please log Seven of Nine unavailable today as well."

"Aye, Captain."

"Janeway out."

She knew she was going to face some teasing from her First Officer but she didn't care. She wanted to spend the day with Seven and considering how rarely she ever took R&R, they could handle it.


Janeway looked down to see her lover's eyes were open and watching her. "Good morning, love." She kissed the top of her head. "Care to spend the day with me?"

Her answer was a joyous smile and a tender kiss on her breast.

"Good." The Captain tightened her embrace. "Because I can't think of anyplace I would rather be than here with you. But maybe not on the floor."

Seven crawled off her carefully and helped her to stand.

"Did you have anything you needed to do today?"

"B'Elanna asked for my help this afternoon. But it does not concern the ship so I should be able to accommodate her successfully from here…if you are agreeable."

"That's fine, Annika. As long as I get you for most of the day." She began to head for the bathroom when she realized Seven wasn't following her. She turned back and saw her young lover standing in the middle of the living room, a look of horror on her face. "What's wrong?"

"I have damaged you!"

"What? Where?"

The Borg came towards her and gently touched her shoulders. Janeway looked down and could see faint bruises there and on her upper arms. She laughed lightly until she realized how upset the younger woman was. "It's ok, Annika."

"It is not 'ok'!" Seven looked devastated. "I do not wish to ever harm you!"

"You didn't. Come here, sit down." She led her back to the couch. "I think we need to talk about this."

The Borg sat down next to her, looking as though she might cry.

"Annika, passion is a fluid thing. Sometimes it can be gentle and sweet. Sometimes it can be tumultuous and wild. Both types of lovemaking are very acceptable. The wilder aspect of it has a limit, of course. These marks don't hurt. They'll be gone by tomorrow without even using a dermal regenerator. We just got a little enthusiastic that's all."

"I do not wish to hurt you." Seven repeated.

"Come with me." Janeway led her into the bathroom and turned her towards the mirror. She smiled at the Borg's look of wonder as she examined the bruises on her neck and the small red mark where the Captain had bitten her the night before. "I gave as good as I got."

"But with this," She held up her Borg enhanced arm. "I could cause considerable damage to you."

"But you didn't." She said kindly. "With all that strength, all you did was leave a few little love marks. You are a gentle person, Annika. I have no fear that you will ever hurt me."

Mollified, Seven watched as her Captain started the HydroShower and then joined her, feeling the warm water of the massage jets soothing the soreness in her muscles. "It does not seem advantageous to behave in this manner upon the floor."

Janeway laughed. "I have no idea how we ended up there."

"It was between the fourth and fifth sessions of our lovemaking. You commented that your access to me was impaired and that we should relocate. I inquired if you wished to move to the bedroom but your response was to push me to the deck."

The older woman blushed. "Exactly how man times did we make love?'

"Eight point five." Seven looked at her pointedly. "You fell asleep."

"Oh dear god. No wonder I'm so sore."

"Is there a diety involved in lovemaking, Kathryn?"

Janeway stared at her blankly.

"You cried out to 'god' many times last night. I was merely curious if there was a particular human diety that is worshipped though lovemaking."

The Captain kissed her tenderly. "You are the only goddess involved in my lovemaking, Annika. It's just an expression."

"I see."

They finished their shower and toweled each other off, being careful around the sensitive areas of their flesh. Janeway put on a t-shirt and some khaki slacks and then replicated a similar outfit for Seven, except she gave her shorts, wanted to have an unobstructed view of those long, beautiful legs.

"Interesting." The Borg touched her nipples through the cotton fabric. "I believe I am 'sore'."

"That makes two of us. Come on, let's get some breakfast."


They ate in silence, smiling at each other as their hands lay entwined on the table. It was so domestic, so utterly peaceful that the older woman sighed heavily when she had to break the contact.


"There's something else we need to talk about, Seven. While I adore your passion, the fact that you have allowed it to interfere with your duties is unacceptable."

"Yes, Captain." Seven said softly.

Janeway felt her heart give a painful lurch but she stayed the course. "You have to find a way to push your personal thoughts to the back of your mind while you work. It's the only way you're going to be able to give one hundred percent to Voyager and I expect no less from you."

"Do you have any suggestions that might aid me in this endeavor?"

"Well," She smiled. "I did have one idea." She reached out and took her lover's hand again. "I've keyed my quarters to allow you admittance whenever you wish. That way you will always know that, once our duty shifts are over, I'll be waiting here for you. Or you can come here and wait for me. But either way, this will be where we can find each other. When your thoughts threaten to distract you, just remember that."

A single tear escaped from Seven's eye and slid down her cheek. "Thank you, Kathryn. This means more to me than you will ever comprehend."

"It means the same to me, love." She squeezed the hand she held in her own. "But we both need to be focused while we work. There will always be little triggers that make us think of each other while we're on duty. We just need to forge through them and keep our attention centered on the task at hand."

"Triggers? Explain."

Janeway smiled. "Things we see or hear, that draw our attention to each other."

"Interesting. Do you have 'triggers', Kathryn?"

"I think you know one of them." She reached over and tangled her fingers in Seven's pale golden hair, drawing her in for a tender kiss.

When they separated, Seven looked at her thoughtfully. "Engage."

"I beg your pardon?"

The Borg blushed shyly, a small smile turning up the corners of her mouth. "When you are on the bridge, your whole demeanor becomes one of strength and control. But when you sit in your command chair and order Tom Paris to engage the warp engines… It has always been an invigorating experience for me. I thought at first it was simply my admiration for you. But the way you speak that word has always caused a reaction in my abdomen. A sensation of my stomach muscles contracting..."

"Butterflies." The Captain smiled. "You get butterflies in your stomach." Seven looked at her curiously. "It's an expression, a way to describe the sensation. How long has that been happening?"

"I do not recall a time when it did not happen."

Janeway felt her heart swell. She stood and pulled her lover from her seat, embracing her tightly. "I do love you, Annika. So very much."

"I love you as well, Kathryn." Seven became serious. "Am I now your fiancé?"

The Captain was glad she wasn't drinking coffee this time. She swallowed hard and began to reply before she saw the small smirk on Seven's face, the eyebrow raised in amusement. "Come on," She growled. "Take me back to bed."

"I will comply."

"Torres to Seven of Nine."

The Borg was resting on her elbows, caught in a long, passionate kiss. She let it go on for several more seconds before sighing loudly and reaching for her commbadge.

"Go ahead."

"Seven, I came to Astrometrics looking for you but the computer has you logged as unavailable for the day."

"I am aware that I have promised to assist you this afternoon, B'Elanna. I am currently in the Captain's Quarters. You may join me here."

"Uh… Are you sure that's ok with the Captain?"

"It's fine, Lieutenant. I'm sure this must be of the utmost importance." Janeway's voice sounded amused over the comm system. "We'll see you in twenty minutes. Janeway out."

"Kathryn," Seven admonished. "Do not tease her. She is in love."

"She is?" The Captain looked startled. "With who?"

"Ensign Mahr."

"Ensign Mahr? The one you went on a date with?"

Seven sighed. "I was unaware there was more than one Ensign Mahr on the ship."

Janeway gave her a sarcastic look. "All right," She pulled her lover out of bed. "You can tell me all about it while we clean up and get dressed."

B'Elanna stood outside of the Captain's quarters fidgeting. She had hit the door chime twice and still there was no answer from inside. She had just turned to go when the doors slid open and a breathless Seven of Nine stood before her. She looked past her friend to see the Captain sitting serenely on the couch, reading a book with great interest, a small smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.

She looked back to Seven, noticing that the Borg's hair was down and somewhat mussed. Blushing she whispered, "Are you sure this is a good time, Seven?"

The young woman merely nodded and motioned for her to come in. She took a deep breath, trying to regain her balance after the passionate kiss Kathryn had bestowed upon her at the first chime of the door. Throwing her lover a look of frustration, she turned to the Klingon expectantly. "How can I assist you, B'Elanna?"

"Uh…well." She drew Seven to the side of the room near the replicator. "When Lili and I were on the holodeck, I gave her something. It was a gold chain. When the simulation ended I forgot to inform the computer not to dematerialize it. I want to recreate it for her."

"I see." The Borg tapped the screen and brought up the holodeck programs. "If the chain is part of the program, we need only bring up its specifications and the replicator should be able to recreate it quite satisfactorily."

"I know. I could have done that. But I want to make it a little different."

"In what way?"

"I want to make it so that once it's fastened in place, it can't be removed." B'Elanna glanced back at the couch, sure she had heard a gentle laugh from that direction, but the Captain appeared to be absorbed in her book. "I was hoping that you could include a type of clasp that would…I don't know… seal I guess, once it's engaged."

"That will not be difficult. The Borg often incorporate such devices in the mechanisms attached once assimilation is complete. What compound would you like the item be constructed of?"

"Actually, I'd like to use these." She held out her hand. In it, were three Maquis insignias. "I thought it would be…" She flushed. "More meaningful, I guess."

"I believe it would." Seven plucked the gold emblems from the Klingon's palm and placed them on the replicator platform. After accessing the program B'Elanna specified, she instructed the computer on the reconstruction of the item, including the Borg specifics for the clasp. When done, the insignias glimmered out of existence, replaced by the delicate chain B'Elanna had won the previous day. "Is it satisfactory?"

"It's beautiful, Seven. Thank you. Sorry to intrude on your personal day, Captain."

Janeway looked up, a smirk on her face. "Anything for young love, Lieutenant."

B'Elanna flushed a deep crimson and fled, hearing the Captain's lilting laughter following after her.

"Kathryn." The young woman sat next to her, drawing her into an embrace. "It is not nice to tease the Klingon."

B'Elanna kept herself busy for the first half of the day, checking the collection of the deuterium gas as she ran a diagnostic on the warp core. At lunchtime, she headed to the mess hall to catch a quick bite to eat. She was almost done with her meal when Tom Paris sat down across from her.

"Tom." She said evenly.

"I want to talk to you, B'Elanna." His voice was pleading. "I don't know what you think you're doing with Ensign Mahr, but there are rumors all over the ship."

"My personal life is no longer any of your business."

"How can you say that?" He tried to take her hand, frustrated when she pulled it away. "What we had together was good. We both know that. Don't throw it away now."

"There's nothing to talk about, Tom. It's over. End of story." She stood and walked out of the room, sighing in frustration when he grabbed her arm right outside, bringing her to halt.

"I can't believe you would really walk away from us, for what?" His voice rose slightly. "For one of Seven's cast offs?"

The Klingon turned on him, the glare in her eyes causing him to back up a step. "She is NOT one of 'Seven's cast offs.' She is a wonderful person. She is sweet and kind and giving. She makes me feel…" She trailed off, not certain how to finish.

"Do you love her?" He asked quietly.

B'Elanna glanced away, thinking about everything that had happened over the last few days. "I think I do. I'm sorry, Tom. But I do."

The helmsman dropped his head in defeat and nodded. Without another word, he re-entered the mess hall.

B'Elanna stood quietly, trying to reign in her emotions. After getting herself mostly under control she headed back to Engineering. As she turned the corner, she ran into Lili. The Trill looked a little flustered and a whole lot guilty.

"I'm sorry, B'Elanna. I came down here hoping to catch you at lunch. I heard you arguing and I froze. I didn't know what to do. I didn't mean to eavesdrop."

The Engineer flushed. "It's all right." She laughed nervously. "Not the most romantic declaration but I guess it will have to do."

"Why don't we try it again?" Lili took her hand, moving in so close they were almost touching. "1800 hours? Your quarters?"

B'Elanna couldn't breathe, all she could do was nod.

Flashing a brilliant smile, The Trill kissed her quickly before leaving her standing in the hallway.

Kahless what a mess! B'Elanna sat on the edge of her bed and dropped her head into her hands. She wasn't sure if she was commenting on the state of her quarters or her state of mind.

She pulled the chain out of her pocket and stared at it. Lili would be there in less than two hours and she still had no idea what to say or do. She couldn't remember anything being this difficult in the past, but then, she didn't think anything had ever been this important either.

She thought of Tom. Of the good times they had had together and there actually had been quite a few. He was generally a decent guy, his immaturity aside, and she had loved him. Or so she thought.

But if she was going to be honest with herself, she had to admit that he had never caused a fire to burn in her belly, not the way Lili could by just standing a little too close. She thought of how the Trill's lips had felt against her own, how her mouth had tasted, soft and sweet. In the few moments she had spent in the woman's arms, she had realized just how much passion was missing from her life, and it scared the hell out of her.

Passion got her in trouble. Instead she found gratification in obsessing over her duties. Being passionate about the warp core was something no one ever complained about.

Unfortunately it left her off duty hours more than a little empty. She had sought companionship and found Tom Paris, creating something simple and sweet that did not tip the balance within herself that she had tried so hard to maintain.

A balance that Lili had managed to shatter over a period of just a few days.

But those few days had come to mean more to her than most of the others she had spent on Voyager.

There were a thousand reasons she could think of to run in the other direction and only one that made her realize that was something she would never be able to do.

She loved her.

Jumping off the bed, B'Elanna surveyed the wreckage that was her quarters. Moving quickly, she gathered up the scattered clothing, the multitude of data padds and the remnants of too many meals eaten alone. She put everything away and activated the controls that would recycle the air, removing the dust and any lingering odors of engine grease right along with it.

On the glass top of her dining room table, she set out two crystal wine glasses, two candles, and a bottle of Trill Blush wine that had cost her a weeks worth of replicator rations.

After showering, B'Elanna brushed her hair until it shined, then went through her entire closet trying to figure out what to wear, finally settling on a pair of black slacks and a dark crimson tunic. She lit the candles, lowered the lights and had just picked out a soft music to play in the background when she ran out of time.

The sound of the door chime made her heart jumped up into her throat and stubbornly refuse to budge. Taking several deep breaths, she answered. "Come in."

Lili Mahr stood outside, looking radiant in a dark silver dress that left her arms bare and dipped low over her breasts. She entered and held out one long stemmed red rose.

Smiling, the engineer took it from her and led her over to the table.

"So what are we having for dinner?" The Trill sounded a little nervous.

"I programmed several different dishes." B'Elanna carried the first over as Lili settled into her chair. "I hope you like them."

Lili looked down at the dish and smiled as B'Elanna sat down opposite her. "A Jen'Fret!" She laughed softly. "I haven't had one of those since the last time I was on Trill. You do know that it's a desert, right?"

"I know. But it looked so good I thought we could start with it. I'd hate to be too full to be able to enjoy it."

The Trill reached out and tore off a piece of the gooey confection, holding it up to the Klingon's lips. B'Elanna opened her mouth slowly, allowing the sweet bread entry. It was wonderful. It tasted like cinnamon and sugar wrapped around a slightly salty cake. It took her a moment to realize that Lili's hand had not moved. Leaning forward, she gently licked the ends of the long, elegant fingers. "Is this the way it's usually eaten?"

"Yes," Lili lied in a smoky voice, her hand shaking slightly as she drew back and waited for B'Elanna to feed her a piece.

The cake was gone too quickly and B'Elanna replaced it with more traditional fare before pouring them each a glass of wine. The dinner progressed at a leisurely pace as they talked about their day, laughing easily with each other until they were both pleasantly stuffed.

Picking up her wine, the Trill put out her hand and led B'Elanna over to the couch. They settled in quite close to each other and she looked at the Klingon in surprise. "You're shaking." She said in wonder. "B'Elanna…are you ok?"

The Klingon's eyes looked a little unfocused as she stroked Lili's cheek with trembling fingertips. "I was captured by the Vidians once. The extracted all of my Klingon DNA, leaving me completely Human. I think it was the only time I have ever felt completely terrified… until now."

"I scare you?"

"Not you." B'Elanna focused on her breathing, which seemed much harder to do than it should have been. "What I feel."

Lili wrapped her arms around her, holding her close. "Tell me."

"It's only been a week, yet I feel like I've known you forever. When you're close to me, I can't breathe. I feel like my heart is going to burst in my chest and I might die. But it doesn't matter. No so long as you're with me."

"It matters to me." The Trill kissed her softly, feeling the lips beneath hers continue to tremble. "I love you, B'Elanna."

The words were soft, barely a whisper, but the Klingon heard them. "I think I love you too."

Then there were no more words as their kisses deepened. Hands wandered slowly, gently, leaving a trail of molten desire in their wake.

Wordlessly, B'Elanna took both of Lili's hands and pulled her from the couch, leading her to the bedroom. They layed down together, soft, passionate kisses driving them both to distraction.

Somewhere in the back of the Klingon's mind, she realized that Lili was letting her set the pace, taking her cues from her actions.

With trembling fingertips, B'Elanna slid the dress from Lili's shoulders, sighing in appreciation of the delicate bones, the light spattering of spots that seemed to darken as she touched them. She let her hand wander down the Trill's chest, where she could feel the wild pounding of her heart.

With a small groan, she dropped her lips down to a long, graceful neck as she felt hands unfasten the tunic and slip it off of her, exposing her heated flesh to the coolness of the room. Pulling Lili's close, she felt their breasts touch and a fire ignited between them that she could not deny.

This was right.

There was no more shyness as they undressed each other. When they were fully nude, they wrapped their arms around each other and lay there for several moments, just enjoying the feel of their skin touching.

Then Lili pulled her on top of her, raising one knee to place it firmly between the Klingon's legs. She felt her shudder against her as the skin of her thigh came in contact with her intimate flesh, already hot and slick with moisture.

B'Elanna began to move slowly, relishing the sweet friction against her as she watched the beautiful green eyes studying her face intently. She leaned back slightly to take the full, soft breasts into her hands, her palms gently rasping against the already hard nipples.

Lili moaned in pleasure, closing her eyes.

"No, please." The Klingon touched her face. "I need you to look at me."

She acquiesced, her eyes locking with brown ones filled with passion and desire. She shuddered as B'Elanna pressed her own knee against her, and they stayed like that, moving slowly as the first waves of pleasure claimed them.

"So soft." B'Elanna whispered. The Trill was soft everywhere. There were no hard angles or unyielding muscles, just smooth plains and the sweet scent of bare skin between them.

They reached climax together. It was slow, sweet and incredibly passionate. It took the edge off their want of each other as they lay quietly together afterwards, hands roaming more strongly, with slightly rougher intent.

Not stopping to think, B'Elanna trailed her lips down to a perfect breast, licking it lightly before sucking the nipple into her mouth. She raked her teeth across it gently, feeling the body beneath her arch against her. Dipping lower, she tasted the salt-sweetness of Lili's navel before nuzzling into the dark thatch of red hair between her legs. The Trill parted them for her, allowing her access to the wet folds between them and she did not hesitate. She found the series of ridges at the apex of the cleft and began licking them, letting the moans of her partner guide her so that she knew exactly what was pleasing to the Trill.

She tasted so wonderful. Her essence was like a sweet dew on B'Elanna's tongue that she could not get enough of. As she sped up the movements of her lips and tongue, she felt Lili's hands tangle in her hair, felt her hips begin to move quicker in the confines of her arms.

"Oh, B'Elanna…Lanna…" Her words were broken as her body rocked with an explosion of pleasure and heat. Her fingers tightened almost painfully in the black curls of her lover's hair and she felt the Klingon's mouth move even faster until her whole body stiffened and she cried out one last time. "Lanna!" Then she collapsed, her eyes losing focus as her lover crawled back up into her arms.


She heard the voice as though it came through a fog.


She felt herself being shaken gently and slowly came back to her senses.

"I'm all right." She breathed. "Just a little overwhelmed."

"You're crying." B'Elanna said in wonder.

"Yes," The Trill laughed. "That's what you do to me." She linked her fingers through B'Elanna's.

"They're hot again." The Klingon noted softly. "Your hands."

Lili laughed. "Another quirk of Trill physiology. The faster the blood circulates, the warmer they get."

"So at the faire…"

"You were driving me crazy." She smiled. "The way you were touching me… my markings are very sensitive."

B'Elanna smiled. "If only I'd known." She took a deep breath. "That was wonderful. I don't think I have ever made love that way before. Slowly, gently… In its own way, it was far more passionate than anything I have ever felt."

"I'm glad. I wanted to make it special for you."

"You did."

"Did?" Lili looked at her with eyes still filled with desire. "I hope you don't think you get off that easy." She stopped and laughed at herself. "Pun not intended."

Flipping the Klingon over, she laid on top of her, bringing her lips to the strong neck roughly. Finding a sensitive spot, she bit down, breaking the skin slightly, causing B'Elanna to shudder.

Without waiting for a response, she moved down to darkened nipples, her teeth closing on one as her fingertips pinched the other.

B'Elanna moaned, her hands traveling down the Trill's sides to stroke lightly at the spots she found there.

Lili actually growled, grabbing one of the Klingon's legs and placing it on her shoulder as she slid her fingers into the cleft between her legs. The moisture was thick and hot, and her fingers gathered it quickly before sliding inside, thrusting roughly as B'Elanna moaned in pleasure. Deep inside, she found a slight protrudence, almost as large as the one outside and began to stoke it as she moved her fingers in and out. It must have been the right thing to do because the Klingon threw her head back and howled, her hips bucking wildly against the woman between her legs.

Lili did not stop, instead she increased the speed of her thrusts as she brought her tongue to the bundle of nerves outside. The taste was musky, a deeper version of that which clung to the Klingon's skin. Moaning in appreciation, she suckled harder, using her teeth to grind against it.

B'Elanna responded immediately, going stiff as her body shook violently. Moisture flooded the fingers within her as she fell back against the bed, her skin coated in a light sheen of sweat.

"Oh, Kahless." She murmured. "Where did you learn that?

The Trill smiled against the tender flesh. "I'm a quick study."


Lili moved up the limp body into the cradle of B'Elanna's arms. "I think you're wonderful." She whispered into the Klingon's strong neck."

"The feeling is very mutual." B'Elanna paused. "I have something for you." Reaching over to the bedside table, she opened the drawer and pulled out the box she had placed there earlier.

"What is it?" Lili's eyes lit up when she saw the gift.

"Open it."

The Trill slid the ribbon off, and then the lid, her breath catching when she saw the chain lying in its bed of red tissue. "Oh, Lanna." She breathed. "Thank you. I really wanted it, but I didn't want you to think I was disappointed about anything that afternoon. How did you get it?"

"Seven helped me make it. I wanted you to have something that showed how I felt. But there is something you should know."

"What's that?"

B'Elanna looked directly into her eyes. "It has a special clasp. Once you put it on, you won't be able to take it off."

"Oh." Lili dropped her eyes, looking at the chain silently.

"It's ok." The Klingon touched her cheek gently. "I understand if…"

The Trill looked up and B'Elanna was shocked to see tears in her eyes. "Will you put it on me?"

B'Elanna smiled happily, taking the chain in her hands and fastening it around her waist.

"It won't even violate protocols because no one will know it's there." She kissed the Klingon passionately. "Except me." She wrapped her arms tightly around her, crying softly into her neck.

B'Elanna thought that this must be what it would feel like, to finally make it home.

Captain Kathryn Janeway: Personal Log - Stardate 53219.2

Two years ago, when I forged the alliance with the Borg Collective I know I acted against Federation principles. I would even go so far as to say I bent the hell out of the Prime Directive. I stood behind my reasons then, I stand behind them now and I will continue to do so in front of any Starfleet Board of Inquiry they see fit to throw at me once I get this crew home.

If I have learned nothing else from being lost out here in the Delta Quadrant, it is this:

There is a difference between what is correct, and what is right.

I am sure one of the first things they will ask me about is Seven of Nine. Was it correct to bring such an obvious threat aboard the ship? To expose this crew to a member of a species that is arguably the worst enemy the Federation has ever known? Maybe not.

But sitting there in that cell, holding Seven as she shook and wept, I knew that what I had done was right.

She has saved this crew, this… family, on so many occasions. It seems only fitting that eventually she would save its Captain as well.

I sought to help return her Humanity to her and instead, she has reunited me with mine. Even now, as she sleeps in the next room, I can feel her light shining into the darkest recesses of my soul. Through her eyes I have seen the wonder that it is to be alive.

She's awake now. I can hear her saying my name in that wonderfully sleepy voice that takes my breath away.

And all I can think is… destiny calls.

End Log.

Chapert Nine: Continuations

Captain Kathryn Janeway of the U.S.S. Voyager exited the turbolift doors with her Astrometrics officer beside her. As she headed for the center of the bridge, Seven left her side and took up her station at the aft science console.

"Status, Commander?"

Chakotay stood. "We've finished collecting the deuterium and all hands are ready to continue on."

"Very good. Lay in a course, Mr. Paris. Warp six."

She sat down in the Captain's chair and crossed her legs, a smirk tugging at the corner of her mouth.


The End

A Note: Perfection is meant to be the first installment in a series of stories. However, I have 3 other first time stories rattling around in my Pandora's Box of a brain trying desperately to get out, so they will have to be written first. Please bear with me.

Coming Soon:

Seven Past Midnight
Dream a Little Dream
Viva Las Vegas
Chasing the Lightening (Sequel to Perfection)

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